The No. 8 Stanford women’s basketball team (5-2) went 2-1 in the Rainbow Wahine Shootout in Hawai’i over Thanksgiving break. The team started its tournament play with a 70-54 loss against No. 6 UNC (7-0) in a rematch from the 2014 Elite Eight, when Stanford beat the Tar Heels 74-65. This game marked the Cardinal’s third game against a top-15 opponent in its first five games of the season and the Cardinal’s first ever loss to UNC.
Sophomore guard Lili Thompson was the only player in double figures (15) for the Card, with 11 of those points coming in the second half. The second leading scorer for the Cardinal was sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson with 9 points, followed by senior guard Briana Roberson with seven. Senior point guard Amber Orrange was limited to six.
Both teams shot poorly in the first half — Stanford shot 20 percent, and UNC shot 25 percent from the field — which left Stanford within striking distance at halftime.
However, although Stanford pulled within five midway through the second half, UNC responded with a 23-6 run from which Stanford could not recover. In fact, Stanford never led throughout the entire game. Three Tar Heel players scored in double-digits, with Latifah Coleman leading all scorers with 19 points. In the second half, the Tar Heels picked up their scoring, shooting 60.7 percent from the field and 66.7 percent (8-12) from beyond the three-point arc.
Stanford struggled with their free throws (68.2 percent) as they have in many games so far this season (they are just below 70 percent on the season). While the Card improved their field goal and three-point field goal percentages in the second half, the team ultimately shot 30.9 percent from the field on the day, its worst field goal percentage all season.
Although UNC committed 17 turnovers to Stanford’s 13, the Tar Heels led Stanford in rebounding (47-32) and had more points in the paint (24-12). Stanford’s starting posts, sophomore Erica McCall and freshman Kaylee Johnson, only totalled eight points combined.
Despite this setback, the Cardinal bounced back with an 86-73 win against Hawaii (4-3) behind double-digit performances from four Cardinal players. Thompson, who leads the team with 21.8 points per game, put up an impressive 26 points, while Orrange contributed 19, and McCall and Johnson had 11 and 10 points, respectively. Orrange also dished out nine assists.
“I think it’s the leadership on the team, our seniors and our captains, Jas [Jasmine Camp] and Amber and Erica Payne,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer about how the team recovered from the UNC loss. “They just know what Stanford basketball is.”
Stanford shot much better from the field against Hawaii than they did the day before, as the Card shot 57.4 percent against Hawaii, compared to 30.9 percent against UNC. Stanford also went 66.7 percent on three-pointers against the Rainbow Wahine; the Cardinal were led by Thompson’s 6-7 effort from behind the three-point arc. Stanford also improved their free-throw percentage in the second game to 80 percent.
Although Hawaii led by as much as eight in the first half, Stanford responded with a 20-4 run that put them up 48-34 at halftime. Hawaii outscored Stanford in the second half 39-38, but the Rainbow Wahine were only able to get within six.
While Stanford had more than double the number of turnovers of the Rainbow Wahine (15 to 7), Stanford won the rebounding battle 34-31, with McCall leading Stanford with 9 boards. Unlike the UNC game in which Stanford was outrebounded, the rebounding effort against Hawaii was more in line with how Stanford has performed throughout the majority of the season, as the Cardinal have outrebounded their opponents 279-245 through their first seven games.
The Cardinal built off their win against Hawaii in their third and final game of the tournament, an 88-45 win against Prairie View A&M (0-6).
Once more, the Cardinal had four players that scored double-digit points, led by McCall with 13. Roberson and Thompson had 12, while Orrange contributed 11. McCall also led in rebounds (9), with Johnson coming in second with 8 boards. Thirteen of the Cardinal’s 14 players who played scored at least 2 points.
The game also marked the first time that the two starting posts McCall, who averages 7.6 points per game, and Johnson, who averages 6.7 points per game, both finished the game in double figures. While VanDerveer has incorporated a new guard-oriented offense, which has Thompson and Orrange contributing an average of 35.7 combined points per games, she still expects more offensive production from her posts.
“I think we took our team to the next level by having our posts score [double-digits],” VanDerveer said.
After trailing 6-4 in the first few minutes of the game, Stanford went on a 23-0 run that opened up a lead that the Card would not relinquish. Stanford also played well on defense, forcing Prairie View to shoot only 24.6 percent from the field throughout the game and 13.3 percent in the first half.
The Cardinal continued from its strong performance against Hawaii against Prairie View, as they shot 54.5 percent from the field, and 61.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc. The Card also out-rebounded Prairie View 47 to 28, and saw their bench contribute 39 points.
Despite dropping the first game of the tournament to UNC, the team does not seem phased, and sees the loss as a learning experience.
“Obviously we had a disappointment in losing our first game against North Carolina,” said Thompson, “but I think we learned a lot about ourselves from that game both emotionally and morale-wise, but also technically and looking at things we can execute better.”
“We shot the ball extremely well the last two games,” added VanDerveer when reflecting over the tournament. “I’m really excited about how our offense is much improved and what we’ve learned from our mistakes.”
The season, though only seven games in, has certainly kept basketball fans engaged: from pulling the upset over UConn, to losing against top-10 teams Texas and UNC, the Cardinal is still in the process of finding its identity and working to reach their potential.
“When you have a young team, you’re going to be a little inconsistent,” said VanDerveer. “But we really improved a lot this weekend and so we’re excited about that.”
“I’d rather find out [weaknesses] in November than learn about it in March,” she added.
The Prairie View game marks the Card’s last game for two weeks, a period in which the team will be studying for and taking finals. The Cardinal’s next game will be on Sunday, Dec. 14 against Santa Clara at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Alexa Irene Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.