January 31, 2017

Scouting by the numbers

By Judy Richter

When it comes to preparing for a game, the more that Stanford women’s basketball coaches and players know about the opponent, the better.

That’s why they traditionally have studied video of an opponent’s games to discern what defensive and offensive sets it uses and what each player’s tendencies are. They also study their own games to help their players.

Now they have even more information to study thanks to sports analytics, a statistical tool that “teams can use to their advantage,” said Peter Lee, who provides the numbers to the Cardinal team a week before each game.

Lee, a second-year graduate student in statistics, is a member of the Stanford Sports Analytics Club and began working with the team last year.

“I’ve always really loved basketball,” he said in a recent interview. After spending much of his youth in Los Angeles, he went to Korea, where he played high school basketball.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Vassar College in upstate New York. His first job involved working as an economic theory consultant, giving him a chance to learn how to code.

Using a database called Synergy Sports Technology, he creates charts about the team and players and compares them with opponents.

Four factors for success

In his view, there are four main factors in a team’s success:
  1. How well it shoots the ball
  2. Turnovers
  3. Rebounds
  4. Free throws
“Free throws are the most efficient shots” because there’s no one to guard the shooter, he said.

Long-range 2-pointers are the most inefficient, especially when compared with 3-pointers. The logic is that if the shooter takes a just a few steps back to get beyond the arc, the score goes up 3 rather than 2 points. Over the long haul, that can make a big difference.

He looks at every opponent on the basis of those factors. He tries to discover what types of shots individual players prefer so that Stanford defenders can make them uncomfortable.

Although some people like to look at points per game as a measure of success, he prefers points per possession.

And although it’s helpful to view video, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Peter’s information helps to reveal team and player tendencies through several games.

Stanford defense ‘one of the best in the nation’

Peter also scouts the Cardinal. “Our defense is one of the best in the nation,” he said.

In addition, he measures the productivity of various Stanford lineups, starting with the starters. Then he narrows it down to smaller combinations. For example, what happens when senior Briana Roberson and sophomore Marta Sniezek, both of whom usually play the point, are on the floor together?

He attends practices and home games to get a first-hand view.

His report for the Oregon State game in Maples on Jan. 4 totaled five pages and used numbers from the current season. (OSU won that game 72-69 in double overtime.)

Observations about Oregon State

The report starts with key observations about OSU, such as “Scores 0.90 points per possession, which ranks 25th out of 349 NCAA Women’s Division I teams (93rd percentile nationally, 4th in the Pac 12).”

It mentions “elite offensive rebounding rate,” slow-paced offense, “great shooting numbers,” “good care of the ball” and “good short and long jumpers and good post-up numbers.”

“Who should we leave open?” the report says. “Obviously, we don’t ever want to leave a perimeter player unguarded with the ball for five seconds, but there will be situations when we’ll need to help off certain players to either double or provide help defense.”

He lists three tiers of players, starting with those who can be left open and ending with those who should almost never be left unguarded.

Then there are various graphs, such as “Transition/Half Court Breakdown,” “Man/Zone Breakdown” and offensive statistics.

He measures shot distribution and efficiency in various situations.

Observations about Stanford

He concludes his report with similar observations and graphs for Stanford. His key observations say:

“Allows 0.69 points per possession, which ranks 48th of 349 NCAA Women’s Division I teams (86th percentile nationally, 4th in Pac 12); “Elite at guarding the hoop and very good at defending jump shots; “Allows very little transition defense to the opposition, doubly impressive also considering that they have a very good offensive rebounding rate.”

Peter’s main contact person with the team is associate head coach Kate Paye.

Kate comments on reports

The information in his team and individual analytics reports “helps us identify and clarify individual and team opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and helps us develop our game plan and teach it more effectively,” Kate said in an email.

“Being able to give our team numbers that demonstrate why we are doing things or need to do certain things against a particular opponent really helps (our) players … assimilate and buy into our game plans,” she said.

“Peter also does self-scout work where he does analytics on our individual players and our team. This helps us identify individual and team strengths and weaknesses and how we can help our team improve,” she concluded.

January 30, 2017

Bracketology: Pac-12 shuffled

In this week's bracketology, Charlie Creme discusses how a weakening league hurts a member team: Will another down year in the Big Ten continue to hurt the Terps?

In regard to the Pac-12, he says:

Largely due to results in the Pac-12, there was some shuffling in this week's bracket among the top-16 teams laid out by the committee. Stanford's staggering comeback on the road at Washington elevated the Cardinal a couple of spots to No. 10 overall in this week's evaluation; the Huskies fell two spots to No. 8. That meant shuffling in regional placement. Most notably, Washington lands in Bridgeport teamed with No. 1 overall seed UConn.

Arizona State drops out of the top 16 after three consecutive losses; DePaul replaces the Sun Devils as a host. That last spot seems like the one wide-open slot, but the Sun Devils will have to turn it around quickly to get back in the picture. That won't be easy with the Oregon schools headed to Tempe, Arizona, this weekend.

No Pac-12 team got shuffled out of the bracket -- there are still six:
Bridgeport Region
2 Washington (no change)
Oklahoma City Region
2 Oregon State (no change)
8 Oregon (up from 9)
Lexington Region
3 Stanford (no change)
Stockton Region
4 UCLA (no change)
6 Arizona State (down from 4)
Here's the complete bracket:

January 29, 2017

Cardinal snatches victory from jaws of the dawgs

The Huskies promoted this game heavily. Their students and fans, encouraged perhaps by the thorough drubbing the Huskies had administered to Cal the Friday before, responded to create the first sellout game in the women's program's history. The old pavilion (officially "Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion" but long-time fans know better) was packed to the rafters. On the TV stream Mary Murphy commented several times on the noise level.

