December 31, 2017

Cardinal Turns Away Trojan Onslaught, 72-65

In the pregame chalk talk, Tempe noted that the coaches were frustrated by the number of turnovers Stanford was allowing. She quoted Tara as saying, "You know, when you have the ball, they can't score." Frustration for the coaches would continue, as this game produced 18 Stanford turnovers.

The first quarter began with promise, when Marta unleashed a half-court pass to Maya at the basket for a layup. That was about the only highlight of the quarter. In the next three minutes Stanford ceded two turnovers and committed three fouls, allowing USC to take a 2-8 lead, and an 8-16 lead at the media timeout.

After that the Cardinal regained a bit of composure and the quarter ended at 15-20.

In the second quarter the turnover bug began to bite the Trojans and the Cardinal pulled up to 21-22, forcing Mark Trakh to call time at 7:38. Stanford took a brief lead on free throws by Alanna; then the lead changed hands twice more in the following minutes and the teams went into halftime with a score of 33-34.

The game began to turn Stanford's way in the third quarter. Alanna hit a three to take the lead. When USC tied the score, Brittany un-tied it with a three, and Stanford would hold that lead to the end, although it was still a close game when, at 6:48, USC's Kristen Simon expressed her opinion of a traveling call a bit too clearly and earned a "T".

The game was still tight, 53-50 when Stanford had the ball for the final possession of the quarter. For some reason, it was Brittany that ran the point, and she seemed confused, so Tara called time with 7 seconds left. When the ball was inbounded, Brittany again couldn't find anything to do with the ball, and it was almost a relief when USC's Aliya Mazyck stole it from her for a layup — which, fortunately, the referees ruled was not in time.

Brittany made up for that broken play by hitting a layup and then a three-pointer to open the scoring in the fourth quarter, giving the Cardinal some breathing room. Even so, the Women of Troy pulled within three twice more before the end. USC didn't start fouling for possession until very late, with less than 30 seconds on the clock. Stanford made 50% of their free-throws, and USC wasn't able to score, and the game ended 72-65.

Brittany led all scorers with 21 (her third consecutive 20-plus game), hitting 9 of 19 attempts (3-7 from long range). She also had three assists, two blocks, two steals, and eight rebounds,

Alanna had 13 points, three assists, three blocks, two steals, and six rebounds.

Kiana also had 13 points, the most important being two three-pointers in the first quarter that helped Stanford stay in the game when USC appeared to be running away with it.

Marta ran the point for 31 minutes and scored eight points. She made several long, dramatic passes for fast breaks. She had a career-high ten rebounds as well, and had six assists against only one turnover.

Although the Cardinal's turnover woes continued, their performance at the stripe got a lot steadier. They made their first seven free throws before slipping to 70% (14-20) by the end of the game.

They dominated the boards for the fifth consecutive game, out-rebounding the Trojans 41-31.

With two PAC-12 wins in the book and a likely return to a top-25 rating next week, Stanford heads out for its yearly trip to the desert.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

A video interview of Brit on Stanford's depth after return from injury: "It's a deep breath — like finally",

The audio press conference with Tara, Brit and Marta.

December 29, 2017

Cardinal Cages the Bruins, 76-65

Stanford came into this first game of the PAC-12 season from a loss to Tennessee, with a record of 6-6 and dropped from the AP Top 25 for the first time in forever. A win was badly needed but would have to be taken from the consensus PAC-12 leader and national eleventh-ranked team, UCLA.

At the pregame meetup, Kate Paye said that UCLA was the PAC-12 team most like Tennessee in their size and athleticism, so that "all the things we could have done better against Tennessee, like getting back on defense, this is a second chance to get them right."

That lesson certainly seemed to have taken, because at the end of the first quarter, Stanford was up 14-9 and UCLA was shooting only 17%. In the end, UCLA was able to hit only 31%. They took half again as many shots as Stanford, but they missed many more; and that just created more chances for Stanford to scoop up rebounds, ending with 48 to to the Bruins' 33.

