March 06, 2017

Tired Legs, Moxie, and Defense

By Warren Grimes

The Pac-12 championship game was ... uhm .... memorable.

It started out as a contest that Stanford fans would want to forget. As quickly as possible.

Let’s look at some of the bad news.

Stanford scored only 12 points in the first quarter. Stanford scored even fewer points (11 each) in the next two quarters.

The 12-point first quarter was an accurate reflection of team’s game production (48 points). Oregon State scored 22 points in the first quarter, on pace to score 88 for the game.

Stanford’s 48-point production would have been enough to win only 6 games for the season. Only opponents like Northeastern, Wichita State, UC Davis and Yale scored fewer than 48 points against Stanford.

For the game, Stanford shot only 33% (and 27% from the three point line). Go-to player Erica McCall missed multiple lay ups and shot 20% for the game.

Oh, I almost forgot. Stanford won!

Showing single-minded determination, Stanford players clamped down on Sydney Wiese and other scorers to limit OSU to 21 points in the last three quarters of the game. That’s 7 points a quarter. Oregon State’s 22 points in the first quarter were more than they managed in the entire rest of the game.

This was record-setting defensive resolve. Sydney Wiese scored 13 points, but was 4-13 overall and 2-9 from three point land. Defensive moxie, however, seldom makes the record books.

But it wins games.

And as good as Stanford’s defense was, tired legs had something to do with the offensive output. Both teams had miserable shooting percentages in this game (OSU shot 32% to Stanford’s 33%).

One of the myths of Pac-12 tournament play is that young players can play back-to-back-to-back games without getting physically tired. They may lose focus, it is said, but they have the bounce-back stamina to perform on consecutive nights.

I don’t buy it. Some may recall Chiney Ogwumike’s 3-point performance in a tournament end game against UCLA. In that Pac-12 tournament final, the All American great missed put backs and lay ups that should have been automatic for her. McCall’s missed bunnies should be seen in this context.

The player that led Stanford in scoring, Alanna Smith, scored 18 vital points. She also registered 4 blocks and a steal in 30 minutes on the court. Unlike McCall, Smith had played only 13 minutes the night before against Oregon.

Another player that played relatively little in the semi-final, Marta Sniezek, also came up big. She had only 2 points, but contributed 2 assists and 2 steals (no turnovers) while sharing the defensive burden of guarding Sydney Wiese.

All of this suggests that depth matters. It matters most in the Pac-12 tournament played on consecutive days. The NCAA tournament is slightly less grueling with roughly 48 hours off between games that come in pairs separated by a week. Rotation players such as Smith and Sniezek, however, could still be critical in making a deep tournament run. Tournament games are intense – and players who give their all in the first of paired games may need some help in the second.

Go Stanford!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Which is why it is so remarkable how Samuelson plays on both ends of the floor while being the focus of the defense.