January 30, 2018

Last Weekend: What the Doctor Ordered

By Warren Grimes

In a ripping tip off play, Stanford started its Friday game against ASU with Alanna Smith’s forward tip to a racing Brittany McPhee, who had an uncontested layup in the first 5 seconds of the game. Stanford never looked back in that game, or the next, scoring two convincing victories over the Arizona schools. Against nationally ranked ASU, it was a 24 point margin. Against a struggling Arizona team, it was 37 point margin, despite Stanford playing its reserves for most of the second half. These results were what Dr. VanDerveer ordered. Among the keys to Stanford’s success: Defense, Ball Control, and Three Point Shooting.

Defense: Playing good defense is not a novelty for Stanford. In ten conference games, Stanford is number one in scoring defense, allowing 56.2 points per game (well ahead of Cal’s second place 61.2 points per game). In field goal percentage defense, Stanford is also on top, limiting opponents to .343 (well ahead of Oregon and Cal’s .390 percentage).

As good as these numbers are, Stanford did better against the Zona schools last weekend, limiting them to an average of 46 points per game and a shooting percentage of .324. Also of note: Stanford had 20 steals in these two games. This 10 thefts per game rate is above Stanford’s conference average of 8.8 per game, and well above last year’s team’s rate of 7.2 steals per game.

Ball Control: Turnovers are silent killers. A lost ball means a lost scoring opportunity. Worse still, turnovers often lead to easy transition baskets for the opponent. Depending on the opponent, each turnover may generate a 2 or more point net gain for the opponent.

Stanford has averaged 15.3 turns in its 10 conference games. Its turnover margin (turnovers compared to opponent’s turnovers) puts it in 8th place in the conference. This weekend, happily, the two-game turnover rate was just 8 per game (while the Zona opponents averaged 14 per game). Equally impressive, Stanford generated 39 assists for the weekend (27 in the Arizona game), giving it a stratospheric assist/turnover ratio of 2.44. The team is unlikely to maintain this ratio, but achieving it last weekend is a positive sign.

Three Point Shooting: Stanford is shooting threes at a .316 rate in ten conference games, putting it in 7th place (OSU leads with a .419 rate). That rate is very un-Stanford like, notable after 6 years of having at least one Samuelson on the team. Last weekend, Stanford made 19 of 54 three point attempts, a .352 clip.

The weekend percentage is not great, but it is good. Maybe, just maybe, if Stanford had maintained this rate for all its conference games, it would have given the team an unblemished 10-0 record.

So which Stanford players have been most proficient in three point shooting during the 10 conference games? The answer may surprise you. Of the players with 20 or more attempts, Alanna Smith has made 11 of 28 for a .393 percentage. In second place is Marta Sniezek, converting on 8 of 22 for a .364 rate. Kiana Williams leads the team in three point shots made with 18 during the conference games, but is converting at only a 31% rate. Brittany McPhee (.316) and DiJonai Carrington (.321) have also shown hot shooting streaks.

To have a chance of winning games against OSU and Oregon, the team has to be able to convert threes. Perhaps last weekend will give the shooters a measure of confidence.

Ratings aside, with a share of second place, Stanford has now made a strong case for being one of the top three teams in the conference. This despite its 11th place conference rank in free throw shooting. To maintain or improve its status, Stanford must perform against the Oregon Schools this weekend. Playing at home, the Oregon schools should be favored in both games.

But abstract odds aren’t the issue. The issue is preparation, matchups, and, especially, attitude. I hope Stanford carries with it the attitude it brought to Maples last weekend.

Cardinal return to AP Top 25

After their victories over the Arizona schools last weekend, the Cardinal are back among the AP Top25.

Women’s basketball back in AP rankings at 24 (Stanford Daily).

UConn unanimous No. 1 in AP poll; Oregon soars to No. 6 (Associated Press)

They haven't made it back into the USA Today Coaches top 25 yet. They received 21 votes , which places them at #27.

January 28, 2018

Cardinal barrage sinks Wildcats, 79-42

Arizona opened in a 2-3 zone and in less than ten seconds, Kiana sank a three. A few minutes later, Marta hit a three. Then Brittany, and Brittany again, and Alanna, and Marta again. And then Kiana, again. At the end of the first quarter Stanford was up 22-10, on seven threes and one free-throw, and UA was pretty much done for the night.