The opening half of the game gave those fans everything they could have wanted. Kelsey Plum wowed them by making shot after shot (late in the game she was 7-7 from beyond the arc), but other Huskies were also hitting. Late in the first quarter UW had notched three-point shots by four different players.

At that point Stanford was 0-6 from long range, and before the end of the half, they were 0-8. The first Stanford 3-point shot was made by Nadia with 26 seconds remaining in the half.

The half ended with Stanford down 12, 33-45. That was an improvement from a few minutes earlier when the Huskies were ahead by eighteen, 20-38. Over the break, Cardinal fans could only tell themselves, "At least they aren't beating us as badly as they beat Cal."

The story began to change in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Cardinal defense began to slow the Huskies, and Cardinal shots (finally!) began to fall. Bri hit a three at 4:18 to bring the Cardinal within four. Two minutes later, she hit another to bring the deficit to three, 50-53. The third quarter ended with Stanford behind by only five, 50-55.

Just into the fourth quarter, Bri hit yet another three and tied the score at 55-55. At this point, four key players had four fouls apiece: Bird, Brittany, Kelsey Plum, and Chantel Osahor. This led to cautious play and frequent substitutions by both coaches.

For several minutes the teams traded small leads back and forth. Either team might have seized the game by scoring twice in a row, but neither could.

Then, at 1:38, Bri made a layup to tie the score for the last time, 66-66. Seconds later, Brittany stole the ball and made a layup to put Stanford ahead.

The Huskies had chances in the final minute, but Plum, for the first time in the game, missed a three-point shot; and no other Husky stepped up. Cardinal players made their free-throws, and time expired on a thrilling come-from-behind win.

Brittany, despite missing all five of her three-point tries, had 17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals, including the key steal in the final minute.

Bird had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Bri had 14 points, all in the second half, and had a significant effect on the flow and momentum of the game. Although she didn't score the most points, she definitely earned the game ball tonight.

Karlie, stifled by the Husky defense, was able to take only three treys and didn't hit any of them. But she took what they gave her and scored ten points on two layups and six free throws. She also had five rebounds and four of the Cardinal's nine assists.

Marta had eight points, connecting on a layup, a three-point shot, and 3-4 free throws, as well as getting five assists to three turnovers.

This was Tara's 999th career win. The team now comes home to play four games at Maples. It's likely that the next game, against USC, will be Tara's 1000th win.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A video interview of Bri, "Very happy we got the dub."

An interview of Kelsey Plum from the Seattle Times

January 28, 2017

Cardinal extends win streak over Cougars

Stanford has never lost to WSU, although two years ago the Cougars took the Cardinal into overtime.

Nothing like that was expected this year. Owing to season-ending injuries to three key players, WSU is playing for experience and to develop players for next season.

Stanford set the tone of the game early with quick scores by Kaylee, Bri (a three) and Brittany, after which June Daugherty called time with the score 7-1. Immediately after the time-out, Bri hit a second three. At the end of the quarter the Cardinal had hit 8 of 14 shots and led 21-12. The gap grew from there.

Eventually Stanford hit 52% of their shots, and 35% of their three-point tries. They out-rebounded WSU 48-32.

However, the Cardinal were far from perfect; they committed 23 turnovers to the Cougars' 14, giving the Cougars many extra chances — chances that a better team could have put to good use.

Karlie led all scorers with sixteen points, hitting four of nine three-point tries. Several times the Cougars lost track of her and she made the most of the wide-open chances. She also grabbed seven rebounds and dished four assists.

With today's four three-pointers, Karlie stepped up to #6 in the Stanford career three-pointers record, past Sebnem Kimyacioglu and just one behind Kelley Suminski.

Alanna scored twelve points on 4-5 shooting (and 4-5 free throw attempts), and was credited with four blocks.

Bird had ten points and Brittany, nine.

Bri had eight points including two early threes that cemented the Stanford lead. She tied with Karlie for game-high rebounds (seven) and assists (four).

Marta had six points, including two dramatic drives to the basket, and stole the ball twice.

Tomorrow the team will fly to Seattle to practice for what is likely to feel like the biggest game of the regular season, against the streaking Huskies in a sold-out arena.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

And a video interview of Karlie, "We did a good job of moving the ball.".

January 26, 2017

All right now!

The band is back!

Stanford band off suspension earlier than expected

Up next: On the road to Washington

The Cardinal heads north this weekend for its only regular-season encounter with the Washington schools.

First up are the Washington State Cougars on Friday evening at 8:00. The Cardinal will practice for this game at Central Valley High School, 13 miles east of the Davenport Hotel, before heading to Pullman for the game. Central Valley High is where Stanford's 2018 recruits Lacie and Lexie Hull play ball.

Then it's on to Seattle to play the University of Washington Huskies early Sunday evening at 5:00.

The media coverage for both games is:

  Washington State Cougars

Ten-year head coach June Daugherty set a very challenging schedule, as she always does, for her young multi-national team. Their schedule has been ranked between the fifth and ninth toughest in the nation all season.

And now the Cougars have lost their three top weapons to injuries.

First, junior forward Louise Brown, the Cougars' leading rebounder (6.9 rpg) and third-best scorer (10.2 ppg) suffered a season-ending foot injury on December 4th.

Four days later, sophomore forward Borislava Hristova, who was the Cougars' leading scorer last season (16.7 ppg) and this season (14.7 ppg), suffered a season-ending foot injury in the game against Gonzaga.

