Michelle Smith: Lessons to be learned for No. 2 Stanford following overtime loss to top-ranked South Carolina
STANFORD, Calif. - The calendar was as much a topic as the scoreboard in the moments after No. 2 Stanford absorbed a 76-71 overtime loss to top-ranked South Carolina in a nationally-televised, early-season matchup played in front of a sellout crowd of more than 7,200 in Maples Pavilion.
“It’s November,” said senior point-forward Haley Jones.
“It’s November,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.
It is indeed November, not exactly the season for statement victories. At least not when you are the top two teams in the country and there’s no substantial penalty for competing down to the final seconds in “heavyweight fight”, as VanDerveer called it.
‘Tis the season instead for improvement, information and important lessons.
“You don’t bring a team out here to play Stanford without a lesson involved,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, whose team has won nine of their last 10 matchups against the Cardinal (5-1). “Good or bad…this game only helps both teams.”
For the Cardinal, there will be a number of takeaways - the cost of too many turnovers (22), the cost of a fourth-quarter scoring drought that cost Stanford a double-digit lead, and the cost of a pair of mental mistakes that turned the tide of the game in overtime that VanDerveer called “unfortunate”.
The first was a 5-second call when Jones was unable to get the ball inbounds past the halfcourt line, Stanford down 73-71 with 10 seconds to go. And the second, a called timeout with 3.1 seconds to go that the Cardinal didn’t have available, leading to a technical foul and two made free throws by guard Zia Cooke that put the game away for the defending national champions in a game that Stanford led for more than 40 of its 45 minutes.
VanDerveer said it was “very disappointing to have the lead we had and not finish the job.”
“They made big plays when they needed to,” VanDerveer said. “Our turnovers really hurt us and that’s something we need to do better.”
It was the third No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season game in history to go to overtime. And Stanford also has to be frustrated that it got that far in the first place. Ashten Prechtel blocked South Carolina star Aliyah Boston with six seconds to go and Stanford holding a 61-59 lead.
But Boston was able to muscle her way through a double-team and score inside with 2.1 seconds to go to send the game into extra minutes.
Boston, projected to be the No. 1 pick in the next WNBA draft, finished with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, but was held down much of the game. Boston scored 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime periods.
“Aliyah Boston is so big and so strong that you have to double her and that’s a gamble.” VanDerveer said. “Some of their kids stepped up and knocked down some shots, and that’s the gamble,” VanDerveer said. “She’s tough in there and that’s a great person for some of our players like Kiki and Lauren Betts to really watch and say ‘That’s what I need to be doing.’”
Stanford junior Cameron Brink led all scorers with 25 points, five rebounds and four blocks, but fouled out of the game with 3:01 left in overtime. Jones and Iriafen added 11 points each.
“There’s a lot that we left out there on the court,” said Jones, who was 5-of-19 from the floor, but pulled down nine rebounds to go with six assists. “It’s our first loss, but I think there’s a lot left in the tank for this team.”
VanDerveer wanted to be clear, that she didn’t believe this loss came down to one or two mistakes.
“It’s the combination of the turnovers, not getting the ball inbounds, taking a timeout, not boxing out, fouling out, all of those things add up,” VanDerveer said. “It’s an overtime game and we have to be hungrier.”
Stanford had played everyone on its roster over the first five games on the season, and went 11 deep in this game, but the Cardinal bench was outscored 34-9.
Brink said the first thing she told her teammates walking into the locker room was to “we have nothing to hang our heads about.”
“We made a lot of mistakes, but we are a young team, and if anything, it was just a great experience for us to get under our belts,” Brink said.
South Carolina won its 16th straight game against a ranked foe. The Cardinal, meanwhile, still has a pair of tough games at home against Gonzaga and Tennessee before the start of Pac-12 play.
“We have nowhere to go but up,” VanDerveer said. “This might just be a team that’s not ready to be No. 1. We have to be hungry as No. 2. We have to improve, we have to stay healthy and get better.”