February 26, 2024 

Stanford sends off seniors with share of final Pac-12 title

VanDerveer: 'We’re going to enjoy these shirts. I might sleep in it tonight'

In the Pac-12’s final season, it seems only right that Stanford will end the regular season with a share of the title. In the league’s 38 seasons, Stanford has had at least a share of the title 27 times, with the current four-year streak punctuated by what is certainly the most competitive Pac-12 slate to-date. 

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The Cardinal solidified their position at the top in the league’s final season with Sunday’s 81-67 win over Arizona State, confirmed by #7 USC’s loss to #18 Utah on Sunday, which was streamed on the scoreboard immediately following the game. Fans, coaches, and players all watched the final  interminable minute together as it was determined whether the Cardinal would be able to celebrate their top spot. When the clinch was confirmed, hats and shirts seemingly appeared out of thin air, and were donned ahead of Hannah Jump and Cameron Brink’s Senior Day recognitions. 

Despite (another) rocky first quarter, five Stanford players scored in double figures on Sunday, and the Cardinal dominated the paint once again, outscoring the Sun Devils 42-22 from close range. Stanford found its success in both the expected and unexpected, with Kiki Iriafen boasting the first 20-rebound game of her career in her fourth consecutive double-double. Jzaniya Harriel played a career high 34 minutes and scored 12 points, after starting in place of steady point guard Talana Lepolo who was out with a knee injury that is currently being evaluated. 

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After the game, Coach Tara VanDerveer praised Harriel’s performance to the media, saying, “Jzaniya redshirted her freshman year and had limited minutes. My confidence has really grown in Jzaniya and I’m really proud of how well she played. […] She’s a really intelligent player. This was a big game for her. This was a statement game for her.” 

Maples Pavillion was filled with an air of excitement, nostalgia, and intrigue on Sunday, with the certain good-bye to Hannah Jump, and the maybe-goodbye to fourth year Cameron Brink, who says she is still determining whether she will return for her COVID year. Brink finished Sunday with 14 points, 5 blocks, and 9 rebounds, playing at a self-proclaimed “60%” after missing Friday’s loss against Arizona due to the flu (“wash your hands!” she quipped to reporters after the game). 

Notably, Brink also recorded 7 of Stanford’s 19 assists on the game, finding her outside players and cutters with the deserved double-teams that she and Iriafen have become accustomed to. “Cam is a very unselfish player,” said VanDerveer. “Lots of players, it goes in and that’s the end of it. She looks to pass. Sometimes I have to tell her, ‘take your own shot,’ incredibly unselfish. She is about her team winning.” 

In both the Senior Day celebrations and post-game press conference, Brink and Jump spoke to their chemistry, friendship, and strong bond. Brink notes the two have become “like sisters,” with their closeness off the court stemming from their time as roommates during Brink’s tough freshman year, when the Cardinal won the National Championship after an extremely taxing season spent almost entirely on the road. On the court, they are also a strong match, with Brink’s dominant presence inside opening outside shots up for fifth year player Jump, who is Stanford’s all-time leader in three pointers made. During Senior Day speeches, Hannah Jump’s father joked to Sonya Curry, Cameron’s godmother and Steph Curry’s mom, about their childrens’ three point prowess, suggesting another potential shootout matchup

While Jump has exhausted her college eligibility, the lone player from last year’s senior class to utilize her COVID year, Brink still has the possibility of a return, and says she hasn’t yet made a decision. “I’m still undecided on whether or not I’ll come back next year,” Brink said after the game. “I’m still taking everything in and really appreciative and enjoying my girls, and we’re really happy about the championship.” If she moves on to the WNBA this summer, it’s widely suggested that she will remain in California as the Los Angeles Sparks’ third overall pick. 

The Cardinal will play Thursday against #9 Oregon State, with a win cementing them as the sole Pac-12 Champions. 

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Written by Cameron Ruby

Cameron Ruby has been a contributing writer for The Next since April 2023. She is a Bay Area native currently living in Los Angeles.

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