Then two weeks ago in Tempe, standout freshman guard Chanelle Molina tore her ACL. Molina had been named the PAC-12 Freshman of the Week twice. She averaged 12.8 ppg on 52% shooting from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. She was also the Cougars' primary ball handler with 3.7 assists per game and a 1.8 assist/turnover record.

In that same game at Arizona State, freshman guard Cameron Fernandez, who came off the bench for about 11 minutes per game, suffered a severe concussion and is out indefinitely.

The Cougars have done remarkably well in spite of the tough schedule and overwhelming injuries. They finished their non-conference slate with a 5-6 record that included close losses against No. 5 Maryland and No. 18 Kentucky.

They opened Pac-12 play with consecutive losses to Washington and Oregon State, then strung together three straight wins against Oregon, UCLA and USC. Then came the disastrous trip to Arizona, where they lost to Arizona State and then Arizona (by just one point). Last week they lost to Washington for the second time this season.

Now down to a nine-player roster, the Cougars are depending on junior Pinelopi Pavlopoulou at the guard position. She was the starting point guard on Greek national teams for several years. She averages 6.3 points and 2.6 assists with a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio.

The Cougars' current leading scorers are spohomore guard Alexys Swedlund (9.2 ppg), senior forward Ivana Kmetovska (7.8 ppg) and junior guard Caila Hailey (7.0 ppg).

Here are Washington State's roster and season statistics.

  University of Washington Huskies

You probably know that senior guard Kelsey Plum is chasing the all-time NCAA record for career points. Plum already has 3,070 points and is averaging 31.0 ppg this season. With a possible 19 games left to play, she's on target to hit 3,659, well beyond the current record of 3,393 held by Jackie Stiles (Missouri State 1998-01).

Plum takes more shots (19.7 per game) than anyone in the nation and makes, on average, 53% of them. But she can be restrained. In Washington's only two losses this season, Notre Dame held her to 37% and Oregon State held her to 35%.

The Huskies' second weapon is senior center Chantel Osahor. She's the top rebounder in the nation with an average of 14.7 and just set a new Pac-12 record rebounds/game with 30 against WSU. She averages 15.5 ppg, 28% of them with her unique flat-footed three-pointers. She's had double-doubles in all but three games this season – the most in the nation.

Washington has two more almost-double-digit scorers: Junior guard Natalie Romeo (9.6 ppg) and freshman guard Aarion McDonald (9.1 ppg)

As if that isn't enough, there should be great home team support for this game. UW and Seattle radio station KOMO are promoting a Pack the House campaign.

However, I expect the Cardinal to be prepared and really fired up for this one, eager to avenge their two bitter losses to the Huskies last season: 65-73 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal and 76-85 in the NCAA elite eight.

Here are Washington's roster and season statistics.

January 25, 2017

Bird on Drysdale watch list

Bird was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award midseason watch list announced by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association on Tuesday. The award recognizes the women's basketball national player of the year. Bird is one of 28 players to make the midseason cut.

Read more:
USBWA Unveils Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Midseason Watch List
Ann Meyers Drysdale Watch List

Bird is also on watch lists for the John R. Wooden Award® mid-season top 25, the 2017 Senior CLASS Award®, the 2017 Naismith Women's College Player of the Year, and the 2017 Wade Trophy.

January 24, 2017

NCAA reveals Top 16 seeds

The NCAA women's basketball committee announced its current top 16 seeds yesterday. The top 16 seeds will be revealed twice more this season – Feb. 6 and Feb. 20 – before the actual NCAA selection show, which will be Monday, March 13 (ESPN, 4 p.m. PT).

The top 16 are: 1. UConn, 2. Baylor, 3. South Carolina, 4. Mississippi State, 5. Florida State, 6. Washington, 7. Notre Dame, 8. Oregon State, 9. Maryland, 10. Texas, 11. Duke, 12. Stanford, 13. Louisville, 14. UCLA, 15. Kentucky, 16. Arizona State.

Mechelle Voepel reports the NCAA reveal here: Unbeaten UConn gets No. 1 overall seed in NCAA committee's early reveal of top 16

Charlie Creme analyzes the reveal here: Strength of schedule appears to hurt Maryland, Stanford in reveal, but gives Kentucky boost.

In regard to Stanford, he says:

Texas ahead of Stanford: The Cardinal (17-3) have the better record, a better winning percentage against top-50 teams, and they beat the Longhorns (14-4) by double digits in November. Yet Texas is No. 10 and Stanford is No. 12.

Texas' No. 6-rated schedule (Stanford's was No. 27 [ is 17 on Jan 23]) is the only apparent measurable advantage, although victories over Tennessee and Oklahoma are the truly big wins on the résumé. The Cardinal might have also taken a hit for the loss to Gonzaga, the second-worst defeat by any team on the list.

Texas' position ahead of Stanford also illustrates what the committee has been saying for years: Head-to-head is one factor but decides nothing by itself.

In today's Bracketology, Creme agrees with NCAA's top 16 except that a few are in a different order. He has Stanford at No. 10 and Texas at No. 12; the NCAA's list reverses those two.

Creme now has six Pac-12 teams in the bracket:

Bridgeport Region
2 Oregon State (up from 3)
4 Arizona State (no change)
Oklahoma City Region
3 Stanford (no change)
9 Oregon (no change)
Lexington Region
2 Washington (no change)
Stockton Region
4 UCLA (down from 3)
Caifornia (was 8) has been moved out.

January 22, 2017

Cardinal's tenacious defense bedevils ASU, 66-56

Another quick-start first quarter set the Cardinal on the road to a home win against the always dangerous Sun Devils.

In the prior game against Arizona, Stanford opened with hot shooting. This time they took advantage of cold shooting by ASU.

