Story by Jeff Metcalfe
Arizona women’s basketball remains tantalizing close to Stanford almost 10 months after their one-point duel in the 2021 NCAA championship game.
Sunday’s rematch was a two-possession game in the final minute until a steal by Lexie Hull allowed No. 2 Stanford to close out its 22nd consecutive win (75-69) over a conference opponent — a streak that includes the 54-53 victory over Arizona in the first all-Pac-12 national title tilt.
Putting a stake in Stanford is never easy, much less at Maples Pavilion on Tara VanDerveer bobblehead day in a nationally televised game.
Stanford led for 37:30 out of 40 minutes, never trailing after the early part of the second quarter. But eighth-ranked Arizona didn’t flinch, not even when down by 10 points early in the third and by 12 early in the fourth.
Ultimately, Stanford’s sophomore duo of Cameron Brink and Jana Van Gytenbeek proved too much for Arizona to overcome despite 18 Cardinal turnovers that the Wildcats converted into a 22-6 scoring edge off miscues.
The 6-foot-4 Brink tied her career scoring high (25 points) and pulled down 15 rebounds, in addition three blocks, two steals and two assists.
“Her best game is yet to come. You haven’t seen it yet,” VanDerveer said in postgame media comments.
Van Gytenbeek went 3-of-7 from 3-point range against Arizona State on Friday, warming up for the best game of her young career two days later: 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from behind the line.
The 18 points doubled the season total for the 2020 Colorado Gatorade High School Player of the Year at just the right time, for Stanford was without junior Hannah Jump due to COVID protocols.
“Cameron did a really good job of asserting herself and just kind of bulldozing us. I thought we had to be a lot more physical with her,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said.
“Jana and Cameron killed us, together over 40 points. That can’t happen.”
Arizona remains winless at Stanford since January 2001, a string of 19 games, although that’s a deceptive stat since three of the last six games overall have been decided by one or two points, with one of those going to the Wildcats.
There isn’t a second regular-season meeting against Arizona, so Stanford’s biggest remaining hurdle to an undefeated Pac-12 record will come Feb. 20 at No. 19 Oregon.
Oregon plays twice, picks up three wins
The Ducks played twice but had a 3-0 week thanks to a forfeit victory Friday over UCLA, which was without the minimum number of healthy players (seven) due to injuries unrelated to COVID.
Oregon held off Utah 70-66 on Wednesday, then dominated USC 80-48 on Sunday and now has seven straight Pac-12 wins. While the forfeit counts in the conference standings, it does not count toward the Ducks’ overall record (13-5), per NCAA policy.
The Utah game, rescheduled from Dec. 31 and played before more than 7,000 in Eugene, was similar to the Stanford-Arizona affair in that the Ducks led for 30-plus minutes but never by enough to be comfortable.
Oregon held a two-point edge with 21 seconds left, made 1-of-2 free throws, maintained possession thanks to a held ball, then added a clinching free throw for the four-point margin.
The Ducks had balanced scoring against Utah with four players in the 13-to 15-point range; against USC, they were led by Nyara Sabally with 23 points and former Trojan Endyia Rogers with 17.
Rogers also picked up a technical foul for shoving a USC player after not getting a call in the third quarter.
“We talked the other day, and I just told her to have fun,” Ducks coach Kelly Graves said. “She’s on the better team, just go out and show she made the right choice.”
Friday all about overtime thrills
USC was without coach Lindsay Gottlieb over the weekend due to COVID and Alissa Pili and Tera Reed because of injuries, but the Trojans were still part of a trio of thrilling overtime games Friday.
The Trojans and Washington were in positions to win in regulation time but couldn’t finish off Oregon State and Washington State, respectively, and both ultimately lost on the road.
Freshman Talia von Oelhoffen scored a season-high 31 points for the Beavers in what was coach Scott Rueck’s 250th win at the school.
— Utah forced overtime at home against Colorado on a 3-pointer by Dasia Young with seven seconds left, only to fall in OT as the Buffaloes ended their four-game losing streak. The Utes returned the favor Sunday, winning 78-67 in Boulder for a rivalry split.
“I know I’m tired of saying it, so people are probably tired of hearing it, but we are so close,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said after Wednesday’s loss to Oregon.
(She has a point: The Utes remain in the top 25 nationally in the NET rankings.)
— Meanwhile, Washington State pulled away in the fourth quarter in Seattle for a 57-43 victory and a sweep of the Huskies, who are now on a conference-high six-game losing streak.
Washington State also beat Oregon State on Wednesday and had a 3-0 week.
— Cal lost two more games due to COVID protocols and is now down a total of seven, the same as ASU halfway through the conference season.
Three teams in position to be NCAA hosts
In the first NCAA Tournament seeding preview from the selection committee, Stanford was the projected No. 2 overall seed, Arizona the No. 8 and Oregon the No. 14.
The top 16 women’s seeds host first- and second-round games. Selection Day is March 13.
Through Thursday’s games, ESPN was projecting seven Pac-12 teams – Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Washington State, UCLA – to make the 68-team field, with two others, Oregon State and ASU, among the first four currently left out.
Weekend results helped Oregon State and, to a lesser degree, Washington State.
— Player of the Week nominees: Cameron Brink (Stanford), Mya Hollingshed (Colorado), Jordyn Jenkins (USC), Shaina Pellington (Arizona), Nyara Sabally (Oregon), Johanna Teder (Washington State), Haley Van Dyke (Washington), Talia von Oelhoffen (Oregon State), Dasia Young (Utah).
— Freshman of the Week nominees: Kiki Iriafen (Stanford), Gianna Kneepkens (Utah), Rayah Marshall (USC), Jayda Noble (Washington), Kindyll Wetta (Colorado).
— Ahead this week: Oregon will host ASU in a makeup game Tuesday, then visit Tempe on Sunday. In between, the Ducks will be at Arizona in the premier Pac-12 game of the week — a rematch of their contentious 68-66 overtime win Jan. 15 that will draw a large crowd to McKale Center. Washington State and Oregon State also face road tests in their push for postseason berths.
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