March 05, 2017

Pac-12 Tournament: We are the champions!

(Click photos to enlarge.)

The championship game was decided by defense more than offense. After the fact, it is clear from the very low totals that it was a defensive game, but it was also apparent for fans of both schools holding on to the edges of their seats in Key Arena as the game played out minute by minute.

Stanford began, as they had against Oregon, slow and tentative, and the Beavers took advantage. Karlie hit an early three; then there was an awful five minutes in which every Cardinal possession ended with a turnover or a missed shot rebounded by OSU. The score was 3-16 at the first media timeout. Stanford had dug itself into a really deep hole against an excellent opponent.

Stanford got a little offense and closed the first quarter behind only (only!) ten, 12-22. In the second quarter, Alanna began to make herself known with three rapid goals. The Cardinal would have closed the half down only three, except that Sidney Wiese got loose and banked a three-point goal off the glass on the buzzer: Stanford down six, 23-29.

Stanford's defense decided the game in the third quarter. That was not apparent to nervous fans at the time but it is clear in the game-flow diagram.

In the middle eight minutes of that third quarter, OSU was held scoreless while Stanford climbed out of the hole, from down nine to a tie at 34-34. OSU got a goal at the end of the quarter to stay ahead, but two minutes into the final quarter Stanford took its first lead since the opening seconds, and shortly after took the lead for good.

In the final minutes, the Stanford defensive effort was intense and intelligent. Sidney Wiese was simply smothered. She never moved sideways without Marta in her face, and when she turned toward the basket, she was doubled by Bird as well.

In the fourth quarter, the OSU star missed five three-point attempts. Had any of these gone in it would have changed the game; but as it was, her only points in the quarter were two free throws and one layup.

With Stanford up five, OSU began their final possession with 28 seconds on the clock. Any kind of goal would have kept Beaver hopes alive, but they were unable to get clear for any kind of shot. Wiese made a frantic attempt to pass; the ball came loose and was scooped up by Karlie; and everyone stepped back and acknowledged the inevitable as Karlie dribbled the ball while jumping with joy for the final seconds.

Alanna led all scorers with 18 points, plus four blocks and a steal. She was named to the PAC-12 All-Tournament team (along with Sidney Wiese, Christine Anigwe, Sabrina Ionescu and Jordin Canada).

Karlie scored 14 points, plus three assists and a steal. She made two important free throws in the final minute to hold a two-possession lead. On defense, she hounded OSU's freshman star, Mikayla Pivec, and allowed her only four field goal attempts.

Bird scored eight points, plus eight rebounds and three blocks. She was named the Tournament MVP.

Brittany scored six points, plus six rebounds and a block.

Marta had one drive for a layup. She played 24 minutes, most of them spent in Sidney Wiese's face, and got two steals.

Bri had no points, but she played 20 minutes also in close pursuit of Wiese, and got three steals.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

Video: Stanford celebrates winning tournament crown

A video interview of Tara,

A video interview of Bird,

A gallery of photos by Anibal Ortiz (Mid-Valley Media),

A gallery of photos by Eric Evans Photography,

And the video press conference with Tara, Bird, Karlie and Alanna

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Down 16-3 in the first quarter. It was looking pretty bleak. But the defense stiffened and it was clear in the last minute that it would be up to Sydney Wiese. Bird committed to preventing any kind of shot and Stanford had the championship. Over about 34 minutes Stanford out scored OSU 45-27. Really a remarkable game and a great tournament.