By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer
STANFORD — Cameron Brink has evolved into a smart and imposing shot-blocker in both the paint and on the perimeter, going straight up and with one hand to avoid picking up fouls.
On Friday night, she became Stanford’s career leader in blocked shots with six more and scored 12 points, including a key putback with 1:04 left, and the third-ranked Cardinal beat 25th-ranked USC, 50-47, to avenge a loss from earlier this season and take sole possession of the Pac-12 lead.
Brink began the night needing two blocks to break Jayne Appel’s mark of 273 set from 2006-2010, then swatted away a layup by Kadi Sissoko at the 5:25 mark of the second for the record. Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, a close family friend, and his daughter, Riley – alongside San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance – sat on the baseline cheering for her. Brink has 278 career blocks and already held the single-season program record, moving her total to 99. She also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Afterward, Brink hinted she will return for her final collegiate season, much to the delight of coach Tara VanDerveer: “I think why you go to Stanford is to stay for four years and get your degree,” Brink said.
Okako Adika’s jumper with 1:41 remaining pulled the Trojans (19-7 overall, 9-6 Pac-12) to within 48-45 but Brink answered after a miss by Jones. Destiny Littleton scored 15 points but missed a corner 3-point attempt while being pressured just before the final buzzer trying to send the game into overtime.
Haley Jones added eight points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the “Pink Game” as both programs wore pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. Stanford (25-3, 13-2) bounced back after having its 14-game winning streak stopped by the Trojans in a 55-46 loss on Jan. 15 at the Galen Center.
The Cardinal are alone atop the Pac-12 after No. 4 Utah’s 82-72 loss at 18th-ranked Arizona earlier Friday.
“We want to be in first place. Every game for us is a shot to win the championship and so that’s what we’re working at,” VanDerveer said. “… This was a great game for us, it was a tournament game.”
Sissoko, leading USC at 15 points per game for a Trojans team averaging 65.8 ppg, shot just 3 for 15 for nine points.
Adika made two early 3-pointers and Littleton also knocked one down from deep as USC went ahead 11-5. Adika wound up with 13 points, but the Trojans had just two points in the paint, none from the bench and none in the fast-break.
Littleton was determined to stay aggressive, even with Brink’s presence in the middle.
“What gives me confidence with this group is the body of work over the course of the season,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I still think our best basketball is in front of us.”
Appel, now Jayne Appel-Marinelli, offered her congratulations to Brink via text message to the AP.
“From one Stanford big to another Stanford big: You have taken the torch and moved it to a higher level. Congratulations, Block Queen! Truly an accomplishment to be on the top with all the other Stanford greats!”
Said Brink: “Coming from Jayne, that’s the biggest compliment. I idolize her. She was such an amazing player.”
USC: Sophomore center Clarice Akunwafo went down hard on her left leg with 5:55 left and grabbed at her knee before going to the locker room. … USC was averaging 9.3 steals per game and wound up with five. … The Trojans lost their 19th straight at Maples Pavilion dating to a 62-59 win March 1, 2001. They are 7-33 all-time on Stanford’s home floor.
Stanford: Stanford attempted only four 3-point shots in the first half, largely because the Cardinal outscored the Trojans 26-0 in the paint before the break. … Leading 48-41 with 3:47 left, the Cardinal committed a rare shot-clock violation. … Stanford has won 22 straight Pac-12 home games.
USC: The Trojans play at Cal on Sunday at 1 p.m. Gottlieb’s former program will honor their Final Four team 10 years later. “I’m really appreciative to Charmin for this,” Gottlieb said of Cal coach Charmin Smith holding the ceremony with Gottlieb in town.
Stanford: The Cardinal host No. 16 UCLA on Monday at 6 p.m. for senior night as the Cardinal conclude their home schedule.