The No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (20-2, 17-2 Pac-12) have been quietly consistent and have played some great basketball since their back-to-back defeats on Jan. 17 and Jan. 22, winning nine-straight. They finally made it back into the Top 4 on Monday after a five-week absence, but now will have to fend off the No. 9 Arizona Wildcats (15-2, 13-2 Pac-12) on Monday night at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2) in order to win the Pac-12 regular season championship.
Stanford clinches with a win, but If Arizona wins on Monday and defeats the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-9, 5-9 Pac-12) on Sunday it will have a better winning percentage than Stanford in the conference regardless of whether or not Stanford wins its final regular season game against the California Golden Bears (1-14, 1-11 Pac-12) on Sunday.
The Wildcats are also on a hot streak, having won seven in a row dating back to a season-changing defensive performance against the No. 14 Oregon Ducks on Jan. 14 that immediately followed an upset loss to the Washington State Cougars on Jan. 10. Arizona’s most recent win, however, was a little too close for comfort. It won by just nine points over a Cal team that was winless until Sunday.
The Wildcats were the second-highest ranked team in the Pac-12 (No. 7 compared to Stanford’s No. 2 ranking) when the season began and they’ve weathered the storm of an unusual season to stand in position to take the regular-season conference crown.
Nothing left to do but to ball out. pic.twitter.com/G4IL6WUZnW— Arizona Women's Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) February 22, 2021
We know what's at stake.— Stanford Women’s Basketball (@StanfordWBB) February 21, 2021
No. 6 Stanford ready for a heavyweight matchup Monday night against 10th-ranked Arizona on ESPN2!#GoStanford
Of note for Arizona is the fact that its star player, Aari McDonald, has scored in double digits in 83-consecutive games, one more than an entire NBA season. She is averaging a team-best 18.8 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals. Cate Reese is second on Arizona in both points (12.2) and rebounds (5.4) per game and has the ability to put the team on her back if McDonald is having an off night.
On the other side, Kiana Williams (14.1 points per game) has moved ahead of Haley Jones (13.8) to become Stanford’s leading scorer, though Jones still leads the team with 7.7 rebounds per game. Both players average around three assists per contest. Lexie Hull (11) and freshman Cameron Brink (10.1) join them in double-figure scoring to give the Cardinal a more high-powered offense than that of the Wildcats.
No. 9 Arizona Wildcats (15-2, 13-2 Pac-12) vs. No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (20-2, 17-2 Pac-12)
When: Monday, Feb. 22, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Maples Pavilion in Stanford, CA
Key to the matchup: Turnover margin. Its one of the only areas where Arizona has an advantage. It also gets to the line more frequently but sends players to the line more than Stanford does and shoots a slightly worse free throw percentage. The Wildcats are going to need to live up to their 17.8 forced turnovers per game and it all starts with Aari McDonald and the guards applying pressure.
Reason to watch: Stanford won in blowout fashion the first time these teams met, but that was before Arizona’s season-changing win over Oregon on Jan. 14, which started its current seven-game winning streak. It has been an unpredictable year in the Pac-12 and around the country, so anything can happen.