STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Alanna Smith moved all the way from Australia to star at Stanford, and she plans to do all in her power to keep this NCAA Tournament run going as long as possible before her decorated college career comes to a close.
Her second-to-last home game was another beauty.
Smith scored the first nine Stanford points of the third quarter on the way to 21, and her second-seeded Cardinal shot lights-out from the get go to beat No. 15 seed and Northern California neighbor UC Davis 79-54 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“In games where you might be ahead by a lot, you might get complacent, and that’s not what we want to do, we want to play to our best ability the whole game,” Smith said. “That was the message at halftime: We had a great first half, let’s have an even better second half and that’s what we want to have our motto be for this whole tournament. We had a great first game, let’s have a better second game, let’s come out even harder the next game and keep this thing going. As a senior there’s that little bit more sense of urgency. … It’s pretty special to be able to sit up here and knowing that we’re going to play again on Monday.”
Stanford advances to play again on its home court of Maples Pavilion on Monday night against seventh-seeded BYU (26-6), a 73-64 winner in Saturday’s first game against No. 10 seed Auburn.
Kiana Williams added 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting with three 3-pointers and dished out five assists while Smith went 9 of 14 from the floor with three 3s. Stanford (29-4) shot 49.2 percent against the overmatched Aggies (25-7), who were riding a 16-game winning streak into the program’s second NCAA berth.
“We needed everybody. I was really proud of our bench,” Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Smith joined Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne as the only players the past 20 years with 1,600 points, 200 blocked shots and 150 made 3-pointers.
“Our motto is ride the hot hand,” Williams said.
Both coaches would have preferred to be in different brackets rather than facing off in the Chicago Regional opener given their close relationship and mutual respect for one another.
VanDerveer invited Jennifer Gross to campus several times, most recently last May, to teach the Cardinal the Princeton offense. Gross considers VanDerveer a mentor and beautiful example for all of women’s basketball.
Gross and top assistant and husband Joe Teramoto joked ahead of time “maybe we shouldn’t have told them everything.”
“They have an incredible team, incredible staff. Obviously today we were doing our best to beat them and fell a little bit short,” Gross said. “Also want them to know that we’re going to be their biggest fans from here on out and we really wish them the best in the rest of the tournament. This has been one of the most rewarding coaching experiences that I’ve had.”
Davis senior Morgan Bertsch, who at 23.5 points per game was the only player Aggies player averaging double figures, scored 25 points but shot 8 for 25. She grew up attending Stanford camp and has lots of family in the area.
“It was pretty to cool to get to end my career in front of a lot of my family,” Bertsch said, in tears.
The Aggies were outplayed from the opening tip and shot 29.1 percent. Both teams knew this matchup would be much different than when they opened their respective seasons on Stanford’s home floor four-plus months ago. The Cardinal won that one 71-43.
UC Davis got this far by rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat Hawaii for the Big West tournament crown. The Aggies reached the Elite Eight of the Women’s NIT last season and was determined to build on that momentum.
Stanford made 5 of its first 7 shots and jumped to a 15-0 lead as UC Davis missed its initial eight from the floor.
The Aggies shot 2 for 15, including 1 of 9 on 3s, in the first quarter to fall behind 26-9.
“Our first quarter really set the tone,” VanDerveer said.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, incognito sporting a red Stanford hoodie, was in the stands a couple of rows behind the team’s bench rooting for little sister Anna, a reserve guard for the Cardinal. He stood to cheer when she scored a late basket.
The game drew an announced crowd of 3,456.
Twins Karley and Kourtney Eaton play for Davis.
For Stanford, it’s freshmen Lacie and Lexie Hull.
The Hulls scored nine points total — six by starter Lacie — to four total by the Eatons, who combined to shoot 1 of 9.
UC Davis: Gross is 0-8 vs. Stanford in eight seasons coaching the Aggies, and the program hasn’t beaten the Cardinal since a 61-54 victory on Feb. 7, 1978. … UC Davis hadn’t lost since a 65-60 defeat at Hawaii on Jan. 12. … In 2011, the Aggies were a 16 seed and lost 86-59 in the first round at Stanford in then-Davis coach Sandy Simpson’s final game before he retired. … Against Stanford in the November season opener, the Aggies shot just 14 for 62 — 22.6 percent — and 8 of 31 from 3-point range while being outrebounded 50-25.
Stanford: Stanford won its 13th straight in the series with UC Davis. … The Cardinal held a 42-32 rebounding advantage and limited the Aggies to six assists.
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