Several times during the game, UCLA almost closed the gap, but each time Stanford was able to shut the door with a scoring run and kept the lead for the entire game. Midway through the second quarter the score was 19-18; four minutes later it was 30-18. Early in the third quarter the score was 34-33; five minutes later it was 46-36. The third quarter ended at 46-44; five minutes into the fourth quarter it was 60-48, and UCLA couldn't threaten again.

Defense was not a one-way street; UCLA's style of aggressive, reaching, interfering defense gained them 11 steals and led to a total of 20 Stanford turnovers. Especially in the final minutes, the Bruins pressed every Cardinal inbound and got repeated turnovers. Fortunately for Stanford, UCLA was unable to capitalize on these. Kiana and DiJonai made their free-throws in the final minute to seal the result.

Brittany made 63% of her shots and led all scorers with 26 points. She played 27 minutes, so as with the Tennessee game (27 points in 28 minutes), she scored about a point per minute of play. She also had seven rebounds and four assists.

Alanna had notched a double-double early into the second half; she ended with 14 points (including two 3-pointers), 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Nadia scored 10 points, hitting four of six shots. More than once during the second half, when UCLA's defense spread the perimeter and made it hard to pass toward the basket, the answer was to toss the ball to Nadia on the free-throw line for an easy jumper. She also had six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.

DiJonai had seven points in only 10 minutes on the floor. In one highlight-reel play, Nadia drove toward the basket, drawing the defense, and at the last second flipped the ball horizontally four feet to DiJonai on the other side of the key for an open layup.

Three players had a greater effect on the game than their scoring might suggest. Kaylee had just four points on two of three layups, but played 33 minutes of defense with only two personal fouls.

Marta had four points, all from free throws, but played 40 minutes while keeping the ball away from the grasping hands of Jordin Canada and Japreece Dean. She conceded three turnovers, but had five assists.

Kiana had four points, also all free throws, but they came in the final minutes when UCLA was fouling for possession. Kiana's four-for-four free throws kept the Bruins from gaining ground at the end.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

Brit highlights video: her ten field goals.

A video interview of Brit, "We just wanted to be fearless."

The video press conference with Tara, Brit and Nadia,

A gallery of photos by Richard Ersted (

December 27, 2017

Up next: Conference season kicks off on Friday

All twelve of the Pac-12 teams step on the court Friday to begin the conference season.

The good news for the Cardinal: They begin conference play at home.

The bad news: They continue their grueling schedule with a game against the team that has been predicted to win the Pac-12 — that would be UCLA — on Friday evening at 5:30, followed by a game against USC on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.

There will be a chalk talk before each game in Kissick Auditorium

The media coverage for both games is:

The San Francisco Chronicle has published a collection of articles that evaluate the Pac-12 Teams:

December 25, 2017

Stanford's 17 year-run in AP women's hoops poll ends

The Cardinal on Monday fell out of The Associated Press women's basketball poll for the first time since the 2001 season, ending a streak of 312 consecutive ranked weeks... (Click here for more.)

December 21, 2017

Lady Vols victorious

Brittany celebrated her return from injury rehab by scoring 27 points in 28 minutes of playing time, including a number of crowd-pleasing drives. Nevertheless, despite solid defense, Stanford was unable to match the accurate shooting of the Tennessee squad, especially in the first half when the Volunteers hit 57% of their shots.

In the pre-game talk, Tempe said they expected a zone defense, and the way to beat it was to hit threes. Unfortunately the threes didn't drop; Stanford hit only two of 15 tries, so the zone didn't open up. And the free-throw woes continued — the team hitting 11-22 and leaving points on the table.

Stanford did out-rebound Tennessee, 48-35, which is the first time anyone has out-rebounded the Vols this season. And the Stanford defense did hold 6'6" Mercedes Russell to eleven points, well below her average.

