No. 8 Cardinal women’s basketball (22-4, 12-2 Pac-12) started the weekend off with a slow first half against Colorado, but the team quickly revved its engine back to life to take a weekend sweep over conference opponents Colorado and Utah. Riding an increase in offensive accuracy, Stanford utilized a strong second half to best a struggling Colorado (14-11, 4-10) on Friday 64-51, before rolling to a huge 87-51 victory over the Utes (15-10, 4-10).
The Cardinal women opened the weekend with a messy first half against the Buffaloes, in which the Cardinal women turned the ball over 11 times. After halftime, Tara VanDerveer and her team returned to their form to beat the lower-tier Buffs. The Cardinal scored 40 points in the second half after picking up the accuracy in ball movement, racking up 10 assists while holding Colorado to 22 percent from three.
Stanford continued its high level of play on Sunday when it cruised to a win against Utah. The Stanford women seemed eager not to repeat Friday’s mistakes, jumping to a 31-8 first-quarter lead. From the beginning, Sunday’s game was an all-around team effort for Stanford, with both the starting and bench rotations pitching in to ravage Utah.
The Utah victory sealed the deal as Stanford swept its last weekend homestand of the regular season. With the weekend’s points on their side, the Cardinal rebounded from last week’s loss against the UCLA Bruins to retake their position for the conference lead, tied with No. 9 Oregon State and No. 10 Washington.
Throughout the season, Stanford has looked consistently to its strong senior core, led by guard Karlie Samuelson, for leadership. Both visiting teams visibly adjusted their defensive tactics in order to silence the dynamic shooter and force the Cardinal to adjust. Both VanDerveer and her team stepped up to the challenge, dipping into the roster depth, which allowed them to switch nightly rotations unfazed.
The Cardinal once again flashed their versatility in the weekend sweep. All but one Stanford player scored on Sunday, and four Cardinal women hit double digits. Sophomore forward Alanna Smith galvanized Stanford’s bench rotation with her 20-minute performance, scoring a team-high 16 points with the highest usage rating on the team.
When reflecting after Friday’s game, VanDerveer discussed her pride in the total team effort.
“Different people stepped up,” she said. “We’re really excited about how our team’s playing and how we battled back, and for us, it’s different people in different games.”
In the turning-point second half on Friday, Stanford rallied behind a ridiculous night from junior guard Brittany McPhee, who scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to record a double-double. In an all-around great performance, McPhee dominated in her shot creation and drives, bailing the Cardinal out after a cold shooting night from beyond the arc, where Stanford shot only 25 percent.
McPhee’s astounding night ended just two points shy of her career-high. After the game, VanDerveer showered the guard in praise.
“Brit was really aggressive offensively, she was into it,” VanDerveer said. “Rebounding. Double-doubles. Scoring. Getting out there. This is what we need to go where we want to go.”
When Stanford plays its game, the squad can challenge any opponent. Leftover confidence from this weekend will be crucial as the Cardinal head into their final four games of the regular season. After only losing four times in conference last season, Stanford has managed to up its level of play this season, leaving fans even more excited for the final stretch.
Two of Stanford’s remaining games are against Bay Area rival Cal (17-9, 5-9). After Stanford took the season sweep over the Golden Bears last year, Cal will definitely look to derail the Cardinal’s conference season before heading to the annual Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford’s second game against Cal on Sunday will be the last game at Maples for a number of Cardinal seniors.
VanDerveer acknowledged the emotion that will come on Sunday, but the Cardinal coach remained focused on the tasks ahead.
“Once you start playing, you forget it’s the last game,” she said. “I hope that [sophomore forward] Alanna [Smith] and the underclassmen will do everything that it takes to help our seniors. But before that, we got to go over and have a great game at Cal.”
The Stanford women return to action on Thursday night at 8 p.m. when they travel to Berkeley. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.