Ten Snapshots: Stanford vs. Connecticut

The last time Daniel Novinson covered a Stanford-UConn game for this esteemed website, the good guys won in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City three years ago. Now, the stakes are a little higher, but hopefully, the luck will remain the same.

Time: 15:47 (left in the first half)
Score: 10-6 Stanford

What happened: Candice Wiggins scored Stanford's first four, then Kayla Pedersen, JJ Hones and Jayne Appel took turns filling up the bucket. UConn stayed in it on two Ketia Swanier threes.

What Stanford needs to do: Pregame, you have to think that Tara and Co. were more worried about the defense than the offense. Stanford can score with anyone, so if the D stays strong, watch out.

What Connecticut needs to do: Find some sort of inside presence. If anyone's winning this game from outside, it's going to be Stanford.


Time: 9:54
Score: 22-16 Stanford

What happened: The Huskies tied at 10, and closed to within 15-14, but then Rosalyn Gold-Onwude hit Stanford's first three – after the team's 14-of-28 performance last game – to put the Cardinal up 18-14.  Both teams traded misses and Appel then converted off a great entry pass with a reverse finger roll. Tina Charles threw in a right hook, but a Pedersen jumper capped the spurt.

What Stanford needs to do: If UConn's going to sag on defense, keep shooting the three. Try to pack it in on D, because UConn isn't a team that's going to dominate from the arc.

What Connecticut needs to do: Keep banging it inside, it's starting to work. On defense, extend out to the perimeter – Stanford's starting to heat up deep.


Time: 7:27
Score: 25-20 Stanford

What happened: Charles hit her patented jump hook from six feet out, then if the WNBA had an NBA, Candice Wiggins hit a three from there. UConn started working it back inside, with a Dixon turnaround J keeping UConn within five.

What Stanford needs to do: Keep pestering UConn on D (ESPN later shows it in slow-mo as a triangle and two) because I don't think UConn has the quickness to guard all five positions, which Stanford will make you do. Stanford's getting their 75, so if they can keep UConn in the 60's, it could be the early '90s all over again.

What Connecticut needs to do: Adjust defensively. Simple as that. If Wiggins stays hot, she could be on the way to another 30-plus game, and that's not good for the Huskies.


Time: 3:37
Score: 34-28, Stanford

What happened: Live by the three, die by the three. Stanford missed three over these last four minutes, letting UConn halve a 32-24 lead, before an Appel cherry-picked layup. Appel is visibly pooped – halftime can't come soon enough for her. UConn has gotten its last 10 from Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon.

What Stanford needs to do: Stay the course. Try to spell Appel if she needs it to be fresh for the stretch run.

What Connecticut needs to do: I don't know UConn's roster up and down, but if Geno has a defensive stopper on the bench, maybe bring her in, maybe go small. They've got to do something to try to fluster Stanford offensively. On offense, the needed sense of urgency doesn't seem to be there. If the game were on the line, where would Connecticut go? To the paint? Then start going there now.


Time: Halftime
Score: Stanford, 40-33

What happened: The teams both bogged down, perhaps out of fatigue, scoring just six combined points from the field over the last 3:37. UConn continued to boggle with their shot selection, as I somehow doubt they wanted Moore jacking one up from NBA length early in the clock. Stanford seemed really tired, letting a free throw miss hit the floor instead of snatching it a few possessions before Candice Wiggins airballed a three. UConn just won't go away – those two free throws with 0.9 seconds left are emblematic of how they're not letting Stanford bury them. And down just seven, they're certainly right in it. UConn's 4-0 when trailing at the half, as the Worldwide Leader is quick to point out, with a certain undertone of hopefulness.

Sure enough, the coaches are preaching shot selection:

Geno: "We just come down and take quick shots. I got to find a way to slow my guys down."

Tara: "We have to not come down and jack up early quick shots. I think the tempo is a good tempo for us."

What Stanford needs to do: 3-of-12 deep could be better (though no one's missed more than two threes). Won't matter if the defense keeps up –  the only UConn player shooting above 50 percent is Charles (3-of-5). If Stanford can keep a UConn player from taking over, they're looking mighty golden.

What Connecticut needs to do: The ESPN talking heads and the coaches themselves mirrored what I was saying four, eight minutes ago. UConn's more like the Stanford men than the Phoenix Suns. Now, they need to realize it and start playing like it. Slow down and pound it inside. Winning the offensive rebound battle (currently tied at four) is a must, as is continuing to get to the free throw line (7-of-8).


Time: 15:06 (left in the second half)
Score: 47-42, Stanford

What happened: LSU Coach Van Chancellor at halftime all but said UConn would win the game (Stanford might want to play that tape as motivation if it's a Stanford-LSU final) by tightening their defense, because the Huskies have the edge in the post. A Moore layup and a Montgomery three pushed Stanford, cutting their lead to just 40-38, but then the Cardinal responded with the three – sophomore JJ Hones, off a Jayne Appel assist. The teams traded buckets and the margin stayed at five.

