As the seniors celebrate their 100th victory on the Farm, a dominant 88-53 trouncing of the rival Cal Bears, Stanford must quickly prepare for Saturday's showdown against the sharp-shooting Boston College Eagles.
Great teams regularly decimate clearly inferior opponents, and the Cardinal certainly laid claim to greatness Thursday night at Maples Pavilion. Brooke Smith, Candice Wiggins, Eziamaka Okafor, and (in her first start this season) Susan King Borchardt each torched the Bears for double-digit points. The scoring spree extended from the field to the free throw line, where the women continued to shoot both often and well, sinking 19 of 25 attempts. Schematically, Cal and Stanford both rely heavily upon the triangle offense, and the defensive familiarity with the triangle paid dividends for the Cardinal, as they anticipated Cal's ball movement, smothered their passing lanes, and forced 25 Bear turnovers.
Coming off a game of scoring spurts at Arizona, Stanford reaffirmed their ability to score in streaks in the Cal victory, the 31st consecutive conference win at Maples. An early 4-2 tally would mark the last Cal lead, as the Cardinal then tore off a 27-2 run, prompting students in the Brickyard Club to chant "It's all over," at the visiting Bears. Stanford concluded the remainder of the first half strongly, doubling up Cal 22-11 and bringing the halftime score to 49-17.
A similarly dominant second half could have caused the Cardinal to eclipse their season-high of 91 points against Eastern Washington and conceivably threaten the century mark. The Cardinal would score "only" 88, however, as the second half saw a waning of Cardinal intensity on both ends of the court and the liberal substitution of bench players for starters.
In my opinion, the Cardinal have played with intensity throughout the season. Passion has not at all been an issue in close games, and a slight dip in effort is excusable in garbage time of a game sandwiched between two much larger matchups and hardly reflects a pattern. The increased minutes of bench players in clean-up duty, on the other hand, does belie a larger trend – that of the Cardinal's largely deceptive depth.
Through the Cal game, no single Stanford player averages more than 30 minutes, and, remarkably, 10 players average in excess of 10 minutes of playing time per game. These statistics paint the picture of a much deeper Cardinal squad than actually exists. Of these 10 players with double-digit minutes, in closely contested games (most recently on the road against Tennessee, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State) only seven have seen significant playing time (Wiggins, Smith, Borchardt, Suminski, Thiel, Kimyacioglu and Perryman) while Pierce, Rappahahn and Newlin have been hard-pressed to come off of the pine, despite receiving ample minutes and opportunity to boost their statistics in one-sided games. Furthermore, in these close games, a select few players, namely Brooke Smith, Candice Wiggins, and, recently, Susan King Borchardt have stepped to the forefront, dominating both the flow of the game and the statistics sheet to a degree the overall flow of the season would not lead one to suspect.
Two opposing trains of thought emerge from this consolidation of Cardinal production in hard-fought contests. One perspective is that this consolidation will allow opponents, especially come tournament time, to more easily shut down Stanford's offensive production as they can focus primarily on three players. Personally, I favor the contrary opinion, believing this specialization to be an overwhelmingly positive development, especially considering the star vacuum created by Nicole Powell's departure. This team lacked an identity to begin the season and, now, some three months later, players are growing increasingly comfortable leading this team in clutch situations, making their imprint on this Cardinal program and developing into the star players that characterize any winning team.
This theory will certainly be put to the test against the Boston College Eagles, a team shooting an astronomical 51.3% from the floor over the course of this season. In the Cal thrashing, by means of comparison, Stanford shot 51.6% overall. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, the Eagles stand with a #14 ranking and a 12-1 record against a reasonably strong slate of opponents, ranked 77th toughest in the nation. (Stanford's strength of schedule is currently 34th). The Eagles' only blemish came in overtime at current #9 Michigan State.
The Eagles will come into the matchup sporting many gaudy numbers in addition to their superb field goal percentage. They outscore opponents 75-53, allowing only 35% defensively from the field. Both of those statistics are comparable to Stanford's numbers. Boston College averages 21 assists per game and their rebound, steal and scoring margin averages are essentially even with those of the Cardinal.
Three double-digit scorers lead Boston College. Most formidable is preseason All-Big East 5'9" senior point guard Jessalyn Deveny, averaging over 18 points on the strength of 56.3% overall shooting and 48.4% marksmanship beyond the arc. The Cardinal cannot focus exclusively on Deveny, however, as her two teammates, 6'4" forward Kathrin Ress and 6'2" forward Brooke Queenan both average over 12 points per game. Ress makes nearly 56% from the field, while Queenan shoots almost 53% overall and boasts a sky-high 58% three-point percentage.
Such keen marksmanship from this Eagle squad makes planning for Boston College incredibly difficult on the defensive end. Whatever defensive success the Card encounter will stem from the ability of our interior players, notably Brooke Smith and T'Nae Thiel, to single-handedly defend Kathrin Ress, Brooke Queenan and the Eagle post players. If this duo cannot stop Boston College's inside game by themselves, additional Cardinal defenders will be forced to collapse the paint, leaving 56% shooter Jessalyn Deveny open outside. The Cardinal guards Candice Wiggins, Kelley Suminski, and Susan King Borchardt must try to play tight, aggressive defense, extending the zone well past the three-point line and denying Boston College any open looks, no matter the distance.
Daniel Novinson is a freshman at Stanford University. He's broadcasting women's basketball on KZSU - listen along at kzsu.org or 90.1 FM. Daniel welcomes any feedback at email@example.com.
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