We start against New Mexico State--I wonder if Alexa has friends on that team. They have won 17 in a row after starting 5-6. They haven't played anybody in the top 50--but that makes them a bit dangerous--no one really knows their ceiling now. They beat CSU Bakersfield 69-55 while we won 77-56. Their RPI is about the same as Arizona's.
This is a really interesting Tom Fitzgerald article on how Stanford prepares defensively:http://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Defense-carries-Stanford-women-into-the-Big-Dance-11010729.php
And an interesting Sports Illustrated article on Erica:http://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/03/17/stanford-basketball-erica-mccall-uconn-womens-ncaa-tournamentOverview:
New Mexico State shot 67% in the first half but we reduced them to 42% for the game, and we finally solved the NMS defense and started feeding Alanna Smith the ball on the low block for reliable points. This propelled us to a difficult first round win in a game in which we trailed for three quarters.Flow of the Game:
New Mexico State came out and hit several mid range jumpers in a row--a good formula for dealing with our defense. At the other end we were pretty cold, and Kaylee missed a point blank layup. Offensive rebounding and a large height advantage gave us multiple chances--which we needed. Even so, the quick and accurate New Mexico State players got out to an 11-7 lead by the first break. Karlie got her stroke going and was 3/4 from three point range which helped to keep us close, but our defense was giving up too many drives into the lane. Kaylee and Erica were 0/4. New Mexico State shot 63% and we shot 41%, leading to the first quarter deficit 20-23.
In the second quarter our defense improved, but our offense did not, with Bri making the only basket in a six minute stretch to open the quarter. Then the defense broke down too, giving up a 10-2 run to end the half. New Mexico State scored a trey after a missed free throw as time expired to put them up 38-31 at the half.
By halftime, New Mexico state was shooting 54% to our 34%, and while they had 10 turnovers we had 11, and five of their players had each made 1 trey shooting 67% collectively. Their ability to shoot threes and also to penetrate had proven very difficult to defend.
In the third quarter, Alanna Smith began to start hitting from the right block, and Karlie continued her winning treys, and we pulled even by the advertising break in the third. But for some unfathomable reason, we stopped going to Alanna down low. At the other end, Kaylee was called for a flagrant-1 after aggressively trying to clear a rebound. She was emotional on the bench. But Britt got a fast break + 1 at the other end to temporarily erase the bad memories and take the lead. By the end of the quarter the lead had seesawed a few times, but the New Mexico State star Mack picked up her 4th foul. Alanna picked up two quick fouls for a total of three, though, and I got nervous about the status of our most reliable offensive player. The quarter ended New Mexico State 49 Stanford 48
The fourth quarter started badly as we gave up a trey, but then Alanna countered with a trey of her own, and on the next possession got the ball on the right block and converted for the lead. After we gave up free throws, Britt made a layup and then a jumper for a three point lead. Then Erica scored a layup + 1, we gave up a layup the other way, and Smith scored on an O-board off of her own missed shot from--of course--the right block, which gave us a 63-58 lead with four minutes left. From this point we ground it out as we rediscovered points-in-the-paint, with a McPhee jumper, two more Alanna Smith layups, and a few free throws to finish off the game with an 11-3 run and a hard fought 72-64 victory.Performances:
Our defense dramatically improved in the second half, lowering NMS's shooting from 67% in the first quarter to 42% overall--about the same as our shooting at 42%. Both sides made 8 treys although NMS shot them at a higher percent thanks to their scorching first half. Both sides made 12 free throws. Turnovers and fouls were about even by the end. But the most extreme stat difference were blocks--we had 12 to their 1. We also had 17 offensive rebounds to their 10. In other words, it was our sheer size that won this game for us. We will have to do much better than this when we match up against physically equal teams.
Alanna was once again the offensive savior, with 19 points on 8/12 shooting. She also snagged 11 rebounds for a double/double, and a whopping 6 blocks. We are seeing next year's superstar. In addition to a trey, I think she took nearly all of her shots from the right block, and they did not seem to be able to stop her. We should have started feeding it to her earlier, but they sometimes fronted her to prevent the entry pass.
Karlie was 5/9 from three point range and kept us in the game early on. She also had 5 assists and 3 steals. We will really, really miss all of her comprehensive stat lines.
McPhee had 16 points, but was 0/5 from three point range. But she was a perfect 4/4 with her free throws, and had 5 steals.
Erica had 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 9 points on 3/10 shooting. Her jumpshot has just not been quite there for the second half of the season, but she still contributes in so many ways.
Bri was 2/5 from three point range and finished with 6 points, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers.
Marta had 5 points to go with 5 assists and 2 turnovers.
Kaylee had a rough night. I don't think she returned after the flagrant foul. When the season is over I expect we will learn more about her health. One thing is clear, though, no matter what is going on with her offense, she remains a superb rebounder. She only played 10 minutes and had 6 rebounds. Conclusion:
We have a pattern of our defense not playing well in the first quarter--for several games in a row now. Tonight, it didn't start playing all that well until the second half. Our offense has not looked like a juggernaut all year, so we absolutely must find a way to get our defense going from the first minute if we expect to advance very far in this tournament.
Meanwhile, I wonder if it is time to dust off the triangle again to start feeding Alanna the ball down low. I wonder if she can score from the left block? The next game should be interesting....I suspect Drake is going to give KSU a major challenge. Not sure which team I would rather face--probably KSU after seeing what a small, quick accurate team like New Mexico State can do to us.