Stanford beats Beavers to salvage split in Oregon

Stanford's Williams turns defense into offense (0:26)

Kiana Williams forces the steal and stops on a dime to bury the 3-pointer for Stanford. (0:26)

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The schedule determined well in advance that Stanford would spend a long weekend in the Pacific Northwest, the Cardinal's two-game conference road swing through Oregon and Oregon State stretched an extra day compared to the normal road routine.

But that extended stay surely felt like a never-ending nightmare during the early minutes of Sunday's game against the Beavers. Like the gloomy weather that can settle over this part of the world for weeks on end at this time of year, Stanford was mired in basketball gloom.

Except that if you're patient enough around here, the sun eventually comes back. And the warmth feels all the more glorious for the wait.

In a 61-58 comeback win against No. 8 Oregon State, No. 3 Stanford found a little light.

No, this wasn't a weekend the Cardinal will want to relive. Stanford was routed by Oregon on Thursday, the 32-point defeat the worst loss this season for a top-10 team and one that could cost the Cardinal come time for NCAA tournament seeding. They can only hope the injury freshman Haley Jones suffered Sunday won't derail her debut season.

But heading home having salvaged a split from the most difficult road trip there is in college basketball this season might yet make it one of the most important weekends for the Cardinal.

"I'm really proud of our team because you get in a game like [the loss against Oregon] and it snowballed on us real fast," Tara VanDerveer said. "People didn't have excuses, they knew they had to play better. To come in here and do this, I'm really proud of our team. They're tough, they're really good and they're prepared for us. But the time up here, it's very challenging."

Outscored by nearly 30 points by the Ducks in the second half days earlier, the Cardinal responded by promptly falling behind the Beavers by 11 points within five minutes of Sunday's tip.

They trailed by double digits on three separate occasions in the first half. Oregon State's Destiny Slocum appeared headed for the same kind of star turn as Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu days earlier.

But VanDerveer didn't call timeout. She didn't stop her team to regroup. The game was so up and down, for that matter, that there wasn't even a stoppage for a commercial break until more than eight minutes had elapsed in the opening quarter. Sometimes you just have to see if the kids -- and Stanford leans heavily on freshmen and sophomores -- figure out answers for themselves.

"We just played ourselves out of it," Kiana Williams said. "We didn't start how we wanted to, but we stuck to our game plan and it worked out."

Gradually the tide turned. The big shots in the second half came from players with at least some experience, from Williams most of all. The junior led Stanford with 17 points, 12 in the second half. But it was Jones who slowed the negative momentum that began in the second half Thursday and carried over into Sunday.

The freshman failed to make her presence felt against Oregon but scored six points against Oregon State in the first quarter, not hesitant to drive to the basket and hit difficult shots to keep the game within reach. And nothing worked better for the Cardinal in the first half than fellow freshman Ashten Prechtel stretching Oregon State's defense. A 6-foot-5 forward ranked among the top recruits in the country, Prechtel hit two 3-pointers and a lone two-pointer in the first half.

The last of those 3s pulled the Cardinal to within a point shortly before halftime.

Stanford players spoke Thursday about the crowd and noise in Oregon getting the best of them. The noise wasn't much different Sunday in Gill Coliseum, but Stanford's youth wasn't intimidated.

"Her challenge has been -- it's college basketball," VanDerveer said of Prechtel. "It's more physical. You've got to learn a scouting report. They're used to just going out there and [having their way in high school]. This is about concentration. Ashten has been making great progress. I think she's going to be a real key for us going down the stretch, her maturation.

"Obviously Haley is, too. Hopefully Haley's knee situation will be short term."

The injury to Jones casts an undeniable pall over the win. She stumbled while backpedaling to defend a baseline drive late in the third quarter and fell backward awkwardly. She appeared unable to put any weight on her right leg when she was eventually helped to the locker room and had a large ice bag on her right knee when she returned to the bench in the fourth quarter.

Fran Belibi, another member of the heralded freshman class, didn't play Sunday because of what her coach termed a sprained ankle.

VanDerveer said the nation's No. 1 recruit will have an MRI this week after the team returns home.

And the Cardinal do finally get to return home now. Pac-12 teams typically play conference games on Friday and Sunday, but with Thursday's game on national television, Stanford instead had an extra day to rehash the loss at Oregon. Or not, as the case may be.

"We practiced and then we did homework," Lexie Hull said. "That seems to be the schedule most days for us. But we hung out in the hotel, had a lot of team bonding. A lot of spending time together, which we really like."

And now, Stanford has a true road win of note. The Cardinal's previous best wins against Mississippi State and Syracuse came on a neutral court in British Columbia.

The way Sunday started, it appeared that search would continue. Instead, Oregon State was left disconsolate as it stares down back-to-back games against the rival Ducks this week.

"Let's get real about Oregon, they're tremendous" VanDerveer said. "It was kind of the perfect storm going up there. They're coming off a loss, they had a great crowd, they've got the player of the year. We did a great job in the first half and then the wheels came off. For this game I was really glad to see us compete for 40 minutes. That was the theme -- play hard for 40 minutes."

That was all it took for the clouds to lift.