The ending to Friday’s game, while infuriating, was fitting. Bruin guard Charisma Osborne missed a free throw only for her team to retain possession when neither sophomore guard Haley Jones nor freshman forward Cameron Brink could haul it in.
Had either of the Stanford players secured the rebound, the Cardinal would have had an opportunity to tie the game down three with 10 seconds to play. No. 5 Stanford (11-2, 8-2 Pac-12) could have been the aggressor in a game where it was too often waiting in the wings.
Instead, No. 6 UCLA (9-2, 7-2 Pac-12) inbounded one last time, guard Michaela Onyenwere got to the free-throw line, and made the first to bring the score to its final 70-66. That the second free throw was missed only for Osborne to outwork the entire Stanford team for her fifth and the team’s 21st offensive rebound was just another insult. Without even an opportunity to tie the game, Stanford allowed UCLA to bleed out the clock on a second straight loss.
The miscue was just one of a smattering for Stanford. In a poignant moment earlier in the game, sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel committed a turnover by stepping over the line before inbounding the ball. Stanford got to the line 17 times but made just 10.
“We had some just really, just really stupid plays like stepping over the line,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I mean, they’re just ridiculous some of the mistakes that we had, so it’s very disappointing.”
Still, no number was more indicative of the game than UCLA’s 21 offensive rebounds. Onyenwere had six, forward Emily Bessoir three and even 6-foot-1 guard Emily Chou had two. The turnaround was monumental compared to Stanford’s plus-14 on the boards when the two teams met in December. UCLA’s plus-13 marks the first time Stanford lost the rebound battle all season.
VanDerveer said the “whole game” was frustrating when it came to rebounding.
“We don’t grab the ball,” VanDerveer said. “There’s some big strong bodies out there … They out-hustled us. They were scrappier. It’s disappointing.”
After Stanford lost to Colorado earlier in the week, VanDerveer criticized her players’ effort. Her hope was that the team would come to practice reinvigorated. Against a UCLA team ranked just behind it in the polls, Stanford’s effort was better but still not enough. Even having public address announcer Betty Ann Hagenau, the voice of Maples, make the trip to Santa Cruz for the first time was not enough.
Two Stanford players looked like their typical selves. Senior guard Kiana Williams scored 19 with five assists and junior guard Lexie Hull scored 11 with six rebounds. Hull played 39 minutes, and Williams played 38. The two were indispensable.
The Bruins put up 18 second-chance points to Stanford’s six. The Cardinal had just five fastbreak points. Just two games ago, Stanford made 14 3-pointers; the Cardinal attempted just 10, making only two, against UCLA. Stanford was a shell of its typical self.
“Honestly, I’ve never had to coach effort with a great team,” VanDerveer said. “We have some very young players playing on our frontline — whether it’s Cam, Fran, Haley or Ashten. And, you know, this game was more physical than we could handle.”
Three Stanford players put themselves in foul trouble, and all three ended the game on four fouls. Jones sat out the entire second quarter despite going 3-for-3 in the first, and her team badly needing her spark. Sophomore forward Fran Belibi played just 17 minutes. Brink was limited to 12.
“We pretty much have to take them out with one foul,” VanDerveer said. “I can’t even get them out quick enough sometimes. Cam, I think, got three before I could …”
And with that, VanDerveer’s Zoom connection failed. Stanford did not make any players available to the media.
Stanford held UCLA to 11 fourth-quarter points as it found defensive rhythm in a zone. UCLA was 2-for-13 from the field and 0-for-7 from deep while Stanford fought back into the game. Williams tied the game twice in the final four minutes, but Stanford never led.
Fifth-year guard Anna Wilson had been Stanford’s best player until she subbed out after one minute in the second quarter and never returned. Her defense was missed.
Despite a garish 5-of-22, Onyenwere still had 16. Chou had 12. Bessoir had 11. But it was Osborne who gave Stanford fits scoring 24 points on 9-of-22 shooting.
“We couldn’t guard her,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford will regroup once again before hosting USC on Sunday at 4 p.m. PT in the home of the Santa Cruz Warriors.