March 04, 2019

Tournament Ready? Who's Hot, Who's Not

                                                              Tournament Ready?
                                                           Who’s Hot, Who’s Not

                                                                  Warren Grimes

            Stanford is coming into the Pac 12 Tournament on a high note.  No perfection, but a whole lot of things are clicking.  Stanford won each of its last six games.

            Let’s start with the defense.  In the last six games (since the Oregon loss), Stanford has held it’s opponents to an average of 52.8 points per game.  Stanford has accomplished this while playing four of those games on the road.  Stanford held very good UCLA and ASU teams to 51 and  50 points, respectively.  Except for USC’s 67 points, no other opponent among the six has got beyond 54 points. 

            Impressive scout and team defense was needed, particularly in narrow victories against USC and Arizona.  The offense has struggled more, but here as well there are positive stories to tell.

            Let’s start with the big three.  No one is hotter than DiJonai Carrington.  For the season, she is averaging 13.7 points on 46% shooting.  In the last four games, Carrington has averaged 15.3 points on a sizzling 77% shooting.  Carrington was the top scorer in each of the two season-ending games in Washington, scoring 19 points in each contest.  She continues to be a strong rebounder, averaging 7.5 boards over the last four games.  Opposing coaches have a big problem defending this very athletic, very strong, and very focused player.  Carrington made only one of six three point attempts during this period, but opponents leave her unguarded at their peril. 

            Senior Alanna Smith has also been smoking opponents.  Her three point accuracy has declined in the last four games: 5-19 or 26% during this period.  The rest of her game, however, is sizzling.    Leaving out the three point attempts, Smith shot at a 68% rate against the last four opponents.  She averaged 7.75 boards and led the team in scoring (16.25 points per game) despite averaging only 27 minutes per game.  Fouls are still an issue for Smith, but she continues to be there when needed, making a clutch winning shot in the last seconds of the USC game.  And her defense is also impressive, averaging 2 blocks per game and on pace to break Jayne Appel’s season record for total blocks. 

            Last, but hardly least among the big three, is Kianna Williams.  In the last four games, she had 20 assists and only 8 turns; that’s an impressive 2.5 assist to turnover ratio.   She also made 10 three point shots at a 37% clip, just about where she’s been for the season.  Williams averaged only 11.25 points during the four game stint, but Williams makes points when the team needs them most (and dishes out assists so that others can score). 

            As good as the big three are, the key to tournament success may lie with the remaining starters and rotation players.  Maya Dodson is now back, starting three of the last four games and making a contribution.  Dodson has missed some put backs and lay ups that she should have made, but her shooting percentage in the last four games is a respectable 50%.  Her boarding and defense are impressive.  Dodson has the highest boards per minute for the last four contests – .30 per minute compared to Smith’s .287.  Dodson is also the team’s most athletic shot blocker.
            On a minutes per game basis, the top five players over the last four games include the Hulls: Lacie, who starts, averaged around 26 minutes and Lexie, who comes off the bench, averaged 23 minutes.  For these last four games, Lexie has shot from distance at a 38.5% clip; Lacie at a 37.5% clip.  That makes the Hulls, along with Kianna Williams, the best late season three point shooters.  The Hulls are also in the lineup because they are focused and smart defenders.  They, along with Anna Wilson, lead the team in thefts per minute.

            Anna Wilson has averaged 13 minutes per game over the last four games.  She’s a tenacious defender, a theft leader, and a three point threat – Wilson made 3 of 7 attempts for a 42.8% clip in this late season period. 

            Alyssa Jerome has also averaged 10 minutes in the last four contests.  Jerome is steady, rebounds and defends well, and can be a three point threat.  Jenna Brown and Shannon Coffee are two more players that can provide fruitful minutes if (as we hope) Stanford plays three games in three days.

            My challenge for the players:

                                                 For the seniors, and for each other,
                                                                     play smart,
                                               but play your heart out this weekend! 

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