As a result, in the final quarter Stanford came within six, at 62-68. But in the final minutes Tennessee hit 16-of-16 free throws and the Cardinal were unable to find even an opening for a three-point shot.

Brittany opened the game with a driving layup and ended with 27 points (one short of her career high) and two steals.

Marta had nine points, and nine assists (with only one turnover), and a steal.

Maya started for the first time in her career. She out-jumped Mercedes Russell in the opening tip-off and gave the Cardinal the first possession. She scored eight points, plus five rebounds and one emphatic block.

Nadia contributed 21 minutes of strong defense and offense, mostly in the second half, and scored eight points and seven rebounds.

Alanna played 24 minutes, mostly in the first half, scoring six points, seven rebounds, and five blocks.

Kaylee scored four points, with seven rebounds and a block.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The video press conference with Tara and Brittany (begins at 16:30),

And the game highlights video.

December 20, 2017

Kudos for Kiana

Michelle Smith has written an article about the top freshmen performers in the Pac-12 so far this season, including this evaluation of Kiana's achievements:

Kiana Williams, Stanford. With starting guard Brittany McPhee out of the lineup since the first weekend of the season with a foot injury, Williams, a 5-foot-8 guard from San Antonio, has made the most of her opportunity to play. Williams is the Cardinal’s second-leading scorer among active players, averaging 7.5 points a game. But Williams came up big of late, averaging 15 points a game over the past four contests and has hit 17 3-pointers over that same span. As the Cardinal have dealt with injuries, Williams has led the freshmen into more prominent roles on the floor for Tara VanDerveer’s team.

Read more here: Pac-12 women's basketball freshmen make big impact

Lady Vols seek perfect start before break

Here's hoping that the Cardinal fights like a wounded animal on Thursday night, as Lady Vols' assistant coach Dean Lockwood predicts: Lady Vols seek perfect start before break

Next up: Cardinal vs Orange

The Stanford Cardinal and the Tennessee Lady Vols will meet for the 35th time on Thursday evening at 6:00 in a series that began in 1988.

The meeting between these storied rivals is always a big game and that's especially so this season.

For the Cardinal, it's a chance to show that they're ready to play with the big kids. A loss on Thursday will quite likely drop them out of the AP Top 25.

Wear your cardinal sweater or shirt to Maples and make lots of noise to encourage our struggling team.

Tennessee, in the sixth season of the Holly Warlick era, is finally playing with the spirit and cohesiveness that led the Lady Vols to eight national titles. They are currently one of the eight remaining undefeated teams in the nation (11-0), are ranked 7/7 in the national polls, and have an RPI of 18.

The Lady Vols have lost their prior five games at Maples. A victory on Thursday will go a long way to prove that they are for real this season.

The Lady Vols are a big, strong team with seven of ten players taller than six feet. They lead the nation in rebounds with 51.3 per game.

Their aggressive play results in a lot of fouls — they receive more than they commit and lead the nation in free throws attempted and made. Although their success rate is only a mediocre 69%, they average twice as many made free throws as their opponents (19.0-8.2).

The Lady Vols are led by senior guard/forward Jaime Nared (17.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and 6'6" redshirt senior center Mercedes Russell (16.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Russell makes 66.1% of her attempted shots — the eighth-best in the nation.

The veteran leaders are ably assisted by four All-American freshmen — the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country in 2017.

Freshman guard Evina Westbrook runs the point for the Lady Vols. She averages 5.1 assists per game with 3.5 turnovers and adds 8.5 points per game.

Freshman guard/forward Rennia Davis has started every game and contributes 12.3 points and 8.4 rebounds.

Freshman guard Anastasia Hayes comes off the bench and adds 12.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.1 rebounds.

(Whatever happened to Diamond DeShields? She opted out of a redshirt senior season and is playing pro ball in Turkey.)

