March 7, 2022 

Inside the Pac-12 Tournament championship game

The Cardinal used great defense and a strong performance from Haley Jones to win their 15th Pac-12 tournament championship

LAS VEGAS — The Cardinal are back-to-back Pac-12 tournament champions. For the 15th time in 21 opportunities, Stanford has won the Pac-12 tournament championship. The Cardinal defeated upstart Utah 73-48 on Sunday afternoon at Michelob Ultra Arena. Here is how the game transpired and some thoughts on each team’s performance and NCAA tournament outlook.

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Stanford Guard Lexie Hull shoots a jumper in the Pac-12 Championship against Utah. Photo Credit: Powers Imagery

Game Summary: Stanford came out in the first and dominated down low. Cameron Brink and Haley Jones combined for 14 of the Cardinal’s 21 points in the first frame and led Stanford to a 10-point lead after one. Utah responded in the second behind the #1 offense in the Pac-12.  The Utes shot 75% from the field in quarter number 2 and made four threes to cut the deficit to just two points going into the half. Jones led all scorers with 13 while Dasia Young had nine for the Utes. Utah came out in the second half and scored the first basket to tie the game at 32. After that, Stanford finished the third on a 20-11 run. Utah was able to make it a single-digit game going into the fourth thanks to a four-point play by Brynna Maxwell towards the end of the quarter. Stanford started the fourth with a 10-0 run to seal their 15th Pac-12 tournament championship. Jones was named the Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Brink, Anna Wilson, Jenna Johnson, Gianna Kneepkens and Nyara Sabally made up the All-Tournament team.

My thoughts on Stanford’s performance and NCAA tournament outlook: Stanford dominated the Pac-12 all season long. They haven’t lost to a Pac-12 opponent in their last 34 tries. The Cardinal started strong behind their presence in the paint with Brink and Jones. They dominated the paint outscoring Utah 40-12 down low. They also locked up Utah in the second half holding the Utes to just 21% shooting in the half. They limited Utah’s two star freshman to just five points on 2 of 15 shooting. For the third time this tournament, I will state that Haley Jones is the most versatile player in college basketball. She had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. She also knocked down 3 three pointers. If she can become more consistent from the outside, she will be unstoppable. Brink added 16 points on eight of 12 shooting. Brink got in foul trouble in the game Sunday and that seems to be the only problem with her game.

My NCAA tournament outlook for Stanford is to repeat as national champions. This team may be better than last year’s team and last year’s team won the national championship. They are deep, they can score in multiple different ways and the defend at an incredibly high level. I don’t see one weakness in Stanford’s game, and that is why I believe the Cardinal can repeat as national champions. Stanford looked like the defending national champions Sunday and both Lexie Hull and Jones said they are looking forward to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s kind of fueling our fire to keep that competitive energy going into the tournament where we won last year and we have a target on our back, which I think we embrace as kind of motivation and the competitive spirit to get back out into the tournament this year and try to bring another one home,” Jones said. 

Hull added “We love playing with each other. And we know going into the tournament, it being a one-and-done type of game, that we just want to be with each other still. And we play for that next game so that we can still practice, still play. And we’re just really excited, looking forward to it.”

My thoughts on Utah’s performance and NCAA tournament outlook: I want to give a ton of credit to Utah. They came into this tournament and absolutely proved they deserve everyone in the Pac-12’s respect. They are an incredibly balanced team and have a lot of depth. On a night when their two star freshman struggled, they had others step up. Brynna Maxwell, who may have the quickest release of any college basketball player I’ve ever seen, had 16 points Sunday. Dasia Young had nine points of the bench and Kelsey Rees added eight points and 10 rebounds. Utah showed in the second quarter they can compete with anyone. They scored 19 points on the Cardinal and made four threes in the quarter. The Utes are incredibly dangerous when they start making threes at a high rate and have a ton of players that can knock down outside shots. They struggled on offense in the second half and just didn’t hit shots they normally hit.

Utah has a bright future ahead of them but just ran into the best team in the country. Utah’s NCAA tournament outlook is a second-round team. Utah has proven they can play with the best in the country and should be a high seed in the tournament. I think with the right matchup, they could get to the Sweet Sixteen, but they are a young team, and I don’t know if they can beat someone on their home floor in the NCAA tournament yet. However, I fully expect them to win at least one game and grow from this incredible showing here in Las Vegas. Head Coach Lynne Roberts said that despite the loss, she fully expects her team to show up ready to play in the NCAA tournament.

“I think this group’s been really good about, win or lose, they show up the next day the same. And I think that’s for us to win games in the tournament, I think it’s going to be a key,” Roberts said. “I’m just excited about the opportunity. And I have so much confidence in these guys. And they’re excited. We’re disappointed we lost, but it’s not the end of the road for this season and this group.”

Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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