December 30, 2016

Stanford dodges the ASU fork, 64-57

This game was tough both physically and emotionally. The Sun Devils' athletic, swarming defense in the paint stymied Bird, Brittany, Nadia, and any player that brought the ball past the line. Again and again a drive ended with the ball off the rim and into the hands of a player in yellow. The first quarter had ASU up 18-14. At the half Stanford enjoyed a one-point lead, 32-31.

The game turned on two key minutes.

With one minute to play in the third quarter and the score 43-42, Nadia stole the ball and Marta fed Karlie for a three. After several misses, Nadia grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in on the buzzer, ending the quarter 48-42.

The Cardinal clung to that lead as the Sun Devils clawed back. With one minute left in the game and the score 59-57, ASU passed the ball out of bounds. The refs conferred at length over the replay to see which player had the last touch; and awarded the ball to Stanford.

ASU forced a held ball with 0:24 to play, the arrow pointing Stanford's way. Now came a crazy play. With three seconds on the shot clock, Karlie inbounded the ball on a high lob to Bird in front of the bench. Bird had to reach high to catch it and might have intended to immediately shoot it — or not. Before anyone could know, ASU's Quinn Dornstauder reached up and touched Erica's arm. The ref decided it was a shooting foul and awarded Erica three free throws, which she made, icing the win.

Karlie had the game-high 16 points on 6-9 shooting as well as scrapping continually, taking endless punishment as she pursued every loose ball. She played every one of the grueling 40 minutes, the only player on either side to do so.

Bird ended with 12 points (including eight of nine free throws) and eleven rebounds for her sixth double-double of the year.

Brittany scored eight points. Thwarted by the Sun Devils' defense under the basket, she took two shots from beyond the arc and sank both of them.

Nadia also scored eight points. Marta made seven and showed a new determination to score, driving to the basket eight times. She would have connected more than three times against a different defense than ASU's.

Now the team can retire to the hotel for a New Year's Eve that will probably feature more ice bags than iced drinks, before playing Arizona on Sunday.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A video interview of Karlie,

A video about that decisive last play,

And a gallery of photos by Cheryl Evans (azcentral/sports) — these capture the flavor of this intense, physical game:

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