No. 9 UCLA falls to No. 4 Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game
Red and white confetti littered the basketball court inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Sunday night, Erica Banks’ hit song “Buss It” blared through the sound system, and Stanford’s women’s basketball players broke from posing for a celebratory picture to perform the popular Tik Tok dance.
“When the confetti came down it was time to celebrate, time to dance,” Williams said. “We have business to take care of (in the NCAA Tournament) in San Antonio, my hometown. We want to be the last team standing.”
Stanford, which has made the Pac-12 championship game 18 times in 20 total tournaments, improved to 14-4 in the finals while winning its third title in five years.
Lexie Hull added 24 points while Haley Jones finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds for Stanford (25-2).
Influenced by UCLA coaching great John Wooden, Dave Holmquist has become a legend in his own right over the last 40 years at Biola University.
“We really came out aggressive,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We got a lot of different contributions. It’s a total team effort.”
The game was a renewal of one of the more storied rivalries in Pac 12 postseason history, as Stanford has played UCLA more than any other team in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Cardinal improved to 11-1 against the Bruins in the event - including four wins in championship meetings.
Stanford controlled things in the first half, with a balanced attack led by Williams and Hull. The Cardinal used runs of 12-5 in the first quarter and 11-3 to start the second quarter to eventually take a 23-point lead into halftime.
Onyenwere was UCLA’s only bright spot in the first half, scoring 13 points. She was 5-for-11 from the floor while the rest of the team was 2-of-15 (.133).
“I’m much more disappointed that we played so below our process and commitment to what we said we were going to do, and the lack of urgency, commitment to the game plan, rebounding,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I mean, we just didn’t do anything in the first half that we said we were going to do. And that is the one that really stings.”
UCLA began to claw its way back into the game after Williams’ 3-pointer gave Stanford its biggest lead at 26 with 9:19 left in the third quarter and got within 12 after a 20-6 run. But Stanford regained its composure, built a 16-point lead midway through the fourth quarter behind a nine-point spurt from Hull, and never looked back to seal the win. Stanford shot 80% in the fourth quarter.
“Today we showed some toughness against a very, very good team,” VanDerveer said.
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