While winning is a team effort, individual performances can sometimes make the difference between getting the W and not. Such was the case in Friday’s evening session of the Pac 12 Tournament.
Game 1: Stanford 66, Washington State 36
Karlie Samuelson was on fire all game for Stanford, shooting 60 percent on 6-10 shooting from beyond the arc. She finished with 21 points to lead the Cardinal to a 66-36 victory and advance them to the semifinals of the Pac 12 Tournament.
Samuelson did a fantastic job of coming off screens and moving without the ball to get really good wide open looks.
Cougar coach June Daugherty had high praise for Stanford and the play of Samuelson after the game.
“They space the floor really well. They’ve got a tremendous inside game,” she said. “I think we did a much better job covering them in Pullman when we played them earlier this year. I think we were a little bit of a step slow tonight. They move the ball quickly, so if you get caught leaning in a little bit or trying to help, they’re going to find the open player. And she’s a great player, they move the ball well and find her with ease.”
Samuelson credited her teammates ability to find her once she got open.
“I think Washington State was in their zone and my teammates did a good job of finding me. I did miss a few open shots too. But my teammates found me and we moved the ball well,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Cougars got a strong performance off the bench from senior Ivana Kmetovska. She led the team in scoring with 10 points and was the only one to score in double digits.
Kmetovska reflected on her time at Washington State and what it meant.
“I thought that as much as this was a lesson in basketball, this is a lesson for life in general,” she said. “When things aren’t going right, you don’t give up. I’m so proud of my teammates that we were successful in doing that.”
Game 2: Oregon 70, Washington 69
The Oregon Ducks got contributions from several players in helping them upset the third-seeded Washington Huskies, but two players really stood out.
Junior guard Lexi Bando led the Ducks in scoring, with 23 points, and kept them alive late in the game as the favored Huskies made a run. Her clutch shooting, including back-to-back three-pointers, resuscitated Oregon after they fell behind in the fourth quarter.
Freshman sensation Sabrina Ionescu was also key for the Ducks, executing various defensive assignments and making big-time plays at key moments. Bando said she knew what she had to do when higher-seeded Washington surged.
“I knew I needed to step up and Sabrina was getting me the ball. I just had the mindset that I needed to shot, and the ball ended up going in tonight.” Bando said.
Ionescu got off to an incredibly hot start, scoring nine first quarter points, including one ridiculous shot that banked in a three-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire from well beyond the arc.
The Huskies made some adjustments and put Kelsey Plum on Ionescu for most of the remainder of the game. Plum did a solid job defensively, limiting Ionescu’s points in the second and third quarters. But when the Ducks needed her the most, Ionescu came through big in the clutch, driving and knocking down mid-range jumpers and then hitting the two most important free throws of her young college career to put Oregon on top for good.
“I knew I was going to hit those free throws, to be honest with you,” Ionescu said. “I’ve been there a few times. In my freshman year (of high school), I missed it to win the game. But I’m glad I was put in that position.”
Ionescu showed a maturity and confidence well beyond her age.
“I don’t think I’d want anyone else in that position because I know how tough it can be to hit those free throws,” she said. “But after you hit that first one, the second one is pretty much easy.”
Meanwhile, Washington was primarily led by their two star players in Plum and center Chantel Osahor. While Osahor didn’t have her best night offensively, she still managed yet another double-double with 12 points and a Tournament-best 27 rebounds.
Plum led all players in scoring with 34 points, but it wasn’t her most efficient night. She needed 33 shots to get 34 points and shot just 2-9 from three-point range. While Plum normally gets to the line a lot, was limited to just two free throw attempts in the entire game. She took responsibility for the loss after the game.
“I missed shots late. I’m known for making shots and I didn’t make them late. And that’s why we lost,” Plum said. “You can give credit to them, but as an All-American player, I have to do better. I have to play better. End of story.”
Plum couldn’t shake the fact that she felt she needed to do more for her team.
“If anything, I didn’t do enough preparing the young ones and even Natalie,” she said. “Because they need to feel more free out there. They need to feel like they can step in and knock down some shots and not feel any pressure. So I’ll get my team better prepared moving forward.”