December 11, 2018

Seven Games In: What’s Working, What’s Not

            Going into the December exam break, Stanford is 6-1. Not perfect, but a far cry from the 5-4 record at the same point last year.  Some things are working well, others less so.

            On the positive side, senior Alanna Smith is averaging 18.1 points per game.  Her contributions don’t stop there, as Smith is averaging 6 boards, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 blocks per contest.  Her three point shooting percentage is the team’s best (16 threes at a .485 clip). And she is knocking down free throws at a much improved rate (.778 compared to last year’s disappointing .539).  Smith is critical to the team’s success, but has had to sit substantial periods because of foul trouble (against FGCU and Gonzaga). 

            Equally impressive, veteran sophomore Kiana Williams is tearing it up with points (averaging 15.3) and assists (averaging 5 assists against 3 turnovers per game).   Smith leads the team in threes with 20 (at an impressive .465 clip).  She’s a fierce competitor and (for now at least) the team’s point guard.  She’s a very good one, but could also dazzle as a shooting guard.

            Other veterans have also shown up.  DiJonai Carrington and Nadia Fingall are consistently putting up double figures, and Maya Dodson, coming off the bench, is not far behind.  

            None of this is wholly unexpected.  But the statistics do reveal some surprises.  For example, who is getting the most playing time? Here are the top four in average minutes per game:
            Kiana Williams - 30.7 minutes
            Lexie Hull         - 25.7 minutes (in the 3 games played)
             Lacie Hull        - 23.1 minutes
            Alanna Smith    - 22.6 minutes

            Given that Smith is the team’s most prolific scorer (averaging .804 points per minute  against second place Williams average of .500 points per minute), Alanna needs to minimize fouls so that she can be on the floor more.

            So why are the Hull twins getting so much playing time?  
            One answer is that they play defense and keep the offense flowing with few turnovers.  On the defensive side, the twins lead the team in steals per minute. Here are the stats:
                                                Lacie Hull                   - .105 steals per minute
                                                Lexie Hull                   - .104 steals per minute
                                                DiJonai Carrington     - .077 steals per minute

            In the turnover category, Lacie Hull is the best. Despite averaging the second highest number of minutes, Lacie has less than one turnover per game while averaging more than 2 assists.   So far, both twins are perfect from the foul line (Lexie 2-2 and Lacie 4-4).

            The twins may be identical, but they are different players.  With 10.7 points per game, Lexie has the third highest average on the team.  And there’s more.  Lexie is the team’s top rebounder in terms of boards per minute. Here are the top four players in that category.
                                                Lexie Hull                   - .273 per minute
                                                Alanna Smith              - .272 per minute
                                                Nadia Fingall              - .243 per minute
                                                DiJonai Carrington     - .240 per minute        

            Rebounding was an issue in the loss to Gonzaga. Lexie’s injury kept her out of the game, and the team’s other top rebounder, Alanna Smith, played only 25 minutes.  Other players need to step up their rebounding, among them Maya Dodson, who, while leading the team in shot blocks, is averaging just .188 boards per minute.  With her athletic moves, Dodson tends to get fouled a lot, and she also needs to convert more of her foul shots (so far she has made only 1/3 of her 15 attempts).   

            Three other players are averaging 10 minutes or more per game (Alyssa Jerome, Anna Wilson, and Jenna Brown).  If this trend continues, 10 Stanford players would be part of the rotation.  To be a great team, each of them must find how they can contribute.  With Baylor and Tennessee up next, the door is open for each to demonstrate what they can do.  

Warren Grimes, FBC Feature Writer

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