STANFORD, Calif. — It used to be there were some teams in the conference Tara VanDerveer knew Stanford could take out by halftime and her substitutes would finish out a lopsided Stanford win.
Not anymore. Not in this talented, remarkably even Pac-12.
The Cardinal held off a scrappy UCLA bunch Sunday, with DiJonai Carrington knocking down a key jumper with 24 seconds left on the way to 30 points and Alanna Smith hitting consecutive 3-pointers during a key third-quarter burst in No. 6 Stanford's hard-fought 86-80 victory.
"There's not a bad team," VanDerveer said. "Like maybe in the old days you could say, 'Ahh, we don't have to worry about this team, we'll be up by 30 at halftime,' but those days are over. Everyone says, 'Oh, isn't it great?' I'm like, 'Uh, not so sure.' It's great, so we'll have our work cut out for us every game."
Sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome made a baseline 3 for the Cardinal (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) with 1:03 to play after moving into VanDerveer's top five for her second career start. Jerome replaced forward Nadia Fingall, who was lost for the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee suffered Friday night.
Michaela Onyenwere made a pair of free throws with 2:26 remaining to cut Stanford's lead to 75-73 before Kiana Williams answered with a 3 on the other end in a back-and-forth finish.
This game during the opening weekend of conference play provided a glimpse of just how balanced the Pac-12 looks to be.
Smith had 24 points and 11 rebounds as the Cardinal ran their home winning streak at Maples Pavilion to 18 games. Smith shot 1 for 7 in the first half then hit consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third quarter during an 18-3 Stanford run — including 13-0 — as the Cardinal took a 56-50 lead.
"When you have every one of your teammates telling you to keep shooting, it's hard not to," Smith said.
Carrington shot 11 for 18 and she and Smith each had three 3-pointers. Carrington converted a three-point play on Stanford's first possession of the third to get her team within six, then Williams drove for a layup the next time down to make it 47-43. Williams finished with 21 points and a career-best 10 assists.
Japreece Dean scored 22 points to lead UCLA (9-6, 2-1), which had pulled off an impressive 84-79 overtime win against No. 18 California on Friday night in Berkeley.
The Bruins shot 7 of 9 from deep in the first half and used a 16-3 run to go ahead 40-29 at the 5:20 mark of the second quarter. They led 45-38 at the break.
Kennedy Burke and Dean each made 3 of her initial 4 shots while Dean scored eight straight during one first-quarter stretch as UCLA jumped out to an early 17-6 lead.
Coach Cori Close was disappointed with some opportunities given away during a game in which UCLA hung tough.
"What I love about this team is they're not afraid to be challenged," she said. "They have stayed focused on adjusting and getting better from every experience."
Onyenwere, coming off a 29-point performance at Cal on 12-for-22 shooting, had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Stanford, which had trailed at halftime of its 72-64 win Friday night against USC, began the game 2 for 10 but got back within 24-23 after the initial quarter. Stanford challenged itself to pick up the defense in the second half.
"It had to be one of those games where we had to get punched in the face before we started fighting," VanDerveer said. "Honestly, we can't play that way. We have to come out of the gates better."
Fingall was injured in the third quarter Friday night and an MRI exam Saturday revealed the injury. Surgery has not been scheduled.
"Having been in this as long as all of us have been, the ACL is the three letters of the alphabet that I hate," VanDerveer said. "... We're counting on Nadia being ready for the first day of practice."
The 6-foot-3 Fingall isn't expected to receive a medical redshirt based on her games played, VanDerveer said.
A career scorer of 4.4 points, she was averaging 8.0 points and 4.9 rebounds this season for the Cardinal. Stanford could get forward Maya Dodson back from a foot injury before the end of the regular season.
UCLA: UCLA had six more steals after getting 10 vs. Cal. ... After the Bruins forced Cal into 11 first-half turnovers and 19 in all, Stanford committed nine by the break and 15 total. ... UCLA outrebounded Cal 39-37 on Friday, then held a 38-37 edge on Stanford.
Stanford: The Cardinal had three players with 20 or more points since Jan. 23, 2015, at UCLA. ... Stanford is 95-6 in its last 101 Pac-12 home games. ... The Cardinal beat No. 11 UCLA 76-65 at Maples on Dec. 29, 2017, to snap a six-game losing streak against ranked teams. UCLA won the second meeting at home last Jan. 21, 64-53. ... After the game, Stanford held a remembrance for 30-year women's basketball office mangaer Dee Dee Zawaydeh-Johnson along with loyal fan Marian Cortesi.
UCLA: Faces its third straight ranked opponent when Oregon State visits Friday night.
Stanford: At Arizona State on Friday night.