There are Tennessee's roster and season statistics.

This is the media coverage of the game:

December 18, 2017

Cardinal gives up comeback win to Leathernecks, 64-71

This game had an unusual plot line, and in the end a disappointing one. After scoring the first couple of buckets, the Western Illinois defense took effect, and after several turnovers, the quarter ended with Stanford down 14-21. Indeed it could have been much worse; the Leathernecks missed five three-point attempts in the quarter.

The second quarter started well and only got better for the Cardinal. Maya hit a layup, Alexa hit a three, Marta got a turnover and a fast break pass to Alanna, and the score was tied. The visitors seemed to be rattled and their shooting went completely cold. At the half, Stanford was ahead 33-24, having outscored Western Illinois 19-3 in the period.

Some sort of half-time "adjustment" was made by coach J.D. Gravina, because the team that had looked like anything but leathery now started a come-back. Despite a couple of crowd-pleasing hustle plays by Anna, the third quarter ended at a close 47-45.

In the fourth period the visitors pulled ahead while Stanford's ability to score seemed to evaporate. Particularly disappointing down this stretch was free-throw shooting: for the game, the Cardinal made 8 of 19, a poor 42% rate.

In a desperate attempt to close a seven-point gap, Kiana and Anna shot five 3-pointers in the last 35 seconds, but missed them all. However, Kiana was fouled on another attempt and made all three of her free throws.

Alanna worked very hard in the paint, being doubled every time she had the ball down low, often missing and getting her own rebound for another try. She ended with 18 points, 15 rebounds, three assistsa steal and two blocks.

Kiana scored 17 points., including three of eleven 3-pointers.

Anna also sank three 3-pointers (on 15 tries), a total of 13 points, six rebounds and three steals.

Alexa had eight points, hitting two of four 3-point tries.

Maya had seven points in limited minutes on 3-8 shooting.

Kaylee had the game-high 18 rebounds, as well as three blocks.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

And the audio press conference with Tara.

December 16, 2017

Cardinal romps past Lady Rebels 74-33

Before the game, Assistant Coach Lindy gave her first-ever "chalk talk" for fans, and reported that Brittany was still "day to day" but wouldn't suit up today. She did not mention DiJonai, but she also was in street clothes, although looking healthy. Lindy also mentioned a new starting lineup meant to reward recent good performances: Shannon, Anna, and Kiana joined Alanna and Kaylee in starting.

With Brittany and DiJonai on the sidelines, Tara had twelve available players. The result was a most unusual Stanford box score: twelve players played and all twelve scored.

The game opened disastrously badly for UNLV. In the first four minutes they were able to take only one shot, which missed. Other than that they gave up the ball on four successive turnovers and a steal. At 6:56, with the score 10-0, coach Kathy Olivier called time. It didn't really help. The half ended with Stanford up 35-13. At 8:28 into the third quarter Kiana hit a jumper that made her personal score of 14 equal to the UNLV team's score.

Tara was sending in substitutes in ASU-like waves from the middle of the first quarter. In the end, nobody had more than 23 minutes on the floor. One effect was to keep fresh legs on the floor, facilitating the new high-speed offense. UNLV gave significant time to only eight players and they were visibly dragging by the fourth quarter.

Kiana led the scoring with her 14, hitting 3 of 4 long balls.

Alanna had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Maya also had 11 points, four rebounds, an assist and two blocks. She repeatedly catches the fan's eye with athletic, twisting moves and put-backs that are strongly reminiscent of certain Cardinal alumnae.

Anna had eight points, including two early three-pointers that set the tone for the first quarter, and two steals, one of which ended in a fast break layup.

Nadia was the fifth Cardinal who scored from beyond the arc today. She made two of two. As a team, the Cardinal made nine of 21, for a very nice 43%.

In the third quarter, ten players had been on the floor and of them, only Alexa had not scored. But by the end, she had scored seven from a three-pointer, a layup, and two free throws.

