No. 17 Arizona had trouble defending the dual attack led by forward Cameron Brink and guard Haley Jones, and went cold on offense, falling to No. 6 Stanford on Thursday night in a “red-out” in front of 9,868 fans at McKale Center.
Stanford out-rebounded Arizona 45-27, outscored the Wildcats 50-30 in the paint, and finished shooting 59 percent from the field to Arizona’s 36 percent. The Wildcats couldn’t match Stanford’s size inside and struggled on defense all night.
“Tough game. Credit to Stanford. Stanford did a phenomenal job,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “They had us on our heels from the get-go. They controlled every aspect of the game: offensively and defensively. We had a tough time scoring and defending. It was just rough.”
The guards for Arizona also struggled to make shots, leading to lapses on offense.
“If the guards come off and hit shots, the posts are heavy in the paint. So, if you don’t hit shots, it doesn’t loosen them up, so then the posts don’t have one-on-ones because everyone is in the paint,” Barnes said.
Stanford (23-3, 11-2) started on a 10-2 run, but Arizona cut the deficit to 10-5 with a three pointer by Esmery Martinez with 4:55 left in the quarter. Shaina Pellington helped trim Stanford’s lead to 12-9 with a steal that led to a fastbreak layup at the 3:03 mark. Stanford ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run to go up by 21-11. Stanford forward Francesca Belibi had the last four points of the quarter in the paint.
Stanford continued its efficiency on offense in the second quarter, taking its largest lead of the first half in the second quarter at 36-22 with 2:41 remaining. Madi Conner finished the second quarter scoring Arizona’s last five points off a 3-pointer and two free throws at the end of the half to close the deficit to 38-27.
Stanford shot 57 percent from the field in the first half, while its defense held Arizona to 35 percent. The Cardinal bigs gave Arizona trouble throughout the half, with Stanford outscoring Arizona 22-12 in the paint. Stanford had out-rebounded the Wildcats 23-12 by halftime.
Brink and Stanford guard Hannah Jump scored the first 14 points of the quarter to extend the Cardinal lead to 52-31 with 5:50 left. Stanford extended its lead to 27 points at 60-33 with 3:23. Stanford held a 62-37 lead over Arizona after three quarters, outscoring the Wildcats 24-10 in the third quarter.
While Paris Clark scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, Arizona couldn’t find any other answers.
Fueled by its defense leading to points in transition, including eight points by Jones, Stanford continued to dominate the fourth quarter, extending its lead to 82-45 — its largest lead of the game — with 1:56 remaining in the game.
Arizona clawed back in the game’s final minutes, finishing on a 15-2 run, but Stanford’s lead was insurmountable at that point.
Barnes was disappointed with the overall execution and effort of the team. She was especially critical of the team for not getting back on defense after making shots.
“One of our game plans was to congest the paint, and we never did. We left our posts on an island one-on-one,” she said. “The 50-50 balls, the makes, and then the transition defense, those are things you can control, and those are things that are unacceptable. That’s a lack of effort and focus, and that’s not acceptable here.”
Brink and Jones each finished with 18 points each and combined for 20 rebounds. Jones also had six assists.
The Wildcats’ loss comes after sweeping the Los Angeles schools for the first time since the 2001-02 season with a pair of wins on the weekend.
Stanford was coming off a 72-67 loss at Washington on Sunday, its third loss of the season — and second loss to an unranked Pac-12 team.
Martinez, Cate Reese and Clark led the Wildcats in scoring with 10 points each.
Clark led the team in assists, finishing with four.
Arizona (18-6, 8-5) next plays California (11-12, 2-10) on Sunday at McKale Center at noon.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.