Game 9: Oregon State 63, UCLA 53
Jordan Canada did everything she possibly could to help UCLA against the No. 1 seeded Oregon State Beavers in Saturday’s Pac 12 Tournament semifinal match up. But despite scoring a game-high 27 points and leading the Bruins to a 30-27 half-time lead, it wasn’t quite enough to pull off the win.
Not only did Canada lead her team in scoring, but she played with incredible defensive intensity throughout the entire game, making life difficult for Beaver star guard Sydney Wiese. Canada forced Wiese into six turnovers and limited her scoring for most of the second and third quarters.
UCLA Coach Cori Close felt like she might have put too much responsibility on Canada, which might have led to her wearing down in the second half.
“Jordin does a lot for us. She is a really good player on both ends of the floor. She did get a little tired at the end,” Close said. “In hindsight, it’s 20/20, I might have needed to rotate Kennedy Burke on Wiese sooner in the game to sort of mix that up and give her a different look. Jordin was doing such a great job that you didn’t want to take something away that was working.”
“I’ll look at the film. But the reality was she did get tired down the stretch. I didn’t think it was the fourth quarter that really affected us. I thought it was more the third quarter when they executed and got lay-ups and we got mid-range jumpers and didn’t make them.”
While it wasn’t easy, WIese did lead the Beavers in scoring for a second consecutive tournament game. Wiese had 19 points, but it was more about when and how she got them. The senior came through in the clutch, scoring eight of her points in the final three minutes of the game; including back-to-back three-pointers to seal the win.
Wiese has come to expect this from her veteran team.
“We’ve been in this position so many times this year, where we’re forced to make these (clutch) type of plays. So it was another game, another day, another dollar,” she said. “People were stepping up big throughout the entire game. Marie had huge rebounds and she was a defensive presence tonight. And Gabby on both ends of the floor came in aggressive and really changed the game for us.”
Wiese also got the loudest cheer from the crowd all night, when she raced down the court and used a perfect spin move to juke the defender to free herself for the open layup just before half-time.
Oregon State is known for their dominating size. And Marie Gulich had a huge impact on this game. Gulich was the only player to record a double-double in the game. She had 11 points and a career high 16 rebounds. She played a large role in Oregon State out-rebounding the Bruins 50-31. A big part of that was shutting down UCLA’s prolific forward, Monique Billings.
“(Billings) is a very athletic player. It’s tough to play against her obviously,” Gulich said. “She’s fast, she’s explosive. You have to be in good position. It’s fun, though. I like the challenge. We had a slow start. But once we got into a rhythm, we got poised, and the game was flowing. Things got easier and easier.”
Game 10: Stanford 71, Oregon 56
While Stanford’s lockdown defense was the true star of the night for the Cardinal, the team got great contributions from several key players. But none more impressive than the post play of Erica McCall and Kaylee Johnson.
Both players recorded double-doubles, with McCall leading the team in both scoring and rebounding with 17 and 15, respectively. She also had four blocked shots. McCall was tenacious around the offensive glass all game long, grabbing eight offensive rebounds. At one point she grabbed the offensive rebound over multiple Oregon defenders and laid it back up while getting fouled for the three-point play. She rightfully flexed her muscles to the crowd after that one.
Post-game, the media compared McCall’s effort to that of former Stanford great Chiney Ogwumike. McCall echoed that she has tried to mimic her game after the Connecticut Sun star.
“When I came to Stanford, I really looked up to her,” McCall said. “I saw how, in every play, she was going hard and she really loved the game. I really admired that. So when she left, I knew I had to keep that going and keep the energy for my team.”
Meanwhile, Johnson seemed to be the answer any time Oregon tried to make a run to get back into the game. Whether that was knocking down a mid-range shot or playing stout defense and getting a block or a stop and rebound.
Cardinal coach Tara Vanderveer praised the impact of Johnson in this game and since she’s returned to the team.
“Her coming back has meant so much to our team. She brought a tremendous amount of energy,” VanDerveer said. “She was scoring for us. Rebounding for us. She set some great screens that might not show up on the stat sheet. Kaylee is kind of like a quarterback out there. She’s talking and has such high basketball IQ. She missed so much of the season and it’s been frustrating for her. I’ve enjoyed watching her grow and become a great team leader for us.”
While the Ducks struggled to score in this game after the first quarter. Their bright spot was freshman standout Sabrina Ionsecu, who continues to shine. She led the team with 14 points on 50 percent shooting and 2-3 from three point range. For the Ducks, this was a good learning experience, and something the young team will be able to take with them as they head to NCAA play.
“This tournament proves we can hang in there with every team. We gave all the teams we played a game,” Ionescu said after the game. “I think it just shows what we’re capable of and night-in and night out, we’re going to give it all we have. And we’re excited for the rest of March.”