January 09, 2021

Frannie and the Jets -- A Fast Team With Chemistry


Warren Grimes

Bennie and the Jets was a signature song for Elton John. 

But that’s old news!

Frannie and her jet-heeled teammates – that’s what’s happening right now!  

A fleet-footed squad, they are 10-0 and the number one team in the nation.  In their last four games, they have defeated four Big Dance quality teams, three of them now or previously in the top 10 in the nation, and two of them previously undefeated.  Three of the four games were on the road, and a fourth was in an arena where the team had never played. 

The closest margin of victory was the 70-63 win over Oregon, but that was a game played without three regular rotation players, including starter Lexie Hull.  Lexie leads the team in steals and is the fourth leading scorer (11.1 points per game) and rebounder (5.2 boards per game) on the team.

With only 8 players sharing floor time, Stanford outlasted a talented Oregon team.  Although Oregon has now lost two conference games (to UCLA and Stanford), they are still an elite team with the potential to win the conference, be in the top 10, and more.   Oregon scored and rebounded better than any other Stanford opponent (Stanford won by 7 points and eked out a 39 to 37 rebounding edge).

Stanford has impressive chemistry.  When someone has to sit down, or has a less than great shooting day, the defense and the whole team is there to fill the void.  Against Oregon, the usual suspects stepped up – most impressively Haley Jones, in her home territory (but not her home arena) with 18 points, 6 boards, and 2 steals.  Her threaded transition assist to a streaking Belibi was a play for the highlight reel.

Kiana Williams couldn’t convert a single three pointer, but still made 14 points on creative interior shots and 8-9 free throw shooting.  Every point mattered against Oregon.

Anna Wilson and Jana Van Gytenbeek were pivotal.   Wilson has played strong all season.  She has an amazing 54% conversion rate from the three point line, the best of anyone on the team – lots of interior players would trade for that percentage.  Wilson also comes up big when it matters most.  In the last four tournament quality games, Stanford has struggled a bit, but not Wilson.  Her three point shooting percentage has been 64% in these games.  Saving the best for Oregon, she shot threes at a 75% clip, gathered 9 boards (highest on the team) while putting up 11 total points.  Her defense on Oregon’s hot shooting point guard limited Paopao to 12 points. 

Then there’s Van Gytenbeek, who has not been in the regular rotation, but was asked to step up when three regular rotation players could not.  She did.  In 14 minutes, she made both of her three point attempts and a creative driving shot while totaling 8 points, an assist, and no turnovers.

Cameron Brink added 4 points, 6 boards, and 2 blocks in just 13 minutes.  Brink was unable to play against ASU, but in all these other tournament quality games, Brink has been a difference maker.  She leads the team in blocks by a large margin, and is the leading point scorer and rebounder on a per minute basis.  Stay healthy Cameron. 

Frannie and her jet mates have already shown improvement from the beginning of the season.  Against ASU, Fran Belibi stepped up with team highs in points (23) and rebounding (12).   Belibi and the rest of the team started the season shooting free throws poorly.  Not any more.  In the last four games against top opponents, the team has shot 84.4% from the foul line.  Against previously undefeated Arizona, the team drew lots of fouls, and made Arizona pay.  Stanford was 25-28 from the foul line.

Go Jets -- Frannie and the Jets!

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