Senior Brittany McPhee returned to the lineup after missing a month of action and was named ESPNW’s Player of the Week shortly after. What impact did you see her have in the past games?
Alexandre Bucquet (AB): Obviously McPhee has a tremendous impact on this Stanford team. As the leading scorer, I think just her return to the lineup boosted her teammates a little bit. The senior had three straight 20-point games right after she came back and really spurred her team on both offense and defense. She shot over 50 percent in those first three games, and a healthy McPhee goes a long way for the Cardinal, who can now compete full force against conference rivals.
Gregory Block (GB): McPhee’s ability to provide a fourth-quarter spark was huge in Stanford’s wins over UCLA and USC. Against the Bruins, McPhee scored 13 in the final quarter, and she added nine of her 21 in the fourth quarter against USC as well. The Cardinal were missing a veteran presence to help them win games late, and McPhee’s impact in the final minutes cannot be overstated.
Laura Anderson (LA): Beyond her offensive talents, McPhee brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the court. Her veteran poise late in games, including against UCLA and USC, has been evident in these past games. She remains aggressive on defense late in the fourth quarter and is consistently one of the team’s top rebounders, leading the team with six in Sunday’s loss to Arizona State. McPhee’s offensive ability is certainly a key to her game, but her energy and aggressive play on both sides of the ball make her an impactful leader for the Cardinal.
Ellie Chen (EC): McPhee is so much fun to watch because she is constantly in attack mode. She reminds me of Russell Westbrook in her sheer athleticism; like Westbrook, she is a threat from the perimeter and from the inside. And her intensity sets the tone and makes the rest of the team better. Averaging over 18 points and 5 rebounds a game, McPhee leads the team on both ends of the court. I can’t wait to see where she takes the team as the season progresses.
Stanford started its Pac-12 campaign with three wins, including a confidence-building success against UCLA. What were the deciding factors in those games?
AB: I think teamplay was really decisive. The offense seemed to click for the Cardinal, as several players were able to score in double digits. In particular, McPhee, Alanna Smith, Kiana Williams and Dijonai Carrington are starting to catch fire and become more efficient scoring weapons for the team. With anyone on the roster being able to score, Stanford regained its status as a well-rounded team. The defense also worked out really well, with the team able to get crucial stops behind blocks by Kaylee Johnson, Maya Dodson or Carrington.
GB: Stanford was able to close out all three of the wins with big fourth-quarter performances. In their loss to Arizona State on Sunday, however, the Cardinal went cold in the second half, including one stretch where they missed 15 of 18 shots. Consistency is key for Stanford and in their first three conference wins they played solid basketball for four quarters.
LA: McPhee’s return was certainly an x-factor for the Cardinal, as she brought fourth-quarter scoring and gritty defense to the court. Kiana Williams also stepped up in a big way over the three games. Williams was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for her effort in this past weekend’s games against Arizona and Arizona State. She was the Cardinal’s leading scorer over the weekend, averaging 13 points per game. The freshman’s weekend was part of a more well-rounded team offensive performance. After an up-and-down start to the season, Stanford should be pleased with its recent teamplay.
EC: Something that stands out is that Stanford came out on top two of out of three games after the first quarter. During the beginning of the season, the Cardinal struggled on the offensive end in the first quarter. More energy early sets a good tone for the rest of the game.
Junior Marta Sniezek flirted with a triple-double against USC, while freshman Kiana Williams and sophomore Dijonai Carrington also had strong performance last week. Do you think these three players will emerge more as leaders as the season progresses?
AB: I think these three really have gained a lot of confidence since the start of the season. They take more shots, and make better decisions on the court. All three women had high expectations for their seasons and now the experience gained against the top-ten matchups earlier this season are really starting to show on the court. I definitely think that Williams Sniezek and Carrington can become leaders of this team and form a “strong five” along with McPhee and Smith.
GB: All three of these players have stepped up in the past few games after slow starts to the season. The Cardinal’s brutal non-conference schedule seems to have given the younger players some experience against elite competition and it’s just starting to pay off. Prior to the season, coaches and teammates praised Williams and expected her to emerge as a star over the course of the season. As conference play continues, I think Williams will continue to develop as a playmaker and leader on the court when Sniezek isn’t in the game.
EC: Sniezek could still take more shots as the season progresses. She is an amazing passer, but also an outstanding shooter and in recent games she has still only taken fewer than six shots per game. It’s exciting that Kiana Williams was just Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and I expect her to continue playing well throughout the rest of the season. I am excited for Carrington to continue becoming a leader.
LA: With McPhee sidelined for a month, Sniezek, Carrington and Williams had to step up not only offensively, but as leaders on the court. Their decision-making skills have improved immensely, and they add varied scoring threats that complement McPhee and Smith. As the season continues, we could see the Cardinal develop into a fast and aggressive offensive team, capable of taking on top Pac-12 teams.
What should the Cardinal learn from their loss to ASU on Sunday?
AB: Stanford can’t afford to go down the way it did in the second quarter. Being outscored 21-7 in the second frame, the Cardinal were in a tough spot and trailed for most of the game. Add the 27 conceded fouls, and hopes of a comeback become very slim. I think the team needs to stay out of foul trouble early while getting to the stripe more often. In that game, ASU took 39 free throws while Stanford only had nine attempts from the line.
GB: The Cardinal can’t afford to give up so many second-chance points. Stronger interior defense and more work on the boards is critical to keeping games close against talented conference competition. Giving the Sun Devils so many opportunities in the paint made any hopes for a late comeback impossible.
EC: Stanford had two second-chance points compared to ASU’s 22. A 20-point deficit is hard to overcome despite playing ASU equal or better in points in the paint, fast break points and points off turnovers. Stanford needs to box out, so that future teams cannot score so many second-chance points. Stanford also shot 3-18 from the field down the stretch until hitting its last threes. Hopefully the Cardinal can learn to take higher percentage shots in the key or off fast breaks down the stretch to prevent scoring difficulty.
LA: The Cardinal need to remain disciplined in order to compete with ranked teams like ASU. Not only did Stanford commit 27 personal fouls, the most since 2008, but the team only pulled down 24 rebounds to ASU’s 47. The team has to focus on the details in order to remain competitive against top opponents. With the offense clicking, the Cardinal have the talent to stay in games late, but they have to cut down on free opportunities as the season progresses.
Contact Gregory Block at gblock ‘at’ stanford.edu., Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu., Ellie Chen at ellie170‘at’ stanford.edu., and Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.