SEATTLE (AP) — It was only fitting that the season in which coach Tara VanDerveer joined elite company with her 1,000th career win included at least one championship trophy for Stanford.
Having missed out on a Pac-12 regular-season title, taking the conference tournament by rallying from another early deficit was beyond rewarding for the Cardinal.
"It's super satisfying," Erica McCall said. "It's like tasting your favorite candy."
Alanna Smith scored 18 points, Karlie Samuelson added 14 and No. 9 Stanford climbed out of a 13-point hole to beat No. 6 Oregon State 48-43 and win the Pac-12 tournament on Sunday night.
The Cardinal (28-5) won their 12th tournament title, the most in conference history, and took the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This crown came thanks to a comeback that relied heavily on a stifling defensive performance and a huge lift off the bench from Smith. It also provided some payback after Stanford lost twice to Oregon State during the season, the second defeat costing the Cardinal a chance at the league's regular-season title.
Smith shot 6 of 14 and carried Stanford's offense with McCall, the team's leading scorer, held to eight points on 2-of-10 shooting.
"In a lot of ways we have geared our team for the tournament. ... There's more excitement with the tournament because you're playing these teams and three games in three days," VanDerveer said. "I told our team we're a tournament team because of the depth we have."
While Smith was carrying Stanford at the offensive end, the Cardinal shut down Oregon State and star Sydney Wiese. Oregon State (29-4) threatened to run away with the championship game, leading 16-3 early and 22-12 after one quarter. But the Beavers shot just 32% for the game, made one shot in the fourth quarter, were held to a season low in points and lost for the first time since Feb. 10.
Wiese led Oregon State with 13 points.
"Stanford's such a good defensive team," Wiese said. "They scheme people. They know exactly what we're trying to do. Whoever has the ball, they're going to make it tough for us to score."
Stanford took its first lead since the opening minute of the game on Smith's layup underneath with 7:25 left. Wiese's threee-pointer at the other end was long and McCall added a driving layup to push the lead to 40-36. Samuelson's free throws with 4:23 left gave the Cardinal a 44-38 lead.
Wiese's three-pointer with 3:23 left cut the lead in half and was Oregon State's only field goal of the fourth quarter. But the Beavers committed turnovers on two straight possessions and Brittany McPhee scored in the lane with 1:10 remaining for a five-point lead.
"We really wanted to be champions and we were that close during the regular season," Samuelson said.
After making their first six shots and scoring 22 points in the first quarter, Oregon State was 10 of 44 from the field and scored 21 points the rest of the way. The Beavers shot 1 of 12 in the fourth quarter, and their 14 second-half points were a season low.
"Nothing surprised me, to be honest. We just didn't knock down some shots that we needed to," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
Oregon State was trying to become the first school to win consecutive conference tournament titles since Stanford's run of seven straight from 2007-13. The loss shouldn't penalize the Beavers when it comes to NCAA seeding, but any outside hope of landing a No. 1 seed is likely gone.
Stanford: The Cardinal had not been beaten three times in one season by the same opponent since the 1990-91 season when they lost three times to Tennessee. That streak will continue unless they meet the Beavers in the NCAA tournament.
Oregon State: The Beavers played their third straight game without guard Katie McWilliams due to an undisclosed injury. Her absence was felt in the first half after Mikayla Pivec picked up her second foul and Oregon State's offense stagnated while she was on the bench.
Stanford: The Cardinal should be a top-four seed in the NCAAs, but will not be able to host games at Maples Pavilion because the school is hosting the Pac-12 gymnastics championships.
Oregon State: The Beavers are all but assured of hosting NCAA first- and second-round games.