November 22, 2017

Up next: Thanksgiving in Vegas

The Cardinal are spending the Thanksgiving weekend Playing 4Kay in Las Vegas after eating their Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday.

Their first game is on Thursday at 5:30pm PT vs Kent State. On Friday afternoon or evening (3:00 or 8:00), they'll play either Gonzaga or Belmont.

Their final game, on Saturday, will be against a team from the other side of the bracket, where the winner is likely to be Ohio State (the other contenders are DePaul, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Memphis).

There will be no TV coverage of the tournament, but all the games will be streamed live by FloHoops. A $12.50 subscription is required. The Stanford games will be broadcast by Sidearm Sports at Stanford All-Access.

   The Kent State Golden Flashes
are located in Cleveland, Ohio and play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). They won the East division of the MAC last season and have been picked to place second this season. They've begun the season with three wins and a loss.

The Flashes return a core of four starters from last season's team and are led by one of the MAC's most experienced frontcourt tandems: Senior forward Jordan Korinek (22.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and graduate forward McKenna Stephens (7.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg).

Also starting this season is sophomore guard Ali Poole , who likes to shoot the three and is currently their second-best scorer with 10.5 ppg.

Of their upcoming game vs Stanford, Poole said, “It’s a good opportunity. What do we have to lose? We’re not expected to win this game so we have to give them heck.”

Here are Kent State's roster and season statistics.

   The Belmont Bruins
are located in Nashville and play in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).

Lindy began her coaching career at Belmont. She was an assistant coach for two seasons before returning to Stanford this season.

The Bruins won the conference title the past two seasons and have been picked to do so again although it may take time to adjust to a new coach. They're currently ranked eighth in the mid-majors by Graham Hays (espn) and ninth by CollegeInsider.

They lost their opening game of the season to No. 22 Oklahoma, then won the next three.

Belmont returns four starters from a team that went 27-6 and nearly upset Kentucky in the NCAA tournament a season ago:

Junior guard Darby Maggard is the reigning NCAA 3-point field goal percentage champion, registering a .487 mark from beyond the arc last season. She's at .480 this season and averaging 16.3 ppg and 4.5 apg. She was named OVC Preseason Co-Player of the Year, along with:

Senior center Sally McCabe (13.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg).

Senior guard Kylee Smith (18.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg) was named on the Preseason All-OVC team.

Junior guard Jenny Roy (6.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg).

Here are Belmont's roster and season statistics.

   The Gonzaga Bulldogs,
West Coast Conference (WCC) powerhouse, have won 12 WCC regular-season titles and seven WCC Tournament championships in the past 13 years. They've made it to the NCAA Elite 8 once and to the Sweet 16 four times.

For the fifth-straight season, the Zags were picked as the WCC preseason favorite. They're ranked second in the mid-majors by CollegeInsider.

They've played only two games this season, losing to Colorado State and beating Montana.

The Zags are led by a pair of juniors who were named to the All-WCC Preseason Team:

Guard Laura Stockton averaged 8.0 points and 4.4 assists per game with a 1.9 assist/turnover ratio last season.

Forward Jill Barta was the Zag's leading scorer (16.8 ppg) and second-best rebounder (6.0 rpg) last season.

The Zags lost a vital member of their team just before the season began when redshirt senior center Emma Wolfram suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Here are Gonzaga's roster and season statistics.

   The Ohio State Buckeyes
have continued their successful season start. Their record is now 4-1, with a loss only to No. 5 Louisville in "Countdown to Columbus", and they're still ranked ninth in the AP Top 25.

Should a Cardinal/Buckeye re-match occur, I won't be surprised if the Buckeyes win again. At this point in the season, they're still a better team than the young Cardinal. But I'm sure they won't out-rebound the Cardinal 64-41 this time nor limit them to two second-chance points.

Here are Ohio's roster and season statistics.

November 19, 2017

Running away from the Roadrunners, 57-34

Bird's dad Greg McCall brought his CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners into Maples, returning the visit we paid to the Icardo Center last December.

