February 27, 2022

Dominant Defense and Conference Awards


Dominant Defense and Conference Awards

Warren Grimes

Stanford successfully finished its undefeated conference season, not in dominating fashion – but with dominant defense.  Both Washington schools brought their best and held Stanford to seven point  victory margins (WSU lost 54-61 and Washington went down 56-63).

Of the two games, Washington, with only two conference wins but playing with late-season attitude, was the bigger challenge.  In the first half, the Huskies shot 50% overall and 44% from distance, holding a two point lead at half time.  Meanwhile, Stanford struggled mightily with a full game 34% shooting percentage (21% from distance) -- this from a team that had the conference’s highest field goal shooting percentage – and the highest three point shooting percentage.  Reliable three point shooters had off days (Jump was 2-6 from distance and Prechtel was 0-3). 

No excuses, but one partial explanation is that Washington made a high percentage of its shots, meaning that transition opportunities off of rebounds were fewer than average.  Stanford still managed 20 fast break points, but few of these were three point shots. 

Still trailing by one with roughly one minute on the clock, Anna Wilson stole a sidelines inbound pass, converting the layup to put Stanford back in front to stay.  Wilson and her mates built that lead to a seven point margin thanks to free throws.  Stanford did it with defense, holding Washington to 10 points in the fourth quarter while scoring 16 of their own, this despite missing all four of the team’s three point attempts in the quarter.

Entering the tournament with a perfect conference record, Stanford can expect to receive its share of conference awards.  These awards are supposed to be based on merit, but that goal is compromised by the overall goal of generating conference-wide interest by distributing the awards widely. 

Let’s talk about the conference PoY award.  Stanford has three players who could legitimately win this award: Cameron Brink, Haley Jones, and Lexie Hull.  If offensive scoring is the key statistic, no Stanford player has a chance – Brink ranks 11th, Jones 15th, and Lexie Hull 16th in conference scoring stats. 

The three top scoring conference players, each averaging above 17 points per game, are Jade Loville (ASU 18.64 ppg), Jordyn Jenkins (USC 17.87 ppg) and Jayda Curry (Cal 17.30 ppg).  Each of these three play for a team in the bottom half of the conference.  None of these three teams has anyone else in the top 20 conference scoring average.  Each of the three top scoring players should make the all-conference team, but none are likely to be chosen conference PoY.

Therein lies one of the keys to understanding Stanford’s unblemished conference record.  Stanford is a multiple threat team that has eight or more players that, on any given day, could put up double digit points.  If a Stanford player is to win the PoY award, it has to be based on a broader look at how that player contributes. 

My pick for PoY is Lexie Hull.  She is a long shot to win the award because she is only the third highest scorer and the third highest rebounder on the team.  I like Hull because of EVERYTHING she does on the court.  In the overall stats it shows.  Matched against other conference players, Lexie Hull is number 2 in steals, number 6 in three point shots made, number 11 in three point shooting percentage (38%), number 11 in offensive boards, and number 16 in scoring.  For a non-post player, Hull’s offensive boarding stands out – she is an opportunistic boarder.  For her to do that well in boards is indicative of her focus, quickness, and intensity.  Hull also is a 77% free throw shooter.  LEXIE HULL DOES NOT QUIT.  Someone else must like what Lexie does for the team: she plays significantly more minutes than any other Stanford player.  Coach VanDerveer says that it is Lexie Hull and Anna Wilson who make Stanford go.  

My second choice pick for PoY is Haley Jones.  Once again, Jones is probably not the favorite – she is just second on the team in scoring and rebounding.  Jones, however, leads the league in defensive boards, is second in the league in total boards, is 6th in assists, is 9th in field goal percentage, is 10th in assist turnover ratio, is tied for 12th in blocks, is 15th in total scoring, and is 15th in free throw percentage.  Her turnovers per game, unhappily, are a negative, but Jones still has the 10th best assist/turnover ratio.  She is a clutch player who gets points when they are most needed.  Who can forget her fourth quarter productivity in Eugene in that come-from-behind win against Oregon. 

My third choice pick for PoY is Cameron Brink.  Brink leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks.  Her conference-wide stats are also impressive.  Brink is number one in boards, is second in field goal percentage (behind Fran Belibi), and is number three in blocks and in both offensive and defensive boards.  Her free throw shooting is improving, but not yet ready for a letter home.  Brink is an inspirational player that will get better, but not yet the clutch performer that Jones is.

So those are my picks.  Any of these three players would be well deserving of the award.  I suspect that if a Stanford player wins the award, Brink is most likely to win, with a close second to Jones.   I'll stick to my choices.  

Now there’s defensive player of the year.  My pick?  I think the award should be shared by Lexie Hull and Anna Wilson, with another all-defensive team selection for Lacie Hull.  All three of these players are shut down defenders; all three are in the top ten for conference steals (Lexie Hull is 2nd, Anna Wilson is 3rd, and Lacie Hull is tied for 10th).   Each of the three is an all-around player.  Anna Wilson is number one in the conference for assist/turnover ratio and number six for assists.  Lacie Hull is number one in the conference in three point shooting; and tied for 13 in assists.

What previous Stanford team has had three players in the conference top ten for steals?  Is this the best defensive team ever for Stanford?   With the Hulls and Wilson doing ball hawking and stealing, and Brink and Jones doing some shot blocking, my bet is YES. 

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