Stanford’s grit helps the Cardinal withstand Arizona 56-54

STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford senior forward Alanna Smith did it again. The Australian scholar drained the game-winner from the Outback (three-point range), and her Stanford Cardinal (22-4, 12-3) defeated the Arizona Wildcats (17-9, 7-8), 56-54, in an exciting contest, Friday night at Maples Pavilion.

“I think the people got their money’s worth; that was a great game,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer exclaimed about thrilling outcome.

The Cardinal had to overcome a seven-point deficit with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, when Smith and freshman guard Lacie Hull, combined for nine consecutive points, on three trays, to take the final lead with less than 30 seconds left in regulation.

“This team is gritty,” VanDerveer said. “I couldn’t say that at the beginning of the year.

Smith tallied 15 points and four rebounds in the first half, but went scoreless in the third quarter, and most of the fourth, until it was “crunch time.”  While trailing by four, with less than three minutes remaining in the contest, Smith converted a triple, narrowing the deficit to a single digit. A little over two minutes later, she hit another jumper from beyond the arc, with 29 seconds left in the Pac-12 battle.

“The path we took to defend that 3-pointer was not supposed to happen,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “They made us pay.”

Even though that shot eventually became the game-winning hoop, the Wildcats still had a few chances to either tie up or win the game.

Arizona redshirt junior guard, Dominique McBryde, was a force all throughout the contest, with team highs in scoring 20 points (12 at the half), grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing six assists.

Despite McBryde’s talented opponent hitting the assumed dagger three, she not only had the ball in her capable hands, but also the fate of her fellow teammates.

McBryde had a chance to tie the game at 54 with two free throw attempts at the charity stripe with 17 seconds on the clock, but unfortunately missed them both. Although that was a crushing sequence, she had yet another chance to redeem herself, by either tying or winning the game on the last possession of the conference clash.

Despite all the Cardinal’s defensive efforts, McBryde was still able to create a really good shot attempt, as her last second three-point launch went in and out of the rim, to the dismay of the Wildcats’ bench, and to the delight of Cardinal fans.

“We escaped,” VanDerveer said. “That ball looked like it was going in but somehow Maples Magic took over and knocked it out.”

Arizona did also have some help, as Bay Area native, senior forward, Destiny Graham, contributed 11 points on three threes, and two rebounds, but no other teammate reached double-figures.

“I’m proud of our fight and I’m proud of the plays we did make,” Barnes said. “For the last four minutes, Stanford made the big plays.”

The Cardinal’s hooping helpers were also an integral part of the heart-stopping game.

Hull made a game high five three pointers, for her 15 points, including a huge one down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

“I want to make every shot I take for my team to win the gam,” Hull said. “All the shots we missed doesn’t really play into the next shot for me.”

Cardinal junior guard DiJonai Carrington, not to be left out of the equation, dropped in 10 points, and gathered six timely rebounds.

This is the second consecutive Stanford game that ended with a Smith conversion, as she made a left-handed layup to beat USC in Los Angeles on February 17.

Stanford is set to host Arizona State on Sunday, Senior Day for the Cardinal.

Arizona heads across the San Francisco Bay, to take on the California Golden Bears in Berkeley on the same day.


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