Kiana Williams is heating up just in time to head home.
The senior point guard scored 16 of her 26 points in the first half as the fourth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team crushed ninth-ranked UCLA 75-55 Sunday in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament championship game at Las Vegas.
Williams also had tournament-record six 3-pointers and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Not only was it the 14th straight victory for Stanford (25-2) — which also won the Pac-12 regular-season title — it was the 14th conference championship in 20 years the conference tournament has been held.
Next for the Cardinal: Selection Monday on March 15 and who they will play in the NCAA Tournament. Not only does Stanford earn the Pac-12’s automatic bid, but the decisive win also solidified its case for a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the NCAA is staging the women’s tournament in the San Antonio area.
Coincidentally, the 5-foot-8 Williams hails from San Antonio, where she hopes to lead the Cardinal to their third national championship and first since 1992. It isn’t for a lack of opportunity as Stanford will be making its 33rd straight trip to the Big Dance.
Junior guard Lexi Hull had a season-high 24 points, while sophomore guard Haley Jones had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Senior forward Michaela Onyenwere had 30 points to lead the Bruins, who were held to their second-lowest point total of the season. Stanford shot 48.2 percent (27 of 56) while holding UCLA to 33.3 percent (19 of 57). The Cardinal also held a 38-27 rebounding advantage.
The rout was a surprise as Stanford and UCLA (16-5), seeded third in the tournament, had two fierce battles in the regular season. The Bruins twice held the high-scoring Cardinal to less than 70 points as the teams split the pair of games. UCLA is the last team to beat Stanford — which actually lost back-to-back games — taking a 70-66 win over the Cardinal on Jan. 22.
Stanford took control immediately, thanks to Williams and a stifling defense. Williams had eight points in each of the first two quarters, while the Cardinal held the to 26.9 percent shooting (7 of 26). Meanwhile, Stanford shot 47.1 percent in the first half and had as many 3-pointers as UCLA had total field goals (seven).
The key was the finish to the first quarter and the start to the second when the Cardinal used a 15-0 run to turn an 18-11 lead into a 33-11 advantage.
While UCLA pulled within 54-44 just 58 seconds into the fourth quarter, Stanford re-established its superiority and won by 20 points.
Stanford improved to 11-1 vs. the Bruins in Pac-12 Tournament play, including 4-1 in the title game.