By that point, twelve had played and only Estella and Mikaela were without points. Fans cheered when Estella hit a three, and then in the final seconds Alexa, who would normally have just dribbled the clock out, fired a pass to Mikaela so she could score a layup before the buzzer. Twelve played, twelve scored.

At the chalk talk, Lindy said that Shannon has one of the bast basketball IQs on the team, and she showed that today in the first start of her college career. Her efforts didn't contribute much to the box score (three rebounds, three assists and two points), but she played solid defense for 15 minutes, quite unlike her brief appearances in the past three seasons.

Also notable were Kaylee's ten rebounds, which she grabbed while committing just one foul. She (and other members of the team) have too often limited their playing time this season with careless fouls. Today the entire team committed only seven — just two more than the Stanford record low.

The next game, against Western Illinois, will be quite a different affair, but it was nice to have a good old home romp for a change.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The video press conference with Tara, Maya and Kiana,

And the game highlights video,

December 14, 2017

Up next: At home with UNLV and Western Illinois

Updated Dec 15: The Cardinal and UNLV have played each other before, but not since 1993.

The Cardinal return to Maples after finals week for a welcome run of five home games, beginning with a pair against teams they've never played before — the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 and Western Illinois on Monday evening at 7:00.

It's almost Christmas, and Stanford Athletics is collecting toys for tots at both games. Bring a new unwrapped toy, for kids 8th grade and below, to help brighten a child's Christmas — you can get a free general admission ticket for each donation.

There will be a chalk talk before each game. There will also be a Behind-the-Bench session after the game on Saturday and several of the players will be signing autographs.

Neither game will be televised. The media coverage for both is:

  UNLV Lady Rebels

UNLV plays in the Mountain West Conference, where they stand fifth in the league with a 5-3 record. In the NCAA rankings, their RPI is 151 and their schedule strength rank is 173.

The Lady Rebels just played their best game of the season — a 52-50 victory over Gonzaga in Spokane.

The Lady Rebels have a balanced offense with four players who score in double digits: Junior forward/center Katie Powell (14.9 ppg), senior guard Brooke Johnson (14.1 ppg), redshirt junior guard Nikki Wheatley (13.1 ppg) and junior forward Jordyn Bell (10.3 ppg).

Johnson is the only one who shoots much from beyond the arc — she averages just under two 3-pointers per game. Powell and Johnson are the leading rebounders — they each grab not quite ten per game.

UNLV is still coached by Kathy Olivier, now in her tenth year as head coach at her alma mater.

This is UNLV's roster and season statistics.

  Western Illinois Leathernecks

The University of Western Illinois is located in Macomb, Illinois, which is about 200 miles southwest of Chicago. It is a member of the Summit League along with seven other mid-western schools.

Its women's basketball team stands at the top of the league with a 9-2 record. They're ranked No. 19 in the Mid-Majors Top 25 by College Insider. In the NCAA rankings, their RPI is 137 and their schedule strength rank is 261.

The Leathernecks are led by junior guard Taylor Higgenbotham (17.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.4 apg) and senior point guard Emily Clemens (15.8 ppg, 8.5 apg, 3.9 spg).

The Leathernecks' strongest assets are their ball-distribution and handling. They average 20.5 assists per game and rank tenth in the nation in that category. Their assist-turnover ratio is 1.50, which ranks ninth. Emily Clemens' 8.5 per game ranks third nationally.

The Leathernecks rank fifth in the nation in steals, with an average of 14.5 per game. Clemens is the head thief with 3.9 steals per game, sixth-best in the nation.

The Leathernecks are prolific 3-point shooters. Taylor Higginbotham takes 42% of her shots from beyond the arc. Three other players each take more than 60%. As a team, the Leathernecks make 10.8 3-pointers per game, which ranks fifth in the nation.

This is Western Illinois' roster and season statistics.

