Soaring Through The Semifinals
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Haley Jones scored 17 points and No. 2 Stanford beat Colorado 71-45 in a Pac 12 semifinal Friday night.
The win marked Stanford's 33rd consecutive victory over a Pac 12 opponent. The Cardinal's last loss to a conference foe was on Jan. 22, 2021. Stanford, the defending champion, will be playing for its 15th title Sunday.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who improved to 52-6 all-time in the event, earned her 1,000th victory since taking over Stanford in 1996. She is the winningest all-time coach in women's basketball history with 1,152 wins. The Hall of Famer is now 1,000-207 at Stanford.
"It's a lot of games," VanDerveer said. "And I love where I work. I love coaching this team. So I hope we can get 1,001 on Sunday."
Cameron Brink scored 14 points while Anna Wilson had 12 for the Cardinal (27-3).
Colorado (22-8) was led by Kindyll Wetta with 12 points, while Jaylyn Sherrod chipped in with 10 points. Mya Hollingshed had seven points and 10 rebounds for the Buffaloes.
After a tight first quarter that saw the Cardinal hold a one-point lead, it outscored the Buffaloes 60-35 the rest of the way.
"I just don't think we upped our intensity defensively," Hollingshed said. "We were starting to get rolling on our offense and we were trading baskets at one point. But we weren't doing what we needed to do with a stop, score, stop."
The Buffaloes showed their mettle early on and held the lead through the 3:41 mark of the first quarter. Using an aggressive attack on the offensive glass, and shutting down passing lanes while leaving little to no space for the Cardinal to operate, Colorado controlled the flow before Stanford took an 11-10 lead into the second quarter.
After an early 3-pointer by Wilson, tempers flared when Brink grabbed a rebound and threw an elbow with what appeared to be no ill-intent. Hollingshed took exception and responded by palming Brink's face and shoving her, twice. Brink then threw the ball toward Hollingshed, resulting in a double technical.
"Cam is a competitor and she's fearless," VanDerveer said. "I don't think any of us want to have someone's hand in their face. But that, sometimes whatever it takes, got Cam going. And she responded to the challenge."
The Cardinal went on a 12-5 run to open a 26-15 lead, with Brink scoring eight of Stanford's points. Stanford went into the locker room at halftime with a 33-18 lead.
"I just thought it was a heated moment," Brink said. "But (we) kind of used it as fuel."
Especially on defense, as Stanford forced 23 turnovers and held the edge in points off turnovers, 27-8.
Colorado shot just 30.6% (15 of 49) from the floor. The Buffaloes were 4 of 21 (19.0%) from 3-point range. Colorado's three worst shooting performances of the season all came against Stanford, as the Buffs shot 29.8% on Jan. 14 and 25.9% on Feb. 13.
"They only allow 54 points a game and hold their opponents to a low percentage," Colorado coach JR Payne said. "Part of that is you have multiple defensive players of the year on their roster. Anytime you play against Stanford it's going to be difficult to score."
Stanford finished 27 of 56 (48.2%) from the field, including 7 of 13 (53.8%) from beyond the arc.
"Our defense I thought was outstanding," VanDerveer said. "We struggled a little bit I think offensively. We weren't rebounding the way I thought we needed to. But people made big play after big play."
SECOND HALF JONES
Jones had another strong second-half performance. After scoring four points in the first half, she added 13 of her game-high tally in the second. Friday, she had two points in the first half and 18 in the second. Jones is co-leading scorer in the event, with Utah's Jenna Johnson (pending Friday's second game), as both have 37.
WNBA players A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces), Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty) and DiJonai Carrington (Connecticut Sun) were in attendance for Friday's game. Wilson won a national championship with South Carolina in 2017, while Carrington won two Pac 12 tourney titles with Stanford in 2017 and 2019.
Colorado: The Buffaloes shot 41.5% from the floor during the regular season, but in their two tournament games could only muster a 31.5% (30 of 95) shooting clip. Prior to Friday's dismal shooting display, Colorado hit just 32.6% (15 of 46) against Arizona in Thursday's quarterfinal.
Stanford: After scoring just three points in the first half, Wilson erupted to score Stanford's final nine points of the third quarter, including a long 3-pointer at the buzzer after dribbling out the final 16 seconds, capping an 11-5 run for the Cardinal.
Colorado: Sitting 28th in the current NET rankings, the Buffaloes should expect an invite to the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford: Will face the winner from the second semifinal between Oregon and Utah.