It was a tale of two halves and the second belonged to Stanford and Kiana Williams. The junior guard was due for an electric performance and delivered with 15 second half points, 20 overall, and nine assists while playing every minute outside of garbage time.
“The key for us today was Kiana,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Attacking the basket, Williams shot 66.7% from the field, her best mark since the season opener. Williams made 2-of-4 3-pointers as well, but her damage came in facilitating play and executing the shot when her number was called.
In particular, 11 third-quarter points from Williams allowed No. 5 Stanford (13-1, 2-0 Pac-12) to pull away from Washington (10-4, 2-1 Pac-12) and hand the Huskies a 77-56 defeat on Sunday, their first away loss and conference loss of the season.
The third quarter was the difference, and Stanford went 10-0 in points off turnovers, 14-6 in points in the paint and 4-for-5 from range. The 25-15 quarter precipitated a similarly dominant 20-9 fourth quarter in which VanDerveer was able to substitute every healthy player into the game. By the end, VanDerveer joined her players and the Stanford Soul Line Dance group for a joyous Cupid Shuffle.
“I’m just proud of how we came out in the second half, we were a completely different team,” VanDerveer said. “I think we were just trying to read their defense the first half because it’s not really traditional.”
Despite racing out to a 9-0 lead, Stanford found itself tied at halftime 32-32. Early on, it was the Huskies committing turnovers on three of the first four trips down the court, but the Cardinal had 11 by halftime. Cleaning up the turnovers and not overthinking was a halftime emphasis in VanDerveer’s locker room.
Washington was propelled by Darcy Rees, who had 11 first half points and shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Coming into the game, Rees averaged 6.6 points per game and seven Huskies had taken more 3-pointers than her, but benefited in the first half due to the relative anonymity. As a team, Washington shot 6-of-13 in the first half, and used 3-point shooting to pull ahead of Stanford for the first time in the second quarter.
“I was disappointed with our defense in the first half on 53 [Rees],” VanDerveer said. “We didn’t switch out and take away her three point shot.”
Freshman guard Hannah Jump was Stanford’s answer. The 3-point specialist connected on 5-of-8 from distance and 6-of-10 overall for 17 points while playing 26 minutes, the second most of her career. In the first half, Jump broke open Washington’s zone defense with 11 points.
“Hannah coming in, knocking down her shot, that opened things up a lot for us,” VanDerveer said. “She gave us stuff at both ends playing defense and scoring.”
“There’s a huge difference between high school and college and what a great compliment to Hannah Jump to be able to just come in and knock down those shots,” VanDerveer added.
“Starting on the bench, you can see what’s working and what’s open,” Jump said. “From the beginning, I saw that the 3-pointer was open, so when my name was called and I got out there, I knew all I had to do was just hit the shots. And Kiana did a great job of finding me, especially in transition.”
As a team, Stanford was 10-for-20 from 3-point range, its best percentage of the season.
Although Washington’s Amber Melgoza surpassed her 14.9 points per game average with 17, she was held well below the 24 she was averaging in conference play. The second half defense was stifling, and Washington managed just 24 points total. Sophomore guard Lexie Hull was charged mainly with defending Melgoza, but others, including senior guard Anna Wilson, limited her production.
“Amber Melgoza is a terrific player,” VanDerveer said. “We have a goal of not letting anyone score more than 17 and she’s right there, but I thought Lexie did an excellent job defensively.”
Hull took control on the boards for 11 rebounds, three on the offensive glass, and nine points on 3-of-8 shooting. Senior forward Nadia Fingall contributed eight more rebounds, but was limited by foul trouble. Stanford outrebounded Washington 38-29, but gave away eight offensive rebounds to its opponent in the third quarter alone.
Freshman guard Haley Jones, once again in the starting lineup and in double figures, came away with 11 points, two rebounds and three blocks.
In six minutes off the bench, sophomore guard Lacie Hull provided a spark with eight points while shooting perfect from the field. On one 3-pointer, Williams found Lacie in transition, while on the other Lexie found her sister in the corner.
“That’s pretty productive,” VanDerveer said.
The improvement of Washington, under third-year head coach Jody Wynn, is indicative of the rise of Pac-12 basketball. With five teams in the AP top 25, including three in the top 5, the conference puts its teams through the gamut.
“It’s a great situation except for as a coach,” VanDerveer said. “Every night you’re going to get an ulcer or gray hair… This is tournament basketball every night.”
Pac-12 play continues against Cal (8-5, 0-2 Pac-12) for the first game of a home-and-home on Friday in Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m. PT.