By Ellie Chen
Last week the Cardinal started with a strong performance against USF. Despite not being an opponent of the same caliber as Baylor, OSU or UConn, Stanford still showed signs of of strength and more chemistry. What struck you most about the team in that game?
Ellie Chen (EC): The fact that Stanford had four players scoring over 10 points with two 19 point-performances was huge versus USF. It’s hard to a beat a team with four big offensive threats. In contrast, versus Baylor, only three players scored above 10, and the highest was only 14 points. Although it’s great that the Cardinal have many potential scoring threats, increased consistency and reliability in a few scorers would be invaluable to the Cardinal moving forward.
Gregory Block (GB): I thought Kianna Williams’ 17-point performance was an important sign for the Cardinal. They need their freshmen to step up to compete with the best teams in the country. Williams also added 13 points against Baylor, and if she can keep her recent scoring tear going, the Cardinal will have a more dynamic backcourt as conference play kicks off.
Laura Anderson (LA): While the Cardinal’s 15 total three-pointers, tied for third-most in program history, were a major factor in Wednesday’s game, I was most impressed by the scoring depth against USF. Tara VanDerveer has discussed how important variety and depth on offense is for this year’s Cardinal, and the team delivered against the Dons. Juniors Alanna Smith and Alexa Romano, sophomore DiJonai Carrington and Williams all scored double digit points in the match. Showing that level of depth on offense will be crucial for Stanford in future games.
In both games last week Stanford got off to a slow start. What does the Cardinal need to work on to take advantage of every minute of the game?
EC: After being outscored 54-18 in the paint versus Baylor, the team should focus on driving and looking more inside. The Cardinal attempted only 11 free throws to Baylor’s 18, which suggests that there is definitely room for great athletes and dribblers like junior Marta Sniezek and sophomore Anna Wilson to penetrate the key. Then players can either get fouled or dish the ball off when the help comes. Establishing more of a consistent inside presence will open up the outside for perimeter play and quality three-point looks.
GB: The Cardinal need to set the tone in the paint early to get off to a more explosive start. Baylor outscored Stanford 54-18 in the paint in Sunday’s game, too large of a margin to allow if Stanford wants to keep games close. They need to get the ball inside early instead of relying on the outside shot, as they were only 10 for 26 from beyond the arc.
LA: Stanford needs to focus on the details early on in order to set the tone. While the Cardinal out-rebounded USF 46-38 on Wednesday, Baylor pulled down 55 boards to Stanford’s 39 in Sunday’s matchup. Bringing intentionality to aggressive rebounding and clean transitions down the court will set the Cardinal up for success.
Stanford now begins a stretch of five games at home after a brutal start to their season. Now that they get a chance to settle down and really reflect on that season start, what is the most urgent matter to address before the start of the Pac-12 season?
EC: The next two games at home versus UNLV and Western Illinois are very winnable and are the perfect opportunity for the Cardinal to reset and gain confidence before playing 12th-ranked Tennessee and then starting Pac-12 play. I’d say the most urgent matter is to make sure the team comes out strong. Even if Stanford can’t score in the first quarter, there is no excuse for giving up 25 points in one period like the team did against Baylor. Nerves can affect offense, but hard defense is all effort. It’s all the more important that Stanford plays tough on defense in the first quarter when shots may not be falling yet. Good defense will generate turnovers that will lead to offensive flow. Good first-quarter defense is a must.
GB: Stanford has three winnable games before beginning what will be a brutal conference slate. As mentioned earlier, I think they have to establish more of an interior game in order to keep their offense balanced. Junior Shannon Coffee and freshman Maya Dodson need to develop a presence in the post, which will also open up more space for perimeter shooting. It’s also important to consider that all four of Stanford’s losses came on the road to top-10 teams, so their record may not be a fair indication of just how talented this team is.
LA: As mentioned earlier, slow starts have been rough for the Cardinal this season. The team has shown long stretches of solid play in all of their matches so far but have been burned in the early stages of games. The Cardinal need to work on high-energy basketball from the tip-off in order to avoid being put on their heels. Stanford was able to come back in both the USF victory and the Ohio State overtime loss last week, but the Cardinal can’t afford to play flat-footed in the first quarter if they want to stay competitive in conference match-ups.
Senior leading scorer Brittany McPhee has been out for five games with a right foot injury. How do you think this absence has shaped the way Stanford plays, especially in terms of leadership?
EC: Brittany McPhee leads by example. She is the epitome of a player who makes those around her better when she’s on the court. The team is definitely missing her court presence because her intensity, hard work and attitude set the tone for the rest of the team. Especially with such a young team, McPhee’s composure and game experience is invaluable. Not only is she our key player but also our key leader, so let’s hope that she is healthy again soon.
GB: Stanford is a young team, and McPhee’s on-court leadership is something that is difficult to replicate. The Cardinal are relying on a number of freshmen who have played well in spurts but haven’t yet developed a lot of consistency. Other players have stepped up to fill McPhee’s role, but she is still one of the key senior leaders on this team, and the Cardinal would love to have her back on the court.
LA: McPhee not only brings leadership on the court but also plays with a lot of energy throughout matches. Her absence could be one factor for the recent slow starts that have plagued the Cardinal. While she is a tough player to replace, Smith has certainly stepped up, posting three consecutive double-doubles against Ohio State, USF and Baylor. Players like Williams have also brought energy in these past five games — Williams scored a career-high 17 points against USF and was the bright spot in the rough start against Baylor, earning the first 10 points for Stanford. With McPhee out, the Cardinal need to display their team depth, and upperclassmen like Smith, Romano, Coffee and Johnson need to embrace a greater leadership role on the court.
Contact Ellie Chen at ellie170 ‘at’ stanford.edu, Gregory Block at gblock ‘at’ stanford.edu and Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.