Friday, February 24, 2012

Stanford Keeps Home Streak Alive by Beating Colorado

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team got the win and the score looks like a blow out: 68 for Stanford, 46 for Colorado, and yet….Look, it’s hard to complain about a 20-something  point win, but C and R are troubled by this new Stanford offense.

Let’s start at the beginning. The game at Maples was lightly attended due to the school night start, but after the tip, Stanford was all business, on defense that is. They wanted to defend Maples, now that they own the longest home win streak due to a UConn loss, of all things, and the intensity showed. However, the offense stalled.

The half time score was 26-18, and the only reason Stanford had the lead was because Colorado also shoot poorly (33% for Colorado, 31.6% for Stanford) and sank no threes. And Stanford’s stifling defense made it hard to go inside. Stanford would have 6 blocks for the game, to none for Colorado. So what was going on with Stanford’s offense?

Stanford was lining up in a high line somewhere between the free throw line and the top of the three-point circle. The guard would bring the ball up, and, we think, quick passes at the top of the key were to ensue. If passing quickly enough, someone would be open for a three-pointer, or the constantly shifting defense would make a mistake and leave someone (such as Nneka or Chiney Ogwumike) open inside for a second.

It reminded C and R of the Stanford women’s soccer games we saw this season (shout out to their winning the Nat. Championship, BTW). The soccer tem played possession soccer, having the back line furthest from the goal hold, hold, hold the ball, constantly passing in a straight line parallel to the goal instead of attacking it, until the other team got lulled to sleep and boom, one of the back line players would kick it up to a streaking offensive player and then a goal. It worked really well.

The only problem with duplicating that strategy in basketball is there is a shot clock. You can’t just hold, hold the ball. The soccer players also moved with the ball, even if was only laterally. Stanford basketball players must have been instructed to hold the ball and pass quickly, and not dribble or move. Which they did, to their determent. It would be when the shot clock got down to under 10 seconds with no one open that someone, would try to drive in against two or three defenders. Did we mention they shot 31% in the half? And only made one three-pointer? The passes were not quick enough to free anyone up. Colorado was also trying to make a statement that they weren’t backing down on Stanford’s home court. They were very physical, however that strategy got their players into foul trouble, and an early shooting bonus for Stanford.

When Stanford did get it down inside to the sisters, or needed someone to drive Nneka or Chiney would make the moves and/or get fouled. The first six points were all made free throws, made by the Ogwumikes. In fact, the sisters O made the first 14 of 16 points.

The team also seemed to be getting used to where everyone was supposed to go in this new offense, and a lot of turnovers happened. Fifteen in the first half alone. Some could be attributed to Colorado’s quick hands, but the majority were passes that missed their mark. Stanford head Coach Tara VanDerveer must have addressed that at half time in the locker room, because only four more occurred in the second half.

Speaking of the second half, the team came out of the locker room to practice mid range shots. The first play of the game had Nneka hitting an outside shot just inside the three-point line. Someone joked that for a center that usually plays around the basket, she will be hitting threes before the season is over.

Then the sisters just took it inside. Together they scored 22 points in the second, from driving or being fouled, and the rest of the team scored 20. They got the lead up to 35 points with just 9 and a half minutes remaining. In that same time period, Colorado had just scored 6 points, making those keeping score at home 59-24. Stanford sank a season-high 27 free throws in 33 attempts. The Ogwumikes went to the line for 22 of those attempts.

An yet… Stanford would close out the game by scoring only nine more points in a little less than ten minutes left in the game, after having a 33-point outburst in the first ten minutes of the second. It’s a head-scratcher.

It was nice to see freshmen guard Amber Orrrrange drive the lane in the second half. She’s got some speed and some fearlessness. She would end up with seven points for the night. Lindy Lacque would connect on two three-pointers, plus a foul when shooting one of them. She made  the free throw to also finish with seven. More troubling was the fact that Stanford would make just three three-pointers for the evening, yet took 17 shots from behind the line.

Jos Tinkle would contribute a healthy eight points. Nneka scored 23 points with 11 rebounds, for double-double, and sister Chiney would have 18 points and seven rebounds, seeing her minutes limited in the first by foul trouble. Oh, shout out to Chiney for doing a Nneka. A Nneka is catching an alley-oop pass and shooting it before landing back on the floor. It was great to see it run so perfectly, and glad to know we have another payer who can execute it besides Nneka.

Speaking of Nneka, she moved up to number two in the all-time scoring list for Stanford. She passed Kate Starbird in this game, and currently has 2,230 points. Number one is the untouchable Candice Wiggins, who has 400 or so more points than Nneka, so as much as we love Nneka, we don’t think she’s gonna do it.

It was fun to see the team don their Pac-12 Champion T-shirts and pose for photos with the Pac-12 regular season trophy after the game. Let’s hope they do the same thing after the Pac-12 tournament.

Come on out Saturday afternoon for Senior Night. Special Tribute after the game for Nneka Ogwumike, Sarah Boothe, Grace Mashore and Lindy Lacque.

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