In the pre-game chalk talk, Coach Paye said that Brittany's "foot issue" was indefinite: "In a couple of weeks we'll see." (Post-game, Tara said much the same, indicating that they were in no hurry to rush Brittany back, and in fact, had she been playing this game, she might have, "taken minutes from some players who need the experience.")

Kate said that the "new" offensive scheme being taught this year is the "Princeton Offense" first taught by the famous Pete Carril. For those who'd like to know more, here is the Wikipedia description of the Princeton Offense, which needs "5 players who can each pass, shoot and dribble at an above average level," and for good reason, as "the ball is kept in constant motion through passing..."

While the ball did seem to be in pretty constant motion during Stanford possessions, apparently the full system was not being run because, as Tara noted after the game, Bakersfield played a defensive zone the whole time, and "This was the first time we've played against the zone this year."

In any event, the Cardinal quickly opened a 9-0 advantage, maintained it into the second quarter, and then steadily increased it to the end. In the first half, three-point shooting was notably better than in the prior game; at the half the Cardinal was shooting 37% from long range. Unfortunately a flurry of misses in the second half pulled that number down to 25% by the end — still an improvement from the dismal 11% of the prior game.

Alexa led all scorers with 13 points from 3 made 3-pointers, a nice two-point jumper when she had to step in over the line to avoid a defender, and a free-throw. That was her career high in points. In her 23 minutes Alexa also tallied three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Anna got a healthy 21 minutes on the floor (no doubt thinking "Thanks, Brit!") and scored nine points on three made 3's. She also pulled in four rebounds and blocked a shot.

The Roadrunners' zone collapsed onto any "big" who got the ball down low. Nevertheless, Alanna scored eight on 4-7 shooting, plus four rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Maya also scored eight on 4-6 shooting, plus four rebounds and a block. And Kaylee scored seven, on two layups and three free-throws (and six rebounds and a block).

Dijonai played 31 minutes and, although coming up empty on 0-5 shooting, had seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Alyssa, who was the featured guest at the post-game "Behind the Bench", played 17 minutes and scored four points.

Estella came into the game in late minutes and scored her first college points, hitting one of two three-point attempts.

With this comfortable home win behind them, the Cardinal packs up and flies to Las Vegas for the Play 4 Kay tournament. They'll get a team Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, because on Thursday they have a game against Kent State. On Friday they play against (probably) Gonzaga; and if they win that, they'll have a probable rematch against Ohio State on Saturday.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The video press conference with Tara, Alexs and Anna,

And a gallery of photos by Bob Drebin (isiphotos.com).

November 17, 2017

Cardinal holds off the Highlanders

With Brittany and Nadia in street clothes due to unspecified injuries (Brittany wore a boot on her right foot), Stanford did not represent quite such a dominating force against the UC Riverside Highlanders as they might have done at full strength. However, a period of smothering defense in the first quarter — a quarter that ended 20-6 — opened a comfortable lead that held for the next 25 minutes of play.

In the fourth period, the Highlanders recovered their poise, and in the final minutes, with the Stanford B-team on the floor, closed to within 10 points, prompting Tara to bring back a couple of starters in order to stifle any possibility of an embarrassingly dramatic conclusion.

Stanford out-rebounded the smaller Highlanders 59-44, although the Cardinal conceded many more turnovers, 19-10. Both teams shot abysmally from beyond the arc, UC hitting only 1 of 21 tries, and Stanford hardly better at 3 of 28.

Dijonai was the player of the game. In 31 minutes she scored a team-high 13 points and pulled down a personal-record 22 rebounds, for her first career double-double. Except for Riverside's sparkplug Michelle Curry, who scored 15, Dijonai was the high scorer. She would have had more points had she connected on any of the eight three-point attempts she put up.

Alanna, who was consistently double- or triple-teamed, had eleven points, four rebounds, a steal and a block.