In the second quarter both teams were able to execute some nice plays for two-point shots, but Stanford also got threes from Kiana, Alyssa, and Brittany. The score hit the Band's favorite ratio, 2x+4 ("where x is your score"), twice. At the half it was 43-16. Also at the half, rebounding was about even.

Not long into the third quarter Stanford began to pull ahead in rebounds and to score freely in the paint. These were signs that the Wildcats were tired, or discouraged, or both.

Tara apparently noticed this, because she began to sub. By the 2:00 minute mark in the third quarter, no starters remained on the floor, and the rest of the game was handled entirely by the B-squad. And in fact the teams split the fourth quarter scoring, 13-13, to the final score of 79-42.

Brittany had 15 points on 5-8 shooting, including three of five three-point tries (and fans began yelling Mc-THREEEE!), and four rebounds and an assist, in 21 minutes.

Alanna also had 15 points on 6-8 shooting, including three of four three-point tries, plus three rebounds, in 18 minutes.

Kiana had 11 points, hitting three of eight long-range shots, as well as seven assists and two steals.

Marta had eight points, three rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers and two steals in 24 minutes on the floor. She hit two of her four three-point tries.

Maya played 18 minutes and ended with 10 points on 5-8 shooting, plus five rebounds and a block.

Anna came in with the subs in the second half, played 13 minutes and hit two three-pointers and a layup for eight points.

Stanford's play in general was notable for a couple of reasons. First, there were 27 assists for the 30 made field goals. Almost every goal was the result of an assist, rather than an individual drive. This suggests that the "new" Princeton-like offense may be starting to work well.

Second, turnovers were at a lowly seven, a great improvement. All the recent practices that focused on "taking care of the ball" were having an effect.

Both these improvements will be tested next weekend at the Oregon schools.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The audio press conference with Tara, Maya, and Kiana,

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

January 26, 2018

Cardinal defense disrupts Devils, 74-50

The game began very well when, on the tip-off, Alanna, instead of trying to flip the ball back toward her team as usual, tapped it ahead, over the gathered Sun Devils. It looked like a planned play, because Brittany was already headed for the basket while the ball was in the air, and got an easy layup. The Sun Devils then brought the ball down and Alanna stole it for another easy layup. Stanford had two more steals in the following minutes and, even though they didn't score off them, they had the ASU offense looking confused. At 5:52, with the score 8-2, Charlie Turner Thorne called time and appeared to be irate.

After the timeout and a refreshing pep-talk from their coach, ASU picked up the pace and managed to come within one point at 13-12. But then Stanford's defense clamped down and the Sun Devils did not score again until three minutes into the second quarter. At the half Stanford was ahead by 15, at 41-26. At this point steals were 6-0 in Stanford's favor; rebounds 18-12; and turnovers, which had plagued the Cardinal in previous games, were 3 to 8.

The third quarter continued these trends, with Cardinal defense holding ASU scoreless for several minutes. At one point ASU had a possession of nearly a minute, the shot clock being reset by a foul and then by an O-board, yet the possession ended with a bad pass that was scooped up by Marta for a breakaway layup. Marta and DiJonai were leading the scoring through the first three quarters,

The fourth quarter opened with a remarkable sequence. On three successive possessions Marta drove in with the ball and passed it to a lurking Brittany for a score. Brittany had made only nine points in the first three quarters, but these quick buckets made her leading scorer, and the third one took her past 1,000 points for her career.

Brittany ended with 24 points on 9-11 shooting, plus two assists, a steal, and one dramatic block that brought a smug smile from Kaylee and a loud cheer from the crowd.

Marta had 13 points, a career high, on 5-10 shooting. She also recorded six assists and two steals, against three turnovers.

DiJonai also had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Alanna had eight points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block.

Kiana also had eight points, an assist and a steal.

