SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)Seventh-ranked Stanford kept going to the free throw line in the closing minutes of its 66-62 win over Gonzaga on Sunday, and the Cardinal kept missing.
It wasn’t until Lexie Hull sank a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds left that the game felt out of Gonzaga’s reach.
”It was frightening,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said of her team’s 8-of-18 (44%) performance from the free-throw line.
”We have real good free-throw shooters,” she said. ”It’s disappointing we did not make free throws.”
While Stanford (3-1) was missing free throws, Gonzaga (3-1) went 1-for-9 from the floor in the deciding minutes, and that was enough to lift the Cardinal to victory.
”We battled and it was exciting to see our team be down and come back,” VanDerveer said. ”I credit Gonzaga. They played really well and really hard.”
Hannah Jump and Francesca Belibi came off the bench to score 14 points each for Stanford, the defending national champions who lost at home to Texas a week ago. Cameron Brink added 12 points and Lexie Hull 11 points.
Melody Kempton scored 16 points for Gonzaga, who beat the Cardinal when the teams last played in Spokane in 2018. Eliza Hollingsworth added 12.
Stanford leading scorer and rebounder Haley Jones, who had a triple-double in the previous game, did not play because of an injury, VanDerveer said.
Gonzaga finished the first quarter on a 16-5 run to take a 23-13 lead. But Jump sank consecutive 3-pointers and a field goal, and Ashten Prechtel hit a pair of 3s to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 35-32 at halftime.
Two 3-pointers by Jump midway through the third lifted Stanford to a 42-40 lead, and the team went up 50-47 entering the fourth quarter.
”We did know that Prechtel and Jump were shooters,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said, wryly.
The teams swapped the lead a couple of times early in the quarter, and Belibi’s basket pushed Stanford’s lead to 56-52 with 5 minutes left. Gonzaga’s Hollingsworth and Kayleigh Truong made free throws to tie the game at 56 with 4:28 left.
Stanford took a 62-58 lead on Lexie Hull’s free throw, a Brink basket and a free throw by Lacie Hull.
Cierra Walker of Gonzaga hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left to cut Stanford’s lead to 63-62.
Anna Wilson made a free throw for Stanford, Kaylynne Truong missed a 3-point attempt for Gonzaga and the Bulldogs trailed 64-62 with 4 seconds left.
Fortier pointed to 37% field-goal shooting by her team as a key to the outcome, saying it can’t be that low ”against a team like that.”
Fortier said her team is beyond taking comfort in ”moral victories.”
”We are too good now,” Fortier said. ”We are among the best teams in the country.”
Stanford has been ranked in the top 10 for 45 consecutive AP polls, and this gritty road win should keep them there.
Stanford holds a 10-2 advantage in the all-time series, with all the games being played in the past 13 years. Fortier was asked why they play so often, and she said she believed they do it for the same reason: ”To see how tough your team is.”
FACTS & FIGURES
Gonzaga made 17 of 19 free throws. … The Cardinal outscored Gonzaga 38-22 in the paint. … Stanford won the rebound battle 36-31.
Stanford: The Cardinal, who return 12 of 13 players from last year, showed grit in their first road game of the season. … Stanford had split its previous four games against Gonzaga. … Stanford was ranked No. 3 last week when Texas pushed them into 20 turnovers in a 61-56 upset.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs had not lost at home since Feb. 16, 2019. … The Bulldogs are forcing opponents into 15.7 turnovers per game.
Stanford: Plays Indiana in the Baha Mar Hoops tournament in the Bahamas on Thursday.
Gonzaga: Plays Utah in the Rainbow Wahine Showcase in Hawaii on Friday.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25