For the first time this year, No. 1 Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) was severely outplayed. The Cardinal arrived in Colorado seeking to start the season 12-0 for the first time since the national championship 1989-90 season, but will now have to regroup.
Colorado (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) took Stanford to the buzzer twice last season but lost both times. On Sunday, Colorado would not be rebuffed, beating Stanford 77-72 for the first time since joining the Pac-12.
Head coach Tara VanDerveer welcomed the wake up call for her team.
“Colorado outplayed us,” VanDerveer said, pivoting away from a question about her team being on the road since early December. “They were more aggressive, they were extremely motivated for this game, and their players stepped up and we didn’t. And that’s on everyone. That’s on the players, that’s on the coaches. I have to do a better job. Everyone in our program has to do a better job.”
Soon after Stanford jumped out to an 8-0 lead, the problems cropped up. Buffaloes guard Mya Hollinghed exploded for six of her career-high 32 points in the first quarter, more than doubling her season average of 15.1 per game.
“We did not defend Hollingshed worth a darn, I mean she had her way with whoever was guarding her,” VanDerveer said. “Last year, when we went zone against them that didn’t work very well either so we really tried to put different people on her.”
Hollingshed also shot 4-of-10 from beyond the arc as part of an uncharacteristically good three-point shooting game for Colorado. The Buffaloes entered the game at 28.3% but hit on 36.5% of Sunday’s attempts.
“She hit face-up shots, she hit threes, there were mix ups defensively,” VanDerveer said. “We did not lock in defensively. We were not aggressive enough. You know, we just just just did not do the work to be honest with you.”
Colorado freshman guard Frida Formann shot the 3-pointer that stung the most. Late in the shot clock and with a minute and half to play in overtime, Formann caught and just as quickly put up the go-ahead heave over the outstretched arms of senior guard Kiana Williams.
For the game, Formann shot 5-for-7 from the floor including 3-for-4 from three-point land. Colorado’s second leading scorer has never been afraid to shoot — she shot 1-for-11 from three against Washington State — but built upon a 5-for-6 showing against Cal last game.
Where Stanford’s defense faltered, Formann made her biggest play of the game on defense — a game-sealing block of fifth-year guard Anna Wilson with five seconds on the clock and Stanford trailing by two.
“[Wilson is] a competitor and she wants to win,” VanDerveer said. “I think she took this hard. We need everyone on our team to take it hard.”
Wilson’s defense, mainly on guard Jaylyn Sherrod, was one of the lone bright spots for Stanford on that end of the court. Wilson set a career high with 10 rebounds to go along with four points and four assists; Stanford’s plus-two with her on the court was a team-high. Colorado’s 77 points and 42% field-goal percentage were the highest Stanford allowed all season. VanDerveer was upset with Colorado’s 23 trips to the line, where they converted 15.
The Hall of Fame head coach used sophomore forward Fran Belibi as an example of a player whose defense let her down on a day when her shot was also not falling. Belibi shot 2-of-6 in just 14 minutes.
“Her shot was really off, a lot of people’s shot was really off, but you know she’s got to help us defensively and rebounding,” VanDerveer said. “You have to help us at the defensive end and be a lockdown defender and a great rebounder. And we’re fouling instead of playing great defense.”
For the fourth time in the last five games, Stanford turned the ball over at least as many times as it assisted on shots. The 12 assists to 15 turnovers was just a symptom of the longest stretch of non-elite play all season. Sophomore guard Haley Jones, returning from a one-game hiatus, was responsible for six of the turnovers, though she added 16 points and seven rebounds.
“I’m very disappointed with, kind of, how we played,” VanDerveer said. “We’re just going to have to learn from it and get better.”
Even as Stanford led in familiar categories, like rebounds, the plus-one advantage pales in comparison to the season average plus-14.2 margin.
“We weren’t playing inspired basketball, and that’s disappointing,” VanDerveer said. “We have to really look at our video and get people’s attention.”
Stanford did not make any players available to speak to the media.
Junior guard Lexie Hull scored 19 as the only player to connect on more than one three-pointer (2-for-6) — the team’s 22.7% three-point shooting was the second worst of the season. Williams did not recreate her theatrics from a year ago, shooting 3-of-12. Freshman forward Cameron Brink scored efficiently, 5-for-5 and 13 points, added seven rebounds, but was forced to commit a personal foul to stop the clock with four ticks remaining, fouling out for the second straight game.
After tying the program record for weeks atop the AP Top 25 at six, Stanford is poised to fall. VanDerveer is hoping the team responds in time to face UCLA in time for tipoff in Santa Cruz, Friday at 7 p.m. PT.
“I hope I see people, digging in a lot deeper, working a lot harder coming out to play UCLA which will be a very tough game for us, and USC this weekend,” VanDerveer said. “It doesn’t get easier for us. I hope that our team, I hope that this really bothers people, gets under their skin, and they decide that, you know, we want to play basketball on a different level.”