No. 4 Stanford tops No. 9 Arizona 62-48, wins first Pac-12 regular-season title in seven years

Stanford wins its first Pac-12 regular-season title in seven years

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With a hard-fought 62-48 win over No. 9 Arizona (15-3, 13-3 Pac-12) Monday night at Maples Pavilion, fourth-ranked Stanford (21-2, 18-2) clinched the program’s 24th Pac-12 regular-season championship, the first since 2014. The victory marked the tenth-straight triumph for the Cardinal and gave the team a season sweep of the Wildcats.

“I’m really proud of our team, to win a Pac-12 regular-season championship,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said of the team’s accolade. “You know, it was our goal in the beginning of the year, and our team has really battled through all kinds of travel, a lot of adversity.”

For starting guard, junior guard Lexie Hull, winning the title is special since the team had to play on the road and live out of hotels for about two months due to a local health directive prohibiting contact sports.

“I think it means more. We had to do a lot more. We had to sacrifice a lot more this season,” Hull said.

The night’s game was only the fifth time the Cardinal had the chance to play on their home court all season.

“I think down the road, this is something that we’re going to be really, really proud of,” Hull said, “and something that we can look back on and just remember forever.”

Things did not come easy for Stanford, especially in the first quarter. In fact, both teams had a dismal offensive performance early, with Arizona shooting 31% percent from the floor and Stanford at 36% sluggish clip.

The teams were tied at 13 each at the end of the first quarter. With an improved defensive presence and stepped-up aggressiveness in the second period, Stanford held Arizona to 12 points while scoring 18.

Freshman forward Cameron Brink led the way offensively in the second quarter for Stanford with seven points, while speedy fifth-year guard Anna Wilson paced the defense in the quest to stifle Arizona’s leading scorer, senior guard Aari McDonald, who only scored four points in the quarter.

The third period was a defining period for Stanford as they outscored Arizona 17-11 with a balanced offensive effort from five players. After holding off Arizona in the last ten minutes 14-12, Stanford had four players in double figures led by Hull with 16 points plus 9 rebounds.

Senior guard Kiana Williams had 15 points plus 4 assists and sophomore guard Haley Jones contributed 13 points plus 8 rebounds. Brink, who fouled out for the fourth time this season, exited the game with less than three minutes left with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

“You know, winning the championship is not one player or two players, but everyone contributing and needing different people in different situations,” VanDerveer of the complete team effort.

She was especially appreciative of the attention to defense in the win.

“I love the defense and the aggressiveness of our whole team, and it was Anna Wilson who set the tone.”

Even with Stanford’s efforts, McDonald performed above her season average of 18.8 points per game with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and four assists. Senior forward Sam Thomas was also in double digits with 12 points. Stanford’s defense held Arizona’s second-leading scorer, junior forward Cate Reese, to 7 points, below her season average of 11.9 points per contest.

The Wildcats head back to the Southwest to play at Arizona State on Sunday to close out their regular season.

Stanford stays home to host its Bay Area foe California on the same day.

The 2021 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament begins on Wednesday, March 3 at 11 a.m. PT on Pac-12 Network. The championship is slated to tip off on Sunday, March 7 at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

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