March 6, 2021
Pac-12 Tournament: Stanford and UCLA advance to the championship game
Who will be at the top of the Conference of Champions on Sunday?
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After three rounds, the tables are set for the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game tomorrow night.
On Friday night, Stanford defeated Oregon State and UCLA beat Arizona to advance to the main event.
Let’s talk about how they got there.
Game 1: Oregon State vs. Stanford
Oregon State’s hot streak came to a close Friday night, as Stanford pulled away with a 79-45 victory.
For Stanford, strong defense was key in taking down the Beavers’ powerful offense, which shot 49.7 percent from beyond the arc in the previous nine games. The Cardinal held the Beavers to just 23.1 percent on Friday.
“Our defense really set the tone for the win, and to hold a team that’s that good to 45 points is really saying something,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “When you play in our conference, you have to play defense. Everyone on our team is working hard defensively. I know we need them to do that for our team to be successful.”
The game was all tied up at 13 after the first quarter and OSU even took a short-lived lead after Sasha Goforth drained a 3-pointer just five seconds into the second. But then, Stanford forward Cameron Brink stepped up and scored 11 points, blocked three shots and grabbed two rebounds during a 20-3 run that turned the tide of the game.
Oregon State suffered from some sloppy ball-handling throughout the game, committing 13 turnovers by the end of the third quarter and finishing with 15. This allowed Stanford to outscore them 18-5 in points off turnovers.
Stanford’s Haley Jones and Kiana Williams were named to the Wooden Award national ballot for the national player of the year on Saturday.
By the numbers: Brink scored a career-high 24 points and brought in 11 rebounds in her team’s win Friday night. Not only that, but she also set the Stanford freshman blocks record with 64 swats so far this season. Williams dropped 20 points and added six rebounds and six assists. Fellow guard Lexie Hull tacked on 12 points and seven rebounds, while guard Hannah Jump put up 10 points and five boards. On the other side, OSU guard Aleah Goodman stayed hot with 12 points, while forward Taylor Jones pulled down 13 rebounds.
Game 2: Arizona vs UCLA
UCLA is heading to the conference championship for the sixth time in program history after a close battle with Arizona. The Bruins edged the Wildcats, 58-49, on Friday night.
For the Bruins, the name of the game was consistency. Arizona has been a strong team all season long, and for players like forward Michaela Onyenwere, the key to success for UCLA was to ride out the waves of the game and play their way.
“Part of our game plan was staying steady,” Onyenwere said. “We knew there was going to be ups and downs, lefts and rights. Arizona is a great team and they like to take you out of rhythm on offense and on defense. So our key word was to stay steady.”
Onyenwere opened things up with a baseline jumper, but it was quickly followed by a pair of Wildcat buckets from Aari McDonald and Cate Reese to give Arizona an early 4-2 lead. A steal from Natalie Chou led to a Bruins basket and a tie game with a little over four minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bruins were hot in the second quarter thanks to a triple from early-entry freshman Dominique Darius, a jumper from Chou and a fast break from Onyenwere. They led 25-17 heading into halftime.
The Wildcats came back from the break with some fight in them. Trinity Baptiste kicked things off in the third quarter with a three-point play to put Arizona within five. This was quickly followed by McDonald snagging a loose ball and putting it in the net, making it 25-22 Bruins and forcing a timeout. But UCLA regrouped and led by ten by the end of the quarter.
Arizona battled back in the final quarter and McDonald had her foot on the gas all the way to the end, but UCLA ended up pulling away with seven straight points, including five from the foul line, to secure the 58-49 win.
Both McDonald and Onyenwere were named to the Wooden Award national ballot Saturday. Earlier in the week, McDonald was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year, while Onyenwere earned All-Pac-12 honors for the third straight season and is currently third in the conference in scoring (18.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg).
By the numbers: Onyenwere led her team with 24 points and was the only Bruin to score in double figures Friday night. Guard Charisma Osborne was tasked with holding off McDonald all night (no small feat) and also managed to contribute seven points and seven rebounds. Chou added seven points and six rebounds for UCLA. McDonald, ever the shooting threat, dropped a team-best 24 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
Pac-12 Tournament Championship (Sunday, March 7)
Stanford vs UCLA, 5 p.m. PT
The game will be available on ESPN2. There will also be pre-game and post-game coverage on Pac-12 Network.