December 06, 2022

As Good as it Gets?


Warren Grimes

Lisa Fortier brought her Gonzaga squad into Maples last Sunday with only seven players able to play.  But those same seven players were instrumental in defeating top-twenty Tennessee and top-ten Louisville in a November tournament.  Those two opponents have since fallen in the rankings, but there is no question that the Zags are well coached and talented – Coach VanDerveer rates them as a solid top 20 team.

It’s difficult to defend Stanford, but Fortier’s planned defense was well conceived – you might say, “as good as it gets.”   Fortier asked her team to clog the middle and keep track of Hannah Jump.  This defense could have limited Stanford’s interior players (Cameron Brink, Kiki Iriafen, and Haley Jones, not to mention all the bench reinforcements).  This defense could have held down Jump’s three-point barrage, and maybe Stanford’s other outside shooters would have an off day.

Well, the defense sort of worked for the first quarter. 

Jump was held in check early in the game, but Stanford ended up with 15 treys – 45 critical points that made up more than half of Stanford’s 84-point total.  Eight different Stanford players contributed at least one trey, and Stanford shot over 53% from distance.  Overall, with the non-conference season almost complete, Stanford is shooting 39.2% from outside the circle.    That’s impressive.  With three of Stanford’s best outside shooters gone from last year’s team (Lexie and Lacy Hull plus Anna Wilson), this year’s squad is so far 4 percentage points above last year’s 35% three-point percentage. 

Leading the 3-point charge, Hannah Jump has already made 37 at an impressive 52% clip.  Jump is doing it all.  She is in excellent shape and tied with Haley Jones for the most minutes per game.  Oh, and she’s tied with Cameron Brink for the team’s leading scorer (12.4 points per game). 

So, who else is making the threes?  Well, Ashten Prechtel for one.  She’s the second most prolific outside shooter, with 14 conversions at a 46.7% clip.  Next in line is a second-year player who had only 8 three pointers last year.  Brooke Demetre has already eclipsed that mark with 13 conversions at a 36.1% rate.  Against Gonzaga, Demetre made 5 of 9 three-point attempts and had a game and career high 17 points.

Demetre’s emergence is of great value because, at 6 foot 3 and with a high release point, she joins Prechtel as a tall perimeter shooter difficult to guard.  Demetre is also a steady player with lots of assists and few turnovers – an outstanding 2.8 assist to turnover rate. 

And we are not done yet with outside shooters.  Elena Bosgana was 0 for 10 from three-point land last year.  This year, she’s already made 9 of them at a 33% clip.  That means that Bosgana is not just a slasher and driver, but also an outside threat.  At 6 foot 2, she’s another difficult player to guard.  Agnes Emma Nnopu and two of the freshmen, Indya Nivar and Talena Lepolo are also shooting threes at above a 30% clip.   So too is Cameron Brink with a 35% conversion rate.  Altogether, that gives Stanford eight players (3 starters and 5 off the bench) who are shooting threes at above a 30% clip.  Who knows, maybe Haley Jones can join the 30% club.

Stanford’s two-week final exam break offers a time for reflection on the first third of the season.  The team’s biggest surprise so far is Telana Lepolo’s performance at point guard.  She was not the team’s highest ranked incoming freshman, but she is the only one to break into the starting lineup.  She came off the bench in Stanford’s first three games, but now has started 8 games in a row, including tough contests against South Carolina, Florida Gulf Coast, and Gonzaga.  Her most impressive stat is a team leading 62 assists with a 2.5 assist to turnover ratio.  She gets the ball up court in a hurry and knows how to pass.  Not a prolific scorer, Lepolo is still a threat to drive the basket or convert the three.

Stanford’s higher ranked freshmen are also showing well.  Lauren Betts is the real deal on the inside.  She is the team’s 5th leading scorer (7.3 points per game), achieving this number while averaging less than 10 minutes per game.  Her field goal percentage is a team high 65.2%.  Meanwhile, she’s a formidable rebounder (team high in rebounds per minute) and the second-best blocker on the team.  Indya Nivar is playing great defense and shooting 35% from three-point range.  She is averaging almost 12 minutes per game.

So here are the nominations for the most improved veteran player.

Most improved senior – Hannah Jump gets this award.  Haley Jones remains the team’s best player, but her improvement over last year is less evident.

Most improved junior – Cameron Brink gets this award, in large part because she is drawing fewer fouls and is shooting a commendable 76% from the foul line.  That matters greatly because Brink draws more fouls than any other player on the team.  Brink has contributed to the team's 76% free throw shooting percentage, well above the 68.7% for last year.  Honorable mention goes to Agnes Emma Nnopu, an amazing defender and rebounder who is shooting more threes.

Most improved sophomore – A three way tie – Kiki Iriafen for improved confidence and skills on the interior; Brooke Demetre for her steady play and emergence as a killer from outside the three point line; and Elena Bosgana for both her improved outside shooting and improved defense (Bosgana leads the team in steals per minute).

As good as it gets? 

Not likely, this team has more to show and a long way to go.

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