Friday, February 5, 2016

Stanford-Cal Battle of the Bay

It’s the middle of the Pac-12 season, so you know what that means, dear readers. The annual Battle of the Bay for the Stanford Women’s Basketball team with arch rival Cal.

Stanford rode Erica McCall’s 11 points (plus 13 boards for her 13 th double double) and Karlie Samuleson’s three-pointers to beat Cal 53-46. Karlie was 4-5 from three-point land.

Stanford hats off to Lili Thompson. She had tape on her shooting hand, holding her fingers together, and it was clear it affected her shooting touch. When her three wasn’t falling, she moved inside to jumpers, when that didn’t work, she started going in for lay ups. And they were not easy shots. She kept herself in the game and found a way to contribute to her team. And although she was 3-15, she chipped in 11 points.

Stanford D also held Cal’s outstanding freshmen, Kristine Anigwe (who reminds C and R an AWFUL lot of an Ogwumike), to 17 points. She usually scores around 20. She had nine in the first quarter, until Stanford stifled her for only eight points over the next three quarters.
Couple that with only seven active players for Cal (injuries, people leaving the program) and it was hard for Cal to bounce back.

So Stanford won the first one, and it was weird, Stanford players did not seem happy with the win, perhaps they knew they did not play well. Their demeanor as they left the court was not one of a jubilant team. They did have 15 turnovers. However, Cal had it worst, only shooting 28% for the game, with 2-11 from three-point land. Would that hold for game two?

The Stanford Team
Lili Thompson looks intense in the Battle of the Bay.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.
Part II
In this one, Stanford players got the green light to drive and go 1 on 1, be selfish and create their own shot, a little different from other games where they pass and pass until they find an open player. Or maybe head coach Tara VanDerveer said only the Johnsons are allowed to score in the first half?

At one point Kaylee Johnson put the ball on the floor and got a layup. Even the Pac-12 announcers noticed, saying she was not shying away from contact around the basket. Then Kailee Johnson got in to the act, and when she put the ball on the floor, Cal was so surprised no one stopped her and she got a layup.

C and R are sorry to report that Lili was cold again. And yes, her fingers were taped again, which affects her shooting touch. Karlie Samuelson got in to foul trouble, picking up three before the first half ended and sat. The most disturbing fact of the first was that Lili and KSam had zero points in the first.

Luckily for the Johnson and Johnson show in the first, with them scoring 10 and 9 points respectively. You have to figure out which is which. However Stanford found themselves down seven, 27-34. Cal kept themselves in the game by out rebounding Stanford, especially on the O boards.

Another interesting tidbit, walk on Kiran Lakhian got in to the game for four minutes in the first. She usually does not play or only goes in the final seconds. With such a deep bench, we wonder why Tara called her number?

Then, the start of the second and everything went sideways for Cal. Stanford, possible fired up from a pep talk/scolding in the locker room went on an 11-0 run. Annnnd, held Cal to four points in the third quarter while scoring 15. Stanford got the lead for the first time and did not let go.

In the fourth, Stanford had 5 players in double figures. Erica McCall had another double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Brittany McPhee had 12 points, and a lot of hustle plays that won’t show up in the stat line. Kaylee Johnson had 11, and Kailee Johnson and Lili Thompson each had 10: Lili’s were all in the second.

Still, Stanford uncharacteristically made many mental mistakes in the last minute to keep Cal around, and it was a frantic finish. Cal’s Courtney Range hit a three with 26 seconds left to make it an exciting 56-53 Stanford lead. However Cal had to foul and Stanford hung on to win 60-55.
Stanford gets its 22nd regular-season sweep of Cal and keeps chugging to get back into the Pac-12 hunt.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stanford Whips the Washingtons

After a four game road trip, the Washington Schools came to town and the Stanford Women’s Basketball team enjoyed playing on their home floor. Lili Thompson, in particular, likes playing at Maples.

