Stanford holds on to advance to Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament semifinals
SEATTLE – Stanford certainly knows what it takes to advance in the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament. The third-seed Cardinal proved it again Friday afternoon at KeyArena by withstanding a late UCLA rally in a 67-62 win over the sixth-seed Bruins in the quarterfinals.
UCLA redshirt freshman forward Paulina Hersler had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds with a contested three-pointer, but her attempt fell well short. Stanford sophomore guard Lili Thompson collected the rebound and knocked in both free throws with 0.7 seconds left to seal the win.
“I don’t think that was the person they wanted taking that shot,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. “She was well-guarded, too.”
UCLA coach Cori Close indicated the ball ideally would have gone to junior guard Nirra Fields or redshirt sophomore Kari Korver, but the Bruins failed to execute a series of screens away from the ball to free them.
“We were trying to get three looks at the three-point shot,” Close said. “(Fields) coming off all the way to the three, (Korver) coming off the stagger and then Hersler off the last screen on a flair. That was the goal. That didn’t happen.”
Senior guard Amber Orrange poured in 13 second-half points to lead Stanford with 18, Thompson added 14 and sophomore forward Erica McCall contributed 10 and eight rebounds.
“I think the leadership that (Orrange and Thompson) showed out there was one of the main reasons why we won,” VanDerveer said.
The Cardinal (22-9) held a seemingly comfortable 53-41 edge with about 11 minutes remaining before UCLA, which advanced after a first-round win Thursday over Arizona, went on a 15-3 run and tied the game at 56 when redshirt junior forward Kacy Swain buried a mid-range jumper.
“That had kind of been the way the game had been going,” VanDerveer said. “We got them down in the first half and they came (back). They’re just extremely aggressive… it was an extremely physical game and we just have to adjust to that if that’s the way it’s going to be.”
They did at the most critical moment. Orrange answered Swain's bucket with a three-pointer, and after the Cardinal recorded a defensive stop, freshman forward Kaylee Johnson scored to cap a 5-0 burst to make it 61-56.
“If I was open I was going to shoot it,” said Orrange of the decisive trey. “It went in.”
In a way, this was business as usual for the 19th-ranked Cardinal.
The program is 35-3 in the event’s 14-year history. It already has 10 Pac-10/12 tournament championships. Coach Tara VanDerveer’s squad returns to the semifinals Saturday at 6 p.m. PT against second-seed Arizona State, which it lost to twice during the regular season by a combined four points. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12 Now.
“We were right there the last few times we played them,” Orrange said. “We’ve shown that we can play with them so we just have to go out and play hard tomorrow."
Stanford began to pull away in Friday's first half when it went on a 15-4 run to extend its lead to 33-21. But the Bruins closed the final 90 seconds with seven straight points, as Korver hit a mid-range jumper from the baseline moments before the buzzer to cut the Cardinal lead to 33-28 at halftime.
Korver led UCLA with seven points in the first half, though her teammates labored offensively. The Bruins made just 12-of-39 shots (31 percent) before the break, but made 12-of-30 attempts (40 percent) in the second half. Freshman guard Jordin Canada led the Bruins with 15 points and eight assists.
UCLA actually held a decisive 48-34 advantage on the boards, but it wasn’t enough to advance.
Said Close of the Bruins’ superior inside presence: “What you saw tonight should be who we are all the time.”