TUCSON, Ariz. — Stanford had a difficult trip to the desert last season, losing in overtime at Arizona’s McKale Center in front of a massive crowd.
When the Cardinal returned, the fans weren’t there, but their motivation sure was.
Haley Jones had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Lexie Hull added 13 points and top-ranked Stanford overwhelmed No. 6 Arizona early in an 81-54 rout Friday night.
“We came down here last year and it was really tough for us,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Our players didn’t forget that, I think. I know I didn’t forget it.”
The Cardinal (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) took care of No. 10 UCLA on Monday and kept rolling in their second top-10 showdown in four days.
Stanford raced past the Wildcats with a 15-2 run in the first quarter and had a 24-point lead by halftime. The Cardinal kept up the pressure and finished with a 51-32 rebounding advantage to avenge the loss to the Wildcats a year ago.
“This is a really fun group,” Stanford guard Anna Wilson said. “It’s obviously an interesting time we’re going through and I’m really glad to be with this group of girls.”
Arizona (7-1, 5-1) pulled off one of the biggest wins in program history by knocking off then-No. 4 Stanford at McKale Center last season, but had trouble at both ends of the floor in its first game against a No. 1 team since 2006.
The Wildcats had a long scoring drought in the first quarter to fall in a big early hole and shot 26% – 6 for 25 from 3-point range – to remain winless (0-5) all-time against top-ranked teams.
Sam Thomas led Arizona with 14 points and Aari McDonald added 12, but shot 3 of 18.
“We had a tough time running offense. Nothing was really working,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “It was our worst game of the season and they had a lot to do with that. They’re the No. 1 team for a reason.”
Stanford passed its first big test of the season on Monday, knocking off the Bruins 61-49.
The Cardinal’s next challenge came against an Arizona team with its highest ranking ever and off to its best conference start.
Stanford was up for this one, too.
The Cardinal made 7 of 12 shots in the first quarter and held Arizona without a field goal the final 5:55 to lead 20-13. Stanford kept pushing in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 44-20 by halftime.
The Wildcats started the game well to take an early lead, but shot 6 of 32 in the first half, missing 21 of their final 23 shots.
Arizona was more aggressive to start the third quarter and finally got some shots to fall, but only managed to cut Stanford’s lead to 20.
“I don’t think they were really rattled at any point,” said Arizona’s Bendu Yeaney, who had 10 points. “We had an early lead, but they never got rattled and stuck to what they do..”
Stanford looked every bit the No. 1 team in the country with a dominating performance.
Arizona has made huge strides in recent years, but was no match for the overpowering Cardinal.
McDonald was named the Pac-12 player of the week on Dec. 21 and came into the showdown with Stanford averaging 20.1 points.
After hitting a 3-pointer early in the first quarter, the senior guard spent the rest of her night being surrounded by Stanford defenders. A 35% shooter from 3-point range, she finished 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“Obviously, she’s a tremendous player and really great,” Wilson said. “Tara always says tag teaming and our team did really great on defense.”
Wilson has given Stanford a little bit of everything so far in her senior season.
She provided a scoring lift early against Arizona, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half, played stellar defense all night and had nine rebounds.
“She really got us going,” VanDerveer said. “I think that’s where it started.”
Stanford plays at Arizona State on Sunday.
Arizona hosts California Sunday.