After scoring 27 to help Stanford beat Washington 69-53, two days later she scored a career-high 30 points to beat Washington State 69-52. Don’t get C and R wrong, though, these games were very different, and the WSU game was much closer than the score indicates.

Lili Thompson
Lili Thompson scored 57 points in two games.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

However, C and R would be remiss if we did not point out Stanford’s defense in the first game. Washington had the leading score in the country, Kelsey Plum, and Stanford limited her to seven first half points. Granted, she got loose in the second and man, can she create her own shots, ala Steph Curry, and she had 23 for the game. However, Stanford held her four points under her average. In that game, Stanford got hot early, thanks to Lili and enjoyed a double-digit lead from the first quarter on.

Contrast that to the Washington State game. Stanford was down by two at the half, 27-25. A little birdie told us WSU was filled with international players and they definitely did not back down. They certainly were not afraid of Stanford and never gave up hustling. WSU was very aggressive, especially in the defense. Stanford had to earn every basket. Curious, WSU used full court pressure in the fourth to rattle Stanford, yet inexplicably backed off of it. Stanford traditionally is not good with full court pressure.

One thing that saved Stanford in this game was the rebounding, Stanford had 46 boards to their 26. Kaylee Johnson regained her rebounding mojo by pulling in 19, with Erica McCall hot on her heels with 14. Erica added 11 points for another double-double, her 12th of the season. Karlie Samuelson added 10 points, including two three-pointers. However, it was Lili who helped Stanford build a second half lead with her 30 points in 33 minutes, 24 of them in the second half. She was 5-11 from the three-point line.

Kaylee Johnson
Kaylee Johnson had 19 rebounds vs WSU.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

Again, the defense came through, limited WSU’s leading scorer Borislava Hristova to nine points, half her season average. Lili Thompson drew that assignment and it was just the third time the Bulgarian native has failed to score in double figures this season.

Next game…Cal at home and away!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stanford Glad to be Or-e-Gone

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team (ranked #11) split two in the state of Oregon. First they played unranked Oregon, were trailing the whole game, and barely won 64-62. Then they played #12 Oregon State, built up a huge lead, and then couldn’t score in the fourth to lose 58-50. Two very contrasting games.

Stanford was without their tall tree Erica McCall, who was “not feeling well.” However they held Oregon’s lead scorer Jillian Alleyne to only three points in the first half and five total points. Stanford’s defense is often overlooked.

Kaylee Johnson got the start and made the most of it, and scored in double figures, finishing with 16 points. In fact, Kaylee looked like a different woman out there, hustling, yes, but so sure and confident, really going up strong when she got the ball, or an offensive rebound. We have not seen the type of swagger in her one and a half years on the farm.

What happened in the game, quite simply, Oregon was beating Stanford with threes. They connected on 12-21. Hats off to Karlie Samuelson for making a few herself (4-5) to keep it close. The fourth quarter started with Stanford only down by four.

In the fourth, after trailing the whole game, sometimes as much as nine points, Stanford got it within one with four minutes left, trailing 61-60. That score stuck around until Oregon’s Jillian made a free throw with 53 seconds left.

Lili Thompson
Lili Thompson wanted it!
Samuel Marshall/Emerald)
Cue the music, cue lights, cue our hero, Lili Thompson. Lili drove to her left and made a very tough lay up over two defenders with 35 seconds left to tie the game. And she was fouled! And she missed the free throw. Then rinse and repeat. Lili goes left, makes a tough lay up to go up by two with 2.2 seconds left, is fouled, and misses the free throw. A timeout advances the ball for Oregon and they even got a shot off, but it missed. Stanford hangs on to win 64-62.

Kaylee Johnson with 16, Lili with 16, and Karlie Samuelson with 18.

Oregon State
Which is harder for a fan to watch, trailing all game and heart attack with 2.2 seconds left for the win, or building up a huge lead, feeling good and munching popcorn, only to watch your team slowly starve to death for points and finally lose 58-50? C and R will answer for you. The second one.