All in all, the Cardinal played to the full extent of their abilities from the tip-off to the final buzzer and looked to be enjoying it very much.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

A video interview of Marta, "'I was looking to attack the basket,"

The video press conference with Tara, Britt, and Marta,

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

January 23, 2018

Kiana is freshman in name only

"Kiana is poised and composed in her first season at Stanford," writes David Keifer (Stanford Athletics).

Read more ...

January 21, 2018

Cardinal concedes win to Bruins, 53-64

As shown by the low final score, this was a competition of defenses, the Stanford smart defense versus the UCLA press and zone. For most of the game, each team impeded the other about equally. For example, turnovers were Stanford 16, UCLA 14 and rebounds were Stanford 37, UCLA 36.

As it turned out the game was decided in the first four minutes. During that time, Stanford had six possessions: five misses rebounded by UCLA, and a turnover. At that point the Bruins were ahead 10-zip; and that is the lead that they held to the end of the game. A few times, Stanford closed to within six, but they could not erase that opening drought.

As in the prior game, Tara substituted frequently right from the start, so that nine players had significant time on the floor.

Kiana had 14 points and three assists to offset one turnover. She had more success driving to the basket, where she was 4-6, than from long range where she made only 2 of 8.

Marta scored nine points and spent 35 minutes virtually nose to nose with Jordin Canada. She had five assists against four turnovers.

DiJonai had six points and eight rebounds, plus a steal.

Nadia also had six points and eight rebounds.

Alanna and Brittany had frustrating nights, scoring only five points and a few rebounds each.

Maya had four points in 13 minutes of play, and tallied one monster block.

Having split the Los Angeles weekend, Stanford returns home to play the Arizona teams.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

And the video press conference with Tara.

January 20, 2018

Cardinal snatches win from fingers of the Women of Troy, 59-55

Neither team played well, and for much of the game, Stanford played the worse.

The Cardinal opened by giving up turnovers on its first four possessions, and Tara was quick to sub in Maya, Nadia and DiJonai for starters Alanna, Kaylee and Kiana. She continued an unusually rapid series of substitutions as the tentative, sloppy offense continued.

Fortunately the Trojans were no better, except for a sequence in which they hit three consecutive three-point shots to gain a lead they would hold most of the game.

The first half ended with the Cardinal behind 23-26. At this point eight Stanford players had scored, but the leading scorer was DiJonai with five. Most of the others had two each.

The third quarter started no better. DiJonai was providing the only offense, and Stanford trailed by 14 midway through the quarter. Then DiJonai made a three, Kiana made a three, DiJonai hit two free throws, and Alanna made a layup, and the hole was a lot less deep. On the buzzer, Alanna dropped in a three to close the quarter at a more hopeful 41-45 deficit.

For the first two and a half minutes of the fourth, neither team could score. Then Marta stole the ball and laid it up to bring Stanford within one. Brittany grabbed a rebound and scored to put Stanford ahead for the first time in 30 minutes. The game was tied at 55-55 with 41 seconds to play, then Brittany scored to make it 57-55.

The Trojans called time to inbound the ball past the time line, and had 20 seconds to tie or win the game. Unfortunately for them, they instead turned the ball over on a bad pass. Marta iced the win with two free throws.

DiJonai had 15 points (on five of eight shooting, including two of four three-point shots) plus six rebounds and four steals. It was her play alone that kept Stanford from being buried in that dismal third quarter.

Brittany scored only two points in the first 35 minutes of the game, but came alive to score another 10 in the last five. She also had three assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Alanna scored nine, mostly in the second half, and blocked three shots.

Marta scored eight, including a critical steal and layup near the end. She had four assists and three steals, against two turnovers.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

And a video interview of Brittany, "We stayed together as a team".

January 19, 2018

Why we play

Mikaela Brewer(Stanford Daily):

"A few times, I’ve heard one of my best friends say 'wow, I just had a bigger than basketball moment'. Throughout the past year, I’ve really put some thought into those words, which hold more power than you may think."

Read more: Why we play

January 18, 2018

DiJonai is tough and full of energy

Tom FitzGerald (San Francisco Chronicle) says,

"[DiJonai] is known for her toughness, competitiveness and athleticism, as befits the daughter of a former NFL player."

