Michelle Smith Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Preview
Mar 7, 2021
No. 1 Stanford (24-2) vs. No. 3 UCLA (16-4)
What happened in 2020-21: The two teams split the regular season series, each team winning away from home. Stanford defeated the Bruins 61-49 at Pauley Pavilion back on December 21, and then UCLA traveled to Santa Cruz, where the Cardinal was playing at the time due to county health order that kept them away from Maples Pavilion, and tagged the Cardinal with a 70-66 loss on January 22, the second loss in a row at that point for Stanford.
Recent history: Stanford and UCLA have split their last 10 matchups, 5-5.
Tournament History: These two teams have matched up more than any two Pac-12 teams in tournament history with 12 meetings (Stanford is 10-1 in those meetings). UCLA defeated Stanford in 2006 to win the tournament title. The Bruins, who last appeared in the title game, are vying for their second title.
UCLA and Stanford have met twice in the quarterfinals, five times in the semifinals and three times in the title game.
Stanford is playing in the title game for the 18th time in the 20-year history of the Pac-12 Tournament and the Cardinal are 13-4 in the finals. Stanford is 49-6 all time in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The streaks: Stanford comes into this game with 13 straight wins. UCLA has three straight wins under its belt and six of its last seven.
Starting lineups: Stanford, G Kiana Williams, G Anna Wilson, G/F Haley Jones, G/F Lexie Hull, C Cameron Brink; UCLA, G Charisma Osborne, G Lindsay Corsaro, G Natalie Chou, F Michaela Onyenwere, F Lauryn Miller.
What the Cardinal need to do to win: Stanford has won its first two Pac-12 Tournament games over USC and Oregon State by a combined margin of 63 points. But UCLA isn’t going to make it that easy. The Bruins have twice held the Cardinal under 70 points this season and the run and gun game that worked against Oregon State likely won’t be as effective here because UCLA will be able to better get back in transition defense. This feels like a game in which three-point shooting for Stanford is going to be key. The Bruins aren’t a team that depends heavily on the 3, so that means that if the Cardinal can shoot it well, that will be a separator. Defensively, holding down Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne are the obvious tasks. This is where Stanford’s depth should be able to help as they are able to bring more players off the bench to provide different looks. If Cameron Brink can have another big day inside, that will also help tremendously.
What the Bruins need to do to win: UCLA has held its last two opponents - Washington and Arizona to their lowest-scoring outputs of the season. Doing that to Stanford, perhaps the most balanced offensive team in the country, is a different matter.
UCLA is going to need to score in this game, which they are position to be able to do, the only team in the conference with two players (Onyenwere, 3rd - 18.1 ppg, Osborne, 4th - 17.3 ppg) among the league’s top five scorers. But two big scoring days may not be enough against a Cardinal team that goes deep into the bench with players who can contribute. UCLA needs players like Natalie Chou and Chantel Horvath to pitch in on the box score. The Bruins are a matchup problem for Stanford because they pressure the ball and don’t allow Stanford players to catch-and-shoot in rhythm. They can also get back on transition defense, which is key. UCLA will need to win a lot of rebounding battles in this game to keep Stanford from second and third opportunities.
X-Factors: Stanford’s X-factor will be Ashten Prechtel, the post who can shoot from the perimeter and is sure-handed under the basket. Her big game against USC in the quarterfinals set a tone for the rest of this tournament and the Cardinal will need her.
UCLA’s X-factor is going to be Lauryn Miller. Brink is a lot to handle inside. Miller will need to rebound and defend and keep Brink from having the kind of game she did against Oregon State.