This game was not without some Stanford highlights. It was good to see Kailee Johnson (no relation to Kaylee Johnson) have a break out game, take the ball up strong against a taller post and score 14, I believe a career high. Erica McCall was back in the lineup and scored 12. Alas, Lili’s magic from last game could not save them, and she ended up with nine points, and Karlie Samuelson had seven and fouled out of the game.

Tale of Two Halves
After trailing early in the first quarter, Stanford built up a nice lead against the Beavers in the second and even held them to nine points in the second quarter with a 17-6 run. The half time score was 30-21.

Then, Stanford held the Beavs (no relation to Justin Bieber) to nine points again in the third, but only scored ten points themselves, leading 40-30 to start the fourth. Then two things happened, Oregon State went to a zone and Stanford stayed in their same offense, which was not working, and Oregon’s Jamie Weisner got untracked. Wesiner only scored four points in the first half, and ended the game with 18. Also, Devan Hunter made 5-7 threes to end the game with 19. She had only made seven all season long.

How bad was it? Oregon State went on a 22-4 run to win 58-50. Wait, our math must be wrong. Oregon State outscored Stanford 28-10 in the fourth. Yowzza. Here’s more math. This win for Oregon was the first time in 15 years, snapping a29-game losing streak. The last time they won was 2001.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Stanford Beats Pac-12 East Teams

The Pac-12 East teams of the Colorado Buffalos (Yes! Really!) and the Utah Utes (believe it or not, not a typo from C) came in to town this week and Stanford beat both of them to climb up to  a three-way tie for third.

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team played the Utes first, and they get off to a slow start. Both teams. And this was after Stanford’s worst scoring performance against Arizona State. The first quarter in the Utah game ended with Stanford leading by a point, 13-12. Half time score had Stanford enjoying a slight 30-28 lead. Remember C and R’s last blog, saying this was a Jekyll and Hyde team. Well, it seems like when the Cardinal remember to drive in to the basket to score or draw a foul, or when they get an offensive rebound (and this is important) put it right back up, they do well, and win. This was the case with these two games.

Stanford finally pulled away early in the third quarter against Utah using this strategy and won 72-52. Four players scored in double figures. Lili Thompson and Brittany McPhee each scored 16 points. Karlie Samuelson adding 13, hitting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and Erica McCall added 11 points to go with her 11 rebounds. Another double-double for Erica. Brittany McPhee was the catalyst for the third quarter surge, and mostly, her ability to penetrate and draw contact. She was 6-6 from the free throw line.

This game started out as a rinse and repeat game. Slow start, score tied at the first quarter 14-14. However, Stanford turned up the intensity, especially in the second half. And, they drove and rebounded, and were not afraid to put it back up, in particular our two bigs, Kaylee Johnson (why doesn’t she start) and Erica McCall.

Kaylee Johnnson and Erica McCall
Kaylee Johnson and Erica McCall each grabbed a double-double.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

The two trees each recorded a double-double, with Kaylee totaling 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Erica finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and a game-high three blocks. Kaylee's 17 points was a career-high, and she also topped the team with four assists, a personal best. At one point in the game, she was leading in points, rebounds and assists.

This game, Stanford showed a lot of hustle and intensity, something sorely lacking in other games. Lili Thompson really wanted it, and a lot of white and red jersey hit the floor diving after loose balls. Stanford went 1-10 with their first 10 shots in the opening quarter, but the thing was they were all good shots, lay ups, put backs, etc.

The difference in the subsequent quarters was that they made those shots, and had confidence when they did take them, including those strong-to-the-basket put backs. And when Stanford drives to the bucket, good things happen. Stanford had 34 free throw attempts (!) and made 23 of them. That’s 67% for the game for those of you keeping score at home, and C and R are sure head coach Tara VanDerveer would like to see that percentage go up. Those are free shots, y’all!

