Arizona Women's Basketball

No. 6 Stanford beats short-handed Arizona despite career performances by Blakely & Jones

Arizona Junior guard Courtney Blakely (Arizona Athletics Photo)

Arizona didn’t have much time to enjoy their win over California on Friday night.

The Wildcats had to get back to the grind and prepare for their noon game Sunday against the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal and legendary coach Tara VanDerveer.

The quick turnaround time didn’t help the short-handed Wildcats as they fell to Stanford 96-64 at McKale Center.

Compounded with the limited time to prepare for the Cardinal is the possibility that leading scorer Kailyn Gilbert could be out for the rest of the season for an undisclosed reason.

Gilbert did not play against California or Stanford. She was dressed down for Cal, but in sweats for Stanford.

“It would be the hardest year of the league, the year that we have seven players, because we’re probably gonna have seven players for a while and possibly the rest of the season,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said.

VanDerveer became the career winningest coach in NCAA basketball history when Stanford took down Oregon State last week for win No. 1,203.

In her 40 years of coaching, 38 of those years at Stanford, VanDerveer notched three NCAA championships, 14 Final Four appearances and 25 Pac-12 titles. She has appeared in 37 NCAA tournaments with 98 tournament wins.

Prior to the start of the game, Arizona took a moment to show appreciation for VanDerveer and her milestone.

Barnes met VanDerveer at midcourt and presented her with flowers as the 7,692 in attendance gave a standing ovation.

“She’s a pioneer for our game. She is an icon for basketball, not only women’s basketball,” Barnes said of VanDerveer.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is presented with roses by Arizona coach Adia Barnes at center court prior to the start of Sunday’s game (Arizona Athletics photo)

With Gilbert out, the Wildcats were again down to a seven-player rotation.

As Barnes mentioned in her postgame press conference after the game against California, that left one post player and one guard for her bench rotation.

Skylar Jones, getting the call to start for the second game, put up a career-high 12 points.

She added three rebounds, one assist and two steals to her game statistics.

“Today was better. I wasn’t as nervous. It probably looked like it when I was playing,” Jones said about her second start. “I still had butterflies, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t as nervous as I was before.”

Courtney Blakely has seen more minutes with the rotation down to seven and came off the bench and netted a career-high 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 from 3-point range in 31 minutes.

Blakely also had one assist and four steals.

“Just trying to do what’s best for my team,” she said. “If I’m open I’m going to try my best to get the shot, so just try to adjust to what the team needs and now what my role is on the team.”

Against a big, physical, experienced team like Stanford, staying out of foul trouble would be imperative.

Things got a little dicey for Arizona as frontcourt players Isis Beh, Esmery Martinez and Breya Cunningham all had three personal fouls going into halftime and four at the end of the third quarter. Despite playing with four fouls the whole fourth quarter, no players fouled out of the game.

“We’re just a team that plays hard, so it don’t matter if we have a lot of smalls or a lot of bigs,” Jones said. “We gonna try our best to do what we can do with whoever’s on the floor.

“If that means I’m gonna have to guard (Stanford center) Cameron Brink, I’m gonna just have to do my best to do so.”

Due to the foul trouble by all three Arizona post players, the Wildcats had a hard time stopping the Cardinal from going inside.

Stanford took advantage getting 15 points off of offensive rebounds and 50 points in the paint.

Brink and Kiki Iriafen led the scoring for Stanford (19-2, 8-1 Pac-12) with 25 and 21 points, respectively.

The Arizona crowd never stopped supporting their Wildcats (11-10, 3-6).

With Arizona down big, a missed foul call on Brink on a rebound had the crowd getting restless.

On the opposite end of the floor, Helena Pueyo was called for a foul that didn’t appear to be a foul, but was sold well by Brink.

McKale got slightly hostile and extremely loud.

Guard play for Arizona was scrappy and caused havoc at times, creating 16 turnovers that resulted in 15 points.

Arizona will have a week to prepare for its game against in-state rival Arizona State.

In their last meeting, Arizona beat Arizona State by 39 points.

“ASU is playing much better than when we faced them.” Barnes said. “They are a good team. So every game is tough.”

The game is next Sunday at noon at McKale Center.

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