Seniors Sink Utah, Advance to KC

Stanford (31-2) won its 22nd consecutive game in convincing fashion Monday evening in Fresno, downing Utah (26-8) by an 88-62 margin in one of the Cardinal's most complete victories this year. The seniors shone the brightest in the 26-point triumph, a victory that gives the Card plenty of reason for optimism as they head into the Sweet 16 against the victor of Tuesday's UConn/Florida State contest.

Unlike other games this season where Stanford has used quick, explosive runs to distance themselves from opponents, the Cardinal quietly dominated the Utes with 40 minutes of sustained effort. Despite scoring 88 total points and winning by 26, Stanford never scored more than seven consecutive points. This statistic belies the consistency that the Cardinal displayed in dispatching Utah.

Indeed, Stanford employed this consistency to gradually distance themselves from the Utes over the course of the game. Stanford never trailed in the contest and would jump to a quick five-point margin, 10-5, with 17:19 remaining in the first half. However, the Card would not lead by 10 until the score stood 27-17 with 6:29 left in the opening stanza, and Stanford only increased that margin to thirteen at the half. Although the Card led by double digits the entire second half, they did not increase their lead to 15 until senior forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu's three-pointer pulled Stanford to a 49-34 lead with 15:58 remaining. Stanford reached a 20-point margin with just under seven minutes to play, and senior guard Kelley Suminski's free throw with 3:37 to go pulled the Card ahead by 25 for the first time. That Stanford won each of these individual segments of the ballgame shows just how solidly the Cardinal executed their game plan over the entire 40 minutes of play.

Stanford's shooting stands as a prime example of that precise execution. The Cardinal shot 61.1% (33-of-54) on the contest, as Stanford made more than they missed in both halves. The Card's 67.9% (19-of-29) accuracy in the second half stands second only to their 70% accuracy in the first half of USC's January 22 visit to Maples in the single-half shooting ledgers this season. These astronomic numbers highlight not only solid marksmanship, but also the superior positioning and ball movement that allowed Stanford to consistently take such high percentage shots.

The exemplary shooting also reflects Stanford's depth, as every player who saw more than four minutes of action netted at least eight points. Redshirt sophomore center Brooke Smith led the Card with 20 points, shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. Four seniors also netted double figures, as Kimyacioglu (13 points), Suminski (12 points), forward Azella Perryman (12 points on perfect 6-6 shooting) and guard Susan King Borchardt (11 points) combined to provide 48 points and a reminder of just how sorely Cardinalmaniacs™ will miss these departing seniors. Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that Suminski displayed the least accuracy of any of the nine Cardinal who launched a shot, with 37.5% (3-of-8) shooting.

The Utah victory manifested that not only does Stanford possess great depth, but the Cardinal also benefit from incredible balance. While many Cards obviously are capable of lighting it up, the entire team presents non-shooting capabilities that give opposing teams fits. Stanford's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.83 is a season high, and the Cardinal's six turnovers is a season low. Stanford also created effective pressure defensively, swatting two blocks and snatching six steals from the Utes.

However, the game video will highlight slight concerns for the Cardinal to remedy before their voyage to Kansas City. Stanford yielded Utah forward Kim Smith six rebounds and 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Kimyacioglu looked to be the only Cardinal who could effectively guard Smith, as the Utes would screen Kimyacioglu and isolate the speedy 5'11" junior forward on smaller guards or slower centers with success. Indeed, Utah found much of its offensive success coming off screens in its motion offense. The Utes often managed to isolate center Camie Allen on Brooke Smith, and the much quicker Allen had the ability to create space to pull up for jump shots, as the 6'1" sophomore center finished with 10 points on 50% (5-of-10) shooting. Stanford's inability to fight through screens and stick with their assignments is somewhat puzzling, as Utah's motion offense is highly similar to the scheme the Cardinal employ.

Nonetheless, any further complaints would be nitpicking on the heels of one of Stanford's most complete victories in this 2004-05 season. Credit Utah for not allowing Stanford anything spectacular, but praise Stanford for responding with a thorough performance in nearly every facet of the game. Prior to today, the Cardinal had not played such a complete ballgame since senior forward T'Nae Thiel fractured a bone in her left foot nearly a month ago, so one can only hope that the Texan feels fully healthy and returns to the rotation next week, as is currently expected. Whether Thiel can immediately mesh with her teammates and regain her old playing form remains to be seen, but if Stanford continues to play at Monday night's high level, the Cardinal appear likely to advance to Indianapolis regardless.

Complete game box score

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 dannovi@stanford.edu.


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