December 19, 2021

Tennessee: Overcoming Adversity -- Three Super Subs and a Jones


Warren Grimes  

Before the tipoff, Stanford knew that highly productive post Fran Belibi would not be available (concussion protocol).  Not to worry.  All American candidate Cameron Brink was in the starting lineup.  At over 14 points per game, Brink was the team’s highest scorer and most prolific rebounder.  In recent games, Brink’s performance had exceeded these levels.     

Well, so much for the past.  The box score shows that Brink’s most significant stat was fouls – she had five of them and only played for eight minutes.  During that time, she had four points, two boards, and a turnover. 

So, essentially, Stanford was without its two highest performing post players.  What now?

How about more adversity?   After extending its lead to 20 points late in the second quarter, Stanford entered half time with 43 points and a 17-point lead.  Stanford was very fond of those 43 points.  So much so that with less than three minutes left in the third quarter, Stanford still had 43 points, and not one more.  Stanford’s awful scoring draught was accompanied by missed shots, turnovers, and a loss of composure.  Meanwhile, Tennessee found renewed energy and closed the lead to as little as three points.

With the score 43-40, and only 2:28 left on the third quarter clock, Kiki Iriafen made two free throws, and then a lay up, to restore a bit of sanity.

Iriafen was one of the three super subs that saved the day for Stanford.  With two post players unavailable, Iriafen played 17 minutes.  And she contributed.  She was steady, with only one turnover while adding ten points, five boards, and two assists. 

Then there’s Ashten Prechtel.  Ms Prechtel did a reprise of her performance in last year’s regional final against Louisville.  She played for 15 minutes, and missed a lot of shots early on.  But in the critical fourth quarter, Prechtel was money, sinking three consecutive three-point shots.  She ended up with 12 points, six boards, and two blocks.  Her performance in that last quarter must have demoralized Tennessee.

The third super sub was Anna Wilson.  She came off the bench for 28 minutes.  Her presence late in the third quarter was vital to restoring order.  Her stat line was 4 points, including a vital three-pointer, along with 5 assists and 6 boards.  And not a single turnover.

A second storyline for this game was Haley Jones.  Jones played for 39 minutes in this game.  And why not?   Jones was all over the court, ending up with 18 points, 19 boards, and 6 assists.  She missed a lot of shots (3 for 18 from the field), but was a perfect 12 for 12 from the charity stripe.   Therein lies a third storyline.

Stanford was 21 for 24 in free throws, most un-Stanford like for this season.  So how did that happen?

To begin with, two of Stanford’s most challenged free throwers were absent (Belibi with 59% free throw percentage) or largely absent (Brink with 47% free throw percentage).  Jones made over half the team’s free throws, but was aided by the Hulls, Iriafen, Prechtel, and Wilson.  In the crucial fourth quarter, Stanford made Tennessee pay at the foul line.  That, more than anything else, allowed Stanford a somewhat comfortable margin at the end. 

A lot to like about the Tennessee game.  The overriding storyline is simply about the team’s diverse depth.  With a deep and very talented bench, the team overcame adversity and defeated a previously undefeated top ten team.  The diversity and depth of talent will be helpful as Stanford takes on favored South Carolina, and then begins the draining Pac-12 schedule.

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