This weekend, No. 13 Stanford women’s basketball (17-3, 7-1 Pac-12) once again relied on veteran leadership for strong defensive performances en route to grabbing two victories while hosting both Arizona schools. The Cardinal women first held the Arizona Wildcats (11-7, 2-5) to 32 percent from the field and followed up that performance by holding No. 18 Sun Devils (14-5, 5-3) to a suffocating 29 percent, ensuring season series sweeps for the Stanford.
The Cardinal immediately caught their stride in their return to Maples Pavillion on Friday, jumping out to an impressive 28-6 first quarter lead behind a great shooting quarter from junior guard Brittany McPhee. From that point on, the Cardinal never looked back, outscoring the Wildcats by nearly 30 points to win 73-46.
The Cardinal dominated the first quarter, with senior forward Erica McCall opening the night to drain a three off a pass from Briana Roberson. Throughout the opening period, Stanford moved the ball effortlessly and managed to find an open shooter on almost every possession. Stanford’s smothering defense and shot-making ability ultimately led to an offensive explosion, ending the quarter with 28 points on 80 percent from the field, including draining three of five attempts from distance.
“We really came out of the gate fast,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I was really excited about our first quarter.”
While both teams scored only 17 points in the second quarter, Stanford’s offense remained efficient and fluid, with seven different players in double digits. The Cardinal ended the half shooting a whopping 61 percent from the field while assisting on 10 of 19 first half field goals. Even though Arizona managed to slip 17 points past Stanford’s defense in the second quarter, Stanford still retained a 45-23 advantage at the break.
Both teams showed a great defensive performance as they return from the locker room. Arizona made only one field goal in the last four minutes of the third period, while Stanford shot two of eight during the same span, save a three-point buzzer beater by Karlie Samuelson to end the quarter. The contest was more balanced in the last two quarters, as the Wildcats’ defense seemed to resist the Cardinal assaults.
With the game already put out of reach, both teams’ offenses slowed down and played slightly sloppily in the fourth quarter. Stanford entered a four-minute drought in the middle of the quarter, committing three turnovers and missing five field goals, but McPhee ended the drought with a layup on a full court pass from freshman Dijonai Carrington. The Cardinal missed eight of their last 11 field goals, while the Wildcats missed 10 of their last 12 shot attempts.
“We had stretches of great plays, and stretches of turning the ball over, and not taking as good shots as we could have taken,” VanDerveer said.
Samuelson finished the game with 15 points, and McCall and McPhee scored 13 each. Kaylee Johnson and Alanna Smith each added nine points. Samuelson led the team with seven rebounds. With four makes from distance, Samuelson became the eighth Cardinal to score more than 200 three pointers.
“The reason that she makes them is because she practices them a lot. It’s not in the genes, although people might think it is. She works really hard on her game,” VanDerveer said.
On Sunday, Stanford played host to a stronger No. 18 Arizona State squad that was looking for revenge after a competitive loss at home to the Cardinal earlier this season, but the Stanford women relied once again on an explosive offensive quarter — the second quarter this game — in order to cruise to victory, defeating the Sun Devils 66-56.
Following a strong start in the first quarter in which VanDerveer’s women opened a seven-point lead, the Sun Devils closed the gap to three with 3:53 left in the second quarter behind great post play from senior forward Sophie Brunner and freshman guard Robbi Ryan. The Cardinal ended the first half on fire, sprinting on an eight-point run that started from a beautiful open-transition three from McPhee created from an extra pass from Samuelson.
The Stanford women assisted on every field goal during that eight-point run to end the first half and ultimately keep the Sun Devils out of competition.
“I thought our team did a great job getting out to that lead.” VanDerveer commented in her opening statements postgame. “We were moving the ball really well.”
Despite the close final tally, Stanford compounded Arizona State’s woes by continuing the hot streak that closed out the first half and jumping out to a 22-point lead with under three minutes left in the third quarter. From that point on, the Cardinal kept the Sun Devils at bay and effectively shut the game down early, allowing VanDerveer to rotate Stanford players throughout the fourth. All but one Cardinal player recorded at least five minutes in Sunday’s game.
As usual, the three-woman veteran core of junior guard McPhee, senior guard Samuelson and senior forward Erica McCall led the Cardinal to victory again on Sunday, scoring 13, 15 and 18 points, respectively, with the rest of the team in single digits. All three leaders currently average in the double digits for Stanford in points per game, while Karlie Samuelson’s astounding 51.1 percent from the perimeter ranks second in the conference.
“Well, I think we got great leadership with Bird, Bri and Karlie. They’re playing very confidently right now,” VanDerveer remarked after her 997th career victory. “I thought we played really well defensively. I thought we worked really hard defensively.”
Stanford also showed improvement between the two games, specifically at the free throw line. While the Cardinal women went 3-for-10 against the Wildcats, Stanford went 17-22 against the Sun Devils, after reportedly spending a large chunk of Saturday’s practice at the line.
Stanford’s victory against a tough Arizona State conference foe serves as a rebound from their prior loss to ranked conference opponent No. 16 Oregon State (18-2, 7-1) in double overtime. Since their lone conference loss, the Cardinal have marched on a four-game winning streak, holding their opponents to under 60 points in three of those matches.
However, the Cardinal cannot rest on their laurels. Up next, they head on the road to challenge both Washington schools, ending the road trip at a lethal No. 8 Washington (19-2, 7-1 Pac-12). But after two efficient outings, VanDerveer’s women feel confident about the team’s position right now.
When asked whether it was tough to look past their game against Washington State to conference-leaders Washington, McCall once again showed her leadership in her postgame comments.
“One game at a time. Of course it’s always going to be in our peripheral vision, but we’ve got to handle Washington State first, and then we’ll get to Washington.”
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu and Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.