Strangely, Lili didn’t score until deep into the second quarter, however she nailed a three, which also put her over 1,000 career points. She is the 36 Stanford player to reach that milestone. Congrats. Lili!
Final score against Colorado, 71-56.

Keep it going (or stick to your Mr. Hyde side!), Stanford!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Stanford Splits Two in the Desert

Last year, the Stanford Women’s Basketball team lost to Arizona in Tucson in February. You better believe that head coach Tara VanDerveer has not forgotten. Or forgiven. This time, the Cardinal were focused and alert and beat Arizona 59-35.

Shining Star
The shining star in this game was sophomore Brittany McPhee. She scored a season high 21, just three off her career high. She hit some threes (3-6), as is Tara’s game plan, everyone shoots threes. However what helped her score even more was her driving to the basket and taking contact. Sometimes she made the basket, or sometimes she made her free throws (6-8) but her fearlessness to go right at it, and the other team, really sets her apart.

Brittany McPhee
Brittany McThree! Photo Courtesy of Stanford Women's Basketball
You know who else was a shining star this game? Our Aussie Alanna Smith. She scored 16, mostly on threes (4-5) this game. She is tall and creates a mismatch when a tall player guards her and doesn’t’ not come out to the three point line.

Third shining star: the defense. Stanford held Arizona to 18% shooting in the first half, and 15 total points. It was the fourth straight game were Stanford forced their opponent to under 23 percent shooting. Stanford’s official site recorded that “both Arizona’s point total and field goal percentage were program lows for a Pac-12 game. The 34 points allowed also tied a Stanford record for fewest allowed in a Pac-12 game, matching the same total from a 60-34 win against Washington State on Feb. 8, 2007.”

Arizona State
Last year Arizona won BOTH games against Stanford.
Stanford had a rough night vs Arizona State - Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
This year they are half way there. Wanna here some depressing numbers? Stanford only scored 31 points in their game with Arizona State and lost 49-31. They set the school record for lowest points ever in a game. The previous record was 32, against Missouri State in 1984! They had just seven total points in the first quarter and 14 at the half.

More depressing numbers: Stanford hit just 11 for 43 shots and was 1-9 from threes. Live by the three and die by the three, and boy did Stanford die a thousand deaths. When the three ball did not fall, they had nothing else to go to. No real inside game. Erica McCall would take the ball to the hoop and then…stop? She scored 4 points. Lots of players missed lay ups and put backs. What happened to Brittany driving in and drawing contact? They looked waaaay to tentative.

Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde
This was the team that lost to Santa Clara. What happened to the team that beat Tennessee? Or Arizona a few days ago?  We want to see that team for the rest of Pac-12 play.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Stanford Crushed Cornell

Well, that was fun. It was billed as the battle of the brains, as the Stanford Women’s Basketball team took on Connell for the first time ever, and killed them 53-13… the first half. The final score was 93-38. The only real dram was would the Stanford B and C teams get us to 100.

Cornell learned it’s not enough to be smart, you also need to have fundamentals. I don’t know what their coach does in practice, but accurate shooting motion, boxing out and hitting free throws are not one of them, from where C and R stood. It was embarrassing for them. And we had to check, yes they are division 1. Wow. No wonder women’s basketball gets a bad rap.

Erica McCall (24) goes for a rebound .
(Photo by Bob Drebin/
The neat thing about this, as we mentioned we got to see a lot of the bench players. All 14 played and 12 Stanford players scored, although all 14 grabbed at least one rebound! Five of those players were in double figures. Alanna Smith, a freshman forward from Australia, and Erica McCall scored 12 points each to lead Stanford. Karlie Samuelson and Lili Thompson added 11 points each and Kaylee Johnson had 10 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Glad to see her point total up. She lost her starting spot and needs to step it up in both points and rebounds if she is to get it back.