The Sun Devils had an absolutely horrible time shooting in the first quarter. Their offensive possessions seemed confused and tentative, and they couldn't seem to hit anything. The quarter ended with the Sun Devils 3-15 on field goal attempts and Stanford ahead 14-7.

A quarter-long streak of bad shooting can be written off to luck, but at the end of the game ASU still trailed Stanford in shooting percentage, 29% to 45%, and such a game-long gap has to be credited to Stanford's defense, which was focused and intense throughout.

One defensive play will be on the year-end highlight reel for sure: Marta leaned in and poked the ball away from the ASU point guard. Both women lunged for the loose ball but Marta controlled it and, stretched full length on the floor in front of the scorers' table, tossed the ball to Karlie who lobbed a half-court pass to Bird streaking to the basket for a lay-up.

Stanford had important offensive moments as well.

In the third quarter the Cardinal opened a lead to as much as 22 points, but then ASU began to creep back in. At 6:20 in the fourth quarter, ASU had closed to fourteen. Charli Turner Thorne, perhaps sensing a momentum shift, called a timeout. Just out of the timeout, Bri hit a two-point jumper, and on the next possession, hit a three. That put an end to any hope of a momentum swing in the Sun Devils' direction.

Bird had the team-high 18 points on 6-10 shooting, including one three-pointer; the team-high nine rebounds; and one monster block, which gave her a great deal of pleasure.

Karlie had 15 points — 2-5 from beyond the arc plus two drives through ASU defense for layups and 5-5 on free-throws. She played for 37 minutes and also had six rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal.

Brittany had 13 points on 4-9 shooting, including one three-pointer, and grabbed five rebounds. Late in the second quarter Brittany fell and seemed to injure her right ankle. She left the court limping. However she came out as normal at the start of the second half and resumed playing.

Bri had seven points, including the critical five points in the fourth quarter that squelched an ASU uprising.

Kaylee had six points from three tough shots in the paint.

Marta drove for a layup and later hit three of four free-throws for a total of five points. She pestered the ASU guards mercilessly, getting two steals and causing several more turnovers.

This game ended a home stand on a very positive note and gave the team a good send-off to the Washington schools.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The video press conference with Tara and Bird,

The game highlights video,

A gallery of photos by Nhat V. Meyer (Bay Area News Group),

And a gallery of photos by Bob Drebin (isiphotos.com).

January 21, 2017

Tara's canine coaching session

Sunday's game vs Arizona State will feature Stanford's annual halftime show featuring Ace Dog Sports.

January 20, 2017

Cardinal crushes Wildcats with big first quarter, 73-46

This game was decided by the first quarter, at the end of which Stanford was ahead 28-6. The final score makes the game look like a romp, but if you subtract the first quarter, the scoring in the other three-fourths of the game was 45-40, merely a narrow win for the Cardinal.

Bird began the scoring with a three, but the star of the first quarter was Brittany, who had a layup, two jumpers, and a three-pointer, and had pulled down three rebounds, all by the first media timeout.

Kaylee, Alanna, Karlie and Bri also scored to create the 22-point first quarter lead. It was one of those streaks when everything seems to drop in; the Cardinal as a team shot 80% in that quarter.

Arizona is not that bad a team, and they regrouped, stiffened their defense (playing a zone for much of the second half), and began to make baskets.

In the latter part of the game Stanford had spells of sloppy play and gave up too many fouls, but Arizona was never able to close that early gap.

Karlie led all scorers with 15 points, including four of five from long range. She now has 201 career three-pointers and is tied with Nicole Powell at seventh in the Stanford record book. Her percentage for the season is up to 51.1%, third-best in the nation.

Brittany finished with 13 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. She could easily have had more but her long-range shot was not falling. She made only the one in five tries.

Bird also had 13 points.

Kaylee scored nine points, plus seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal. At the pregame chalk talk, Kate said that Kaylee thinks she's not quite back to 100%, but she looked close to it tonight.

Alanna also had nine points.

DiJonai had four points, plus one brilliant assist in which she fired a pass two-thirds the length of the court to Brittany for an easy layup.

Marta contributed seven assists with just two turnovers

The Cardinal must hope to repeat that opening streak against the more challenging ASU team on Sunday.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

The video press conference, first Arizona coach Adia Barnes, then Tara and Karlie,

And Karlie's pregame half-court heave:

January 19, 2017

Next up: Visitors from Arizona

The Arizona schools that were defeated by the Cardinal in the first round of the conference season come to Maples for a rematch next weekend.

  University of Arizona Wildcats

Arizona is up first on Friday evening at 7:00:

Alert: There's going to be an Inauguration Day Protest at Town & Country Vilage (Embarcadero and El Camino) from 5:00 to 7:00 on Friday. Allow for congestion on your way to Maples.

Do you know that Arizona used to be one of the top teams in the Pac-10/12?

Do you remember Polkey? It sometimes seems that the program has never recovered from the shocking death of Shawntinice Polk in 2005. Except for one season, they've placed among the bottom three in the conference since then.

So it's good to see them starting this season well under the guidance of new head coach Adia Barnes, who is the leading scorer in Arizona women's basketball history.

As is typical of a season with a new coach, they had an easy non-conference schedule and went 9-2.

They stand at 2-4 in conference play, as do California, Oregon and Utah. They defeated Washington State and Utah and lost to California, Stanford, Colorado and Washington.

Here are Arizona's roster and season statistics.

  Arizona State Sun Devils

Then it's Stanford vs Arizona State on Sunday afternoon at 3:00

The agility dogs will perform at halftime, and there will be a behind-the-bench session after the game.

