After the most difficult road trip of the season, a weekend in Maples Pavilion will provide a nice respite for No. 6 Stanford (16-2, 5-1 Pac-12). The Cardinal will host Colorado (13-4, 2-4 Pac-12) and Utah (9-8, 2-4 Pac-12).
A raucous Matthew Knight Arena crowd of 12,000 watched No. 3 Oregon dissect the Cardinal, and the treatment was not much improved at No. 7 Oregon State, where Stanford came back to split the weekend series.
The biggest question of the weekend may be the health of Haley Jones. The freshman guard suffered an injury to her right leg in the third quarter against the Beavers, and was scheduled for an MRI when she returned to the Bay Area. The Santa Cruz native was third in field goal percentage and points per game and blocks, and second in assists.
Injuries have played a surprisingly outsized role this season, with senior guards DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer and junior forward Maya Dodson currently sidelined.
Since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12, Stanford has won each of the 14 contests. Colorado is currently fourth in the conference in rebound margin, one spot ahead of the Cardinal. The scoring burden is spread among the entire team, though Mya Hollingshed, Emma Clarke and Jaylyn Sherrrod each average double-digit points.
Sherrod is 13th nationally with 5.7 assists per game, two spots in front of Utah’s Dru Gylten, who is 15th with 5.4 per game. Colorado’s scoring offense ranks just 113th nationally, while the Utes are 114th.
Last season, the Cardinal dropped the only matchup of the season at then-No. 21 Utah. In that game, the Utes shot 11-of-24 from beyond the arc, and Stanford was 8-for-28. Once again, Utah has excelled from range, and rank second in the conference in both 3-pointers made and percentage.
Three Utes shoot better than 40% from range. Brynna Maxwell has gone 48-of-114, Niyah Becker 16-of-37 and Ola Makarut 16-of-35. Maxwell’s 11.8 points per game are bested only by 11.9 per contest from Lola Pendande.
3-point defense is one area where Stanford has acutely struggled. Despite ranking as 10th in the country in field goal defense, head coach Tara VanDerveer’s squad is just 185th in 3-point field goal defense.
VanDerveer has a 1,083-249 record as a collegiate head coach and is 16 victories shy of passing Pat Summitt (1,098) as the winning-est coach in women’s college basketball history. If Stanford wins out in the regular season, secures a first-round bye for the conference tournament and advances to the final, VanDerveer could tie Summitt with a win in that game.
Stanford and Colorado tips off Friday at 7 p.m. PT.