“10, 9, 8 …” echoed all night long through the near-empty gym. While one bench was cheering on a rout, the other was counting down the seconds on a shot clock that was never in their favor.
Maples Pavilion hosted No. 6 Stanford (20-2, 17-2 Pac-12) for just the fourth time all season, and did not favor the visiting Arizona State (10-8, 5-8 Pac-12) on Friday. The Cardinal left with a 80-41 victory and a lot to like heading into Monday night’s showcase against No. 10 Arizona.
Arizona State took just 53 shots, which has been their style all season long. They play aggressive defense and grind down the clock on offense, and have rode that game plan to the second-ranked scoring defense in the Pac-12. Stanford, however, had no trouble breaking down the defense, and even shot a season-high 57.9% from the field after flirting with 70% for much of the first half.
For nearly the first seven minutes, Stanford held Arizona State scoreless. It took 11 shots for Arizona to hit from the field for the first time. Five different Arizona State players have led the team in scoring at one point this season, which can be a sign of balance, or a sign that Stanford could not have to gameplan to stop one transcendent scorer. On Friday, forward Eboni Walker’s 11 points paced her team. Stanford could live with that.
Head coach Tara VanDerveer was excited that her team played a consistent four quarters, winning all four for the seventh time this season. VanDerveer could have pointed to nearly anyone on her roster, but highlighted sophomore forward Haley Jones for staying engaged throughout the game. Jones made an easy living playing within the flow of the offense. Her 11 points came on an effortless 5-of-6 shooting and Arizona State had no answer. When she sat, as she did for just over half the game, she was active on the bench.
“We’ve been working really hard to play four quarters, and to really challenge our team to win four quarters, not have one good quarter and then get bored or go to sleep or lose focus,” VanDerveer said. “A big part of our — look at Haley Jones going 5-for-6. I thought Haley’s focus on defense and her focus on offense was really good. We need people to be really focused the whole game.”
Stanford got 17 points from sophomore guard Hannah Jump. Her prettiest two came on a left handed runner that showcased her growth on the offensive end since last year. In her freshman season, Jump took 83.2% of her shots from beyond the arc. This season, that number is down to 75.9% and on Friday she took 5 of her 13 shots from 2-point range, making four.
Senior guard Kiana Williams led the team in scoring with 18 points, while shooting 7-of-9 from the field with three steals in 24 minutes. Junior guard Lexie Hull finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two steals in a team-high 28 minutes. VanDerveer was clearly monitoring court time and wanted to limit exposure to injury. The Hall of Fame head coach also referenced the grind of the Pac-12 tournament, which could mean playing three games in four days if Stanford is one of the top four seeds and advances to the finals.
Junior guard Lacie Hull picked up an injury to her left shoulder, which she iced for the second half. “Lacie got dinged a little bit,” VanDerveer said. “She should be back.”
Returning from a three game absence in the concussion protocol, sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Sophomore forward Fran Belibi added 10 and Stanford cleaned up on the boards 48-21.
Freshman guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu took advantage of her eight minutes on the court, tallying five rebounds, three of which came on the offensive end. Emma-Nnopu also has taken advantage of being back on campus and the continuous access to a gym. Both she and VanDerveer referenced the extra time afforded to her to work with associate head coach Kate Paye.
“It’s great to be back in Maples, it means that we can get extra shots up, which I’ve been definitely utilizing,” Emma-Nnopu said. “In particular with Kate we’ve been working on a lot of ball handling, passing, passing into the post and also just trying to develop a jump shot as well.”
“She works really hard in practice, she’s been working everyday extra with Kate,” VanDerveer said. “It’s a big adjustment from, you know, anytime you go from high school to college, but she has [a] fabulous mentor in Anna Wilson. I think Agnes is a future defensive stopper in the same way that Anna is. And she rebounds. I love how aggressive she is, how she gets on the glass, she took the ball to the basket and it was fun to see her finish.”
As for guard Anna Wilson herself, the fifth year has just two turnovers in her last 196 minutes and one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios on the team. She improved that number with a turnover-free four assists on Friday.
“Maybe that’s kind of the quarterback in her, she doesn’t want any interceptions, it runs in the family,” VanDerveer said. “She really is a competitor and she doesn’t need to score, score, score. She realizes that she makes valuable contributions by making assists, taking care of the ball and playing great defense.”
Besides Wilson, the rest of Stanford struggled with turnovers. Stanford had 14, and were fortunate that Arizona State converted them to just eight points. VanDerveer chalked it up partially to Arizona State’s aggressive style, then said, “I’m not going to split hairs over that.”
Stanford hosts No. 10 Arizona in a marquee matchup Monday at 6 p.m PT.