UCLA’s winning mindset leads to 79-69 road win at Stanford

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STANFORD, Calif. – A hard-fought contest between the UCLA Bruins (20-2, 9-2 Pac-12) and the Stanford Cardinal (20-3, 9-2) showed the full scope of the intense competition of the Pac-12 as the two top ten teams clashed in Maples Pavilion Friday night. The Bruins emerged as the victors with an impressive 79-69 road win over the Cardinal.

While the game can be classified as an upset, tenth-ranked UCLA arrived at Stanford (ranked No. 5 in the STI/Hoopfeed Poll), believing that the game was theirs to take.

“We’re really excited about the win, but to be honest with you, we prepared with a mindset all week long that we expected to come do this,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said. She added: “I thought our toughness was a major factor today.” The victory gave the ninth-year head coach her 100th Pac-12 conference victory and increased her overall career total to 192.

The game began on a somber night as Stanford honored the lives of those who died in the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna on January 26. Stanford players wore warm-up shirts with the numbers that Bryant wore during his pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

After the tip, the battle began with Stanford building a quick seven-point advantage led by junior guard Kiana Williams who accumulated 11 points in eight minutes. Her output included three 3-point shots. UCLA responded with a 5-0 run. Both teams shot 50% from the field in the first quarter.

Stanford entered the second quarter with a scant 21-19 lead. UCLA continued its run three minutes into the period to take the lead resulting from a 10-0 stretch that carried over from the first period.

Williams ended the home team’s drought with a layup at 7:09 in the second quarter. UCLA still had the advantage, 24-23, and increased their lead by as much as nine, with 1:07 left in the half, on the strength of a team offensive effort led by junior guard Natalie Chou who scored six points in the quarter. In addition, junior forward Michaela Onyenwere added four points to the nine she earned in the first quarter.

For the Cardinal, a dismal offensive performance characterized the second period as the team shot just 18.8 percent from the field (3-16) and made just one of three treys. UCLA, on the other hand, shot 41.2 percent.

Stanford did have a highlight at the buzzer when sophomore guard Lacie Hull drained a 3-pointer to decrease her team’s deficit to five. UCLA led 35-30 at the break.

“We weren’t able to hit shots,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said about her team’s overall shooting. “We weren’t moving the ball the way we needed to. It was disappointing.”

Things did improve a bit in the third quarter for the home team as the Cardinal went on a 15-9 run to gain a one-point lead. However, looking energized and determined, the Bruins clawed back and on the strength of their defense, shut down Stanford and went on a 6-0 run to end the period.

With a 50-45 lead heading into the final quarter, the Bruins never looked back. Stanford’s frantic efforts to score did not bear fruit under the pressure of the Bruins’ defense as the Cardinal shot 33.3% (8-24) and were 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. On the other hand, UCLA shot 61.5% (8-13) in the last quarter, scoring 14 fastbreak points.

“They took it to us,” VanDerveer said. “I thought they were very physical. We didn’t match up well with them at all defensively, and defense has been our thing that we’ve hung our hat on.”

Onyewere led all scorers with 29 points and ten rebounds. VanDerveer praised the play of the talented forward from Aurora, Colorado.

“She’s kind of a tweener. She’s a post player, but she can shoot a three. She’s very athletic. She runs hard. She goes to the basket hard….She has an inside game, an outside game, good body control. She’s an All-Pac-12 player.”

UCLA junior guard Chantel Horvat earned a career-high 14 points plus seven rebounds.

“We knew it was going to be tough and I just wanted to help my team out in every way, shape or form that I could,” Horvat said when asked about earning a career-high against Stanford. “I was just focused on getting rebounds and trying to hustle and help the team wherever I can, and that’s just an added bonus, but I think it was a great team effort tonight.”

Williams had 25 points for Stanford plus eight assists. Hull contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Ashten Prechtel earned a double-double of 10 points plus 12 rebounds.

Stanford is still without the services of senior guard DiJonai Carrington, junior forward Maya Dodson, and freshman guard Haley Jones. With a brace on her right leg, Jones sat with Dodson and Carrington on the bench in street clothes.

Stanford has not given a timetable on the return of the injured athletes but did offer a small tidbit on who might return first.

“Maya might be the closest, you know, so maybe we might have, have Maya. But, you know, even if we do, it’ll take a while for her to get in the swing of things. There’s no doubt that we miss those experienced players.”

UCLA continues its road trip across the Bay at California on Sunday. Stanford hosts USC the same day.

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