Kaylee had eight points on 4-6 shooting (she hit her first four attempts), and collected ten rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

Marta had six points, all on free throws. She drove to the basket five times, never connecting but being fouled three times. She tallied four assists against two turnovers.

Maya played 17 minutes, scored five points, found three rebounds and blocked one shot.

Kiana played 14 minutes at the point, hit one of Stanford's three, three-pointers, and tallied three assists with one turnover.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A video interview of Dijonai, "I tried to crash as hard as I could",

The audio press conference , with Tara and Dijonai.

And a gallery of photos by Bob Drebin (isiphotos.com),

November 15, 2017

Up Next: At home with Riverside and Bakersfield

The Cardinal have climbed out of the deep end of the pool and returned to Maples for games against UC Riverside on Friday evening at 7:00 pm and CSU Bakersfield on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm.

It's almost Thanksgiving, and Stanford Athletics is collecting canned food at both games. Bring some non-perishable goodies to help out — you can get a free general admission ticket for each donation.

There will be a chalk talk before each game and a Behind-the-Bench session after the game on Sunday.

  UC Riverside Highlanders

Riverside plays in the Big West Conference, along with Hawaii, UC Davis, and six other southern California schools. They've been picked to finish fifth this season.

They played USC on Monday night and lost 46-64.

Riverside's two most productive players from last season graduated, taking with them almost 40% of the team's scoring and rebounding. They'll likely be led this season by redshirt senior guard Lauren Holt and senior guard Michelle Curry.

The Cardinal and the Highlanders have met just once before — at Maples in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2010 (game story).

Here is Riverside's roster.

This is the media coverage of the game:

  CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners

The Roadrunners play in the WAC and are the only California team in the conference. The other members are all over the western half of the country — Chicago. Phoenix, Kansas City, New Mexico, Seattle, Texas, Utah. The Roadrunners not only travel a lot — they also play some very tough teams.

The game on Sunday is the third consecutive one between Stanford and Bakersfield, but with just one McCall this time — Bird's dad, head coach Greg McCall.

Coach McCall likes to challenge his team in the non-conference season. The Roadrunners played four Top25 teams last season, and placed fourth in the WAC with a 24-6 record. They've been picked to finish second this season

The Roadrunners are led by senior forward Aja Williams, who was named to the All-WAC second team. She averaged 11.2 points and 4.1 rebounds last season.She took 40% of her shots from beyond the arc and made 30% of them.

The Roadrunners' strongest player is redhshirt senior center Jazmyne Bartee. She averaged 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 8.0 points last season.

The Roadrunners have added a 6'5" junior college transfer, Nandi Jorden, to their roster this season. She has played just a few minutes in the Roadrunner's first two games of the season.

Here is Bakersfield's roster.

This is the media coverage of the game:

The Cardinal will wear their N7-inspired turquoise uniforms at this game in celebration of Honor Native American Heritage Month. The N7 philosophy embraces the Native philosophy: "In every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Read more about N7 in: Stanford partners with N7 (last season's story).

Learning and growing

From the Stanford Daily

Mikaela Brewer hopes,
"to broaden the view of athletes, and exemplify the side what most often isn’t seen; in my opinion, these characteristics of people are what builds great teams – not just in sports, but in life as a whole. Here’s a look into the first weekend of the season for the women’s basketball team:"
Read more: Looking beyond the final score

Laura Anderson, Ellie Chen and Gregory Block discuss the performance of Stanford women’s basketball last weekend in Columbus, and what the team can do moving forward: What can the Cardinal learn from a tough road trip?\

November 14, 2017

Brit named to Wooden Award watch list

Brittany McPhee was named to the John R. Wooden Award Women's Preseason Top 30 today. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation's top five players, will be announced the week of the Final Four.

Read more from:

Stanford Athletics: Under consideration
The Wooden Award: John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy’s announces 2017-18 preseason top 30

November 12, 2017

Hounded out of Columbus by Huskies, 53-78

This game was the inverse of the previous one. Against Ohio State, Stanford played equal in the first half but was stifled in the second.

