By Sofia Scekic
Undefeated Stanford (11-0, 8-0 Pac-12) enters Sunday’s game at Colorado (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) on a roll both offensively and defensively, holding all 11 opponents to 41% field goal shooting or worse while averaging over 80 points per game.
The No. 1 team in the country, unable to return home to Maples Pavilion since Dec. 2, 2020, has faced numerous other pandemic-related challenges like precautionary quarantines for three players, including starting junior guard Lexie Hull, before the team’s game against then-No. 11 Oregon. And in Friday’s win against Utah, sophomore guard Haley Jones was unable to play for unknown reasons, with head coach Tara VanDerveer saying only “Haley was unavailable for the game.” But the Cardinal has not let the recent challenges affect their play.
Stanford has shown that it can rely on nearly any player from its 12-player rotation, with five different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game this season. While the starting quartet of Hull, Jones, senior guard Kiana Williams and sophomore forward Fran Belibi have each led the team in scoring at least twice, freshman forward Cameron Brink also led the team for one game after coming off of the bench and has shown she can do it all in sometimes limited playing time.
The Cardinal is coming into the Colorado match-up following a monster game defensively, holding Utah without a field goal for nearly seven minutes both at the end of the first quarter and coming out of the half. While the Utes shot just over 40% for the game, a 15-point deficit at the half and a third quarter in which they shot 1-11 spelled doom for the team that lost its fourth straight against a Top-15 opponent.
Stanford holds a 21-4 all-time record against the Buffaloes and is 16-0 since Colorado joined the Pac-12. Colorado’s most recent win against Stanford came in the 2002 NCAA tournament in Boise, Idaho. Despite the Buffaloes’ recent struggles, last year’s team nearly beat the Cardinal twice. In Maples, it took overtime for the Cardinal to sneak away with a 76-68 win and in Boulder, Williams hit a three at the buzzer to lead Stanford to victory.
The Buffaloes do not stand out on offense or defense in terms of scoring, averaging 67.6 points per game and allowing 62.4 to opponents, but the team forces nearly 18 turnovers per game. While the Cardinal averages under 13 turnovers per game, forcing the team to turn the ball over could spell victory for the Buffaloes. On Jan. 8, Oregon forced 17 turnovers and Stanford won by its smallest margin of victory this season thus far — only a seven-point edge, in contrast to their average margin of victory of 30.7.
Colorado also has multiple players who have experience playing Stanford in close games, with senior forward Mya Hollingshed and sophomore guard Jaylyn Sherrod scoring double figures in both of the team’s matchups last season.
The game will tip off at 11 a.m. PT in Boulder on Sunday and will be televised on Pac-12 Network.