February 05, 2018

Last Weekend: Stanford the Brave

By Warren Grimes

The Scottish army went into battle with bagpipes in the front ranks, playing Scotland the Brave. Bagpipes can be heard for miles. So even the most intrepid foe, hearing the pipes echoing in the hills, must have shaken in their boots. Imagine how this fear must have multiplied when they saw, in the front ranks, the flag of the McPhee clan.

Well, the bagpipes must have been playing this past weekend in Oregon. Intrepid McPhee (aka Brittany the Brave), and her honorary Scottish mates, won two upset victories over higher ranked teams playing on their home courts. True to form, Coach McVanDerveer has her team playing at its best in the second half of the season.

Stanford entered the weekend with a resume of best in conference defensive stats. The previous weekend, the team had demonstrated a mastery of ball control (few turnovers and lots of assists). It was clear that they could beat the Oregon schools. But the odds were against it. These would be two excellent, higher-ranked opponents fighting to protect home turf. Stanford had clear vulnerabilities (erratic 3-point shooting and miserable conversion at the charity stripe).

The first foe was 16th ranked Oregon State, which had won all of its conference home games and was shooting over 40% from distance (best in conference). The house was packed with Beaver fans. Stanford started on an 11 point run, but soon yielded that lead, and fell behind by 6 points early in the second half. McPhee kept the team going with a double double (18 points and 12 boards). So did McWilliams (Kiana), our San Antonio freshman, who tossed in 14 points and 2 steals. Stanford played defense on OSU’s most prolific scorers and rode home with a three point win.

That was a significant upset, and most gratifying. But Stanford shot 10.5% (2-19) from distance and only 50% (6-12) on free throws. That did not portend well for Sunday’s contest against Number 6 Oregon, the highest scoring team in the conference. I hardened myself by expecting the Ducks to win, but hoped otherwise.

On Sunday, the bag pipes were absent in the first half. Kaylee McJohnson was benched after the first 2 minutes with 2 fouls. Stanford was massively out rebounded in that half (23 to 13), demonstrating Johnson’s importance to that element of the game. Supported by another packed house, Oregon ended the half up by 9 points (41 to 31). McPhee had only 2 points and seemed destined for game obscurity.

Enter ESPN star half-time commentators Andy Landers and Rebecca Lobo. They couldn’t say enough about Oregon’s preeminence. Stanford was relevant only as an out-classed opponent. To listen to them, the outcome was a done deal. But Landers and Lobo didn’t know Scottish history. Apparently, neither did the Duck team.

At the start of the second half, the Ducks extended their lead to 11. Then, the bagpipes sounded.

From that point, McPhee was everywhere, making it seem the entire clan was there. She scored 31 points in the half (to Oregon’s total of 24). Honorary Scots McWilliams and McSmith (Alanna) added most of an additional 15. Altogether, Stanford almost doubled Oregon’s point output in the half (46 to 24). Johnson was back and Stanford outboarded Oregon 21 to 13 in the half. By the final minutes, Oregon was Mcfrustrated and Mcdevastated, hardly the 6th best team in the nation.

More good news. Stanford shot 39.1 percent from distance (with McWilliams and McPhee doing most of the damage) and 70% (that’s right 70%) from the free throw line. All in all, McPhee had a career weekend, deserving Scot of the Week and all kinds of other weekly honors.

Stanford now has a reasonable path to at least a tie for the conference championship. They have to win out in the last six games, including two against a good California team. That’s a doable task . . .

. . . as long as they bring the bagpipes.


Gregory Smith said...

Tip o' the Tam to Warren McGrimes!

Warren Grimes said...

The half time score was actually Oregon ahead 41 to 32.

One post script. Andy (Mc)Landers redeemed himself in the post game comments and said nice things about Stanford and McPhee. He even suggested that Stanford might win the conference.

Anonymous said...

Gee, you outdid yourself, Warren! Thank you for this.