C and R was intrigued by senior walk on Kiran Lakhian. She hit three 3-pointers on four attempts and finished with nine points. Where did she come from? A senior walk on? The mystery was solved via an SF Chron article:

Kiran Lakhian is a senior walk-on who until this year hadn’t played since her freshman season. There wasn’t room on the roster for her the previous two seasons, but this year there was, Head Coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Lakhian said she played a little rec ball in the interim, “but after playing at the college level, it wasn’t the same,’’ she said. So she played pickup ball against the varsity players in the fall, and VanDerveer invited her to stay.

Next game is this Tuesday at 2PM, against Baskersfiled, and before your scratch your head, guess who coaches the team? Greg McCall, Erica McCalls’ father. Erica calls him her single biggest influence when it comes to basketball. Stanford waited for Tuesday's game to honor McCall for helping the United States win the gold medal at last summer's World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Her father will make the presentation during a brief pre-game ceremony. Now you have to play hooky from work and go.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Stanford Tops Tennessee

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team came out of the gate aggressive and focused, and walloped Tennessee 69-55. (C and R are boycotting the “lady” team name). This was a VERY different team we saw that lost to #5 Texas and unranked Santa Clara.

What changed? Well, for one thing, Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer can learn new tricks. Stanford’s player to player (wow, aren’t’ we being politically correct tonight?) defense was NOT working in past games. They could not help out when a faster player was able to beat the first defender. So Tara changed them to a zone, and boy did they help each other out, sometimes double and triple teaming the orange jersey with the ball.

Stanford Tops Tennessee
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The fun started early when NC transfer Diamond Deshields shot an air ball. The Rose Bowl-bound Stanford football team, who was in attendance to be honored at half time, started chanting “Airball.” Except they kept remembering to chant it EVERY time she touched the ball on offense! The second time they chanted it, she scored on a drive and gestured to the whole team, “Bring it!” Yikes. You don’t gesture to a whole section of 250 pound big boys all dressed in black on the road. Who is going to back you up? The water girl? The football team kept up the chanting the whole half! Six man assist to them. Diamond was held to 12 points in the game (and also shot an airball in the second half!).

As C and R said, Stanford was more aggressive on the boards, outrebounding 42-31. Still was a little distressing Stanford only had two offensive rebounds in the first half. But the zone enabled them to box out better. Plus Tenn was not making any threes (sadly, neither could the Cardinal, both teams going 0-5 in the first half).

Defense was excellent. Stanford limited Tenn to the second-lowest point total in the series between the two teams. Stanford held Tenn to 25% FG shooting in the first quarter and nine points in the third quarter. Nine.

So we love the new aggressiveness. C and R know Tennessee plays in the rougher SEC, but they showed little body control when Stanford was in the air on offense. Even thought they were taller and more athletic, they never went straight up for the block, always reaching across and fouling. Strangely, Stanford did not take great advantage of that. When they got the ball and started a drive, it seemed as if they were afraid to take it inside on 6’6 Mercedes Russell.  However, when they did, they drew contact almost every time.  Tenn had 25 total fouls for the game. BTW, Stanford led the block party 4-2, so who’s afraid of 6’6 now?

So here is Standard enjoying this 21 point lead in the third quarter, shooting 60% or so, and feeling some new-found confidence when the second half started and Tenn pulled out the ol’ full court press. We. Cannot. Handle. Pressure. Period.

Several steals and lay ups and a rattled Cardinal found themselves only leading by 7 late in the second half. Twice. However, Stanford showed some poise. And Freshman Marta Sniezek (pronounced Sneeze-ix by the announcer, it sounded like) showed great poise and ball handling skills. Once they got it across mid-court a few times without turning it over, they settled down and then Tenn had to play the foul game. Eight FT attempts in the last minute. Card cruises to the win.

Shout outs:
Lili Thompson scored 19 points, including seven during a crucial stretch
McCall had 14 points and 10 rebounds (another double-double, we might add)
Kaylee Johnson added 10 points. Good for her after she lost her starting job
Marta almost joined the double digit club, scoring nine

Awesome! Keep it up!