February 14, 2022

DEFENSE: Stanford Adds Three More to the String


Warren Grimes

Yes, Stanford played three home games in six days last week.

 In each, Stanford played 13 or 14 players.

In each, Stanford prevailed by a double digit margin (the smallest was a 17 point margin over Colorado).

In each, Stanford scoring was diversified among starters and non-starters (the two highest scoring players in a single game were Hannah Jump (19) and Fran Belibi (16), each of whom came off the bench against OSU).

In each, Stanford’s defense, while less than perfect, was impressive.  The opponent average for the three games was 56.3, not bad when you consider Utah has the highest scoring offense in the conference, and Oregon State has its own potent offense. 

Stanford was stingy, turning the ball over less (Stanford had 31 turns for the week, while its collective opponents had 58 turns).  Stanford blocked the ball 20 times, while opponents managed only 6.  And, where it really counts, Stanford had 59 points off of turnovers to its opponents’ 23.  For opponents, those are demoralizing stats. 

The intensity of Stanford’s defense was evident.  Crouched low on the perimeter, raised up in the interior, the focus of every player was evident.  There was team help defense, with the players communicating to execute the scouting report.  And the team seemed to amp up in crucial moments, as in the second half against Colorado.  Time and again, a Colorado interior pass ended up in the hands of Lexie Hull (6 steals) Anna Wilson (3 steals).   

So defense is the most critical and most enjoyable part of the game.  Why? 

When Stanford’s defense is working, so too is its transition offense.   The connection is direct.  Transition opportunities almost never result when an opponent scores and forces Stanford to inbound.  When Stanford steals, or disrupts and gets a board, the opponent has less opportunity to organize a defense.  Once a transition is underway, there is fun, creativity, and an opportunity for sharing.  It may be Jones making a length of the court run for an acrobatic layup; it may be Cameron Brink or Fran Belibi running just behind the ball and ready to take a no look feed from Jones or Lacey Hull—once it’s in their hands, forget about it; or it may be Hannah Jump or one of the Hulls posting up for a last second feed beyond the arc for a three.  Swish!   

In the Utah game, there was a box score story.  Six different Stanford players scored in double digits – and a seventh player was on the cusp (Hannah Jump had 9 points).  More should be made of this point, because it is unusual.  How often does a  team score 91 points spread among 6 double-digit scorers.  I’d say rarely, if ever!   It typifies the talent rich and sharing nature of this basketball team. 

Another story line was Haley Jones performance in the second half against Colorado.  Jones had no points and only one board as Colorado ended the first half with a one point lead.   Jones and her mates needed to step it up.   And they did.  Collectively, they held Colorado to just 16 second half points.   Jones grabbed 4 second half boards, put up 10 points, and added two blocked shots. 

Most of the story is not in the stats, but how Jones used her driving skills to score fourth quarter points, maneuvering between and among defenders, to put the game out of reach for the Buffaloes.  I give Jones a large share of the credit for these demoralizing moves – and clearing the bench.

Now it’s on to the Oregon weekend, the toughest one of the conference season.  Stanford has what it takes to continue winning, but it will take all of the team’s focus and intensity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, Warren.

Here's another number for you. We lost only three games this season by a total of 12 points, or four per game. Not bad.