Read more: Stanford’s Carrington inherited football toughness

January 17, 2018

LA schools rematch

Alexandre Bucket and Laura Anderson discuss Kaylee, DiJonai and the upcoming LA games in this week's Stanford Daily Women's basketball roundtable: LA schools rematch.

January 16, 2018

A Two-Weekend, Four-Game Assessment: Stanford is Better than Its Ranking

By Warren Grimes

Over the past two weekends, Stanford went 3-1, with the one loss coming at Arizona State. These four games were mid-season, and provide an apt opportunity to assess Stanford’s accomplishments and shortcomings. Kiana Williams started all four of these games, and is a significant reason for the team’s improved performance. She’s upped her game in a number of important categories. The chart below compares Kiana’s season averages with her averages for the last four games.

Minutes Points/Game FG % 3-Point % Assists/Game Steals/Game
21.6/31.5 8.2/12.0 .355/.441 .337/.348 1.3/1.75 .6/1.0

Kiana deservedly was chosen conference freshman of the week for the Arizona weekend. The likelihood is that statistics will continue to improve for this gifted freshman.

A veteran who has also upped her performance is Kaylee Johnson. For the season, she’s averaging .378 boards per minute; but in the last four games, she’s tearing down boards at a .452 per minute clip. She is, by a significant margin, the team’s best rebounder. She is also finishing underneath better. Her season-long field goal percentage is 46%; during the four game run, it was 60%.

Improvements came too for DiJonai Carrington. In the last 4 games, DiJonai shot 40% from three point range (compared to a 25.8 % clip for the season) and became the team’s # 1 theft artist. Her 11 steals during the four games was double her season-long steals per minute rate. Carrington also continues to be one of the team’s best rebounders, with the same per minute rebounding rate as Alanna Smith.

Alanna Smith did not up her point or rebounding performance, but the last 4 games showed her a more efficient scorer. Her field goal percentage, 51.2 for the season, went up to 53.3 in the last four-game stint. Her 3-point percentage is 32.6% for the season, but was 37.5% over the last 4 games. And Alanna’s assist numbers are up: 1.5 per game over the season, but 2.25 over the last 4 games.

Improved assist performance is even more dramatic for Brittany McPhee. She has averaged 2.9 assists per game over the season, but, for the last 4 games, had 3.75 assists per game. Indeed, Brittany was the number one assist maker during the last two weekends (Marta Sniezek was second with 3 assists per game). Brittany’s point per game average was down, but she is making collapsing defenses pay by picking out the open player. That is an indication that Stanford’s quick-pass offense is becoming more efficient.

Looking at the big picture, the conference continues to be highly competitive, with Oregon the only team undefeated in conference. Both Washington and Arizona, although losing by significant margins to Stanford, showed moxie under their new coaches. In not atypical fashion, Charli Turner Thorne has her team fast out of the gate. The issue for ASU in past years has been an inability to sustain that momentum in the second half of the season.

For this week, the AP pool has five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 25, with Oregon holding the #7 position. OSU, California, and ASU all made the lower end of the top 25. Stanford is unranked. Are all of these teams better than Stanford? Are they likely to be ahead of Stanford at season’s end?

Ask yourself this question: Would you want to trade players (and coaching staff) with any of these teams for the current Stanford lot?

A silly question. Stanford had a rough beginning; but now, almost all roads lead upward.

January 14, 2018

Cardinal Hounds Huskies 71-45

Although the UW Huskies had not won a conference game, Tempie in the pregame talk cautioned that they were well-coached and ran an aggressive defense that was meant to confuse their opponents with many different defensive looks.

This was evident in the first quarter when the Husky defense forced DiJonai to give up the ball on a five-second violation -- a rare type of turnover that we hadn't seen in a long time. Although the quarter ended with Stanford ahead 15-11, stats for rebounds, turnovers, and shooting percentages were even, and the team in purple were not looking like lap-dogs.

In the second quarter Stanford began to pull ahead on rebounds and perhaps the UW players began to feel the stress of running a constant pressing defense. The referees created some drama with multiple foul calls that the crowd wanted to overrule, and the half ended at 31-23.