Against the Huskies, the Cardinal was flattened in the first half, but in the second played at a respectable level. Although the final was a 25-point loss, it could have been much, much worse without a strong second-half recovery.

UConn's defense dominated the first half. The Huskies seemed to anticipate every Cardinal move. Pass after pass was deflected or intercepted. In one single Stanford possession, UConn deflected three successive passes, two recovered by Stanford and the third going out of bounds.

This extremely smart, active defense led to 24 UConn points off 15 Cardinal turnovers, and held the Cardinal to a dismal 16.7% field goal percentage in the half.

As a result Stanford scored only 10 points in the first quarter, and an abysmal four points in the second, to end the half at 14-49. During the halftime break we began wondering if this could be a record-bad game. Stanford seemed to be on track to match its previous records for lowest score (31) and worst FG percentage (19.3).

We'll never know what Tara had to say, or what adjustments were made, but the second half was a much better story, so that no bad records were matched or broken in this game.

In fact, Stanford outscored UConn 19-18 in the third quarter, and in the fourth, when Geno Auriemma was giving his reserves playing time, Stanford won the quarter 20-11.

During the second half Dijonai proved herself as an offensive threat, scoring a career-high 21 for the game on 8-15 shooting. She scored in the paint, and hit 3 of 8 three-pointers, as well as collecting seven rebounds.

No other Cardinal made double digits. Brittany had nine points, but only made 3 of 12 attempts: UConn was clearly ready for her usual slashing drives to the basket, and she hit only one of five long-range shots. Alanna had eight points and the game-high 10 rebounds.

Kiana had 26 minutes at point and although she notched no assists, she scored seven points, hitting a three, a layup, and two free-throws, and committed no turnovers. Marta, in her 14 minutes at the point, took a single three-point try and hit it, as well as dishing three assists. Shannon also hit her single three-point try.

This weekend has given the team what Tara expected: a clear illustration of what they need to do to be great. But it has also shown how close they can be to the elite level, having played even with OSU for a half, and with the Huskies for another half. In coming weeks we will see how well these lessons have been learned.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

And the audio press conference , with Tara.

November 11, 2017

Alanna named to Lisa Leslie Award watch list

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Friday that Alanna Smith is one of 20 players on the watch list for the 2018 Lisa Leslie Award. The award is named after the three-time All-American and 1994 National Player of the Year, and recognizes the top centers in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball.

Read more from:

Stanford Athletics: Smith up for Leslie Award
The Basketball Hall of Fame: Lisa Leslie Award

November 10, 2017

Over-boarded in Ohio, 64-85

Updated Nov 11: Added links to videos and audio press conference.

Both Ohio State and Stanford claimed to want to run a fast game with lots of running and ball movement. Tara welcomed this matchup, saying it would show the freshmen "what pace really means".

In fact, Stanford did run well with the Buckeyes, at least in the first half, which was a footrace from start to finish. The first quarter ended 24-27, with both teams on pace to score over 90. Early in the second quarter Stanford took their only lead of the game at 33-32. The first half ended with a score of 40-46, and the Cardinal could go to the locker room feeling they were doing respectably well.

Throughout the third quarter something other than speed came into play — rebounding. The Buckeyes simply dominated the glass, getting one second-chance point after another. Late in the game, the TV commentators noted that Ohio had a 28-2 advantage in second-chance points -- which was more than enough to account for the score differential.

Central to OSU's rebounding was the play of Stephanie Mavunga, who in the third quarter reached a career high of 18 rebounds but didn't slow down, ending the game with 26 rebounds, 14 of them offensive. (Mavunga also had 17 points, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals.)

The final tally on rebounds was 41-64. Most other team stats were close, so that was the deciding factor. For example, field goal percentage was 36.9 for Stanford, 34.5 for OSU. However, thanks largely to O-boards, OSU took 19 more shots than Stanford (29 of 84, vs. 24 of 65).

