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Women’s basketball drops second conference loss against No. 15 UCLA

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Karlie Samuelson drives past a UCLA defender on Monday night. Samuelson’s 66.7 percent shooting was not enough to overcome the Bruins. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

No. 8 Stanford women’s basketball (20-4,10-2 Pac-12) was upset by an evenly matched No. 15 UCLA Bruins (18-5, 9-3) by a final tally of 85-76. Junior guard/forward duo of Jordin Canada and Monique Billings powered the Southern California conference foes with two dominant 20-point performances, combining for 46 of the Bruins’ 85 points on the night.

Following a successful night against the Bruins’ crosstown rivals during VanDerveer’s 1,000th victory on Friday, Stanford simply didn’t start the game with the same intensity as UCLA, allowing five turnovers in the first quarter while the Bruins consequently jumped to a 10-point first-quarter lead.

The Cardinal women roared back to life in the second quarter, however, and eventually claimed a 40-37 halftime lead after scoring 28 points behind a great play from role player sophomore guard Alanna Smith. Smith dropped 10 of her 14 points in the Cardinal offensive rebound but ultimately couldn’t keep the Stanford offense firing throughout the game.

After going into the halftime in the lead, the Stanford women shut down in a frustrating second-half performance that saw the Bruins establish an early third-quarter lead and never relinquish it. UCLA heavily relied on a three-woman core of Billings, Canada and senior Kari Korver to score all of their third-quarter points and ultimately propelled the Bruins to an easy fourth quarter and victory.

UCLA’s victory marks its first against the Cardinal at Maples since 1999.

“We call them passion plays. They’re the non-statistical categories,” Bruins head coach Cori Close explained to ESPN reporters when asked how UCLA pulled off the victory. “We ran off 45 seconds because we got those out of area rebounds. We said we’re built on defense, rebounds and passion plays. First half, I thought we were up and down. Second half, I thought we were really consistent.”

Although Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer’s team had an off night defensively, en route to allowing 85 points — 28 points above their seasonal average — the Cardinal can at least point to their rotational strength once again as five different women scored in the double digits for Stanford on the loss. Senior Karlie Samuelson led the charge offensively, shooting at a ridiculous 66.7 percent from the field and playing every minute of the game for Stanford.

The Cardinal owned margins in assists, offensive rebounds and points in the paint in the highly competitive match that also featured nine lead changes, but Stanford was ultimately betrayed by personal fouls and the Bruins’ ability to get to the line. UCLA knocked down 22 free throws by the end of the night on 74 percent shooting, coincidentally owning a nine-point margin to Stanford’s 13 points from the charity stripe.

Stanford also couldn’t withstand the cold shooting and costly turnovers that they experienced throughout the matchup. In the game-deciding third quarter, the Cardinal women went 4-of-20 while turning the ball over three times in 81 crucial seconds during the heart of the third quarter when UCLA took a four-point lead that it kept for the rest of the game.

VanDerveer echoed the same sentiments in her post-game press conference: “We didn’t take advantage of the free throws — we left seven points there at the free throw line. We were a step slow on defense. We didn’t just miss the and-1s, we missed point-blank layups. We did not have the overall energy, it wasn’t the same bench that was at Washington; it wasn’t the same bench that was at USC. I don’t mean just the bench, it wasn’t the same team.”

Even though the Stanford women dropped only their second conference match of the season, the squad now slips into the second spot with Washington in a highly competitive Pac-12 conference that features five of the top 25 teams in the nation battling each week. The No. 8 Cardinal led the pack during last week’s rankings, but losing to a Bruins squad that lost to Cal a couple days earlier will most certainly drop their ranking during the next week.

UCLA head coach Close noted how important this victory is in such a tight Pac-12, saying, “Obviously when we lost to Cal, it put even more urgency on this game. But the conference top to bottom is so good. Games like this are every night, and it forces you to get better as a coach and as a team.”

Stanford could blame part of tonight’s failures on an inability to start off games. Against No. 10 Washington, the Cardinal dug themselves into an 18-point hole and a 12-point halftime deficit and had to work twice as hard to come back to a second-half victory. Yet, with Stanford playing lights-out basketball in its last seven-game win streak, the Cardinal will still feel confident in their talent and ability during the later stretches of the postseason.

Despite the lackluster performance, VanDerveer showed faith in her team: “I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged.”

The Stanford women will continue their home stand and look to rebound on Friday against a lower-tier Colorado team (13-10, 3-9) that is currently struggling in conference play after starting the season 1-7. Regardless, the Cardinal will need to show better defensive timing and offensive fluidity in order to return to their highest efficiency for the six games left in the regular season.

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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