Each day of the Pac-12 Tournament saw peak performances, and the Championship game was no different. Players from both Stanford and Oregon State treated the crowd to some of the best basketball of the season.
Pac-12 Championship: Stanford 48, Oregon State 43
It took one of the best defensive performances of the year, but the Stanford Cardinal are once again the Pac-12 Tournament Champions. A defense that held Oregon to just 31 points in the final three periods of the semifinals Saturday night somehow managed to one-up themselves for the title game. After falling behind 16-3 early and 22-12 after the first quarter, the Cardinal held Oregon State to just 21 points over the final three quarters.
Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer was even surprised at her team’s defensive proficiency.
“Defense is a mindset. I think it starts with Briana (Roberson), her being a great defensive player and even underrated.But everyone buys in,” she said. “With defense, you’re unselfish. It’s not about scoring. It doesn’t get written up in the paper much. I hadn’t seen those numbers, but to be able to hold them to seven points in each of the final three quarters is phenomenal.”
When the Beavers jumped ahead 16-3, VanDerVeer looked to get some help from her bench, and Alanna Smith came up big when the team needed her the most. Smith was able to provide a huge boost, leading the team in scoring with 18 points. She also had four blocks and played a large role in limiting Oregon State’s ability to score in the paint.
Smith knew she needed to do make a big impact with her team struggling so much early in the game.
“For me, it’s just having an aggressive mindset. And just being able to slow down and read the defense,” Smith said. “That’s something my coaches have been telling me and I’ve really been trying to take on board, Tonight it worked really well for our team, for everyone, not only me.”
VanDerveer had high praise for the Australian sophomore.
“It’s been really exciting to see Alanna’s improvement throughout the year,” VanDerveer said. “She has a lot of talent. She gives us a big body that can score on the perimeter, score on the block, runs the floor. She’s had some super games for us, and she really stepped up big tonight.”
The Cardinal also got big games from seniors Karlie Samuelson who had 14 points and three assists, and Erica McCall, who was named the Pac-12 tournaments Most Outstanding Player, had eight points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in the championship game.
Samuelson said Stanford’s previous two losses to the Beavers this season weighed on their minds.
“I think our loss to Oregon State we were that close on that last loss and that was pretty painful loss for us,” she said. “We wanted a championship this year. So we really wanted this tournament. We knew we could do it, and I’m really happy that we did, because we really want to be champions, and we were that close during the regular season.”
McCall was proud of her team for overcoming adversity.
“Those two losses to Oregon State hurt really bad,” she said. “We were super-focused this week, and being able to come out, and even the way we won makes it that much more satisfying. The way we came back from that 16-3 score they had, and we battled. I’m really happy about how my team performed. It’s super satisfying. It’s like tasting your favorite candy. Sour Patch Kids.”
And while Oregon State did not come away with the Pac-12 Championship victory they were hoping for, senior point guard Sydney Wiese did her best to help lead them. She was the team’s top scorer in the first three rounds, hitting several clutch shots. She had 13 points, three assists and three rebounds in the final game, but struggled against defense.
“They have really aggressive guards, and I think the post too,” Wiese said of the Cardinal. “Every time there was an on-ball, there was at least one, maybe two defenders that were on my hip. Stanford’s such a good defensive team. They scheme people. They know exactly what we’re trying to do. Whoever has the ball, they’re going to make it tough for us to score.”
Oregon State, which has been ranked in the top ten for most of the season, will look forward to the NCAA Tournament. And Wiese believes they’ll be ready to go.
“This hurts, it stings,” she said of the Pac-12 loss. “We want to be out there right now celebrating, but there is still a lot of basketball left to played and there are a lot of lessons that we can take from this game and the whole weekend in general.”
“I think we gather ourselves, we galvanize our group and come back together. We realize that there’s still a lot of battles left out there. So we’re going to do what we can to make sure that we play as much basketball as we can.”