As conference play continues with Utah next up for the Cardinal, No. 9 Stanford women’s basketball (11-3) will have to rebound from an uncharacteristically awful shooting performance on Monday and draw upon a more typical performances on both sides of the ball if the team wants to get back to its more normal ways and come out with the Pac-12 Championship.
The statistics for the Stanford team have shown some exceptional play on both the offensive and defensive sides for most of the season. The Cardinal have remained stout on defense, rotating with fluency and ease while holding opponents to an average of 52.6 points per game.
Offensively, the Stanford team has shown brilliance in both guard and forward play, as the Cardinal have been able to call upon their super pair of juniors, guard Lili Thompson and forward Erica McCall. Thompson leads the Cardinal offense in points, averaging 15.5 points per game on 29 minutes per game, and has shot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Despite having solid stats on the season, McCall also brings far more to the table than just her on-court performance. While being the second-most productive player offensively, she has also become a spark on the court when she plays, energizing her teammates and pushing the Cardinal offense.
In the post-game press conference after a huge victory over then-No. 14 Tennessee, head coach Tara VanDerveer asked, “What can I say about [McCall]? Double-double machine. She plays so hard; scoring, rebounding and got herself a block. Really, I think, the heart and soul of our team.”
Overall, the Stanford offense averages 17.8 more points per game than its opponents tally and has beaten three of its last five opponents by over 40 points.
Even with superb team and individual play, the season has had its own share of disappointments. Earlier in the season, the Cardinal were stunned by an unranked Santa Clara team that was already 1-2 on the season. On the loss, the Stanford team was held to 58 points on 19-for-53 shooting.
Then, after dropping their second loss to then-No. 5 Texas, the Cardinal began a five-game winning streak in a crucial bounce-back victory over Tennessee.
The key for Stanford during that streak was its revived top-class defense. In their last loss against Texas, the Cardinal allowed the Longhorns’ offense to run rampant and reach the free-throw line twice as much as they themselves did.
After that loss, however, the Stanford defense solidified and became a force within itself. In the four games prior to playing Arizona State, the Cardinal had allowed opponents to score 35.8 points per game, whereas the team allowed 61.3 in the first eight games of the season. Ultimately, this stout defense culminated in the Pac-12 opener against Arizona, in which the Cardinal led for the entirety of the game while holding the Wildcats to only 34 points on 11-of-53 shooting from the field.
Nonetheless, the Cardinal’s run did not last long. In their last match against Arizona State, the offense was stunned and lackadaisical, only scoring 31 points, the fewest points the program has scored since a game in 1984, off 11-of-43 shooting, never reaching double digits in any quarter.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal will be looking to bounce back against the University of Utah (10-3) in their Pac-12 home opener on Friday. Utah will be coming into Maples Pavilion after a three-game homestand that saw the Utes go undefeated in Pac-12 play to this point.
The Cardinal will have to pay special attention to the Utes’ guard-forward combination of senior Danielle Rodriguez and junior Emily Potter. While Potter is the clear leader of the Utes’ offense with 17.3 points per game, Rodriguez is the team’s assist leader, dishing the ball for 64 assists in 13 games.
On the offensive side, the Cardinal have to counter a Utah team that likes to play in high-scoring affairs. In all but one of their victories this season, the Utes have scored over 70 points and shot at least 44.5 percent from the field. While the Stanford team has been able to defensively dominate its opponents in recent games, the offense will be forced to become more productive, particularly after such a weak showing against the Sun Devils.
Overall, the Cardinal team hopes to steadily improve while gaining the consistency needed for another Pac-12 Championship and national title run. A strong offensive Utah team will come into Maples, but the Cardinal will win only if they can revitalize their recently inconsistent offense.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.