Before the game even tipped off, freshman forward Fran Belibi drew awe from the Maples Pavilion crowd with a dunk in pregame warmups. The fireworks continued throughout the next forty minutes as Belibi put together 17 points to lead the Cardinal in scoring in her first collegiate competition.
“It’s really an honor to be able to put on a Stanford jersey — there’s so much behind it,” Belibi said. “In regards to points it is really up to my teammates, they made great passes to me, and I just was able to finish them.”
Preseason No. 3 Stanford looked comfortable in a preseason-opening 100-58 victory over the visiting Beijing Normal. Cal hosted Beijing two days ago in Maples Pavilion due to power outages in Berkeley.
“Fran was a woman out there playing against a big, big player,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Belibi was matched up with Liu Yitong, who had a game-high 21 points and three blocks, and a team-high five rebounds. The Stanford freshman played 19 minutes, contributing three rebounds and shooting 8-of-10 from the floor. Her three steals led the team.
“People’s playing time will be very much tied to their defense, because everyone’s got a lot of offense,” VanDerveer said.
With freshman guard Haley Jones, the nation’s No. 1 recruit for her class, sitting out, the other three freshman looked comfortable wearing the Stanford uniform. Guard Hannah Jump had six points on 2-of-3 from three point range, all in the second quarter, and forward Ashten Prechtel had a team-high five rebounds with 12 points.
“I was thrilled with how well our freshmen have done,” VanDerveer said. “It was fun to see everybody out there and not depending on one person. It’s very competitive in a very positive way.”
“I think we’re pretty great, but that might be a little biased,” Belibi said. “I think we’re learning pretty well. There’s a lot of things we have to work on, but I think overall, we’re doing pretty alright.”
In addition to Jones, senior guard Mikaela Brewer and junior forward Maya Dodson were not dressed. Of the 12 Stanford players to check in, 10 scored and five registered double digits.
“I do think our depth was a huge key to success and especially into the fourth quarter,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford went on 14 and 11 point runs, and held Beijing to four bench points. Stanford led in rebounds (35-15), points in the paint (60-20) and fast break points (23-5). Both teams shot well from three point range, with Beijing narrowly edging Stanford 42% to 39% on the strength of Zhang Jingyi and Tang Ziting, who each made three.
Senior forward Nadia Fingall returned to the court for six minutes of play in the first quarter for the first time since tearing the ACL in her left knee in a game against USC on Jan. 4, causing her to miss the final 24 games of the 2018-19 season.
“The biggest highlight of the whole game, was [when] Nadia out there,” VanDerveer said.
Guards sophomore Lexie Hull and junior Kiana Williams tied for the team-lead in minutes, each with 26.
Stanford’s next task is a matchup with Team USA on Saturday. Tip is at 4 p.m. PT.
“It’s a whole different level than college basketball, and they’re going to go show our team,” VanDerveer said. “We’re going to compete as hard as we can.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.