In her pregame interview on KZSU, head coach Tara VanDerveer stated three keys to her team's success against the Broncos. VanDerveer thought her team needed to defend the three-point shot well, as Santa Clara came into the game making nearly nine three-pointers per game. VanDerveer wanted her post players to kick the ball out of double and triple-teams, as she expected Santa Clara to double and triple Stanford's post players to negate Stanford's size advantage. Finally, VanDerveer wanted her team to crash the boards against the Broncos, especially after the Card had been outboarded by Arizona State in the Pac-10 Finals. VanDerveer said the inability to rebound against Arizona State was primarily due to a lack of intensity, stating, "We were embarrassed by it."
As Stanford 2005 NCAA opener started, two of VanDerveer's pregame keys went horribly awry, allowing Santa Clara to remain competitive early. First, Santa Clara scored its first 15 points on three-pointers, starting the game 5-of-8 beyond the arc. While Santa Clara deserves credit for making shots, Stanford's defense also gave the Broncos plenty of open looks. In her post-game KZSU interview, assistant coach Karen Middleton stated that the perimeter defense was initially porous because Cardinal defenders drifted off their assignments to help guard Broncos driving towards the hoop. The driving Bronco would then kick the ball to a teammate for a wide-open three-point look.
Conversely, when Santa Clara's defense collapsed inside, Stanford post players initially tried to force shots into double and triple teams instead of kicking to wide-open teammates. Before Stanford could put up these interior shots, Santa Clara often managed to wrestle or poke the ball away. Redshirt sophomore Brooke Smith and sophomore center Kristen Newlin would combine for eight turnovers and only one assist on the contest. The interior duo averaged fewer than three turnovers per game in conference, so the double and triple-teams inside considerably hurt Stanford's ball control, as was the case against USC and Arizona State in the Pac-10 Tournament.
The overaggressive Stanford perimeter defense and Stanford's problems in the post allowed the smaller Broncos to remain close. Santa Clara jumped to a 17-16 lead off five three-pointers and continued to trade blows with the Cardinal, as Stanford led only 34-30 with two minutes remaining in the first half. However, when Stanford finally started to stay at home defensively and kick the ball out on offense, the turnaround was dramatic. After an essentially even first 18 minutes, Stanford closed the first half on a 10-3 run to lead 43-33 at intermission. The Card opened the second half on a 29-3 spurt, completing the 39-6 run. That put Stanford ahead 72-36 and let them comfortably cruise to the 94-57 final score. The tactical adjustments allowed Stanford to shoot 56% (14-of-25) on the second half, while holding the Broncos to 26% (7-of-27) shooting on the stanza.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of the Card's strength is that even in a game where Stanford struggled initially, the Cardinal still found a way to pull away and convincingly win by 37. Much of the 37-point final margin can be attributed to the glass, where the Cardinal outboarded the Broncos by 20, 45-25. The free throw results were similarly lopsided, as Stanford did not miss a single free throw until the game was out of reach, shooting a perfect 12-of-12 in the first half and 33-of-35 on the game. The 94.3% accuracy, the highest Stanford has achieved this season, aided the Card's cause all the more because Santa Clara shot only 52.6% (10-of-19) from the charity stripe.
Freshman Candice Wiggins, playing her first NCAA game, led all Cardinal with 29 points on 8-of-14 field goal shooting and 11-of-11 free throw shooting. Smith grabbed 12 rebounds, swatted five blocks, and chipped in another 19 points on 5-of-8 overall shooting and 9-of-9 work from the charity stripe. Facing her sister Yasemin, senior forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu added another 11 points, and senior guard Kelley Suminski notched six of Stanford's 14 assists. Michelle Cozad led all Broncos with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
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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