No. 6 women’s basketball tames Wildcats to advance to Sweet 16

March 20, 2017, 10:23 p.m.

No. 6 and second-seeded Stanford women’s basketball (30-5) pounced to an early lead against seventh-seeded Kansas State (23-11) and maintained it to cruise to a 69-48 victory in Manhattan, Kansas, on Monday night.

Having learned their lesson from an upset scare against New Mexico State in the first round, the Cardinal started out hot, taking advantage of early foul trouble from Wildcat offensive frontcourt leader senior center Breanna Lewis. After Lewis earned her second foul in the first quarter—resulting in her heading to the bench—the Cardinal offense immediately dashed toward a 13-0 run and utilized Lewis’ caution to play more physically down the stretch in the first half.

Despite being the only top-four seed to not host the first two rounds of play, Stanford’s road rout supported head coach Tara VanDerveer’s confidence in her team’s road capabilities during Sunday’s press conference. The Cardinal shut down both Kansas State and the home crowd early in Monday’s fixture and didn’t step off the pedal until the end of the game.

Guard Brittany McPhee carried the load offensively for the Cardinal, totalling a game-high 21 points on 50 percent shooting, including sinking five of seven shots from the perimeter. The junior scored from all over on Monday while also taking advantage of defensive panic when handling the ball, earning five assists on the night.

McPhee credited her team and staff for encouraging her to take the open shots without hesitation: “The coaches had told us they leave shooters open. They guard the people who have the best shooting percentage. They were just really positive with me, telling me to step up and knock it down.”

In addition to McPhee, Stanford’s offensive display featured another great game from key role player sophomore forward Alanna Smith who tallied 19 points, seven rebounds, and three steals in an all-around contribution off the bench. With the performance, Smith continued her incredible run of late, in which the sophomore played a career February in addition to notching two consecutive nights with double figures in the points column.

Immediately after stepping onto the court in the first quarter, Smith earned an and-1 three-point play to put the Cardinal up by five points.

McPhee and Smith combined to go 7-of-11 in the decisive first half and totalled five threes—a major reason for the Cardinal’s 39-21 lead at half.

The Cardinal looked crisp throughout the entire night on offense, efficiently moving the ball around the entire court to get the best look on nearly all possessions. Stanford ended the night with 23 assists on 26 field goals made, and the extra ball movement allowed for open shots that resulted in 45 percent shooting from the field for the victors.

“Their balance is very, very impressive,” Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie told reporters following Monday’s match. “I don’t know that people give them the credit they deserve. If they shoot the basketball well, I think they can be a Final Four team.”

For the hometown team, the Wildcats never could gain serious momentum to challenge the high-flying and syncing Stanford squad determined on reaching the Sweet 16. While Lewis’ early foul trouble took her out of the game early, fellow senior leader Kindred Wesemann also struggled to find her footing throughout the night.

While the senior shot 83 percent (5-of-6) from the field on Monday, Wesemann simply couldn’t initiate much ball movement and spacing for the Wildcats as the Cardinal defense suffocated any ball movement, forcing 15 turnovers to only 12 Kansas State assists.

Stanford moves onto the Sweet 16 for the ninth consecutive season under VanDerveer and will now leave Manhattan, Kansas, to travel to Lexington, Kentucky, to face No. 14 Texas (27-8) who move into the next round after surviving an upset scare against NC State in the Round of 32.

Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup will be the second time the Cardinal face Texas this season as Stanford defeated the then-No. 8 Longhorns 71-59 in Maples Pavilion behind a career-high performance from McPhee who dropped 28 points to lead a comfortable statement victory in November.

VanDerveer still remains confident in her team’s ability while advancing to Lexington, telling reporters postgame Monday, “We played them [Texas] early. We played them at home. Our team is playing with confidence, but you know, I’m sure they’ll remember — that probably wasn’t a fun trip back to Austin.”

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’

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