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Stanford’s collapse against South Carolina exposes early issues

Haley Jones and Aliyah Boston go head-to-head in South Carolina’s overtime win over Stanford on Sunday. (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

It should have been Stanford’s game.

Playing on their home court, the Cardinal led South Carolina by eight points heading into the fourth quarter. But bit by bit, shot by shot, steal by steal, the No. 1 Gamecocks battled back.

And with two seconds left in regulation, Aliyah Boston reminded everyone that she’s the reigning Player of the Year, with a feathery shot off the backboard to knot the score at 61 and force overtime.

What followed was a disastrous collapse from No. 2 Stanford in a 76-71 loss, the team’s first of the season.

The good news for Stanford? The loss came on Nov. 20, and there is a lot of time left to correct the issues that emerged. The bad news? There were a lot of issues, especially down the stretch.

“Maybe it’s a team not ready to be No. 1,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer told reporters after the game. “So we have to be hungry as the No. 2, and we have to want to improve.”

It was an exciting, down-to-the-wire nail-biter, but there was no mistaking this for a postseason contest. South Carolina and Stanford exposed weaknesses in one another and learned a lot about themselves. It’s why VanDerveer and Dawn Staley schedule games like this during the regular season: to figure out where they stand now, and how they can be the last team standing on April 2, 2023.

Cameron Brink led all scorers with 25 points, and for the 23 minutes she played, the junior looked like the best player in the country. But it was the minutes she didn’t play that made the difference, particularly the last three after the 6-foot-5 forward had fouled out.

Brink was a mismatch for South Carolina, like she will be for most teams this season. She’s lanky, athletic and skilled around the rim, but she also possesses the guard-like skills needed to stretch defenses, attack from the 3-point line and knock down shots from long range. When the junior was on the floor, South Carolina had no answer for her. The problem for Brink is the same one that plagued her during her first two seasons — staying on the floor.

“Cameron is developing into something pretty special,” Staley said. “Her ability to hit 3s, to put the ball on the floor and stretch defenses elevates her game.”

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Brink led all Stanford scorers with 25 points before fouling out in overtime. (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

Brink exited the game for good with 3:01 left in overtime. Even as South Carolina started to claw back, Stanford had a chance to seal the win with 10 seconds left after Agnes Emma-Nnopu stole the ball to give the Cardinal another possession, up 73-71.

Stanford drew up a play but failed to inbound the ball, resulting in a five-second call. Yet again, Stanford had another chance. Brea Beal missed both of her free throws, and Stanford’s Kiki Iriafen grabbed the rebound before positioning her hands in a “T” shape and turning to the official. The sophomore didn’t realize Stanford had used its last timeout. She was assessed a technical foul, and South Carolina got two free throws and the ball, ending the game on a sour note for the Cardinal.

That’s a lot of chaos to sum up one major concern for Stanford: maturity. The Cardinal have all the skills they need; they just need more time to develop. But this one will sting for a while because South Carolina didn’t storm in and take the victory. Instead, the Cardinal handed it over.

“There is a lot we left out there on the court,” said Stanford senior Haley Jones, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “But also in the grand scheme of things, it’s November. It’s our first loss, so I think there’s a lot left on the table.”

South Carolina won’t be pleased with the late-game turnover or four missed free throws in the last 24 seconds of play, but at this point in the year, they were seasoned enough to secure a victory.

“Stanford brings out the best of you, and the worst at times,” Staley said. “I just thought we didn’t play our best, and Stanford had a lot to do with it.

“We gutted out a win. This wasn’t an easy thing at all.”

Boston finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds for her 63rd career double-double. In addition to the basket that forced overtime, she made two buckets in the extra period to help secure the victory.

Down South Carolina’s lineup, sophomore Bree Hall and senior Laeticia Amihere also gave the Gamecocks a lift off the bench. Hall had 12 points, and no basket more important than the 3-pointer she made to put her squad up four with 45 seconds remaining.

Amihere finished with nine points, six rebounds and two blocks, doing a little bit of everything for South Carolina.

For Stanford, it’s hard to pick out the positives in a mistake-riddled overtime loss that included 22 turnovers, but it wasn’t all bad. Jones and Brink outplayed Boston and Zia Cooke for most of the game. It wasn’t until the second half that the South Carolina duo got their footing, after combining for just one made field goal in the opening two quarters. And with Brink on the bench, Stanford senior Ashten Prechtel proved herself to be a reliable defensive option, finishing with seven rebounds and five blocks.

The mistakes were glaring on Sunday. But it’s November, and November games are for making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. March games are not.

And March is when these teams will likely see each other again.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

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