If Mavunga was OSU's heart, Brittany was Stanford's. She played 34 minutes and scored 24 points, including a game highlight that we will see often in the future: At the end of the first half she took an inbound with 4 seconds on the clock. With 1.4 seconds left she launched a shot from mid-court that dropped in on the buzzer.

No other Cardinal was in double-digits. Alanna and Nadia had eight. Also with eight points was Alyssa, who played 17 minutes in her freshman debut and dropped in two three-pointers, and had two rebounds and a block.

Maya had seven points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in 26 minutes on the court. Dijonai had six points and five rebounds. Marta played 33 minutes, had the team-high eight rebounds, three points (on free-throws), and five assists (but five turnovers).

All other players had some time on the court but were unable to affect the outcome.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics.

The game highlights video,

And the audio press conference , with Tara and Brittany.

November 09, 2017

Up next: Buckeyes and Huskies in Columbus

The Cardinal are in Ohio this weekend, playing what may be their toughest season-start ever.

This weekend also marks the debut of the first-ever professional audio coverage of Stanford Women's Basketball. This season, there will be live audio broadcasts of all women's (and men's) games available via Sidearm Sports. Read more in the Stanford Athletics announcement: Enhanced Basketball Coverage.

First up is a game at Ohio State on Friday at 3:00 pm PT (6:00 pm ET). The game will be Tara’s first game back in Columbus since she coached the Buckeyes from 1981-85.

Media coverage:

TV: Big Ten Network
Video: BTN2GO
Audio: Sidearm Sports
Live Stats: Game Tracker

The Buckeyes made it to the Sweet Sixteen last year, where they lost to Notre Dame. They've won 15 Big Ten championships and have been picked to win again this year. They're ranked 5/8 in the preseason national polls.

They're a very experienced mature team, but a bit short-handed. Eight of the eleven players are upperclassmen.

The Buckeyes are led by the shooting and ball-handling of All-American senior guard Kelsey Mitchell who averaged 22.6 ppg last season and made 115 three-pointers. She enters this season with 2,553 points and has a chance to break Kelsey Plum's NCAA scoring record (she's 974 points shy, and she scored 889 in 34 games in her sophomore year).

Mitchell also averaged 3.9 assists per game with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio last season

Redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga averaged a double-double (11.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg) last season, but missed 13 games due to injuries.

This summer she decided she needed to slim down, gain muscle and get in better shape. Head coach Kevin McGuff said, "She’s really taken her physical stature to another level. I’ve actually never been around a player, in over 20 years coaching, who’s done more in terms of her diet to change her body."

Mavunga credits her brothers and her sister-in-law, Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, for helping her stick to her new healthy regime.

In their opening exhibition game this season, the Buckeyes completed their starting lineup with three more guards: redshirt junior Sierra Calhoun (9.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg), redshirt senior Linnae Harper (8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg), and senior Asia Doss (5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg).

Here is Ohio State's roster.

On Sunday, the Cardinal head to the Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus (the site of the 2018 Final Four) to kick off the Countdown to Columbus event with a game vs Connecticut at 10:30 am PT (1:30 pm ET).

Media coverage:

TV: ESPN
Video: WatchESPN
Audio: Sidearm Sports

Maturity ... youth ... the Huskies, who have been deemed better than ever this year, have both and are picked to win it all again.

All the key contributors are back: Senior guard Kia Nurse (12.7 ppg, 3.9 apg), senior forward Gabby Williams (14.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 5.1 apg), junior guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (20.2 ppg, 3.2 apg) and junior forward Napheesa Collier (20.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg).

And redshirt junior forward Azurá Stevens, a 6-foot-6 Duke transfer, could be the best of the bunch.

Depth, the one area that could be seen as a UConn vulnerability the past few seasons, is now just another strength when you add in sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield, the No. 1 recruit in 2016 who has reportedly improved in the offseason and a stellar freshman class: Guard/forward Megan Walker, this year's top high schooler, and two more top-20 recruits.

I'm sure they would all like nothing better than starting a new winning streak with a victory over their nemesis.

Here is the Connecticut roster .