Stanford threw everything it had at Gonzaga, and if it wasn’t for senior guard Jeanette Pohlen it might not have been enough for the third-ranked women’s basketball team.
Just when the sellout crowd of 6,000 was about to blow the roof off the McCarthey Athletic Center, Pohlen hit consecutive 3-pointers and the Cardinal held off the Bulldogs 84-78 on Sunday afternoon.
“She’s clutch,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She hit some big shots, she defended, she made some really nice plays. I’ll keep her.”
The second sellout crowd in program history was doing everything possible to push the Bulldogs over the top as they rallied from 10 down to tie the game at 68 when Kayla Standish drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:28 remaining.
Then the Cardinal (3-0) made 3 of 4 3-pointers – with Pohlen knocking down a pair of 3s, one at 4:06 and the next at 2:43 – to make it 77-68.
“Pohlen was big,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “Overall I thought we did a good job on their inside players. They weren’t getting second shots often times so somebody on their team had to step up and hit perimeter shots and Pohlen did today. She did a great job.”
But it’s not like the Zags (1-2) were about to give up with Courtney Vandersloot running the show.
Vandersloot finished with a game-high 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds with just one turnover in 38 minutes.
“Vandersloot is the real deal. She really controls the whole game,” VanDerveer said. “They’re a terrific team, they run the ball really well, they rebounded really well, they shoot the ball really well. The shot the ball better early.”
Graves added, “Those are obviously two of the best point guards on the West Coast.”
Gonzaga took everything Stanford had and gave it back just as hard. That the Bulldogs shot just 35 percent and stayed in the game is a testament to how hard they battled. The Zags matched the Cardinal with 49 boards and even had a 21-15 advantage on the offensive end.
“Down the stretch, a lot like a football game, those bigger, stronger bodies made the difference,” Graves said. “They rebounded some second shots late; they got to a couple of loose balls. We had some good looks; I think that strength and size didn’t allow us to finish at the rim.”
Nnemkadi Ogwumike led Stanford with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Joslyn Tinkle added 11 points and 6-foot-4 Kayla Pedersen had 10 rebounds and eight assists. The Cardinal also got points from all four subs VanDerveer sent in and they combined for 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“We’ve got a lot of improving to do; we have a lot of young kids,” VanDerveer said. “What I’m excited about are different people are stepping up. … We’re looking at different people. A lot of it will be who steps up their defense.”
Janelle Bekkering added 16 points for Gonzaga. Katelan Redmond scored 14 points with 10 rebounds and Standish added 12 points and nine rebounds.
“We battled,” Vandersloot said. “We know that we can play with this team and we showed it today. It’s unfortunate we didn’t make the plays at the end and they did. … We felt we were right there when we tied the ball game up. One or two plays here, one or two plays there and it’s a different outcome. We’re disappointed. That was the No. 3 team in the country. Nobody expected us to win but we expected to win.”
VanDerveer was just as appreciative of the crowd as the Bulldogs were.
“Hopefully this helps them and this definitely helps us to play in this environment,” she said. “Gonzaga is an excellent team. We’re very fortunate to come out with a win.”
“I think everybody had a good time other than the end result,” Graves said. “There’s no reason we can’t make this a great venue for other teams to come to and us to play at. What a great atmosphere for college basketball. Hopefully we’ve won over a lot of the people who have never been here and they’ll come back (when Washington State visits Dec. 11).”