ASU would have likely beaten us in Tempe three weeks ago if Quinn Dornstauder hadn't inadvertantly fouled Bird in the last 20 seconds of the game. I'm sure that Charli and her Sun Devils will come to Maples determined to avenge that infuriating loss.

ASU has defeated Cal, Colorado, Utah and WSU since then and lost only to Washington. They stand at fourth in the conference, tied with UCLA.

The Cardinal will be equally determined to protect their home court this time around, remembering Sophie Brunner's buzzer-beater last season.

Here are Arizona State's roster and season statistics.

Bird's got good genes

Generations: Why is Stanford’s Erica McCall so good? Take a look at who’s in her family, from Excelle Sports

January 18, 2017

Tara's 1000th win is in sight

The Cardinal's next two games are at home vs the Arizonas, then a pair in Washington, then four at home vs SoCal and the Mountain teams.

With just five wins to go, Tara is certain (barring a disaster) to notch the 1000th win of her career at home in Maples Pavilion.

The earliest it could happen is on Friday February 3rd.

If the stars align, Stanford will have lost to Washington and the 1000th win will come on Monday February 6th when the game is on national television (ESPN2).

If the Cardinal has a streak of bad luck, it will be on Friday February 10th or Sunday February 12th.

I dare say that Tara would just as soon have her achievement pass unremarked, but her fans and all who love women's basketball will rejoice for her.

It will be a grand celebration
Plan to be there!

January 16, 2017

Bracketology - Cardinal will have to hit the road

Charlie Creme (espnW) has updated his bracket with comments about how conference play changes everything.

His report includes this disappointing information, "Stanford will not be able to host first- and second-round games. The Pac-12 gymnastics championships will be rolling into Maples Pavilion on March 18, so the Cardinal were unable to bid on NCAA tournament basketball games."

He now has seven Pac-12 teams in the bracket:

Bridgeport Region
2 Washington (up from 4)
8 California (down from 5)
Oklahoma City Region
3 Stanford (no change)
4 Arizona State (up from 5)
Lexington Region
3 UCLA (down from 2)
9 Oregon (moved back in)
Stockton Region
3 Oregon State (up from 4)
Utah (was 8) and USC (was 10) have been moved out.

Click here for Creme's story and here for the complete bracket.

January 15, 2017

Cardinal out-shoots the Buffs 84-70

This game started close, with both teams hitting threes seemingly at will: The first quarter saw eight three-point shots made in all, four for each team. The Cardinal's threes were by Karlie (two), Bird, and Marta. Marta's shot was especially encouraging; she caught the ball and fired the three in a single motion.

Stanford was hampered by making six turnovers in the quarter, which ended with the Buffs ahead, 20-23.

The game remained close through the second quarter, with Stanford again hampered by five more turnovers, so the first half ended with the host Buffaloes up by a point, 41-42.

This quarter also featured three-point shooting, with six made in all; Stanford had two of them, both by Dijonai. At the half, each team had scored three-point shots by four different players apiece.

Once again the Cardinal broke open a close game in the third quarter, this time largely on the efforts of Karlie and Brittany. In the quarter Brittany scorched the Buffs with five layups and a three-point shot, for thirteen points plus three rebounds, a steal, and an assist to Karlie for one of her three, three-point makes. At the buzzer Stanford was ahead 69-60.

Early in the third quarter, Marta suffered a frightening injury. In a scramble for a rebound she fell, and then a Colorado player fell on her, dropping directly on her head and driving her face into the floor. She left the game bleeding from a cut over her right eye and retreated to the locker room for a few stitches, but returned to play, apparently unfazed, near the end of the game.

The teams played about even throughout the fourth quarter, Colorado never closing the gap to less than nine points.

Karlie led the Cardinal with 20 points, having hit five of seven three-point attempts and five of five free throws -- and playing 38 minutes.

Brittany had eighteen points, having hit seven of eight layups and one of three long shots to go with five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block.

Bird had twelve points on 50% shooting. Alanna and Kaylee each had eight points.

It was a great balanced performance — six Cardinal players hit three-point shots (Karlie (5), DiJonai (2), Brittany, Bird, Bri and Marta (1 apiece)), eight of the nine who played scored at least five points, and five led the rebounding with five apiece (Karlie, Brittany, Bird, Kaylee and Marta).

The team should feel fairly confident flying back for a home stand against the Arizonas.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A gallery of photos from Boulder Daily Camera,

And a video interview of Karlie

Some of the Boulder Daily Camera photos feature the Cardinal defense:

Samuelsons past and present

Samuelsons Know UConn Streak From Both Sides
by Jeff Jacobs (Hartford Courant)

January 13, 2017

Cardinal pulls away from the Utes 77-58

The Utes have never beaten Stanford and are a strong defensive team. Could they break their streak, as OSU did five days before?

Spoiler alert: No, they couldn't; but they made a game of it for a while.

Utah came out defending in a matchup zone that they used throughout the game. Stanford has had problems against the zone this season but seemed not to be so bothered by it now, especially in the first quarter when they had a quick start aided by Utah's turning the ball over eight times. Marta had two near-identical steals on consecutive Utah possessions. Karlie hit three of four three-point shots. Alanna blocked the Ute's final shot to end the first quarter at 20-7.

Utah pulled together offensively and kept pace with Stanford in the second quarter. Kaylee had good minutes in this quarter, hitting shots and getting rebounds. The half ended 35-24.

The Utes made progress in the third quarter and for a while looked as if they were going to be back in the game, coming within 6 points for several minutes before falling back.

The opening minutes of the fourth quarter, however, put a decisive end to their hopes. Nine seconds in, Bri hit a three. Shortly, Karlie hit a mid-range jumper, then Alanna hit a three and, a minute later, hit another. In less than four minutes, the lead went from eight points to fifteen, and the game was effectively over.

