Michelle Smith: Lessons to be learned for No. 2 Stanford after overtime loss to leaders South Carolina

STANFORD, California – The calendar was as much an issue as the scoreboard in the moments after No. 2 Stanford suffered a 76-71 overtime loss to top-ranked South Carolina in a nationally televised matchup earlier in the season in front of a sell-out crowd as a 7,200 at the Maples pavilion.

“It’s November,” said the senior point forward Haley Jones.

“It’s November,” the Stanford coach said Tara VanDerveer.

It is indeed November, not exactly the season for statement wins. At least not when you’re the top two teams in the country and there isn’t a significant penalty for fighting to the last second in what VanDerveer called the “heavyweight fight”.

Instead, it is the time for improvements, information and important lessons.

“You don’t bring a team here to play Stanford without a lesson,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, whose team has won nine of their last ten games against the Cardinal (5-1). “Good or bad…this game only helps both teams.”

There will be a number of takeaways for the Cardinal — the cost of too many turnovers (22), the cost of a fourth-quarter drought that cost Stanford a double-digit lead, and the cost of two mental errors that turned the tide of the game of overtime, which VanDerveer described as “unfortunate”.

The first was a 5-second call when Jones couldn’t get the ball over the half-court line, Stanford lost 73-71 with 10 seconds left. And the second, a time-out called with 3.1 seconds remaining, which the Cardinal did not have available, resulted in a technical foul and two free throws from guard Zia Cooke, who ended the game for the defending champion in a game Stanford led for more than 40 of his 45 minutes.

VanDerveer said it was “very disappointing to have the lead that we had and not finish the job.”

“They made big plays when they needed to,” VanDerveer said. “Our turnovers are really hurting us and we need to do better.”

It was the third No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season game in history to go into overtime. And Stanford must be frustrated that it even got this far. Aschen Prechtel With six seconds remaining, South Carolina star Aliyah Boston blocked and Stanford led 61-59.

But Boston was able to push through a doubles team and score with 2.1 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Boston, who was set to be the No. 1 pick in the next WNBA draft, finished the game with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds but was knocked down much of the game. Boston had 10 points and 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“Aliyah Boston is so big and so strong that you have to double her and that’s a gamble,” said VanDerveer. “Some of their kids got up and fired a few shots, and that’s the gamble,” VanDerveer said. “She’s tough in there and that’s a great person for some of our players like Kiki and Lauren Betts to really watch and say, ‘This is what I have to do.’”

Stanford Jr Cameron Brink led all scorers with 25 points, five rebounds and four blocks, but was fouled out of the game 3:01 in overtime. Jones and Iriafen each added 11 points.

“There’s a lot that we left out on the court,” said Jones, who was 5 of 19 off the ground but had nine rebounds with six assists. “It’s our first defeat, but I think there’s still a lot in the tank for this team.”

VanDerveer wanted to clarify that she doesn’t believe this loss was due to a mistake or two.

“It’s the combination of turnovers, not getting the ball in play, taking a timeout, not boxing, fouling, all of those things add up,” VanDerveer said. “It’s an overtime game and we need to be hungrier.”

Stanford had played everyone on his roster in the first five games of the season and went 11 deep in that game, but the Cardinal bench was outplayed 34-9.

Brink said the first thing she said to her teammates as they entered the dressing room was, “We don’t have anything to hang our heads about.”

“We made a lot of mistakes but we’re a young team and if anything it was just a great experience for us to look at that,” said Brink.

South Carolina won its 16th straight game against a ranked opponent. The Cardinal, meanwhile, still has a couple of tough games at home against Gonzaga and Tennessee before the start of Pac-12 play.

“We have nowhere to go but upstairs,” VanDerveer said. “This might just be a team not ready to go No. 1. As number 2, we have to be hungry. We have to improve, we have to stay healthy and get better.”

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