STANFORD, Calif. (AP)Tara VanDerveer asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to her four Stanford seniors, and hundreds of fans who stuck around well past the final buzzer for a postgame ceremony jumped to their feet.
VanDerveer thanked the players’ parents while making something perfectly clear: The Cardinal have plenty of great basketball still to be played with March approaching. Stanford’s seniors have already won 116 games during their careers.
”They call themselves the Funky Four, I call them the Final Four or the Fabulous Four,” the Hall of Fame coach said. ”Let’s keep it rolling.”
Cameron Brink scored 25 points and made all 15 of her free throws, the last of which put Stanford ahead for good, and the third-ranked Cardinal beat 17th-ranked UCLA 71-66 on Monday night in their final regular-season home game.
Brink swatted two more shots to give her 102 blocks for the season, and her 15 free throws were the most without a miss by a Stanford player since at least 1999 – Candice Wiggins went 14 for 14 in 2008. Senior Haley Jones added 18 points and converted a layup with 1:22 remaining to put the Cardinal ahead by three.
”There were a lot of different moments tonight we had to change our mentality,” Jones said. ”We’re trying to win a Pac-12 championship and this game was necessary to do that. We had to be the aggressor.”
Stanford (26-3, 14-2 Pac-12) has won four straight and is closing in on a third straight Pac-12 regular-season title with games remaining this week at No. 21 Colorado and No. 8 Utah.
Jones hit a go-ahead jumper with 2:45 to play before Lina Sontag answered with a 3 moments later to put UCLA ahead 65-64. Brink’s final two free throws made it 66-65 with 1:53 left.
Freshman Londynn Jones scored 14 points for UCLA (21-7, 10-6), which dropped one spot in the AP Top 25 this week and had its four-game winning streak snapped. UCLA pounded the boards for a 36-33 advantage, getting 17 on the offensive glass.
”They’re a good team and they’re on a mission,” VanDerveer said.
Brink also converted a go-ahead three-point play with 8:55 remaining. The 6-foot-4 junior reached 100 blocks for the first time in her stellar career and set the all-time Stanford record during Friday’s 50-47 win over Southern California – and she still has another collegiate season left to play. Brink has 280 blocks, having topped Jayne Appel’s mark of 273 set from 2006-10.
Stanford won the first meeting 72-59 on Jan. 13 after the teams were tied after three quarters. UCLA made it interesting until the end this time.
”Really proud of our team’s response in the second half,” Bruins coach Cori Close said, ”their fight, their togetherness, their belief.”
The cold-shooting Bruins began 3 of 11 and went 5:39 without a basket in the second quarter, missing 10 straight shots as the Cardinal went on a 6-0 run. Christeen Iwuala’s putback with 3:36 left in the quarter ended a nearly six-minute stretch without a field goal by UCLA.
But the Bruins came out energized after halftime, using a 25-point third quarter – they had just 26 points at halftime – while holding Stanford to just four field goals in the period to take a 51-50 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry attended his second straight Stanford game. He has been a regular this season at women’s games on The Farm and also at California in Berkeley. He sat on the baseline with Brink’s parents, Michelle and Greg.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP’s family is close with the Brinks.
”When I was growing up I played with a lot of young girls, we played a lot of pickup together,” Curry said. ”I love that the game is growing and getting some more exposure. I grew up watching sports and now to drive awareness on how good the women’s game is, all that stuff matters. I’ve had my daughters here with me to watch, I’ve had my son here with me to watch the game, and they love it. And I’m supporting family, too.”
The Cardinal also acknowledged each UCLA senior before the game. Senior Charisma Osborne had 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a career-best six steals for the Bruins.
UCLA: Scored 14 points off Stanford’s 15 turnovers. … The Bruins were 2 of 11 on 3s in the first half and 7 for 25 overall, with freshman Kiki Rice going 0 for 3. … UCLA has lost six of the last seven in the series.
Stanford: Brink has scored in double figures in 21 straight games. … After Stanford limited USC to 22% shooting Friday for its lowest by an opponent since 2010, UCLA finished at 36%.
UCLA: Hosts Washington State on Thursday night.
Stanford: Visits Colorado on Thursday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25