What Stanford needs to do: Keep Moore and Montgomery, both of whom struggled in the first half, from heating up. UConn's also stepped up its intensity – Stanford needs to match it.

What Connecticut needs to do: Keep up the heat on defense. Don't let Stanford pull away, and make this game come down to the wire. Stanford's foul trouble could catch up to them, as could Appel's legs.


Time: 11:45
Score: 55-46, Stanford

What happened: The game was won here. UConn made Van Chancellor look like a savant, switching to a 2-3 zone and holding Stanford without a field goal for four minutes. Montgomery hit a jumper, and Charles and Charde Houston (quiet thus far) hit layups to pull within 47-46. But Connecticut would get no closer. Maya Moore showed her inexperience, twice forgetting to rotate to the left corner in the zone, and Wiggins played like a senior, twice burying that corner three. Pedersen added on a layup to close out the 8-0 run.

What Stanford needs to do: Spread the court and really work the passing lanes offensively to attack the zone. Connecticut's breakdown gifted Stanford six points after four scoreless minutes. Can't count on that down the stretch.

What Connecticut needs to do: Stay in the zone – it's obviously mighty effective when executed properly. And keep the intensity high. Just make sure Moore knows when she needs to rotate over.


Time: 7:59
Score: 59-51, Stanford

What happened: The teams treaded water – Jeanette Pohlen came in for two free throws and Appel added a layup, while Renee Montgomery hit a layup and Moore hit a three. UConn needs to pick up the scoring pace in these next four minutes, or else it's sunk.

What Stanford needs to do: Not tighten up on offense! I see this so often in the men's game – a team with a lead shifts their primary offensive focus from, you know, actually scoring points, to running clock and putting up resultant bad looks instants before 00 shows on the shot clock. Connecticut hasn't stopped it all day – don't go away from the offensive game plan.

What Connecticut needs to do: It's the time of the game where coaches need to abandon their game plans and go to their bread and butter. Montgomery is having an awful shooting night (she'd finish 4-of-18), so let Moore and Swanier penetrate, and dish it to Charles, who's looked good operating in the low paint.


Time: 3:46
Score: 68-61, Stanford

What happened: UConn got no closer than five, with an unreal right-handed, falling down layup from Wiggins – the definitive image of the game to-date. That put Stanford up 66-56, and so while Moore and Swanier battled back with a three and a jumper, Stanford was still operating at a comfortable margin. An Appel put-back layup right before the under-four TV timeout pushed the Cardinal's lead back to seven.

What Stanford needs to do: Free throws! Get the good shooters on the floor, get the ball in Wiggins' hands, and knock them down. On defense, continue to play aggressively – defend the three-point line a little tighter and make UConn win on circus shots.

What Connecticut needs to do: Channel their inner Stephen Currys and hit a prayer or two. The defense also needs to shut down Stanford the rest of the way. Judging from the first 36 minutes, I'm not going to be holding my breath.


Time: Final
Score: 82-73, Stanford

What happened: Hones and Pedersen shut the door with threes that put Stanford ahead 74-66 with 2:19 to go. Wiggins scored seven of Stanford's last eight, but UConn was already sunk after missing three of the first four threes it took in this last stretch.

Final Connecticut thoughts: Renee Montgomery's 4-of-18 really hurt. The rest of the team shot 22-of-49, 0.5 percent better than Stanford's 44.4 percent accuracy. The Huskies were even in o-boards and +2 in turnovers, so if Montgomery had a 50 percent night, the game would have been a coin flip. For all the coaching and playcalling, sometimes the ball just has to go in for you.

Final Stanford thoughts: One of those performances that's underwhelming, because the outcome was never in doubt. Won't get the headlines of a photo-finish (like Tennessee's victory hours later), but quietly steamrolling through the NCAA Tournament is a mighty efficient way to win a championship. Wiggins led the way with 25 points and 13 boards, but four Cardinal reached double figures, Jillian Harmon added nine, and Jayne Appel also snagged 13 boards. Stanford's one of the only teams I've seen at the collegiate level, men's or women's, where every position on the court is a legitimate threat to score. The dominant shooting guard and post presence get plenty of attention, and rightfully so, but the plays that won the game were Candice's corner threes off ball-rotation against the UConn zone. If the Huskies are playing 95 percent of the other teams in the country, they can sag off a player or two in that zone, and it's likely Wiggins never gets those looks.

My high school coach liked to say that defense is primarily effort and offense primarily skill. I certainly hope that's true Tuesday, because you know Stanford will bring the effort on the defensive end, and I don't see how anyone can slow down that offense right now.


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