Karlie led the team with fourteen points, hitting four of seven three-point shots while playing "only" 34 minutes, more than anyone else.

The rest of the scoring was almost evenly split among Bird (11), Alanna (10), Brittany (9), Marta (9), Nadia (8) and Bri (7). The Cardinal should feel some confidence with such a balanced attack.

The Cardinal challenged the Utes' standing among the top ten in the nation in 3-point field goal defense by making 38% of their shots from beyond the arc — in addition to Karlie's four, Alanna sank two, Bri and DiJonai each had one.

The Utes are a strong defensive team, but the Cardinal was stronger today. They snagged more O-boards (15-11), more total rebounds (44-37), and blocked more shots (10-7).

Marta ran the point for most of the game and had seven assists to two turnovers. In this game Marta showed a new offensive skill: Previously her offense had consisted almost entirely of drives to the basket, with a rare 3-point attempt. In this game she twice stepped in and took mid-range jump shots, hitting both.

On Sunday it's on to Boulder to play the Buffaloes.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

And a video interview of Karlie, "We came alive in the 4th."

January 12, 2017

Up next : A trip to the Rockies

The Cardinal heads east this weekend to play the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City on Friday evening at 5:00 PT and the Colorado Buffs in Boulder on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PT.

The media coverage for the games is:

  University of Utah Utes

Utah has a mature, experienced team in its second season under head coach Lynne Roberts.

Four of this season's starters also started every game last season: redshirt junior forward Emily Potter, senior wing Paige Crozon, redshirt junior wing Malia Nawahine, junior wing Tanaeya Boclair

Potter is the Utes' best everything — scorer (16.1 ppg), field goal percentage (.577), rebounder (9.6 rpg), and shot blocker (3.1 bpg). She's tallied six double-doubles this season and ranks tenth in the nation in blocked shots.

Boclair averages 11.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Nawahine averages 11.2 points and 3.9 rebounds. Crozon averages 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

The Utes' offense is led by sophomore point guard Erika Bean, who averages 4.6 assists per game with a good assist/turnover ratio of 1.7.

The Utes are a great defensive team. They rank among the top ten in the nation in four defensive categories: 3-pt field goal defense (24.0, #3) , defensive rebounds per game (32.0, #6), rebounds per game (45.2, #10), and blocks per game (6.2, #10).

The Utes had a moderately strong nonconference schedule and won every game. They have since defeated USC and lost to UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. They are not ranked, but Charlie Creme has them as a No. 8 seed in his bracket.

Here are Utah's roster and season statistics.

  University of Colorado Buffs

The Colorado Buffs are doing surprisingly well under a new coaching staff headed by JR Payne. Payne is new to Colorado, but not to West Coast basketball. She came to Colorado from Santa Clara, which she led to its first winning season in eight years. She played at St. Mary's under now Oregon Coach Kelly Graves and was his assistant at Gonzaga in her first coaching job.

The Buffs lost just one game in non-conference play, but have faltered since with losses to Arizona State, UCLA, USC. Their only conference win is against Arizona. Nonetheless, they already have four more wins than they had all of last season.

They are not ranked in the AP Top 25, but received enough votes this week to put them at No. 28.

The Buffs are not strong defenders, but they have a very efficient offense, with a pair of skilled sophomore guards who like to push the ball. Kennedy Leonard leads the team with 19.0 points and 5.7 assists per game. Alexis Robinson is second with 10.9 points and 3.3 assists.

Senior forward Haley Smith also scores in double digits (10.9) and is the best rebounder with 5.7 per game.

All three of them shoot the long ball. Collectively, they make about five treys per game.

The Buffs rank fifth in the nation in steals, with 13.1 per game.

Here are Colorado's roster and season statistics.

Bird advances to midseason watch list

Bird, who was named to four preseason watch lists, had been named to the John R. Wooden Award Women's Midseason Top 25. Read more in the Stanford Athletics announcement.

The full top 25 are as follows:
G Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame;
C/F Kristine Anigwe, California;
C/F Jordin Canada, UCLA;
G Alaina Coates, South Carolina;
C Nia Coffey, Northwestern;
F Napheesa Collier, Connecticut;
F Nina Davis, Baylor;
F Asia Durr, Louisville;
G Makayla Epps, Kentucky;
G Rebecca Greenwell, Duke;
G Jessica January, DePaul;
G Alexis Jones, Baylor;
G Brionna Jones, Maryland;
C Erica McCall, Stanford;
F Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State;
G Kia Nurse, Connecticut;
G Alexis Peterson, Syracuse;
G Kelsey Plum, Washington;
G Leticia Romero, Florida State;
G Katie Lou Samuelson, Connecticut;
G/F Brianna Turner, Notre Dame;
F Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State;
G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Maryland;
G Sydney Wiese, Oregon State;
G A'ja Wilson, South Carolina

January 08, 2017

Cardinal loses battle to Beavers in OT, 69-72

During the pregame talk, Kate said that Bri would guard the dangerous Sydney Wiese and,"We think we have a pretty good plan for Wiese."

That plan worked very well for 16 minutes. At 3:33 in the second quarter, both numbers 24 – Wiese and Bird – were scoreless. At that point Wiese broke loose and scored seven points in the remaining minutes of the first half, which ended with OSU up by one, 22-23.

That first half was some of the most exciting basketball we've seen this season. There were beautiful plays and dramatic turnovers on both sides. Both teams moved at dazzling speed — sometimes too fast in OSU's case, who had 12 turnovers in the half. A fan commented that, with the speed of play, both teams would spend halftime "getting oxygen and saline IVs".

