January 01, 2023

Stanford in December: Depth and Versatility

 Warren Grimes

In December, Stanford women played 5 home games.  One of those (Gonzaga) was played before the finals break.  Three more (Tennessee, Creighton, and California) were before the Christmas break.  The last was Arizona State, played on New Year’s Eve.

Stanford won all of them, four by 20-point plus margins.  That’s an accomplishment given that three of the five opponents are likely to be tournament teams.  Tennessee (a team that had lost six coming into Maples but still could end the season in the top 20) managed to limit Stanford to a 7-point margin.

In four of the five games, the top three scorers were Brink, Jump, and Jones, each of them averaging around 13 points per game over the season.  Brink is slightly in the lead. She has an impressive 61% shooting percentage.  Jump is just behind in scoring but is shooting threes at a team leading 50% rate.  And Jones, well she does it all, but should be singled out for her assists and her “full court” drives to the basket. 

Stanford has no player in the race for top conference scorer, but the team’s balanced scoring says a great deal about why Stanford is so tough to defend.  The December games stand out because players other than the top three have stepped up in various ways to add to the opponent’s difficulty in facing Stanford.

Let’s begin with Gonzaga, a team with injuries and a very thin bench, but nonetheless a top 20 team with some significant wins.  Brooke Demetre had a season and career game, scoring a team high 17 points on 5 for 9 shooting from distance.  Demetre has stood out in other games as well in part because of her steady presence and ability to pile up the assists.  She has 20 assists for the season with a 2.1 assist to turnover ratio.  In the Tennessee game, Demetre scored no points but had a steal and 2 assists, not counting passes to the interior that led to free throws for Brink or other players. 

Against Tennessee, Brink, Jones, and Jump carried the critical load.  The team, however, could not have won without Demetre’s contribution and Agnes Emma Nnopu, who played 17 minutes with 2 assists (no turnovers), a block and a steal.

Creighton provided an opportunity for point guard Talana Lepolo, who stepped up with a team and career high 17 points, shooting 5 for 11 from three-point land.  Creighton managed to hold Jump without a three-pointer but paid a price when Lepolo took advantage.  Stanford held Creighton to 59 points, well below their season average.

Then came California, where both Lauren Betts and Elena Bosgana contributed 9 points in ten minutes or less.  Both of these players deserve further mention.  Betts has been averaging less than 10 minutes per game, but in those limited minutes has become the team’s fifth leading scorer and fourth leading rebounder.  On a per minute basis, Betts is in fact the leading scorer and leading rebounder on the team.  She seems certain to get more minutes.

Meanwhile Elena Bosgana has gradually added to her resume.  Averaging around 12 minutes per game, she has now become the team’s sixth leading scorer.  She shoots the three-ball effectively (35.5%), something she did not do last year.  And Bosgana is an impressive defender: she steals the ball, on a per minute basis, more than any teammate, although Emma Nnopu is a close second. 

Now we come to New Year’s Eve and the ASU game.  Once again, the firm of Jump, Brink and Jones stood out, but had substantial support from Lepolo (10 points on 2 for 3 shooting from distance) and from Betts (10 points and 6 boards in 15 minutes).  Add one more player to the list of substantial contributors: Indya Nivar played 18 minutes, part of the time at the point, and tallied 8 points.  Nivar looked confident out there.

What fun!  This depth and versatility will be tested as the conference season proceeds – next against Arizona on Monday.

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