There would have been no shame in the third-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team losing at undefeated Tennessee on Saturday. But a third loss for the Cardinal would have detracted from the defending national champion’s upcoming showdown at No. 1 South Carolina.
As it was — and despite a nine-point third-quarter — Stanford managed to defeat the Lady Vols 74-63 and improved its record to 8-2 entering the highly-anticipated matchup against the Gamecocks (11-0) on Tuesday.
Stanford edged South Carolina 66-65 in the semifinals of the 2021 NCAA Tournament when the Gamecocks missed two layups in the closing seconds.
At halftime against Tennessee, there seemed little doubt that Stanford would win for the seventh time in the last 10 meetings between the traditional powers. The Cardinal led 43-26, even with top scorer Cameron Brink in foul trouble.
But the graduation of point guard Kiana Williams, which showed in Stanford’s losses to No. 11 Texas and No. 16 South Florida, resurfaced again vs. Tennessee’s ball pressure in the third quarter.
Thanks to a 14-0 run, the Lady Vols were within four when Brink fouled out with 8:23 left.
When a hero was needed, Ashten Prechtel responded. The junior forward scored 11 consecutive points, including three straight 3-pointers, for a 63-52 Cardinal lead. Tennessee could get no closer than six points in the final 4:26.
Haley Jones (18 points and a career-high 19 rebounds) helped to close out the win with six of her 12 points on free throws.
Stanford was 21-of-24 from the line. The Lady Vols were 16-of-29.
Cameron Brink’s step back vs. Tennessee
Before Saturday, Brink was on a roll with four double-doubles in the previous five games, including three with 20-plus points and a 22-rebound performance against No. 10 Indiana.
“There’s only one person who can stop Cam, and that’s Cam,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said after a win over Pacific on Dec. 12.
That’s pretty much what happened for the 6-4 sophomore forward against the Lady Vols, when she only played eight minutes with four points and two rebounds.
Brink, somewhat prophetically, told the Hotline a day before the Tennessee game:
“I’ll score when my team needs me to, but a big emphasis for me is rebounding, setting good screens and playing defense without fouling.
“What Tara and Kate (associate head coach Kate Paye) really tell me is blocking shots is not an emphasis for you, it’s playing defense without fouling. They think when I try to block shots, that’s what gets me in trouble, which is true.
“I’ve always been a shot blocker, but I think I’m kind of making the change, and it’s helping me play longer.”
Stanford almost certainly will need more from Brink against South Carolina and its All-American forward, Aliyah Boston.
“This wasn’t Cam’s day, but she’s played great for us in other games,” VanDerveer said after the win over Tennessee. “This will help get her better and understand what we need her to do.”
COVID costs No. 4 Arizona in schedule strength, TV exposure
Arizona had a signature 83-58 win at Texas in November 2019, part of a 13-0 start that proved the Wildcats were ready to elevate further off their WNIT title the previous spring.
The anticipated rematch scheduled for Sunday in Las Vegas was derailed when the fourth-ranked Wildcats went into COVID protocol.
“This is the world that we live in now,” Wildcats coach Adia Barnes tweeted. “But we only worry about things that we can control.”
(Organizers of the Coast-to-Coast Challenge in Las Vegas found a last-minute replacement: the San Diego Toreros, who were coming off a 79-60 loss Saturday to Arizona State.)
Arizona is not lacking for respect after its 2021 NCAA runner-up finish but would have received a strength-of-schedule boost from playing Texas, not to mention the exposure from an ESPN national TV appearance.
— The Wildcats’ SOS is No. 106, and their next game isn’t until the Pac-12 opener on Dec. 31 at USC. They played one game last week before the COVID pause: an 82-55 wins Friday at Northern Arizona.
— Meanwhile, UCLA has lost three home games to COVID protocols: vs. Texas Southern (Thursday), No. 24 Ohio State (Sunday) and Cal State Bakersfield (Dec. 21).
— Washington State also lost an opponent (Cornell) due to COVID but found a replacement in Stony Brook.
No. 20 BYU and Stony Brook are two of the nation’s best mid-majors, and the Cougars lost to both during an ambitious cross-country swing.
They were beaten by 18 points in Provo, Utah, on Saturday, then by seven on Sunday after traveling roughly 2,000 miles to Stony Brook, which is on Long Island.
WSU coach Kamie Ethridge took the latter loss in stride: “It was a great situation for us to come here and play. It took us a while to get going,” referencing her team’s travel. “I’m not overly disappointed.”
BYU improved to 3-0 against the Pac-12 this season, adding to earlier wins over Arizona State and Utah.
Still, all Pac-12 teams are above .500 six weeks into the season.
Jade Loville puts up Pac-12 high 34 points
ASU guard Jade Loville leads the Pac-12 in single-game scoring after a 34-point effort against San Diego, the most by a Sun Devil since 2004.
Loville was 12-of-15 from the floor and made all four of her 3-point attempts, plus 6-of-8 free throws. That boosted her past a 32-point game by UCLA’s IImar’I Thomas on Dec. 5 for the most productive scoring game in the conference this season.
“When she is on, she is on,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “That’s what we’ve seen since we’ve had the honor to coach her, and she was on today.
“That is something we have not had in a while, where we just have someone that can go off like that. That certainly makes everyone’s jobs easier.”
Loville, an Arizona native, is a transfer from Boise State with two years of eligibility remaining. She had a 40-point game last season for the Broncos.
Through Sunday games …
The Pac-12’s non-conference record: 87-30 (No. 3 among conferences in the NET ranking)
Player of the Week nominees: Jade Loville, Arizona State; Haley Jones, Stanford; Jayda Curry, California; Jenna Jones, Utah; Quay Miller, Colorado; Maddie Scherr, Oregon; Lauren Schwartz, Washington; Greta Kampschroeder, Oregon State.
Freshman of the Week nominees: Jayda Curry, California; Greta Kampschroeder, Oregon State; Jenna Johnson, Utah; Kiki Iriafen, Stanford; Rayah Marshall, USC; Kindyll Wetta, Colorado.
Ahead this week: Stanford visits No. 1 South Carolina and Utah plays at Oklahoma (9-1) on Tuesday.
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