In the second half OSU moved to a zone that slowed Stanford's offense to a crawl. Nevertheless the game remained close, with the teams trading a one-point lead and OSU slightly ahead until the third quarter ended at 33-36. Stanford trailed most of the fourth quarter until Brittany tied the score at 51-51, sending us to overtime.

Overtime started well with Stanford out to a five-point lead, but OSU came back to lead 61-63. With seconds left, Bird made a desperation layup through two defenders to tie the score at 63-63 and we were off to a second OT.

During the second overtime players on both teams were visibly exhausted, making mistakes and shooting the ball short or long. Stanford made some progress but by now the OSU zone was spreading the offense much wider, with vast gaps of open hardwood between the defenders and the Cardinal passing the ball slowly around a wide perimeter. Just the same, Nadia made a layup to bring the OSU lead down to one, 70-69, with 17 seconds to play. Then Stanford had to foul, and had to foul Wiese, who made two free throws to ice the result, and the Beavers celebrated their first-ever win at Maples.

The Beavers had "pretty good defensive plans" for the Cardinal's top scorers too.

So effective that Bird was held scoreless for the first half. She finally managed to break through their double- and triple-teams and scored 25 (just one less than Wiese) in the second half. She added twelve rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.

For the fourth conference game in a row, Karlie played almost the entire time — 48 minutes tonight. The Beavers defended her so closely that she never got clear enough to launch a trey and succeeded in making only one of her eight attempts in the paint. But she got eight rebounds and five assists, forced several held balls, and accounted for a good part of the Beavers' 22 turnovers with six steals.

Nadia was the only other Cardinal to score double digits. She started again tonight and had ten points on 5-10 shooting in 25 minutes of play.

Bri and Brittany and Marta each scored nine points. Marta was about the only Cardinal to succeed in driving to the basket through the Beavers' defense. She succeeded on four of 11 attempts. She also stole the ball six times.

Bri gets our unofficial Aerobics Award, having played the hood ornament to the Sydney Wiese limousine wherever it went for 45 minutes.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The press conference audio with Tara and Bird,

The game highlights video,

A gallery of photos by Nhat V. Meyers (Bay Area News Group),

And a gallery of photos by Bob Drebin and Bill Daily (isiphotos.com).

January 07, 2017

Cardinal cages the Ducklings, 81-60

Oregon this season has a top-ranked freshman class (as reported in our Up Next report), with Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Stanford's task in this game was to contain these Ducklings, and they did — mostly. Hebard, a post player, was smothered by a double every time she got the ball, and ended scoring only four points on 2-6 shooting. Ionescu did better with 14, but on 4-18 shooting, which indicates that good defense was disturbing her aim. The game might have been different had she hit a few more of those shots.

A third, unheralded Duckling, Mallory McGwire, stepped up to do greater damage, scoring 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Ducks' only double-double.

Thanks in large part to McGwire, the first half was close. Stanford delighted fans with a fast start, opening a 9-2 lead on layups by Marta, Bri, and Bird and a three from Karlie. Then Oregon found their feet defensively and the game remained close for many minutes. At one point Oregon tied the score 11-all with a three-pointer, but eight seconds later Bri untied it with a three of her own. As the half was winding down, the score was 32-27. With 16.5 seconds to play, Tara called a timeout. When play resumed, Marta made a crisp pass to Alanna at the top of the key and she sank a three on the buzzer: 35-27.

The third quarter continued close, with the Cardinal slowly drawing out to a 10-point lead. In this quarter it became clear that Alanna was having an outstanding game. She seemed to be everywhere, shooting, grabbing rebounds, and getting one dramatic block that left her grinning and getting high-fives.

Another highlight was a bang-bang play in which Marta fired a 40-foot pass to Karlie at the shoulder, who instantly whipped it to Alanna on the left block, who made a nice spin move around her defender to lay it in.

In the fourth quarter Oregon, unable to close the gap, began to soften, and the point spread widened to the final 81-60.

Alanna led all scorers with 24, a career high. Her outing was also notable for other improvements: Only two personal fouls and a perfect 5-of-5 free throws.

Bri scored 15 points including hitting three of four long-range shots and defended hard.

Bird scored 14 points, but missed a double-double by two rebounds.

Karlie had nine points on 3-5 shooting and six assists, played 37 minutes, and had several spectacular rebounds, including one where she got the ball while falling and kept her dribble alive while on her knees until she could pass the ball safely.

Marta had nine points on 4-7 shooting, all drives to the basket, and five assists.

Nadia played 21 minutes, had 6 points, an emphatic block, and some tough rebounds.

Collectively, the team shot 49.2% from the field, 40.0% on treys, and 83.3% on free throws

All available players had some time (Brittany was out with a turned ankle from a practice injury, but is expected to play on Sunday). Kaylee returned from a foot injury to play six minutes.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A video press conference, first Kelly Graves, then Tara, Alanna, and Bri,

A game highlights video from Stanford Athletics,

A game highlights video from espnW,

A video interview: Alanna talks buzzer beaters, career-high scoring night,

January 06, 2017

We appreciate Bird

Bird is one of 30 NCAA women's basketball student-athletes selected as a candidate for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award® it was announced Thursday.

Read more:

This is Bird's fourth nomination to a national watch list. She has also landed on lists for the John R. Wooden Award®, the 2017 Naismith Women's College Player of the Year, and the 2017 Wade Trophy.

Fittingly, Thursday was also National Bird Day. SWBB Facebook showed its appreciation of our Bird with a charming video — watch.

January 05, 2017

Lili announces chapter 2

Notre Dame will swap veteran point guards in 2017.

