By Amita Gondi
Picture this. Three seconds left on the clock. A broken right index fingernail. The ball in your hands with the game tied at 67. A little too much pressure to handle? A cool-headed Alanna Smith goes in for a game-winning, left-handed layup to rally No. 7 Stanford from 15 points down to topple the unranked Trojans 69-67 at USC’s Galen Center in LA on Sunday. Smith topped off the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds to help Stanford (21-4, 11-3 Pac-12) beat USC (15-10, 5-9) in the second game of the weekend for women’s basketball.
While the Cardinal may have had a low shooting percentage (37.1 percent), they lived off their offensive rebounds, overpowering USC’s strong defense. The Moore sisters were the primary driving force for the Trojans with Minyon Moore contributing a team-leading 18 points, as well as 10 rebounds and eight assists for a double-double. Mariya Moore notched up a clean 14 points; Aliyah Mazyck scored 13 for USC.
The Trojans got off to a good start by manufacturing an early 8-0 rally thanks to Kayla Overbeck, giving USC the lead in that stretch. After Stanford began to shrug off the late start, it was a tumultuous affair from then on, culminating in a 16-11 USC lead after the first frame.
The Cardinal came into the second quarter with strong plays and closed the gap to 16-15 before the Trojans fired off an impressive 14-0 run to build a 29-15 lead. By the halftime buzzer, USC was up 36-26, and it only continued to be an uphill battle for the Cardinal from then on.
Stanford’s famous big three (Smith, DiJonai Carrington and Kiana Williams) stepped up a notch to chip away at the Trojan’s double digit lead as they closed the third frame at 45-39. While USC thought it could have a sweet win on its home court in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal had different plans.
Stanford responded extremely strong in the fourth with three consecutive three-pointers and edged into the lead for the first time in the game with 6:36 on the clock. The lead would go back and forth nine times until Stanford found an equalizer at 1:30.
A couple trips to the free throw line awarded the Cardinal a 66-62 lead with 35 seconds left. Moore’s two points from the free throw line and her sister’s three-point play had the game even at 67 points with 0:23 on the clock. Twenty seconds went by before Smith sank the game-winning lay-up to give the Cardinal another road win for the books.
The Cardinal’s victory over USC came on the heels of a road win over UCLA on Friday. Rewind 48 hours, and we are at the center of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in LA. The Cardinal entered Friday’s competition coming off of a 40-point defeat to No. 3 Oregon last week, recording the team’s worst loss under longtime head coach Tara VanDerveer. With renewed energy on Friday evening, the Cardinal bounced back with a decisive 65-51 win against UCLA (15-10, 9-4).
The game featured a 16-point lead at halftime for the Cardinal after being scoreless until the 5:31 mark in the first quarter. Stanford’s strong zone defense handed the Bruins their second-worst shooting game of the season at 27.5 percent.
All hope was not lost for UCLA as they came out of the locker room on fire, scoring 14 unanswered points. Smith continued to be pivotal to Stanford with her team-leading 22 point performance, which was closely followed by William’s 15 and Carrington’s 13. While UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere eclipsed the 20-point mark with 21 points to her name, the Cardinal’s strong performance in the fourth quarter thwarted any chances of a comeback to close the game at 65-51.
The Cardinal return to the court this Friday to face Arizona at home at 7:00 p.m.
Contact Amita Gondi at agondi ‘at’ stanford.edu.