The Stanford Cardinal defeated the Oregon Ducks in the championship game of the Pac-12 women’s basketball conference tournament in Las Vegas. Some notes, observations and analysis of both semifinal games:
(2) Stanford 64, (1) Oregon 57
The Ducks jumped out to an early double-digit lead in the first meeting between these two teams and used a 15-0 run in the final 3:55 of the half to take a 24 point lead into the break.
“I think that was something that we had in our minds ever since we lost that game,” Alanna Smith said postgame. “When you take a loss like that, you have no choice but to learn from it. So we were happy that we got to play Oregon today, because we wanted another chance at them.”
The tables turned Sunday as Stanford jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first and a 31-20 lead just before the half.
“We didn’t have any fire and they came out, and you could tell they really wanted to beat us and we were on our heels for most of the game,” Ionescu said postgame. “We fought back, but we didn’t fight back hard enough and long enough to win this game.”
Smith and Maya Dodson combined to block seven shots. Dodson blocked Ruthy Hebard twice inside in the opening minutes, and Smith emphatically blocked a Morgan Yaeger 3-point attempt at the end of the first quarter.
“I think [Dodson’s] presence in there and just her running the floor I think gave us another alternative,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “A lot of times this year when Maya has been out, Alanna has had to play the five, but it allowed Alanna to play the four the whole game basically.”
Shots by Smith and Dodson coming out of the break extended Stanford’s lead to 14 before Oregon ripped off 10 straight. Kiana Williams broke the drought with a 3-pointer, but the Ducks continued to roar back, taking a one-point lead into the fourth.
“A lot of our sets, quite frankly, just, you know, we weren’t on point tonight,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “So we decided we’re just going to kind of play ball in the middle of the floor, and screen and re-screen, and see if they would bite.
“We didn’t get the roll action tonight. They did a nice job on that, so we ended up taking tough, contested pull-ups. Didn’t get the three game going either.”
Neither team separated by more than three points until DiJonai Carrington’s personal 4-0 run coming on a layup late in the shot clock and another in transition after picking Maite Cazorla’s pocket.
“Right when we came out of that [final] media timeout, we huddled up,” Carrington said. “It was like, ‘We want this, and we need to show it right now.’ Coming out of that huddle, I saw it on everyone’s face that we wanted it. And we knew we had to do whatever we could to get it.”
Williams made just two 3-pointers Sunday, but her second came at the perfect time as she extended her team’s lead to eight with less than 1:30 to play.
“I just knew they needed a basket,” Williams said. “And they were guarding [Carrington] and [Smith] really hard because they played a great game. I think she went under the screen, so I had confidence. My teammates have confidence in me. My coaching staff has confidence in me. I just knocked it down. I think Shannon [Coffee] set a great screen and I knocked it down.”
“She has ice in her veins!” Smith added with a smile.
Carrington extended the next Stanford possession after a Sabrina Ionescu pull up jumper. Williams was sent to the line and made both free throws.
“I thought we continued to play hard and got back in the game,” Graves said. “And I was a little disappointed with our execution once we took the lead in the third quarter. Or the early fourth quarter. I thought, okay, this is our time that we usually shine. We just didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”
All-Tournament Team Announced
Alanna Smith, Stanford (named tournament’s Most Outstanding Player); Kennedy Burke, UCLA; DiJonai Carrington, Stanford; Japreece Dean, UCLA; Ruthy Hebard, Oregon; Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon
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