Nadia Fingall drained her first three 3-pointers with aplomb. The senior forward, in her final Pac-12 opener, found her stroke twice at the end of the first quarter and to open the second, then went for three the old-fashioned way to close out the half.
“Coming back from the ACL, it was kind of hard to find my rhythm, especially in the first couple games,” Fingall said. “Once that first one went in in the Tennessee game, things have started to feel better.”
No. 5 Stanford (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12) opened its conference season with a 77-58 win over Washington State (7-7, 0-2 Pac-12) on Friday in Maples. Fingall finished with a season-high 20 points to accompany six rebounds and two steals. Six different Cardinal connected on a 3-pointer as the team shot 9-of-22 collectively.
“She [Fingall] is our emotional leader,” said junior guard Kiana Williams. “Hopefully our freshmen bigs can look up to her and play the same way.”
“We had a great game from Nadia, she really is embracing her senior year and being a great leader for our team,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “She’s playing the best basketball that she’s played at Stanford.”
Just 23 seconds after tip-off, Stanford secured its first lead and maintained it throughout the contest, extending it to as large as 27 with a little over a minute to play. In the final 61 seconds, Washington State’s Chanelle Molina recorded eight points to cut into the deficit and pull ahead of fellow senior Borislava Hristova for the team lead.
Molina dropped 27 on the night while shooting 5-of-8 from distance and Hristova went 8-of-16 for 21 points. No other Cougar scored from the field until the third quarter; the supporting cast clanked on its first 11 shots. Even then, the scoring was limited to Shir Levy’s six and off the bench four from Johanna Muzet.
“Washington State is really playing well with [head coach] Kamie [Ethridge] and they’re going to get some people,” VanDerveer said. “I’m glad they didn’t get us.”
Junior guard Kiana Williams was held scoreless until just over three minutes before halftime when she finished off an outlet pass from Fingall with a shimmy and a layup. Williams only missed one shot the rest of the way to end up with 12 points.
On one sequence, Williams recovered from a bad pass turnover with a chase-down block of Hristova on one end and a bucket on the other.
“I knew if I didn’t come back I was probably gonna come out,” Williams said.
The versatile freshman Haley Jones was an efficient 4-of-7 for 10 points with seven rebounds, including three on the offensive glass, and three assists. The stat line was nearly identical for junior forward Alyssa Jerome, who was also 4-of-7 with 10 points, three assists and four rebounds.
Senior guard Anna Wilson earned praise for her defense and was a spark off the bench with seven points shooting 2-of-4 with four rebounds and an assist.
“It’s very competitive,” VanDerveer said. “You gotta take good shots, you got to play defense, you got to rebound to be out there and they hold each other accountable.”
Freshman forward Fran Belibi, who earned minutes as the team’s highest percentage shooter, was held below 10 minutes despite starting the game. Belibi was 2-for-5 for five points. The other starter to not reach double digits was sophomore guard Lexie Hull, who was 1-for-6 from the field. Her twin sister Lacie did not play due to coach’s decision.
For the game, Stanford was plus-nine in rebounds with a margin of six on offensive rebounds, which it turned into a 15-7 advantage in second chance points.
Turnovers once again hurt the Cardinal. Although Washington State committed 18 to Stanford’s 15, the Cougars led 17-14 in points off turnovers. Jones, who has consistently struggled with turnovers, had a team-high four.
Stanford tips off on Sunday against Washington at 2 p.m. PT.
“They’re 2-0 and basically in first place in the Pac-12,” VanDerveer said of Washington. “We’re gonna have to play very well against them.”