November 19, 2019

A Post Gonzaga Assessment

Warren Grimes

One shouldn’t read too much into the first four games of the season – but commentators are for commenting.  So I'll let fly.

Gonzaga is a very well coached team, with some talented, and hard working players.  Their talent is not what Stanford brings, but it is still impressive.  The Zags played really hard.  They were physical and focused.  I was impressed with their transition offense.  I was impressed with their rebounding.  I was impressed with their defense.  When Stanford rebounded a ball, the Zags kept battling, and more than a couple of times knocked the ball loose from Belibi or Lexie Hull.  Towards the end of the game, Lexie grabbed a rebound and cradled it hard – she had learned.

The Zags were playing to win, and had a two point lead with 16 seconds left in regulation.  Stanford is a big game on their schedule.  I haven’t checked, but they don’t often get to play the #3 team in the nation.

Meanwhile, Stanford
-got tested
-got molested
and, almost,
-got bested.

Stanford shot the ball miserably.  Miserable from the three point line (22.7%); miserable from the foul line (58.6%).  Stanford’s two shooting stars – Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull, along with Anna Wilson – made some end of game free throws that brought the free throw shooting percentage above 50%.  The free throw doldrums were sponsored by Belibi, Brown, Carrington, and Jones, who collectively shot 20% from the stripe.  This team is capable of better.  Had they shot a very reachable 70% of their free throws, or 30% of their three balls, the game would not have gone into overtime.

Stanford won ugly.  But there were things to like, and motivation to be won from the experience gained by the four freshmen, all of whom saw minutes and scored points.  In the first four games, the freshmen have made a real dent in team statistics.  Right now, Prechtel is the third highest scorer on the team (after Lexie Hull and Williams) at 8.8 points per game.  Jones is not far behind: she’s the fifth highest scorer at 8 points per game.  The two best rebounders on the team (so far) are Prechtel and Belibi.  Based on rebounds per minute, Belibi is in first place at .33 boards/minute with Prechtel not far behind at .32 boards/minute.  No one else is close.  There's more: Belibi has the highest field goal percentage (.632) of any of the 12 players who have participated in all four games.

Three point shooting percentage?  Of those who’ve launched 8 or more shots, the team leader is Prechtel at 44.4%, followed by Lexie Hull’s 43.8% and Hannah Jump’s 40%.  Each of the four freshmen has made a mark in at least one statistical category.

There were other pluses from the Gonzaga game.  I liked the way Williams’ game rose to the occasion in the second half.  I liked the way both Williams and Lexie Hull made critical shots when it mattered most.  I liked the way Stanford defended – defense kept them in the game.  And I liked the contributions of Prechtel (in the first half) and Jones (in the second half).  Belibi was also a presence on the boards and defending with steals and blocks.  All four of the freshman played.

Actually, 12 different players saw time in this game.  In a close and hard fought game, a more typical TVD pattern would be to play a small rotation of maybe just 8 players.  But this is early season, and this is a Stanford team with a very deep roster.  Also, this was a game in which one of the big three scorers, Carrington, had a notably off night (Carrington is credited with three boards and not much else).  She missed three shots from the floor and two from the free throw line.  The reasons for Carrington’s off night are unclear.  Health and injuries permitting, she will be back and critical for the team’s success.

Jones contributed substantially in the second half when it mattered most.  Her 11 points made her the third highest scorer.  Two plays stood out.  In the first she was standing to the side of the key and prepared to hand the ball off as Williams scooted by.  But the hand off was a fake: Jones spun and headed to the basket for an uncontested lay up.  In the second play, in action under the hoop, she converted what appeared to be a two-handed reverse lay up without eyes on the basket.  Jones showed she is capable of being a go to player, with nifty passes in transition and an ability to execute post moves under the basket.

Jones, and the other freshmen, will leave their mark on the team this season, and remain a great reason why we can expect exciting basketball from the 2019-20 edition of Stanford women’s hoops.  Meanwhile, it was two returning veterans who were pivotal in the win against the Zags.  Kiana Williams is money.  Lexie Hull is the team’s leading scorer (16.5 points per game).  That’s a bit of a surprise.  But when Lexie graduated from high school, I recall her high school coach saying that Lexie was more advanced at that point in her career than Brittany McPhee.  I’ve seen nothing so far this year to question that assessment.


Stephen Perlman said...

Allow me to add a couple of points to Warren's excellent analysis.

Gonzaga's in-your-face, physical pressure defense made our players uncomfortable. Our defense (though strong), did not match Gonzaga's intensity. Hopefully, we can find that 3rd. gear by conference time and make our PAC-12 opponents very uncomfortable.

In the first half, Prechtel scored on several good post-up moves, taking advantage of her 6'5 frame and length. Also in the first half we scored on several back-door plays. When our 3-point shooting is MIA, it seems we need to find ways (offensively) to make our opponents pay for their over-aggressiveness. Not sure we did that (collectively) as well as we could have. A good learning experience for our team, however.

Warren Grimes said...

I want to correct my rebounding stats.

The two best rebounders per minute are, as stated, Belibi and Prechtel, but Belibi is actually well ahead of the pack. Here are the top three boarders.

Belibi .45 boards/minute

Prechtel .37 boards/minute

Carrington .34 boards/minute