By Sofia Scekic
67-0 — That’s the all-time record between No. 6 Stanford (12-2, 9-2 Pac-12) and Washington State (8-4, 6-4 Pac-12). It is excusable if one thought both Wednesday’s and Friday’s games will be easy wins for the Cardinal, a team that looked nearly unstoppable through its first nine games.
But Cardinal women’s basketball has shown cracks in its three most recent games; the Cougars, on the other hand, have taken three of their last four opponents, including No. 5 UCLA, to overtime, and Wazzu now has game film from the Cardinal’s two losses that show how to beat the team that has not played at Maples Pavilion since Nov. 25, 2020.
Three prominent themes in Stanford’s back-to-back losses to UCLA and Colorado were poor rebounding, three-point shooting and free throw shooting. At Colorado, the Buffaloes nearly out-rebounded the Cardinal with 40 while Stanford managed 41, below their season average of 45. In the Cardinal’s loss to UCLA, the Bruins pulled down 13 more rebounds, including a last-minute one on a missed free throw that sealed the win for UCLA. The Bruins also held a 21-7 edge in offensive rebounding, which they turned into 18 second-chance points.
The Cardinal responded well against USC, however, grabbing 31 more rebounds than the Trojans in tune to a convincing 86-59 win.
Through 14 games, the Cardinal are shooting the three relatively well. Averaging nearly eight made three-point shots per game and shooting 34% from behind the arc, the team only managed to make two shots on 10 attempts in their loss to UCLA. And against Colorado, the team only shot 22.7% to make five of 22 shots from behind the arc.
Three of the Cardinal’s starters and better three-point shooters — senior guard Kiana Williams, junior guard Lexie Hull and fifth-year senior guard Anna Wilson — made only a combined five three-point shots on 21 attempts in the team’s two losses. Sophomore guard Hannah Jump, who takes most of her shots from behind the arc and is known as a reliable three-point shooter, played fewer than 10 minutes in each loss and shot a combined 0-4 from three in the losses.
By contrast, against USC, the team collectively shot 40% from three on 10-25 shooting.
Inconsistent free-throw shooting has plagued the Cardinal all year. Earlier this season, head coach Tara VanDerveer emphasized that the team must be better from the charity stripe. After shooting 69% and 58% against Colorado and UCLA, respectively, the team left seven points on the court in a four-point loss to UCLA and four points on the court in a five-point overtime loss to Colorado. While the team’s season-long free-throw shooting percentage is a respectable 72.6, they do not rank within even the top 50 in an NCAA where teams like UW-Milwaukee are shooting 84% through 16 games. By contrast, the Cardinal made upward of 80% of its free throws in the win over USC.
One final change that may have ended the Cardinal’s two-game skid was the insertion of freshman forward Cameron Brink into the starting lineup for the first time this season against USC. She replaced sophomore forward Fran Belibi, who has had numerous highlight reel-worthy plays this season but has also struggled mightily at times. Although she missed one game as a precautionary measure for a knee injury, Brink ranks second in the Pac-12 with 26 total blocks this season. Her 127 points is also good for the second-most points scored by a Stanford freshman through 13 games since 2010. While Brink sometimes loses minutes due to fouls and has fouled out in multiple games, her exceptional skills on both ends of the floor make it unsurprising that she found her way into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
The Cardinal are playing Washington State in back-to-back games due to multiple postponements of the matchup that was scheduled to be played earlier this season. Wednesday’s game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks, and Friday’s game will be played at 12 p.m. PT on the WSU Live Stream on the Pac-12’s website.