March 8, 2021 

Pac-12 Tournament: How Stanford won its 14th title

And what's next for the Pac-12's top teams

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Photo via Stanford Athletics

For the fourteenth time in conference history, Stanford is once again Pac-12 Tournament Champions.

Led by walking bucket Kiana Williams, who was named Most Outstanding Player after the final buzzer, the Cardinal overwhelmed UCLA in a 75-55 victory Sunday night.

Let’s take a look at how it played out on the hardwood.

But first, some context. These two teams have done this song and dance before. Stanford has faced UCLA more than any other team in the Pac-12 Tournament, and they’ve now come out on top in 11 of 12 match-ups against the Bruins. That includes four wins in the championship game.

UCLA looked like a very different team than the one we saw take down Arizona in a gritty and physical battle Friday night. Stanford got off to a hot start and didn’t take its foot off the gas for 40 minutes.

Lexie Hull and Williams knocked down a pair of triples to put the Cardinal up 6-0 in the first. Michaela Onyenwere put the Bruins on the board with a jumper, but it was quickly followed by a 12-5 run from Stanford.

An 11-3 Stanford start to the second quarter helped give them a 23-point lead heading into halftime. Onyenwere’s first half packed a punch — her 13 points and two rebounds were some of the only bright spots for UCLA before the break. She was 5-for-11 from the floor, while the rest of the team was 2-of-15.

Williams drained her fifth three to open the half, but then the Bruins started to scratch away at the 26-point lead by going on a 20-6 run and coming within 12 points just before the end of the third quarter.

Even though the final score doesn’t show it, UCLA did get itself within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

UCLA’s Natalie Chou kicked off the final frame with a triple to cut the score to 54-43. Hull answered with her own triple, but Onyenwere converted on a baseline jumper at the other end to make things 57-46.

But Stanford found its momentum again, rallying behind a nine-point spurt from Hull. By then, it was too late for the Bruins, who fell 75-55.

But Stanford knows this isn’t the end of the line — it’s not a won-and-done situation. There’s still the big dance, after all: the NCAA Tournament.

“We just want to keep it going,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer in the postgame celebration. “We have a deep team, we have a close team and we play for each other.”

Williams piggybacked off her coach’s attitude.

“March is a time for winning and big players make big plays,” Williams said. “But like Tara told us after the game, ‘This can’t be our best game.’”

Williams was honored as the Most Outstanding Player after the game. Onyenwere, Hull and Cameron Brink were also named to the All-Tournament team, joining Aleah Goodman of Oregon State and Aari McDonald of Arizona.

By the numbers: Kiana Williams led Stanford with a relentless bucket barrage that totaled 26 points. Close on her heels was Lexie Hull, who put up 24 points. Haley Jones added a double-double, with 10 points and 13 rebounds for Stanford (25-2). Meanwhile, Michaela Onyenwere’s 30-point performance wasn’t enough to push UCLA into the win column. Charisma Osborne left in the third quarter with an injury, but returned to the game and ended up tacking on 11 points and a game-high four assists in the Bruins’ loss.

What’s up next: With the win, Stanford officially punches its ticket to the NCAA Tournament in San Antonio, where they’ll have a slight edge when it comes to bubble/hotel life since they mostly lived on the road this season. UCLA is also awaiting its seeding for the tournament. The selection show is scheduled for Monday, March 15, and the first round of the tournament is set to tip off March 21-22.

Written by Sydney Olmstead

Pac-12 and Las Vegas Aces reporter.

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