November 21, 2022 

Stanford can learn a lot from fourth-quarter collapse against South Carolina

The Cardinal fell apart in the fourth quarter on Sunday but can grow from the loss to the Gamecocks

STANFORD, Calif. — In what was the game of the year so far, #2 Stanford fell to #1 South Carolina 76-71 in overtime. The Cardinal had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter but major offensive struggles in the fourth quarter and overtime allowed South Carolina to come back and win the game. Despite the tough ending, the Cardinal gained a lot from the performance and will learn from this for the rest of the season.

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The biggest area of struggle for the Cardinal was its offensive execution down the stretch of the game. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Stanford shot 4-19 from the field, scoring just 17 points in the 15-minute stretch. The Cardinal didn’t score in the fourth quarter until there were four minutes left. The South Carolina defense really stepped up in the fourth, but Stanford was taking some very difficult shots in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal struggled to turn the corner and get to the basket, mostly just moving the ball around the perimeter. Stanford will need to find ways to get easy baskets especially when its offense sputters like it did on Sunday.

Another big offensive issue for Stanford was turnovers. The Cardinal had 22 turnovers, including 13 from the starters. The majority of the turnovers occurred when Stanford was trying to enter the ball into the post or trying to find open teammates on the perimeter from inside the paint. The Cardinal also had six turnovers in the fourth quarter and while it only had two in overtime, those two were big ones.

With a two-point deficit, the Cardinal was first called for a five-second violation trying to inbound the ball with 10 seconds left. But Stanford got a second left when the Gamecocks missed two free throws and sophomore Kiki Iriafen grabbed a rebound, but she called a timeout when Stanford didn’t have any left, earning a technical foul.

Turnovers were an issue that plagued the Cardinal at times last year and it cost them in key non-conference matchups. Stanford doesn’t have a ton of experienced guard play, so it may an area of weakness all season. It is probably the number one thing Tara VanDerveer will focus on with her team over the next few weeks.

“Our turnovers really, really hurt us and that’s something that we have to do better,” VanDerveer said. “It’s the combination of the turnovers, not getting the ball inbounds, taking a timeout, not boxing out, fouling out, all the things add up.”

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The defense for Stanford was stout for most of the game. Stanford held South Carolina to 36% shooting and really made life difficult on the Gamecocks. South Carolina struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm. Despite Stanford not scoring for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, South Carolina only scored eight points. Stanford’s post players did an incredible job protecting the rim with their length and had a great defensive game plan to make the Gamecocks lives difficult. Stanford is always a good defensive team but with the length the Cardinal has amongst the players that play could create an elite team on that side of the ball.

For the Cardinal, all things start with Haley Jones, and she had a very tough game on Sunday. She scored just 11 points on 5-19 shooting from the field. She was able to find success early in the game, scoring a couple of nice reverse layups and finding ways to get to the paint and dish to open teammates. However, in the fourth quarter and overtime, she pressed a little bit. She forced some very difficult shots and got four of her shots blocked, most of which came at the rim or in the paint. She did finish with nine rebounds and six assists. Jones has high expectations for the team and herself, and if she wants them to live up to them, she is going to need to step her game up and be more poised in key moments.

“I think Haley is more capable, could help us more, she kind of struggled from the field a little bit. But we need her out there to help help run our offense,” VanDerveer said of her senior.

Jones added, “I think me, personally, I could have finished more. You know, I think they did a great job defensively, they stifled us.”

Cameron Brink, meanwhile, had a great game for the Cardinal, putting up 25 points( two shy of a career high) to go along with five rebounds and four blocks. Brink showed how she has grown as a player in the offseason, scoring in a multitude of ways. She scored off the bounce, off backdoor cuts, she had a great fake handoff for a layup and knock down a couple of big 3-pointers. She also did a great job of demanding the ball when Stanford needed a basket in the fourth quarter and ended up getting an and-1 on the play. Her offseason work showed on Sunday and she continues to show why she is one of the most valuable players in the country.

“I thought Cam — when she was out there — really did a great job on the block for us,” VanDerveer said. “Cam’s a very skilled player. She’s a very competitive player. Athletic, size. She has it all. She can shoot inside, she’s working on just moving the ball a little better. She finished it on the block. 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. Again, taking care of the ball and staying in the game.”

While Brink’s game was great, she once again struggled with foul trouble. She picked up her second foul midway through the second quarter and played the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls until she eventually fouled out. This is something Brink has struggled with in the past. When she went out in the second quarter, South Carolina went on a 9-0 run. She sat early in the fourth quarter and Stanford didn’t score while she was on the bench. Brink had all but one of Stanford’s points in the fourth quarter. She also was the only Stanford starter with a positive plus-minus. The Cardinal showed today just how heavily it relies on Brink for offense, so she will need to focus on staying on the floor as much as possible to help Stanford be successful.

One of the bright spots on the day for the Cardinal was the play of freshman point guard Talana Lepolo. Lepolo, who started her fourth game for Stanford, finished with seven points and added six assists and five rebounds. The Cardinal graduated three exceptional guards last year and there was a lot of talk about whom would play the point this year. Lepolo has stepped up to this role at a high level, especially for a freshman. She did a great job of handling South Carolina’s pressure defense and was able to find open teammates with great passes throughout the game. She did make some mistakes but looked nothing like what you’d expect from a freshman point guard against the defending national champions on ABC.

“I will give a shout out to Talana, I thought she played extremely well…I thought she was fantastic. I think, having that guard play going forward, it’s just great for our team and our program. I thought she played beyond what any freshman point guard I’ve seen do,” said VanDerveer.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley added, “Lepolo was having her way with us. She was, you know, dribbling through and creating an advantage on offense for them.”

Another bright spot for Stanford was the play of Ashten Prechtel, Prechtel had a strong performance defensively when guarding Aliyah Boston, making her life difficult by forcing her to finish over her length. She even got a couple of big blocks on the reigning and preseason national player of the year. Stanford basically played a six-player rotation, with its five starters plus Prechtel, and she came up with a lot of big plays for the Cardinal. If she can continue to give the Cardinal this kind of lift on the bench, it will make Stanford even more difficult to deal with and open things up for the Cardinal.

The Cardinal lost a tough game that it probably should have won. However, for Stanford, it is only the sixth game of the season, and Stanford will learn a lot from this game. These are probably the two best teams in the country and today’s game only helped solidify that. Stanford will gain a lot of experience from this game, and the Cardinal will only be better from it as the season goes on.

“I think there was a lot that we left out there on the court, that we wish we had back,” Jones said. “But also in the grand scheme of things, it’s November, it’s our first loss.

“I think there’s a lot left in the tank for this team.”

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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