January 30, 2018

Last Weekend: What the Doctor Ordered

By Warren Grimes

In a ripping tip off play, Stanford started its Friday game against ASU with Alanna Smith’s forward tip to a racing Brittany McPhee, who had an uncontested layup in the first 5 seconds of the game. Stanford never looked back in that game, or the next, scoring two convincing victories over the Arizona schools. Against nationally ranked ASU, it was a 24 point margin. Against a struggling Arizona team, it was 37 point margin, despite Stanford playing its reserves for most of the second half. These results were what Dr. VanDerveer ordered. Among the keys to Stanford’s success: Defense, Ball Control, and Three Point Shooting.

Defense: Playing good defense is not a novelty for Stanford. In ten conference games, Stanford is number one in scoring defense, allowing 56.2 points per game (well ahead of Cal’s second place 61.2 points per game). In field goal percentage defense, Stanford is also on top, limiting opponents to .343 (well ahead of Oregon and Cal’s .390 percentage).

As good as these numbers are, Stanford did better against the Zona schools last weekend, limiting them to an average of 46 points per game and a shooting percentage of .324. Also of note: Stanford had 20 steals in these two games. This 10 thefts per game rate is above Stanford’s conference average of 8.8 per game, and well above last year’s team’s rate of 7.2 steals per game.

Ball Control: Turnovers are silent killers. A lost ball means a lost scoring opportunity. Worse still, turnovers often lead to easy transition baskets for the opponent. Depending on the opponent, each turnover may generate a 2 or more point net gain for the opponent.

Stanford has averaged 15.3 turns in its 10 conference games. Its turnover margin (turnovers compared to opponent’s turnovers) puts it in 8th place in the conference. This weekend, happily, the two-game turnover rate was just 8 per game (while the Zona opponents averaged 14 per game). Equally impressive, Stanford generated 39 assists for the weekend (27 in the Arizona game), giving it a stratospheric assist/turnover ratio of 2.44. The team is unlikely to maintain this ratio, but achieving it last weekend is a positive sign.

Three Point Shooting: Stanford is shooting threes at a .316 rate in ten conference games, putting it in 7th place (OSU leads with a .419 rate). That rate is very un-Stanford like, notable after 6 years of having at least one Samuelson on the team. Last weekend, Stanford made 19 of 54 three point attempts, a .352 clip.

The weekend percentage is not great, but it is good. Maybe, just maybe, if Stanford had maintained this rate for all its conference games, it would have given the team an unblemished 10-0 record.

So which Stanford players have been most proficient in three point shooting during the 10 conference games? The answer may surprise you. Of the players with 20 or more attempts, Alanna Smith has made 11 of 28 for a .393 percentage. In second place is Marta Sniezek, converting on 8 of 22 for a .364 rate. Kiana Williams leads the team in three point shots made with 18 during the conference games, but is converting at only a 31% rate. Brittany McPhee (.316) and DiJonai Carrington (.321) have also shown hot shooting streaks.

To have a chance of winning games against OSU and Oregon, the team has to be able to convert threes. Perhaps last weekend will give the shooters a measure of confidence.

Ratings aside, with a share of second place, Stanford has now made a strong case for being one of the top three teams in the conference. This despite its 11th place conference rank in free throw shooting. To maintain or improve its status, Stanford must perform against the Oregon Schools this weekend. Playing at home, the Oregon schools should be favored in both games.

But abstract odds aren’t the issue. The issue is preparation, matchups, and, especially, attitude. I hope Stanford carries with it the attitude it brought to Maples last weekend.

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