The first quarter was a blowout. The rest of the game was a struggle.
No. 1 Stanford (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) had scored 13 points before Arizona State (7-3, 3-3 Pac-12) made its first bucket at the 3:37 mark. The quarter ended with Stanford on top 19-4.
Then Stanford was outscored 56-49 the rest of the way.
Stanford won 68-60, but what could have been a rout instead turned into a game with a lot of material for head coach Tara VanDerveer to talk about in film sessions. While Stanford never trailed, the Sun Devils cut the margin to as few as four points in the third quarter and five in the fourth quarter.
“We had to grind it out and that’s what we did,” VanDerveer said. “We really have to kind of take a look in the mirror and we have to play better.”
Sophomore forward Fran Belibi provided Stanford with the early separation. She made six shots and hauled in six rebounds before missing for the first time. Even when Arizona State made its push, Belibi was a constant presence. By the final whistle, she had compiled a team and career-high 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds and four assists.
“Fran came to play and she put her team on her back,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford’s leading scorer also had five of the team’s 17 turnovers — 25.8% of Stanford’s possessions ended in a turnover. In what would otherwise be considered a fantastic game, VanDerveer noted that there were some passes Belibi would like to have back and said that the sophomore could give more on defense.
“That’s just because I’m greedy,” VanDerveer said.
“At the beginning we were moving the ball around really well, finding the open people and they were knocking down their shots,” Belibi said. “When they started to come back, we weren’t rebounding on defense as well and we were making some turnovers that we normally don’t make.”
A freshman led Arizona State in scoring. Guard Jaddan Simmons scored 16 and did the most damage at the free-throw line, where she was perfect on seven attempts. As a team, Arizona State went to the line 23 times, making 17. Meanwhile Stanford had just eight attempts, six of which came in the final 20 seconds as Arizona State fouled to prolong the game.
Stanford did come away with 11 more rebounds and consistently got high-quality looks on offense when they did not turn it over first. The team shot a season-high 49% from the field.
The only player to join Belibi in double digits, senior guard Kiana Williams, scored 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Like the rest of her team, she struggled from behind the 3-point line, where she went 1-of-9. Stanford was just 4-of-19 from distance.
11 of Williams’ points came in the second half, when she played all 20 minutes. Despite playing a season-high 40 minutes, she was one of just two Cardinal to not turn the ball over.
“She’s not a stat stuffer at all,” VanDerveer said. “When she is needed she knows, she steps up and she did that for us really well — hit some big shots.”
Williams is the leader of a stretch-time rotation that is coming together for VanDerveer and includes junior guards Lexie and Lacie Hull, fifth-year guard Anna Wilson, Belibi, sophomore guard Haley Jones and Williams.
“I want the ball in her hands. I want her running things,” VanDerveer said. “She is an incredibly intelligent player and an absolute winner.”
“When we’re going down the stretch I’m going to go with the people I know,” VanDerveer added.
VanDerveer admitted that Stanford missed freshman forward Cameron Brink, who left the team’s most recent win over Arizona early with an apparent injury but had been Stanford’s second leading scorer coming into the game. Stanford provided no updates other than to say that she will be evaluated tomorrow and the team is hopeful she will be able to play.
It became a common theme for VanDerveer to want more from her team. Fouls became a problem — both Williams and Lexie Hull ended the game with four. VanDerveer also said she could expect more from sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel, a candidate to replace some of Brink’s minutes if needed.
While Prechtel is “killing” Belibi in practice, she has yet to eclipse either the seven points or 18 minutes she played in the season opener. On Sunday, she scored six points and shot 3-of-4 but fouled three times in 10 minutes.
Stanford will announce tomorrow where it will play Oregon and Oregon State. The games, originally scheduled for Friday and Sunday, will be affected by Santa Clara’s restrictions on team sports.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best game, for sure, and I don’t even know if we’ve scratched the surface,” Williams said. “We don’t want to be playing our best basketball in January. We have February, March and I think the tournament’s in April, so that’s really when we want to be playing our best basketball late in the season.… We have a lot of film to watch and errors to work on and it’s going to be a fun ending to the season, hopefully.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.