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Cameron Brink’s double-double lifts No. 2 Stanford over No. 8 Arizona women’s basketball

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Final Four - Championship Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Arizona and Stanford played three times last season. Each one was a little closer. A 27-point loss in Tucson. A 14-point loss in Palo Alto. Then, that brutal one-point loss in San Antonio for the national championship. Could the Wildcats finally get into the win column?

Arizona proved that they can hang with Stanford, but they couldn’t overcome the double-double of sophomore post Cameron Brink to end the Cardinal’s 21-game conference winning streak.

Brink matched her career high with 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. The Cardinal extended their conference winning streak to 22 games with a 75-69 victory. It was the only time the two teams will meet in the regular season this year.

While the Wildcats were led by their upperclassmen once again, head coach Adia Barnes also decided that she needed to change the rotation. Against UCLA on Wednesday, she started the second half with Koi Love on the floor instead of Lauren Ware. Against Stanford, she made changes to the starting lineup. Once again, it was Ware who was out of the lineup, but she was replaced by Helena Pueyo rather than Love.

“I wanted to go smaller because we were gonna have a difficult time with our starting lineup going up against Haley (Jones),” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said.

Barnes also got significant contributions from players that haven’t been seen much in months. Sophomore point guard Derin Erdogan, who had played a total of 44 minutes over seven games this season, entered in the first quarter. She played for six minutes, more than doubling her time in Pac-12 games this season. Her only other appearance was four minutes against Colorado.

“Derin does a tremendous job running our team at practices, controlling the tempo in practices, going against Shaina in practices,” Barnes said. “She deserves to play. She’s worked hard and she’s had tremendous practices. She’s earned the right to play. And I thought that she did a tremendous job coming in, giving us a spark, running the team well.”

Freshman Gisela Sanchez saw the court early, as well. Sanchez was active and hit a 3-point shot in her six minutes of play.

Arizona was led by senior Cate Reese, who had 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting including 3 for 6 from outside. Reese also locontributed seven rebounds, an assist, and a steal despite being saddled with foul trouble. Reese had two fouls at 6:50 in the first quarter and sat for much of the first half. She had four fouls on the day.

Once again, Shaina Pellington was not far behind. The speedy guard was too much for Stanford to handle as she added 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting. She added five rebounds, five assists, one block, and one steal.

Yeaney was the third to break into double digits with 10 points, three rebounds, an assist, two steals, and two blocks. Sam Thomas also got close with nine points, three rebounds, five assists, and a steal.

Thomas also did her usual superb job on defense. The senior, who was left on the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watch list earlier in the week, spent time guarding Haley Jones. The team held last year’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player had just four points on 2-for-12 shooting.

Jones had seven rebounds, six assists, and two blocks, but she also had six turnovers. Her -7 plus-minus was the lowest on the team and one of only two to veer into negative territory for the Cardinal.

The second quarter was the undoing of the Wildcats. The team started slowly in three straight games but made the adjustment on Sunday. They were down by just one after 10 minutes.

In the second period, Stanford outscored the Wildcats by seven, though. It was the most lopsided of the four quarters. The visitors closed to within one twice in the third quarter, but they could never overcome the hole they dug in the second quarter.

“Stanford’s a really good team,” Barnes said. “The end of the second quarter really hurt us. And then in the fourth quarter, we just got murdered inside. I think as a team we just got to do a better job of crowding and making it more difficult.”

Both teams played at a very high level, shooting 46 percent (Arizona) and 52 percent (Stanford) from the floor. They both hit 47 percent of their 3-point shots. The Wildcats showed their relentless defense, turning the Cardinal over 18 times and getting 22 points off those turnovers. But they couldn’t overcome Brink or Jana Van Gytenbeek going 6 for 8 from 3-point distance. Now, if Arizona is to get revenge against Stanford and get its first win since Feb. 28, 2020, it must hope that the two meet in the postseason.

“It’s great for us to play against that,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “That’s the kind of game that we’ve been playing with Tennessee and South Carolina. They’re a great team. We could be playing them again in the Pac-12 Tournament. We stay healthy, they get healthy, we’re both going to NCAA Tournament. We could be playing again.”