Though senior Lindsay Allen departs this spring, former Stanford point guard Lili Thompson announced on Twitter on Thursday that she will join Notre Dame as a graduate transfer in the 2017-18 season.

"I'm SO excited to announce the next step in my journey!" Thompson wrote. "I have decided to postpone my entry into the WNBA Draft and make a return to College Basketball. For the 2017-2018 season, I will be joining the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame!

"I'm excited to join what is already a stellar team, and to get to work on winning a National Championship. Thanks to everyone, past and present, who has been a part of this process and supported me. Go Irish!"

The 5-foot-7 Thompson — a Mansfield, Texas, native — will arrive in South Bend with an extensive resume, including All-Pac-12 honors in her sophomore and junior seasons and a spot on the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team in 2014.

She started 96 of 104 career games at Stanford, averaging 12.0 points per game while racking up 295 assists. Last season, Thompson was named Pac-12 Player of the Week three times and averaged 14.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.

In Stanford's 90-84 Sweet Sixteen upset victory over Notre Dame last March, Thompson scored 11 points and added nine assists in 37 minutes.

The former Timberview High School standout, who has one season of eligibility remaining, chose to leave Stanford's program prior to her senior season this fall, though she remained enrolled at the university.

In South Bend, Thompson will have to compete for playing time with a slew of talented guards, including current sophomores Arike Ogunbowale and Ali Patberg, junior Mychal Johnson and freshman Jackie Young.

Up next: The Oregons at Maples

The Cardinal face two tough teams at home this weekend — Oregon on Friday evening at 8:00 and Oregon State early Sunday evening at 5:00.

The media coverage for both games is:

  University of Oregon Ducks

Almost half of last year's team graduated, including three of the Ducks' top five scorers. Jillian Alleyne, who overtook Chiney to become the top career rebounder in the Pac-12, is the greatest loss.

But the Ducks have lots of young talent — their seven-player recruiting class ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN. Most notable are 6'4" forward Ruthy Hebard, who played on the USA U18 team last summer, and 5'10" guard Sabrina Ionescu, one of the top five recruits of the year and MVP of the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game.

Hebard is the Ducks' leading scorer (14.6 ppg) and rebounder (8.4 rpg). She makes 73.2% of her shots, the best in the nation. She has put up four 20-point plus games this season, including 25 points in 27 minutes against Washington last Friday.

Ionescu is the Ducks' second-best scorer (13.1 ppg) and rebounder (6.5 rpg) and the best ball handler. Although she is nominally a shooting guard, she averages more than five assists per game with an excellent 2.47 assist/turnover ratio. She has already had two 20-plus point games this season and a pair of triple-doubles.

Junior guard Lexi Bando is the Ducks' third double-digit scorer with 12.8 per game. She is their best 3-point shooter with an average of 2.7 treys per game at a rate of 57.1%, the seventh-best 3-point percentage in the nation.

However, all has not been well in Eugene. Recent injuries sapped the Ducks' backcourt. Ionescu broke her thumb about a month ago and missed the last four games. She is expected to be back in the lineup for the upcoming Bay Area games. Their other primary ballhandler, sophomore guard Maite Cazoria, missed several games while nursing a foot issue, but was back on the court last Sunday.

Freshman forward Lydia Giomi is out indefinitely with a broken hand. Freshman guard Jayde Woods also suffered a hand injury recently. She has since left the program and has been given permission to seek a transfer.

So it's not surprising that the Ducks began conference play with two losses — to Washington 77-99 and to Washington State 59-75. Head coach Kelly Graves said, "It is what it is. You gotta lace 'em up and play with what you have."

Now, with Ionescu and Cazoria back, the Ducks are ready to get a Pac-12 win.

Here are the Ducks' roster and season statistics.

  Oregon State Beavers

The reigning Pac-12 champions have lost most of the talent that took them all the way to the Final Four last season. Their outstanding shooting guard Jamie Weisner, powerful center Ruth Hamblin, and forward Deven Hunter graduated.

But point guard Sydney Wiese, now a senior and the team leader, is determined to continue the Beavers' winning tradition into this season and beyond. Wiese's biggest focus this season has been working with the underclassmen to help them be, "as good as they can be and as good as we need them to be."

Wiese is an excellent ball handler who prefers distributing the ball to taking shots. She averages more than five assists per game with a very good 2.1 assist/turnover ratio.

Although Wiese has the green light, she attempts only about 11 fields goals per game. (In contrast, Washington's Kelsey Plum takes about 19 shots per game). But she's having one of the most efficient offensive seasons in the country, shooting 49 percent from the field, 47 percent from the 3-point line and averaging a career-best 16.0 ppg. (up from 12.8 last season).

She has tallied a triple-double (points, rebounds, assists) this season.

6'5"junior center Marie Gulich , who was backup to Ruth Hamblin last season, has also stepped up. She's the Beavers's second-best scorer (10.9 ppg) and the best rebounder (7.9 rpg).

The third consistent starter for the Beavers is senior guard Gabriella Hanson, their defensive specialist. She helped the Beavers limit Kelsey Plum to a season-low .348 field goal percentage last Sunday and to a season-low 14 points in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals last season.

The Beavers have two very promising freshman guards: Kat Tudor with 7.8 ppg, almost all from beyond the arc, had a strong opening weekend in Pac-12 play, scoring a combined 20 points against Washington State and Washington; Mikayla Pivec, with a season average of 6.0 ppg and 4.9 rpg, has started the last five games for the Beavers averaging 10.8 ppg in those starts.

The Beavers have begun conference play this season with two wins — 80-58 over Washington State and 73-70 over Washington.

Here are the Beavers' roster and season statistics.