The Washington State Cougars dream of finally defeating the Stanford Cardinal will have to wait yet another game. Despite a great effort early on and a miraculous rally to make things interesting late, the Cardinal grabbed their 73rd straight win over the Cougs 74-65.
WSU (11-4, 0-2 in Pac-12) weathered the Stanford (13-1, 2-0) storm early, even holding a lead into the halftime break, but the Cardinal depth proved too be just a bit too much to handle. The Cardinal outscored WSU 32-21 in the final 16 minutes of the game to push the all-time series to 73-0 in favor of Stanford.
Stanford’s 6’4 superstar Cameron Brink opened up the scoring with a three and proceeded to score the next five Stanford points. In between Brink’s scores, WSU found success in the paint with Bella Murekatete, Charlisse Leger-Walker, Tara Wallack and Beyonce Bea each scoring inside to help build a narrow lead. The offensive ability of Stanford began to shine late in the first quarter. Trailing by three, the Cardinal hit four of their last eight shots in the opening period — and their first of the second — for an 11-0 run to go up by eight.
The Cardinal’s offensive rhythm stayed true in the second, answering each WSU bucket with one of their own early on. As the game sat on the brink of getting out of hand, WSU caught a break when Brink had to take a seat with two early fouls. With Brink out, WSU attacked the paint with success. Jessica Clarke came off the bench and delivered some tough short jumpers to keep the Cougs in it while Murekatate and Leger-Walker were getting rest. Once the seniors returned to the floor, the Cougs really began to dig into the Cardinal. Clarke and Murekatete teamed up to dominate inside, hitting a combined seven of eight shots in the second frame, to help bring WSU all the way back within two. With WSU holding for the final possession, who else but Leger-Walker to drill a three right before the halftime horn to give WSU the lead.
Stanford quickly raced out of the locker room with two quick buckets and nearly had a third when Brink had a lane to the hoop on a fastbreak. The hustle from freshman Ele Villa to get back and record a block on Brink kept the game within a possession.
Leger-Walker knocked home a three to tie it back up at 38 then drilled another one after Stanford retook the lead on two free throws. Two more free throws from Brink and — deja vu — Leger-Walker cashes a third straight trey in the third period to again take back the lead.
Then came the Stanford run. Two Brink free throws, a layup off the inbound, a steal and breakaway layup for Brooke Demetere, a Talana Lepolo trey and a Demetere three all in the span of three minutes catapulted Stanford from down two, to up 10. Before the Cougs entered the final period of play, Leger-Walker collected an offensive rebound and drew contact from Brink on the final shot to get to the free throw line and, almost as importantly, give Brink her third foul of the game. Leger-Walker hit one of two to send WSU into the final 10 minutes down by nine.
While the Cougs were able to slowly chip away and get the deficit to seven, Stanford quickly ran it up to a 15-point lead with an 8-0 run that pushed WSU to the edge of defeat. Most teams would fold after a run like that and only four minutes to overcome a 15-point deficit to one of the best programs in the nation. But with what we’ve seen late in games from this WSU program under Kamie Ethridge, nothing is out of reach.
The freshman Jenna Villa knocked home back-to-back triples to give WSU a pulse. With 1:25 to go, Leger-Walker cashed a deep three from the top of the arc to pull within six and an off-ball foul on the shot sent Murekatete to the line for the rare five point play. Murekatete cashed in both charity stripe shots and suddenly, this once 15-point game three minutes ago is now a two-possession one after an 11-0 run.
Demetere hit both her free throws on the following possession for Stanford and Leger-Walker’s quick trey attempt just couldn’t rattle home, signaling the beginning of the end. Lepolo hit her first free throw, missed the second, but the rebound was collected by Kiki Iriafen for the putback layup to finally put the nail in the coffin.
WSU will get another chance at taking down the Cardinal later in the year, but for now, they will head north to play the California Golden Bears on Sunday.