Led by Haley Jones, No. 1 Stanford survives an Oregon challenge, 70-63


No. 1 Stanford tops No. 11 Oregon

With three players missing, No. 1 Stanford (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) continued its undefeated run with a 70-63 victory over No. 11 Oregon (8-2, 6-2) Friday afternoon at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz. The Cardinal, who are still on the road due to a Santa Clara County health mandate prohibiting contact sports, played the game at the home of the NBA’s G League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Sophomore guard Haley Jones, who is from the coastal city, led the Cardinal with 18 points and six rebounds, helped her team overcome an early deficit and hold off the Ducks.

“I’m really proud of our team. We really had to battle,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “This has been a very tough week for us…We’ve been on the road a long time, and then having three players out.”

Starting guard Lexie Hull, sophomore guard Hannah Jump, and senior forward Alyssa Jerome did not play due “to COVID-19 protocols and contact tracing following its Jan. 3 game at Arizona State,” according to a team release. ASU announced a shutdown of team activities on Jan. 5 due to Covid-19 developments within the program.

Against the Ducks, Stanford’s depth helped the team resist a talented and young team. In the first quarter, after an early lead by the Cardinal, Oregon responded with a 16-9 run led by redshirt sophomore forward Nyara Sabally. The visitors capped the first 10 minutes with a three-point jumper from freshman guard Maddie Scherr for an Oregon 20-14 lead heading into the second period.

The Ducks’ lead dissipated in the second quarter as Stanford became more aggressive on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Cardinal freshman forward Cameron Brink began the action with a jumper to start the period. Stanford got within two early in the quarter, but Oregon responded with a 5-0 run before the home team answered again. While Stanford outscored Oregon 18-13 in the period with six points from sophomore Haley Jones, the Ducks maintained the advantage and had a slim lead at the half, 33-32.

Whatever VanDerveer said to her team in the locker room at the break worked. The third quarter saw a dominant performance from her squad.

“Sometimes it just takes a while to kind of feel the team out, understand what they’re doing, and make some adjustments,” VanDerveer said about the difference in the first quarter compared to the rest of the game. “We didn’t really shoot the ball well, but I thought we were aggressive, and we got some turnovers. We got out in transition in the third quarter.”

Oregon, who lost three key players from last season who were first-round picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft (Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally, and Ruthy Hebard), looks a lot different from previous years.

While Stanford only shot 31% from the floor in the first quarter compared to 43% by the Ducks, they steadily improved and finished with a field goal percentage of 43% (26-60) overall while Oregon dipped to 39% (26-66).

After a 7-0 run midway through the period, Stanford had a six-point lead over Oregon, 49-43 with 4:03 left in the frame. Jones continued her offensive onslaught, leading her team to outscore the Ducks 28-14 in the period.

VanDerveer commented that playing in Santa Cruz, even though the arena was without fans, positively impacted Jones.

“It is hard not having fans. We really miss him a lot. But I think she has enjoyed being home.”

In a hard-fought fourth quarter, the Ducks made a valiant effort for a comeback. With 57.4 seconds left, Oregon got within five points after a three-point shot from senior forward Erin Boley. The Ducks had a chance for a fast break play after a steal, but Sabally committed a turnover, traveling with 49.4 seconds left. The experience and defensive prowess of Stanford kept Oregon from prevailing. Senior guard Kiana Williams put the icing on the cake for the Cardinal with four points from free throws in the last minute.

In addition to Jones, Williams also finished in double figures with 14 points plus five rebounds. Fifth-year guard Anna Wilson contributed 11 points and nine rebounds for a near double-double.

Four players landed in double figures for Oregon. Freshman guard Sydney Parrish scored 14 points. Fellow freshman guard Te-Hina Paopao added 12 points and three rebounds. Sabally and Boley added 10 points each. With 11 rebounds, Sabally earned a double-double. Boley grabbed five rebounds.

“Ultimately, I was really proud of my team,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “I truly was. I thought we battled these guys all the way to the end.”

Up next for Stanford is a road trip to Utah and Colorado on Jan. 15 and Jan. 17, respectively. The times and broadcast information for those games are still to be determined.

Oregon remains on the road and will head across the Bay to play California on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.

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