The third quarter started well with a lovely block by Kaylee leading to a layup by Alanna. The Huskies dug in and pressed every inbound, and were successful in stealing the inbound ball on two successive tries. That didn't help them much; Stanford continued to rebound better and the quarter ended at 47-31.

The fourth quarter started with an exchange of three-point shots, but when around the seven-minute mark DiJonai hit a three and Alanna a layup to give Stanford a 20-point lead, some of the fight went out of the Dawgs, and from there it was a cruise to the final score. Defense was undoubtedly key to this win: Washington's Amber Melgoza, who came in averaging 22 points in conference games, was held to only five for this game.

Alanna led all scorers with 19 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Brittany had 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and a steal, and spent a lot of time and effort defending Melgoza.

DiJonai had 11 points on three of four shooting, including making both of her three-point tries. She also had five rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Kaylee led all rebounders with 12 and and all shot-blockers with five (5!)and was just two points shy of a double-double.

Kiana had an off-night for shooting, hitting only one of her six three-point tries, but still ended with seven points, two assists, a block, and two steals, and also contributed to defending Melgoza.

Every available player was given some time on the floor (Anna was still out recovering from a "high ankle sprain" , Maya was not feeling well, and Mikaela was cleared to warm up but not to play).

Alissa had five points including a three, and Estella made use of her short time on the floor to drop in a three of her own.

Encouraged by this pair of wins the team heads to Los Angeles for two challenging games next weekend as the PAC-12 season rolls on.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

A video interview of DiJonai, "We were clicking on all cylinders'',

And the video press conference with Tara, Alanna, and Kaylee.

January 12, 2018

Cardinal Contains Cougars, 70-57

In the pre-game talk, Coach Lindy spoke of how the team was disappointed with its showing at ASU, especially in rebounding and committing fouls. Rebounding had been the focus of practice all week. Here's a spoiler: it worked. At the half, rebounds were 30-11 in Stanford's favor, and the team committed only 15 fouls for the game, giving WSU only 11 free throw attempts.

The game opened in excellent fashion: WSU had four misses and two turnovers in their first six possessions and had to call time at 6:30 with the score 10-0. The Cardinal continued hot and the Cougs continued to miss, and the first quarter ended at 22-7.

The second quarter continued a spectacular rout, and at the half the score was 45-17. Stanford was hitting at a 63% pace, WSU at 23%, and rebounds, as noted, were 30-11.

Once in the second quarter and again in the third, the score hit the Band's favorite value, "two X plus four" but WSU began to show some signs of life. They mounted an aggressive, pressing defense and began to get turnovers, and the third quarter ended at 58-32 — still a healthy lead but not the runaway of the first half.

In the third quarter Stanford seemed to get sloppy or tired; the WSU defense produced turnovers; and the Cougs began to climb back. Half-way through the quarter DiJonai went up for a block, took a mighty swat at the ball but hit arms instead and ended up bringing herself and the opposing player down hard in a heap, ruled an unsportsmanlike play.

On a positive note, a minute later Kaylee scored her tenth point to cinch a double-double, and got a solid cheer from the crowd.

The score for the fourth quarter was 12-25 and, as one annoyed fan said, "If it had gone on much longer we could have lost it." In truth the cushion was ample and there was no real danger of losing, but it was disappointing to see a lack of the killer instinct needed to finish the game crisply.

Alanna led all scorers with 20 points on 10-18 shooting. Several times she went up from the middle of a scrum under the basket to receive a lob pass, and writhed her way through multiple defenders to finish the play. She also stole the ball twice and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.

Kiana had a hot hand tonight and earned a career-high 36 minutes of playing time. She scored 15 points on two midrange jumpers, a layup, and three (of six) three-point attempts.

Brittany had 12 points, plus five assists, three steals, and a block.

Kaylee added the game-high 15 rebounds to her ten points for her first double-double of the season.

Nadia had five points and five rebounds, a steal and a block.

DiJonai had seven rebounds and a steal, but missed all seven of her shots.

With the sands of Arizona hopefully blown away by a solid win, the team will welcome the UW Huskies on Sunday.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video,

Ros interviews Alanna about upperclassmen leading the way,

The video press conference with Tara, Kaylee, and Alanna,

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

January 11, 2018

Cardinal v Cougars battle of the boards

The Cardinal and the Cougars meet in Maples tonight, each determined to rebound from a disappointing loss in its prior game.

And both teams are emphasizing better rebounding in their preparation for the game.

Sounds like it's going to be a real battle of boards.

Cougars try to rebound from tough loss by Avery Cooper (Daily Evergreen)

Stanford women need to rebound in more ways than one by Tom FitzGerald (San Francisco Chronicle)

January 10, 2018

New year. Same people. New goals

From the Stanford Daily:

Mikaela Brewer writes that teams are great if they are a team and concludes:
Every day, for each other, we
Admire one another. It would be crazy to doubt us now, because we’re
Motivated by these things, even as simple as they are.
Read more: Brewer: New year, new team?

Ellie Chen and Alexandre Bucquet, Ellie Chen, Laura Andersen, and Gregory Block discuss the team's strong 3-0 start in conference play and what it needs to learn from the loss to ASU: Women’s basketball roundtable: Conference play starts

January 08, 2018

Kiana is Pac-12 Freshman of the Week

Kiana is named the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Freshman of the Week after averaging double-digit point totals in a weekend road split of the Arizona schools. The honor is the first of Kiana's career and Stanford's fifth all-time freshman of the week selection.

Read more from Stanford Athletics: Williams wins freshman honor

Weekend wrap-up

Women’s basketball improves to 3-1 in Pac-12 after weekend on the road by Alexandre Bucket (Stanford Daily)

January 07, 2018

Sun Devils Scorch Stanford 66-73

At the start of this game Stanford and ASU were evaluated as evenly matched in the national polls (USA Today Coaches Poll gave each team 6 votes; the AP Top 25 had Stanford at 23 and ASU at 24), so a close game could be expected. In the end it was fairly close, with the decisive factor being a big gap in what had been a Cardinal virtue — rebounding.

The game got off to a good Stanford start, with Brittany hitting a three, Alanna scoring and getting a block, and Kiana scoring nine points. In addition, the Cardinal defense seemed to rattle the Sun Devils and caused them to commit a half-dozen turnovers. That quarter ended with Stanford up 20-14. Unfortunately that was the end of the good times.

In the second quarter, ASU stopped turning the ball over and went to a zone defense, which held Stanford to only 7 points. ASU won the quarter 7-21, and the score was 27-35 at the half.

The third quarter opened better for the Cardinal, with a nice layup by DiJonai. Defense caused ASU turnovers that were converted to scores. Stanford came back to within 3 or 4 points.

At the start of the fourth quarter, a steal and layup by Brittany, then a steal and layup by Kiana, tied the game at 50-50. However, ASU pulled ahead again, opening a nine-point lead.

With a couple of minutes left to play, Stanford was still down by nine, 56-65, and began fouling. ASU hit only half of the ensuing free throws, giving Stanford multiple opportunities to close the gap, but shots wouldn't drop, and the game wound down with Stanford down seven, 66-73.

The team stats are unusually interesting for this game. Stanford attempted 24 three-point shots, while ASU tried only nine. This suggests the effectiveness of the ASU zone, forcing Stanford to resort to the long ball.

The most notable statistic — noted frequently by Andy Landers doing color commentary for ESPN — was the huge gap in rebounding. In the third quarter the difference was Stanford 17, ASU 37; by the end, it was 24-47, almost a 2:1 ratio in ASU's favor. The Sun Devils took full advantage of their aggressive play, scoring 22 second-chance points on 13 O-boards.

Another striking stat was the difference in free throws. Stanford hit five of nine. Setting aside free throws taken for intentional fouls in the last two minutes, ASU hit 17 of 25, getting 12 more points from free throws than Stanford.

Kiana ended with 14 points (nine came in her red-hot first quarter), hitting 6-12, only one of them from beyond the arc.

DiJonai had 13 points on 5-10 shooting, as well as getting three steals and a block.

Brittany ended with 12 points, the team-high six rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Her long-range shooting woes continued as she hit only one of six tries.

Marta scored ten points. She launched four three-pointers, sank three of them and was fouled on the fourth (but made only one of her free throws). She had two assists and three steals.

