Stanford runs past Sacred Heart 92-49 into NCAA Second Round
March 17, 2023 (Stanford, CA) – Sacred Heart vs. Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Photos: © Baranduin Briggs, all rights reserved.
Stanford, CA – While No. 16-seeded Sacred Heart had a hot start against the No. 1 seed Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament, reality set in after about five minutes, and the Cardinal earned a lopsided 92-49 win over the upstart Pioneers. Stanford (29-5,15-3 Pac-12) played without two players: starting forward Cameron Brink, who missed the game due to a non-Covid illness, and redshirt freshman guard Jzaniya Harriel.
“I thought our team really played with a lot of energy today,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “You know, we obviously were without two players, Cameron Brink, and Jzaniya Harriel, but I think everyone stepped up.”
A Hot Start, Then Reality
Coming into the contest, Sacred Heart (19-14,12-4 NEC) had a First Four 57-47 win, beating Southern U. in the tournament’s play-in round on Wednesday. In addition, the program was on a historical journey as a first-timer in the tournament, becoming the only NEC women’s basketball team to win an NCAA tournament contest.
Right off the bat, Pioneers freshman point guard Ny’Ceara Pryor put her team on the scoreboard with a jumper. She struck again less than a minute later, and her teammate, fellow freshman guard Amelia Wood joined with a jumper of her own to give the Pioneers a 6-2 lead. The game was tied before the Sacred Heart led again by four at the 4:55 mark, 11-7. However, that was the most significant lead the visiting team would have as the tables quickly turned when the Cardinal finished the period on a 16-7 run capped with a three-pointer from senior guard Hannah Jump.
“We stayed with Stanford for the first quarter, and that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” said Pryor, the NEC’s MVP and Rookie of the Year.
With a 23-18 lead heading into the second stanza, Stanford had the stage set for a monumental offensive stretch which they executed, outscoring the Pioneers in the ten minutes before halftime.
Despite the fearless play of Pryor, with a stature of 5-3, and key shots from Wood, the Pioneers struggled against a bigger, faster, and deeper roster of players. While Pryor had no trouble getting to the rim against Southern, her production halted when faced with Stanford’s 6-7 freshman center Lauren Betts, 6-5 senior forward Ashten Prechtel, and 6-1 senior forward Fran Belibi in the paint.
At halftime, the Cardinal enjoyed a 45-26 advantage. Stanford continued its blitz in the third quarter, outscoring Sacred Heart 28-11. A Belibi second-chance layup with three seconds left in the period gave her team a 73-37 lead with ten minutes left.
The Pioneers had a mini resurgence in the last period, but it was an ineffectual effort given the deficit they faced.
Top Performers and Positive Vibes
Belibi, who started in place of Brink, finished the game with a double-double of 12 points and ten rebounds. Senior guard Haley Jones led all scorers with 17 points plus six rebounds. Jump added 12 points. Freshman guard Indya Nivar contributed 11 points and four rebounds, while Betts scored 10, pulled down seven rebounds, and blocked three shots.
For Sacred Heart, Pryor, the shortest player on the floor, was the only one on her team in double digits with 12 points. Her play impressed Stanford’s VanDerveer, who took time to relay some positive words to the freshman phenom during the handshake line. Pryor relayed what VanDerveer told her.
“She said I’m a great player. Take your time with it. I’m young, so keep going.”
For VanDerveer, it’s important to provide kind words when teams that play hard lose to the Cardinal.
“I think she’s a great young player,” VanDerveer said. “And so, when I go through the line, I try to talk to all of them in some way, just encourage them. But it’s a really hard time when your season is over. I think their team has to feel excited about coming out and winning the first game and being here.”
She continued with her praise of the Sacred Heart program.
“I think they feel good about themselves, and I just wanted to reiterate that to her….I was very impressed with her, but more the poise of their team. They stayed together, kept running stuff. Coach was extremely positive. I think that’s a reflection on their program and their coach.”
While they didn’t win, going forward, Sacred Heart has a lot to look forward to with young, talented players.
“Stanford is a dynamic, balanced well-coached team,” SHU head coach Jessica Mannetti said. “It was an incredible experience to play against that type of talent. I was most proud of our kids because we were not scared by that talent. Proud of the way we responded to some of their runs.”
Stanford faces Ole Miss on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. PT. The Rebels beat Gonzaga 71-48 in the second game of the evening.