Women’s basketball cruises to tournament win in Cancun

Nov. 27, 2016, 10:52 p.m.

“We just didn’t get it done on the defensive end,” head coach Tara VanDerveer stated following No. 11 Stanford women’s basketball’s (6-1) heartbreaking loss to an unranked Gonzaga squad just over a week ago. “We have a lot of work to do, but I think that we will have the players that will get to work.”

Heading into this past weekend’s Cancun Challenge, the Cardinal women not only fixed their defensive miscommunication but resoundingly marched to the tournament championship while increasing their level of play in every facet, defeating Northeastern (2-5) 74-45, Wichita State (2-4) 87-39 and Purdue (3-4) 78-69 in the tournament final to clinch the trophy.

Stanford showcased its impressive depth, starting three different rotations in each game, yet the Cardinal managed to click on both sides of the floor, holding opponents to 45 and 39 points, respectively, in the first two games of the tournament.

In addition to the three starting lineups, Stanford had three different leading scorers in its three games: junior forward Erica McCall, junior guard Brittany McPhee, and sophomore center Shannon Coffee. As a result of their depth and continuous sharing of the ball, the Cardinal entered into Saturday’s final as the 10th most shot-efficient team on the floor and was able to leave the tournament with the eighth-best mark in the country, shooting an astounding 49.3 percent from the field.

Stanford’s depth in rotations, however, could not have been possible without the three seniors on the squad, guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson, as well as McCall, the Cancun Challenge MVP. While Roberson came off the bench in the tournament final, the seniors remained menaces to opposition in every game, allowing the young players to find open space with Stanford’s increased ball movement.

While the offense scored in bunches, the Cardinal defense truly brought home the championship for the streaking Cardinal. Stanford led for the entirety of the first two games against Northeastern and Wichita St., and, ultimately, the Stanford defense clinched the championship by holding a hot Purdue to only 27 points in the second half of the final, as opposed to the 42 allowed in the first half.

Stanford started its weekend-long feast with a Thanksgiving Day win over Northeastern University, a 74-45 walloping powered by McCall’s 27-point performance in only 29 minutes played. After jumping to a 19-9 first quarter lead behind a hot start from sophomore Alanna Smith and a pair of three-pointers from Samuelson, Stanford hardly needed to look back at its opponent, increasing its lead gradually until the final whistle.

The Cardinal followed their Thanksgiving celebrations with another resounding blowout, this time delivered to Wichita State, which looked completely outmatched by Stanford from tipoff. Not only did the Cardinal defeat the Shockers by a large margin, but they also could not be stopped by a struggling Wichita defense that allowed Stanford to drain 62 percent from the field. Six different Cardinal players ended the night with double digits in the scoring column, although no player remained in the game for more than 21 minutes on the night.

The deep rotation allowed for some much-needed rest in the midst of the three-day tournament, which ultimately translated into increased minutes for the starters in the final. Three Cardinal players, including McCall, played all 40 minutes for VanDerveer in Saturday’s final matchup.

Purdue took the lead from Stanford late in the first quarter and exploded offensively to end the first half with 42 points on 52 percent from the field and 56 percent from the perimeter. However VanDerveer’s defense found its rhythm by riding its original starting five for all 20 minutes of the second half.

Stanford subsequently held the Boilermakers to 29 points on a meager 33 percent shooting in the second half.

Samuelson earned herself recognition for her strong performance, as she was named to the all-tournament team. The 6-foot guard went 6-for-8 on three-point shots in the final, en route to another 20-point performance. On the year, Samuelson has hit 54.8 percent of her three-pointers, good for fifth in the Pac-12 conference.

“This is a total team effort.” VanDerveer told her team following the championship victory. “It was a great team win. Congratulations to Stanford. It’s always the name on the front that’s more important than the name on the back.”

The Cardinal will hit the road once again when they take on Cal State Bakersfield on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be shown on WAC Digital Network.


Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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