Alanna had six points on 3-6 shooting, as well as a steal and two blocks.

The team returns home to play the Washington schools next weekend.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

And the game highlights video.

January 05, 2018

Cardinal Quells 'Cats 61-46

The Arizona Wildcats have for years been the weaker of the two desert teams. That may be changing under new coach (and Arizona alum) Adia Barnes, who is said to have a stellar recruiting class coming in, but it continues to be the case at least for this season. Stanford came to Tucson expecting a win, and got one. In the course of it they demonstrated some continued growth and improvement.

One point of emphasis by the coaches was to reduce the number of turnovers. This they did, giving up the ball only 11 times, against an average of 16. Another was to improve free-throw accuracy. That didn't really happen; the team went 5-8 (63%). Fortunately in this game free throws were not critical to the outcome. Another emphasis was to improve passing, and the team seemed to be moving the ball more freely and quickly than before.

The first quarter and the third quarter opened in almost the identical way: with the shot clock burning down, the ball came to Brittany who drove and put the ball up for a score, almost on the buzzer. Those two plays were pretty much all of Brittany's highlights for the night. Either Arizona had figured out a magic defense against her or she was just having an off-day, scoring only 8 points and going 0-6 from beyond the arc. Fortunately on this night, Stanford could win without a brilliant game from their star senior.

The tone for the first quarter was really set by Kiana, who drained a three-pointer on each of three successive Stanford possessions. Soon after, she hit a jumper. With scores by four other Cardinal players, the first quarter ended 23-11.

In the second quarter, Stanford went through a short scoring drought and let the Wildcats come back within 6. Then Alanna took charge, making a layup, a three, a jumper, and assisting Alissa to hit a three, while the team's defense squelched Arizona. Stanford went to the locker room up 14, at 35-21.

Both teams made nice plays during the third quarter, but it ended 51-37. In other words, both teams had scored 16 points, and Stanford was still up 14. It appeared then that they just had to play good defense to run out the game. And so it proved, with Stanford matching every advance by Arizona and a little more, to finish 61-46.

An important reason for a relatively easy win was that the Cardinal out-rebounded the Wildcats 51-32, including leading 25-14 in offensive boards. That allowed Stanford to take more shots, 68 versus Arizona's 53 attempts.

Alanna carried the team through difficult patches, finishing with 12 points on 50% shooting, plus five rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

Kiana also had 12 points, nine of them in that red-hot first quarter run, on 50% shooting. She played 34 minutes and had two assists and a steal, against one turnover.

DiJonai played only 22 minutes but into that time she packed ten points (on 5-11 shooting), nine rebounds, two assists, and three steals. She had a couple of tough rebound-and-putback plays under the basket.

As mentioned, Brittany had "only" eight points, seven rebounds, and two assists.

Nadia had five points, five rebounds and a block in a short 14 minutes playing time. In about the same time on the floor, Kaylee had four points and eight rebounds, plus three blocks.

Marta launched an uncharacteristic four three-point shots, hitting one; as well as being credited with five assists (against two turnovers), three steals and — a block!

On Sunday Stanford takes on the much stronger ASU team in Tempe.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A video interview of Alanna,

And a gallery of photos by Stan Liu (Arizona Athletics).

January 03, 2018

Every disappointment is a blessing

Tara says, "We are playing an extremely demanding schedule and our team is embracing that and really working hard. By the end of the year, I am hoping this is one of the most improved teams we have ever had.”

Read more about Stanford's challenging season by Rhiannon Potkey (Summitt Hoops):

Tara VanDerveer’s Stanford benefits from early tests

January 02, 2018

Restoring Order

By Warren Grimes

In life, as in sports, we learn to expect the unexpected. Surprises can be pleasant or unpleasant. Stanford women’s basketball fans got a heavy dose of the unpleasant variety this Fall. In 12 pre-conference games:

Stanford closed the non conference season at a .500 clip (6-6), unprecedented since Tara VanDerveer’s first years;
Stanford dropped out of the top 25 rankings for the first time since 2001;
Stanford, which relies on three pointers, shot 29.6% in its non conference games;
Stanford shot free throws at a 63.5% clip in its first 12 games, the conference’s worst performer; and
Stanford was plagued with turnovers, even in games that it won (a 16 per game average in the first 12 games).