December 05, 2017

USF, Baylor and moving forward

The Stanford Daily's weekly roundtable discussion of Stanford Women's Basketball: USF, Baylor and moving forward

December 03, 2017

Cardinal smothered in Waco, 57-81

Baylor's defense, especially the defense in the paint from 6-4 Lauren Cox and 6-7 Kalani Brown, smothered the Stanford offense, producing an awful first quarter. After six Baylor steals and seven Stanford turnovers, the Cardinal could be almost glad the score was no worse than 8-25.

The Cardinal seemed to regain some composure in the second quarter, which opened with a nifty reverse layup by Kiana, who at that point had scored all of Stanford's points. Shannon was put in, one assumes to defend Brown, but she began to hit threes, and the team put together a 9-0 run and got within nine at 24-33. The half ended at 26-39.

No magical adjustments happened in the locker room. The Cardinal continued to play competent basketball; Alanna began to find ways to the basket through the bigger trees; Shannon continued to defend and to hit threes; but the Bears were clearly the better team and widened their lead slowly, but inexorably, to the final score of 57-81.

Shannon led the Stanford scoring with 14 points (her personal best) including hitting four of eight three-point tries (another personal best). Her defense contributed to holding the Baylor juggernaut to its lowest field-goal percentage of the season (a mere 43%) while comitting only one personal foul. This was definitely a breakout game for Shannon, who will likely get more playing time in future games than she has previously.

Kiana had 13 points (including three of eleven three-pointers, all in the first half (when for about 12 minutes of the game, she had all of Stanford's points). She ran the point for 34 minutes and was credited with two assists and zero turnovers.

Stymied in the paint, Alanna tried her outside shot and sank two of six long ones. She scored 11 points, plus a steal, two blocks, and five rebounds.

Maya showed great promise with two blocks, seven rebounds, and seven points on 3-6 shooting, including a couple of rebound-and-put-back plays that looked very Ogwumike-like.

Kaylee got into early foul trouble and played only twelve minutes, during which she grabbed the team-high ten rebounds.

Stanford now returns to "dead" week and finals, before three home games that precede the PAC-12 season, which begins late in December.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The audio press conference with Tara,

The game highlights video from Fox Sports,

And photos by Ernesto Garcia and Rod Aydelotte (Waco Tribune-Herald)):

Kiana launches one of her three-pointers
Kristy Wallace eludes Maya and Nadia
Kaylee grabs one of her ten rebounds
DiJonai drives to the basket
Alanna drives against pressure

December 01, 2017

Up next: A visit to the Baylor Lady Bears

The Cardinal have one more tough road game before they break for finals and dead week — against the Baylor Lady Bears in Waco, Texas on Sunday morning at 11:00 Pacific Time.

The last time Stanford and Baylor played was one of the most exciting games in recent Cardinal history.

It was five years ago in the championship game of the Thanksgiving tournament in Hawaii. Baylor was ranked No. 1 in both national polls. With three seconds left to play, the Cardinal was up 71-69 and the Lady Bears had possession. They inbounded to Brittney Griner, whose layup bounced off the rim. Chiney grabbed the rebound and the victory.

More reminiscences: Cardinal wins a nail-biter and The last 3 seconds revisited

But that was then, and Griner is long gone. Now Baylor is ranked No. 9 in the national polls, with a loss to UCLA and six wins. Kim Mulkey is still the head coach, now in her 18th season at Baylor, and the Lady Bears have another formidable 'big': 6'7" junior center Kalani Brown who is averaging 22.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. She has made 77% of her shots — the best field goal percentage in the nation.

Baylor has another star player in the front court: 6'4" sophomore forward Lauren Cox, who does quite a lot of everything — 16.7 points at .530 FG%, 10.2 rebounds. 3.7 assists and 3.2 blocks per game. She did not play in Baylor's loss to UCLA.

Here are Baylor's roster and season statistics.

This is the media coverage of the game: