Following a first round bye, No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball (27-5, 15-3 Pac-12) rolled over seventh-seeded Washington State (12-19, 6-12) in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals by a final tally of 66-36 before clinching its spot in the finals by defeating the Oregon Ducks (20-13, 8-10) in the semifinals 71-56.
Stanford scored the first 21 points unanswered to start the game–part of a 39-point first half that effectively quieted any Cougar momentum entering the game. In the early scoring frenzy, the Cardinal utilized a number of different scorers and ball movers, assisting on six of the nine opening buckets.
Although not a single starter played beyond 27 minutes on Thursday, Stanford’s starters showed their readiness for postseason basketball with efficient play from senior guard Karlie Samuelson and junior guard Brittany McPhee who scored 21 and 12 points respectively. Of Samuelson’s seven made field goals, she drained an astounding six threes on 60% shooting.
In a short one-day turnaround after its win against the tenth-seeded Colorado Buffs (15-16), Washington State simply couldn’t deal with a rested Cardinal squad after the taxing first round game, part of the reason why the Cougars missed their first 11 field goals to begin the game.
Stanford, however, played its part in suffocating the Cougar offense from the beginning. Of those 11 consecutively missed shots from the field, the Cardinal defense blocked three, ultimately pressuring Washington State’s offense to rush their shots for the rest of the game.
On the night, Stanford held the Cougars to only 36 points on 24% shooting from the field and an 0-16 total from beyond the arc.
“I think our defense was outstanding,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told reporters in her post game interview. “The fact that they didn’t make any threes was really good. They had made threes night before. The fact that they didn’t really — we out-rebounded them, so our defense, our rebounding, then offensively our key people were able to rest and other people were able to help us.”
Following the Cardinal run to start the game, Stanford was never threatened by the Cougars and cruised to victory in the second half. The majority of the second half went to getting minutes to key role players like sophomore Alanna Smith, who finished Thursday with eight points on 11 minutes.
Moving to the semifinals, the Cardinal defeated Oregon in a hard fought game in which the Cardinal simply outlasted Oregon in the second half, outscoring their opponent 17-8 in the fourth quarter. The Ducks started the game well, rushing out to 10 unanswered points, yet the cinderella team of this year’s tournament couldn’t withstand a third quarter push from Stanford led by seniors Brianna Roberson and Erica McCall.
McCall finished the night with a trademark double-double stat line, scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in addition to four blocks as the forward became a menace in the paint on Friday. Stanford’s dominance in the post was also highlighted by junior forward Kaylee Johnson, who also recorded a double-double herself with 11 points and 12 rebounds. On the night, the Cardinal front court dominated the low post to record 32 points in the paint and scoring 18 second-chance buckets.
“She [Kaylee Johnson] was scoring for us; she was rebounding for us. She set great screens. Those might not have been noticed in the stat sheet,” VanDerveer told reporters about Johnson’s energetic efforts in the pivotal third quarter for Stanford, “I’ve just really enjoyed watching her grow and become a great team leader for us.”
On the other bench, Ducks freshman Ionescu co-led her team with 14 points on the night, including going 2-2 from beyond the arc. Ultimately, however, the young guard couldn’t reciprocate first half success after trailing by only two at halftime, and the Oregon offense as a whole managed to shoot only 24% in the second half due in large part to a suffocating Cardinal defense.
Samuelson also contributed to the stout defensive efforts by holding Ducks junior guard Lexi Bando to no three-point attempts on the night. Bando’s offensive abilities from beyond the arc–she made 5 of 7 for a total 23 points in Oregon’s upset over the Huskies–played a huge role in the tournament for the Ducks so far, yet the Cardinal successfully shut her down from the field. Bando finished the night with three points on three free throws made.
With the win, the Cardinal go on to face the No. 6 Oregon State in a rematch from a couple nights ago in which the Beavers won by a three-point margin in Corvallis. Stanford will surely like to complete its revenge and take its twelfth title in fifteen years. The team will have a tough task in stopping senior guard Sydney Wiese, who averages 15.8 points per game on the season.
Wiese ultimately killed the Cardinal in their last match with a number of beautiful moves to total 22 points on the night behind five made buckets from beyond the arc. After their latest loss to the Beavers, VanDerveer couldn’t avoid praising Oregon State’s star guard, telling reporters, “Sydney Wiese is an All-American. There’s no doubt about that, she’ll be an All-American.”
VanDerveer will certainly adjust the defense to face such a prolific scorer as before in the regular season, and if Wiese can be successfully taken out of the Beaver offense, then Stanford will take the victory in the conference final, their first since the 2014-15 season tournament.
Tomorrow’s highly-anticipated final will be televised at the Pac-12 network in addition to being recapped at the Daily immediately following the action in Washington that starts at 6:00 p.m.