For most, these disappointing outcomes were unexpected.

To be sure, one can find explanations for all of this.

Five of six losses were against top 10 ranked teams.
Only two of the six losses were at home.
Stanford was attempting to replace three top performing seniors from the previous season.
Stanford was implementing a new offense.
Stanford lost to injury its leader and top scorer (McPhee) for 9 games.
Stanford lost to injury its then second leading scorer (Carrington) for 2 of the losses.

In the new year, things are looking up. Stanford is 2-0 in conference after last weekend’s two impressive wins. The team won against quality teams (#11 ranked UCLA and a USC team that ended the non-conference season with a 10-1 record). In these two games, Stanford executed, not perfectly, but impressively. For the weekend, Stanford shot three pointers at a 39.4% clip, and free throws at a 69% clip.

Turnovers were still a problem - Stanford averaged 19 for the weekend. But rebounding, already a strong point in the opening games, continued to be a major plus (44.5 per game as against 32 per game average for opponents).

The two games gave a number of players a chance to shine. Starting with Brittany McPhee (23.5 average points per game) and Alana Smith (13.5 per game average and the team’s leading rebounder), the veterans have stepped up. Marta Sniezek is still far from a scoring machine, but this weekend managed 6 points per game and continues to shine on assists (5.5 per game) and a strongly positive assist to turnover ratio (2.75 for the weekend). Kaylee Johnson is a motivated defender, shot blocker, rebounder, and opportunistic scorer.

There have been other pleasant surprises. At the top of my list is Nadia Fingall. She played an average of 21 minutes in the two weekend games. In this relatively short span, she averaged 8 points, 4.5 boards, and played well in other aspects of her game as well (.750 FG percentage, 3 blocks, and 3 for 4 from the charity stripe). She plays well in tandem with McPhee (Fingall has surged with McPhee back in the lineup).

Kiana Williams is also showing great promise. She is now the team’s 5th leading scorer while averaging under 19 minutes per game. She’s shooting threes at a .333 clip, free throws at a 91 percent clip, and has a 2.0 assist to turnover ratio. She will be in the lineup in end game situations where foul shooting is critical. Her leadership and assist skills still lag behind Sniezek, but her potential is great.

Maya Dodson has been starting of late – and is consistently winning the tip. She’s rebounding and blocking shots, but her explosive offensive and defensive potential has yet to be realized.

DiJonai Carrington also belongs on the pleasant surprise list. For the season, she’s the team’s third leading scorer and a great creator on offense. On a per minute basis, Carrington may lead the team in turnovers, but she is also generating steals. If she can discipline her game to minimize turns, watch out!

Much of the excitement for this year’s team lies in the potential of these players, plus a number of others who are getting substantial playing time. In three point shooting category, Anna Wilson, Alexa Romano, and Shannon Coffee are all hitting threes at a more than 30% clip. And Alyssa Jerome seems a solid, consistent, and versatile player who will get playing time.

An interesting observation came from Coach VanDerveer, who said that last year’s team did not execute all that well, instead relying on Karli Samuelson. The challenge for the coaches and the team will be to morph into a finely tuned and consistently executing team.

Looking at the big picture, Stanford will have a tough time against a lot of its conference opponents. But this weekend restored some order. Every conference opponent will have to re-circle the Stanford game in red.

And there is something else: Stanford has much room for improvement and likely will be steadily progressing with each game.

January 01, 2018

Britt is the best

A week after Stanford fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001, Britt made sure the Cardinal are back in the rankings and back on top of the conference.

After scoring 27 points in the Cardinal's loss to Tennessee, last week she continued with 26 points against UCLA and then 21 against USC.

In recognition of these splendid performances, espnW has named Britt the National Player of the Week: Stanford's Brittany McPhee named espnW's player of the week

Stanford Athletics writes more: Britt's Back

Stanford back in AP women's hoops poll

One week after seeing its 17-year run in the poll end, Stanford is back in the Top 25. Click here for more about this week's poll.