Stanford stuns Washington with huge second half comeback

Briana Roberson scored all 14 of her points during the second half of Stanford's comeback win against Washington. Photo by Rahim Ullah.
Briana Roberson scored all 14 of her points during the second half of Stanford’s comeback win against Washington. Photo by Rahim Ullah.

Seattle, Wash. – Seattle basketball fans got everything they wanted out of a top 10 match up between No. 7 Washington Huskies and the No. 10 Stanford Cardinal Sunday night, except for a victory for the hometown team.

Stanford used a monstrous second half comeback to nip Washington, 72-68. It was the first home loss for the Huskies this season in 13 games.

Brittany McPhee led the Cardinal with 16 points, while Erica McCall added 16. But it was the 14 points from Briana Roberson – all in the last two quarters – that made a difference down the stretch.

Washington led 45-33 at halftime, but the visitors clawed back, bucket by bucket. Coach Tara VanDerveer, who notched her 999th career win in the process, credited the fight of her young squad.

“I’m really proud of our team,” she said. “We really stepped up big in the second half. Our defense improved. Brittany McPhee made some great plays. Steals, layups, free throws. Our team showed great resilience and I’m very proud of them.”

The sellout crowd of 10,000 strong – the most in school history – witnessed one of the greatest single performances by a player against another elite team, as Husky guard Kelsey Plum had 44 points on 17-27 shooting, including seven from three-point range. She moved from sixth to third on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list in the process.

But Plum fouled out late in the fourth quarter and had to sit for several key minutes of the final frame due to an offensive foul called on her late in the third quarter that many questioned. In the play, Plum dribbled on the outside of the perimeter and handed the ball off to Natalie Romeo. A Stanford player ran into Plum and the ref called Plum for an offensive foul for an illegal screen.

Plum did not pull any punches talking to the media about the foul after the game.

“The refs weren’t with us from the jump,” she said. “I’m not trying to make excuses, but a couple of those fouls were not fouls. The fourth foul was particularly frustrating, as I was just handing the ball off and some girl runs into me and it’s a foul on me. I don’t understand that. It completely changed the momentum of the game and it’s really unfortunate.”

Plum and the other two Washington seniors, Chantel Osahor and Katie Collier, had to sit and watch much of the fourth period due to foul trouble. Plum called the situation unfortunate.

“It was tough to watch,” she said. “We’re in a top 10 match-up and the refs are going to take control of that, I think that’s really sad.”

The Husky’s problems weren’t just foul trouble and questionable calls, as Osahor made the only other significant contribution to the stats column with nine points and 17 rebounds. The rest of the team shot an abysmal 6-37 for 16 percent shooting.

Stanford never gave up, despite being down by as much as 18 points in the second quarter. They also made fantastic halftime adjustments by limiting Washington to just one three-point basket in the second half after they had made 11 in the first half. The Cardinal outscored the Huskies 39-23 in the second half.

Washington coach Mike Neighbors said foul trouble limited player efficiency in the second half.

“We had to get passive because of the situation with our fouls,” he said. “When both Kelsey and Chantel are in (foul) four, where we’re having to sub Kelsey out between offense and defense, and Chantel isn’t able to guard their best post player. It’s hard to play like that.”

“They beat us off the bounce a whole lot. They had some matchups that they isolated driving to the basket. That’s what got us in some foul trouble. We only made one three in the second half. That’s called having a hall of fame coach on their bench. They made adjustments.”

Stanford out-scored Washington 32-22 inside the paint with a combination of impressive post play by McCall, as well as beautiful cuts and passing by the Cardinal for easy layups.

Stanford used a balanced attack to defeat the Huskies with four players in double figures. VanDerveer was pleased with the total team effort.

“I love balance,” she said. “Obviously we’ve had great players. But basketball is a team game. Kelsey Plum is a terrific player, she’s an All-American, but we can double her sometimes. Her teammates have stepped up for her in the past, but in the second half they just went cold.”

Neighbors said his team wasn’t balanced in their attack.

“We’re at our best when we spread it around a little bit. I think she (Plum) took great shots tonight. I like the shots that we got,” he said. “We miss three or four layups. They were shots we don’t normally miss. We were jacked up sky high, we had adrenaline coursing through our veins and I think that had an effect.”

Next up, Washington travel to Utah for a Friday showdown.