Upsetting No. 16 Oregon State and No. 6 Oregon on the road was no easy task, but the Cardinal did just that over the weekend. They are now in a three-way tie for first in the Pac-12. What did Stanford do to overcome both highly-ranked teams away from Maples?
Alexandre Bucquet (AB): The team played with tremendous confidence and was able to come up with big plays down the stretch. I think the Cardinal played their best basketball all season: limiting turnovers, getting open shots and turning defense into offense. In both games, Stanford was able to limit the offensive power of both the Ducks and Beavers, while taking care of the ball really well down the other end of the court. But I also have to give senior Brittany McPhee all the credit she deserves. When she gets hot, Stanford is unstoppable, as we saw against Oregon on Sunday. McPhee is one of the many X-factors for Stanford, and, when she plays well, all her teammates seem to also elevate their gameplay.
Jose Saldana (JS): Much like what Alex said, the Cardinal dominated defensively. Oregon averages 83.3 points per game (10th in the nation), and Stanford held them to 65 points on 40.4 percent field goal shooting. Against Oregon State, which averages 75.3 points per game, the Cardinal limited the Beavers to 57 points on 40.4 percent field goal shooting. Stanford’s defense did this by being multidimensional by limiting turnovers (averaged six turnovers through the two games), protecting the paint (14 combined blocks), stole the ball often (17 combined steals) and prevented good looks from beyond the arc. Oregon and Oregon State combined to shoot 29.3 percent from the three-point line. It also doesn’t hurt when your best player, McPhee, scores 31 points in a half of one game and records a double-double in another game.
The Cardinal return to the Farm to play three straight home games against Utah, Colorado and Cal. Each of those teams are in the middle of the Pac-12. However, after the excitement of upsetting high-quality squads, teams tend to let up in the next game. How can Stanford ensure victories against middling Pac-12 opponents?
AB: After a rocky season start, the Cardinal know that they can never let their guard down. As Arizona State showed earlier this season, Stanford is vulnerable against any opponent if it doesn’t approach every game the same way. As I have said all season, the team needs to continue rebounding and play lockdown defense as they have in this last stretch of games. Great defense turns into great offense for the Cardinal, and allows the team to go on huge scoring runs like the ones we saw over the weekend, especially against the Ducks, when the Cardinal scored the last 19 points of the contest.
JS: This team probably isn’t capable of letting its guard down under coach VanDerveer. After a bad start to the season which saw the Cardinal go unranked for the first time since 2001, Stanford cannot afford to give lackluster effort. This shows in the defensive play of the Cardinal. While a subpar offensive performance could happen due to bad luck, Stanford still needs to rely on its defense to shape its identity for the rest of the season. Teams like Utah and Colorado won’t be able to overcome the Cardinal’s defense as most teams cannot deal with it either (i.e. Oregon and Oregon State).
McPhee was rightfully awarded espnW National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week. However, another Cardinal was recognized for her production last week. Freshman Kiana Williams earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. How has she improved from the beginning of the season to the incredibly productive player she is now?
AB: As head coach Tara VanDerveer said a couple of weeks ago, Williams isn’t a freshman anymore, she is Stanford’s starting shooting guard and backup point guard. So far, Williams is truly living up to the expectations: She provides the scoring the Cardinal need at the two spot through her ball-handling skills and her shooting abilities and also paces the floors thanks to her passing game. Williams is without a doubt the future of this team, and every game she plays with more confidence and eagerness.
JS: The freshman from San Antonio has been impressive for the most season. After averaging 3.1 in her first seven games, Williams exploded for 17 points against San Francisco and ever since then, her scoring average has gone up to 8.8 points per game. She has started in her last 14 games as the backcourt mate of junior Marta Sniezek. They complete each other well, as Sniezek takes the traditional point guard duties (4.46 assists per game) and Williams can focus on scoring and perimeter defense (1.6 steals per game in her last five games). It has been really fun to see Williams develop throughout the season. Her role has been a huge positive for the Cardinal and could prove pivotal in the postseason tournaments.
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu and Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.