When somebody like Kobe Bryant says something, you're likely going to listen. He made a call to Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer and was put on speaker phone for the team to hear.
"He gave us some really cool tips on how to focus," Stanford senior Alanna Smith said after Stanford beat UCLA on Friday night.
Apparently that had a carryover effect as Smith hit a layup with three seconds remaining to play to give No. 10 Stanford a 69-67 victory over host USC in a Pac-12 Conference contest Sunday.
"Props to our team. We really stuck together and that's something we're really emphasizing for this weekend and for the future," Smith told Pac-12 Networks. "We need to stick together and that's what we did. There were times we were down and we couldn't find a way to score. We rely on each other and we came out with the win because we relied on each other."
Thanks to Stanford Live Stream announcer Kevin Danna, Kobe's message was saved.
"You'll hit true brilliance when you play really, really hard and also have the tactics that go along with that," Bryant told his audience. "Study the tactics, study the tendencies, all those things."
It's a philosophy that VanDerveer has been preaching for years and when it's confirmed by someone like Kobe, it carries a lot of weight.
"It was a mindset thing," said Smith, who lost a fingernail early in the game against the Trojans and still managed 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Cardinal (21-4, 11-3), which recovered from a 15-point deficit to remain in line for a first-round bye for the conference tournament.
DiJonai Carrington also recorded a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Stanford, which returns home to host Arizona (17-8, 7-7) at 7 p.m. Friday. Kiana Williams added 16 points.
Stanford will retain at least of second place in the Pac-12, three games behind Oregon (24-1, 13-0) in the loss column. Oregon State (20-5, 10-3) and Arizona State (18-6, 9-4) are also in good shape for opening round byes. The Ducks and Beavers are playing Monday night in Corvallis.
"That was a battle," VanDerveer said. "Extremely physical. I thought our team showed a lot of grit. We stayed with things really well. It was tough. We made some big plays."
None bigger than Smith, who scored 12 points in the final period. Williams and Carrington combined for another 14. The trio combined for all but four points in the fourth.
"Our big three stepped up and made some big plays," VanDerveer said. "Nothing was really going right. "We got back and then they made another run, and then we got back again. We just kept getting off the mat."
The Trojans dominated the first half, taking a 32-17 lead with under four minutes remaining in the first half. Carrington made one of two free throws at the end of the half to close the gap to 36-25 entering the intermission.
Lexie Hull hit a 3-pointer with 6:39 left, giving Stanford a 50-49 edge. Eight lead changes later, the Trojans converted a three-point play to tie the game and set up Smith's dramatic finish.