TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)Tara VanDerveer said she didn’t need to give her team any sort of pep talk after No. 4 Stanford’s back-to-back conference losses, which had only happened nine times since VanDerveer’s first season as coach in 1985.
The Cardinal avoided its first three-game skid since 2001 with a 55-44 win over No. 24 Arizona State on Sunday. Francesca Belibi had 18 points and nine rebounds in the Pac-12 regular-season finale for both teams.
Lexie Hull and Kiana Williams added 13 points each for Stanford.
”We had some real good spurts of playing really well. Obviously we can do better, but I’m really proud of our team for battling,” VanDerveer said. ”We have great leadership on our team and they’re competitive. They want to win.”
Belibi, who made 9 of her 10 shots, scored 10 points in the third quarter and Stanford outscored the Sun Devils 38-16 in the paint. The Cardinal (25-5 overall, 14-4 in Pac-12) held Arizona State to 16 of 57 shooting (28%).
Robbi Ryan led Arizona State (20-10, 10-8) with 13 points.
The Sun Devils lost starting guard Kiara Russell early in the second quarter when she went down after a collision with Williams and clutched her left knee in pain.
Russell, playing her final regular-season home game along with Ryan and three other seniors, was helped back to the locker room and didn’t return to the game. She got back to the bench on crutches for the second half, with her knee in a brace.
”I don’t think we can overstate the impact that it had when she got hurt, because everybody’s seen that before,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said, adding that Russell’s season is likely over. ”That was the unluckiest thing that could possibly happen.”
The Cardinal held a 10-7 lead after neither team shot well in the first quarter. Stanford made four layups and a jumper out of 15 shots, while the Sun Devils were 3 of 16 from the floor.
Stanford took a 10-point lead in the second quarter thanks in part to Hull, who scored on a post-up move and then hit a 3-pointer with 1:47 to play.
Both baskets were part of a 12-2 run that helped the Cardinal take a 29-16 lead into halftime. Arizona State was 7 of 31 from the floor in the first half. Ryan made five of those shots for 11 points.
Stanford, which had lost consecutive games to No. 3 Oregon and No. 13 Arizona, went more than four minutes without a point to start the third quarter, but added to its lead. Belibi drove for a layup with 1:38 to go for a 42-27 advantage.
Arizona State did not get closer than 11 points in the fourth quarter.
”We knew we had our hands full, and I thought people stepped up really well,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford: The Cardinal will be the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament behind top-seeded Oregon and No. 2 seed UCLA.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils already had the fifth seed in the conference tournament wrapped up. They have likely done enough in the regular season to earn an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson attended the game. His younger sister Anna played her last regular-season game for Stanford and had four points and six rebounds.
Stanford: Opens Pac-12 tournament play in a quarterfinal game Friday in Las Vegas.
Arizona State: Faces 12th-seeded California on Thursday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.
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