This Week in the Pac-12: Stanford clinches 24th regular-season conference title
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Cardinal is No. 4 in the latest AP top-25 poll.
In a season unlike any other, Stanford quenched a seven-year regular-season title drought Monday after topping No. 9 Arizona. It’s the team’s 24th Pac-12 regular-season title and it means the Cardinal will now be the top seed in the conference tournament, which starts next Wednesday.
The win also bumped Stanford up to No. 4 in the latest AP top-25 poll, followed by No. 9 Arizona, No. 10 UCLA and No. 14 Oregon.
𝘼 𝙡𝙤𝙩 of hard work and sacrifice to get here.
Just one step in the journey.#GoStanford pic.twitter.com/RsJJRk4IHl
— Stanford Women’s Basketball (@StanfordWBB) February 23, 2021
Stanford’s season looked pretty different from any other team in the Pac-12. They spent two months on the road due to California restrictions on sports.
But that just made the conference title that much sweeter for the Cardinal, and especially for head coach Tara VanDerveer, who got her 1,099th victory this season to surpass Pat Summitt as the winningest coach in DI women’s basketball.
“I’m glad I was wearing my mask. I have to say I get a little emotional because it’s such a great thing that this team has accomplished. But not only that, it’s how they have been as teammates, how they have been mature. It’s been amazing, so you want good things for people who are like that. I’m really proud of the leadership of our team. I’m really proud of the sisterhood. They really care about each other, the unselfishness. And I told our team that. There’s not a team I’ve wanted it so badly for with this team.”
Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull helped lead their team to a 62-48 victory Monday night, scoring 15 and 16 points respectively. Hull also hauled in nine rebounds throughout the game. Haley Jones tacked on 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals for Stanford, but off-set an otherwise stellar stat line with seven of the team’s 16 turnovers.
“I think for all of us it means so much,” Hull said. “The two months we were on the road, we were around each other and that was it. We really grew closer and were a family, and we still are. We care for each other so much that winning something like this means a lot to us.”
More from NCAA
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, April 6: Stanford defeats Arizona in a tightly contested matchup to win the national title
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 30: UConn and Baylor deliver a classic battle of storied programs
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 26: Louisville and Texas A&M survive and advance
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 23: Highlights from the first round of the NCAA Tournament
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 16: Tournament bracket released
Pac-12 Tournament won’t allow fans from the general public
The 2021 Pac-12 Women’s Tournament is set to take place March 3-7 in Las Vegas. The conference’s studio in San Francisco will broadcast 10 of the 11 total games, as well as provide in-depth coverage of all 12 teams throughout the tournament.
And since fans won’t be allowed at the games, you’ll have to tune into the Pac-12 Network to catch the action.
However, the conference did announce this week that it will welcome student-athlete family members to attend both the men’s and women’s tournaments. This policy is waiting on approval from Las Vegas public health authorities.
The post-season action kicks off on Wednesday, March 3 at 11 a.m. You can find the full schedule here.
Stars to watch in the Conference of Champions
- Aari McDonald, No. 9 Arizona: McDonald joined the 2,000-point club this season after putting up 20 points an Arizona win over Utah earlier in the season. She boasts an 84-straight game streak in double figures scoring – the longest in Pac-12 this century. McDonald won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season and certainly hasn’t backed down in 2020-21. She’s one of ten semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Players of the Year and a more than eligible candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
- Michaela Onyenwere, No. 10 UCLA: Onyenwere is a team captain who has played a significant role in mentoring sophomore guard Charisma Osborne as well as early-entry freshman Dominique Darius this season. She currently ranks in the top-15 on UCLA’s all-time scoring list with 1,727 points and is a top-10 finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors student-athletes who use their platform to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
- Talia von Oelhoffen, Oregon State: von Oelhoffen is an early-entry freshman at OSU this season. This week she earned her first Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors after shooting 3-of-4 (.750) from beyond the arc and putting up five rebounds and three assists against the Trojans on Friday. She then dropped 13 points on 2-of-3 (.667) shooting while hauling in six rebounds in the following win against No. 8 UCLA. The 77-52 victory against USC, as well as the following 71-64 victory over the Bruins, led to the Beavers being named the United States Basketball Writers Association National Team of the Week.
- Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State: The New Zealand native earned her seventh Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors last week after averaging 24.0 points per game in a pair of road match-ups against Arizona and Arizona State. Leger-Walker is well on her way to solidifying herself as the WSU’s best freshman in program history and has been battling with Osborne to take the lead in Pac-12 scoring. If she comes out on top, she’ll be the first freshman in conference history to ever end the season as its leading scorer.
The 2021 McDonald’s All-American roster was revealed this week, and the Pac-12 boasts five future players on the 24-player girls squad.
- Greta Kampschroeder (G), Oregon State signee
- Brooke Demetre (W) and Okikiola Iriafen (F), Stanford signees
- Clarice Akunwafo (P) and Rayah Marshall (G), USC signees
Pac-12 regular season wraps up this weekend
Friday, Feb. 26
- USC at No. 10 UCLA, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 28
- No. 9 Arizona at Arizona State, 11 a.m.
- Colorado at Utah, 11 a.m.
- Washington at Washington State, 1 p.m.
- California at No. 4 Stanford, 1 p.m.
- Oregon State at No. 14 Oregon, 3 p.m.
All times listed are Pacific Standard Time.