The sweeping contours of defending national champion Stanford’s so-called Pac-12 rivalry with Washington State mirrors the dominance of another basketball goliath, the Harlem Globetrotters. The Cardinal are 70-0 all-time against the Cougars since their first meeting in 1983.
In the latest installment in the series, Stanford (9-3, 1-0 Pac-12) dispatched the Cougars (9-4, 1-1) Sunday, 82-44, in a game WSU coach Kamie Ethridge found monumentally frustrating.
“I have no words,” she said after the game, “other than Stanford is really good, and we put a real disappointing effort into the game.
“We were beat in every phase.”
Early on, though, Washington State declined to make like the Washington Generals and don the Globie’s perennial foe’s mantle of eternal victim. WSU has seldom been on the plus side of the scoreboard against the Cardinal. But the Cougs took advantage of a slow start by Stanford and fashioned a 6-point lead, 13-7, midway through the first quarter. Stanford, however, regrouped as Haley Jones scored on back-to-back drives, Lacie Hull, the Cardinal’s senior from Central Valley, gunned a trey from the corner, and Anna Wilson picked WSU’s Emma Nankervis, and Hannah Jump finished off the possession burying a 3 to nudge the Cardinal in front, 14-13. Nonetheless, Stanford only escaped the period with a 17-15 lead.
But from there, once again, it was all Cardinal.
In a second quarter marked by turnovers, fouls and missed scoring opportunities by both teams, Stanford was marginally better than WSU at taking advantage of the opponent’s miscues. Incrementally but inexorably the Cardinal worked their lead to 27-15 at 4:50 of the quarter as WSU was held without a point after Krystal Leger-Walker scored in the lane at the end of the first quarter.
WSU closed the margin to 10 points several times, the last as Leger-Walker hit a 3 with about 48 seconds to play, and the teams went into halftime with Stanford leading, 36-26.
“The second quarter hurt us bad. We started giving up 3’s,” Ethridge said.
It got worse.
Stanford widened its lead to 58-41 in the third quarter, as the Cardinal began to effectively attack the Cougars inside. WSU, by contrast, couldn’t get anything going on offense. Stanford closed off the middle. Cardinal defenders were resolute about doubling WSU attempts to get ball into the lane. Since they couldn’t establish a post presence, the Cougars were at a loss to do much more than launch prayers from the perimeter, and those weren’t falling. WSU managed just 7 of 17 shooting in the third quarter, and a dismal 1 of 13 in the final period, in which the Cougs were outscored 24-3.
Charlisse Leger-Waker led WSU with 15 points, and her older sister, Krystal, contributed 12 and 7 rebounds.
Stanford was demonstrably more skilled than WSU, but it didn’t look dramatically more athletic. Ethridge amplified that point. Where the Cardinal had a benchful of talented players, she said, the Cougs had merely a handful.
“We don’t have enough of them,” said Ethridge. “It’s hard for a couple of kids to carry the load in every phase of the game. They have to score, rebound, pass, be emotional, take the hits and lead.” Stanford destroyed WSU in bench scoring, 26-2.
Stanford’s Haley Jones led all scorers with 24 points. Kiki Irafen came off the bench in the second half and was a demon in the paint, scoring 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting and a free throw.
Lexie Hull, from Central Valley, had 4 steals to go along with 7 points and 5 rebounds for the Cardinal. Lacie Hull had 3 steals, 5 points and 4 rebounds. The Cardinal harried the Cougars into 20 turnovers while committing only 11 themselves.
The number 2 ranked Cardinal improved to 9-3 with the win, 1-0 in the Pac-12. WSU slipped to 9-4 and 1-1 in the league.
Although the Cardinal preserved their perfect win streak against WSU, Ethridge said the 70-0 all-time record didn’t loom over her Cougar players who had, at most, three years of experience with fashioning that streak, and it had little bearing on the outcome Sunday.
“I’d say it had a lot more to do with Stanford and Stanford being really good.”
Although the Cougars were sent reeling, Ethridge could still see something of an object lesson in the game. There was, after all, that first quarter, when they went eye-to-eye with Stanford.
“Traditionally we have not been a great women’s basketball program,” she said. “That’s something we want to change.”
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