No. 18 Stanford women’s basketball (6-6) closed out its non-conference play last week with three games at home. The Cardinal started off by routing UNLV (5-6) 74-33 but was later upset by Western Illinois (10-3) 71-64 and dropped their last game against No. 7 Tennessee (12-0) 83-71 despite senior Brittany McPhee’s return from injury.
After a 13-game hiatus for finals, Stanford dominated its return home against UNLV. Freshmen Kiana Williams and Maya Dodson combined for 25 points, while junior Alanna Smith added 11 points in the second half.
Williams was making her first career start along with junior Shannon Coffee and sophomore Ana Wilson, and sparked the offense from the get-go as she put up 12 points in the opening 20 minutes of the contest. In the second half of the game, Dodson took over the Stanford offense, scoring all her 11 points after the intermission.
Using a 10-0 run to start the game and a 18-3 second quarter, Stanford had a commanding 35-13 lead at the break. Overall, the team was too much to handle for the Rebels, and Stanford earned the win with every active player scoring a bucket while only Smith and Wilson played over 20 minutes.
Monday’s game was a different story. The Leathernecks game into Maples with a four game winning streak and took care of business against a Stanford team that struggled in the second half. Despite bouncing back from a seven-point deficit in in the second quarter, the Cardinal could not contain Western Illinois’ Emily Clemens and Taylor Higginbotham who respectively scored 26 and 17 to lead their team to the upset.
Clemens made a layup midway through the fourth quarter to cap a nine-point comeback and give the Leathernecks a 55-52 lead. Williams answered for Stanford and hit a shot from distance to put the Cardinal back within three points with under two minutes to play, but Western Illinois sealed their win at the free throw line, where Stanford shot a season-low 42 percent.
For Stanford, Smith had 18 points and 15 rebounds while Williams had 17 points. Senior Kaylee Johnson grabbed 18 boards for the Cardinal who had 24 of their total 57 rebounds on offense. Despite outrebounding the Leathernecks, Stanford was outscored 34-26 in the paint, while giving up 23 points to Western Illinois’ eight of turnovers.
Thursday night marked the return of McPhee to the Stanford lineup, as the senior had missed over a month of action due to a foot injury. The Washington native returned in sweeping fashion as she scored 27 points on the night, just one shy of her career high. Despite such a performance, the Cardinal were unable to climb back from a 16 point halftime deficit and finished 12 points behind an undefeated Tennessee team.
Down 17 early in the third quarter, the Cardinal rallied behind McPhee and closed the gap to a mere six points after a steal and score by junior Marta Sniezek with 3:17 left in the final period.
“It was great having Brit back,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She made a statement. She set the tone.”
Lady Vols’ Jaime Nared, who led her team with a career-high 28 points, came up with a key steal down the stretch and sealed the win at the free throw line where she was 13-of-14 throughout the game.
On the positive side, Stanford managed to outrebound a Tennessee team that entered the game as the national leader in rebounding.
“Stanford is a great rebounding team,” Nared said. “We would go on some big runs but they always came back.”
Stanford now gets ready to welcome UCLA and USC in Maples on Dec. 29 and Dec. 31, respectively, for the start of conference play.