We knew that to win at this level our shooting would have to be accurate and prolific, but with a Karlie injury and a sudden slump by McPhee we were unable to score enough points despite our respectable defensive effort. Still, I could not feel too down given that this team vastly overachieved what we all thought they were capable of doing this year.
Flow of the Game:
Tara used her standard brilliant sagging defense on A'sa Wilson, who was doubled to deny her the pass every time she stepped into the paint--reminiscent of the anti-Griner defense we used in Hawaii when we defeated Baylor a few years ago. This did not prevent her from sneaking through and collecting oodles of rebounds, but it kept her offense under control, particularly in the first half. From the beginning it seemed that Erica was going to be "on" as she made a 15 foot jumper and a nice hook--both shots that she can make against a taller defender but both shots that she has been streaky on hitting. But Karlie missed her first two trey attempts and this was a harbinger of poor three point shooting throughout the game. All in all, though, the first quarter went reasonably well on the strength of Marta coming in to energized the offense. After the TV break she took it to the rim and made a layup, and then on the next possession brought it all the way back to collect a foul at the rim and sink two free throws. She continued by feeding Smith for a layup and we came back from an early deficit to take a 10-9 lead. While we gave up a trey the other way, Marta then fed Erica for a fast break layup, and the quarter ended SC 14 Stanford 12.
In the second quarter, a lengthy possession culminated in an 8 foot jumper by McCall for a tie game at 14. Then Marta continued her heroic ways with a very long cross court pass to Britt for an open trey, and followed it up on the next possession by attacking the basket for a layup and a 5 point lead. Erica made another basket off of two O-boards and SC kept missing shot after shot, and we were up 21-15 at the TV break. However, Smith sat with two fouls.
Then Karlie rolled her right ankle and was carried off the court, and a pall came over the court. She waived off a stretcher and walked to the locker room.
Karlie's injury did not seem to immediately affect us. Marta hit a floater but A'sa responded, and then Kaylee made a hook to keep the lead at 8, then we stretched it to a 10 point lead until we gave up a foul with 4 seconds left. SC made 1 free throw, and we led at halftime 29-20.
By the half, Tara's defense had looked brilliant, with A'sa Wilson held to 4 points. Meanwhile Erica had 10 points and Marta was the big surprise with 8. We shot at 45%, SC shot 26%, rebounding and turnovers were relatively even--and two of our turnovers were long Marta passes that might have resulted in fast break points if they were slightly more under control. If only the game could have ended then and there.
When the third quarter began, Karlie was on the floor, so the ankle roll was not as serious as it appeared. But Karlie came out quickly after she stumbled on it backing up--it looked like her ankle might not be 100%. She was in and out in the second half but was clearly not her normal self, not taking another shot. I my view it was our defense that suffered with her absence, since SC guards began to penetrate in the paint in a way they could not in the first half.
The third quarter turned into a disaster for us--we were outscored 21-8 as we tried unsuccessfully to adjust at both ends of the court. Smith picked up her 3rd fouls and had to sit and SC went on an 13-0 run while we went 6 minutes and 27 seconds without a point. On one of our many empty possessions we missed 4 times--wasting 3 O-boards. Finally Alanna made a basket to break the drought--she was also the last person to score a point--and after a McPhee jumper we closed out a wretched third quarter down 37-41.
A traveling call--we had numerous such calls-- a shot clock violation, and a foul off the ball on Erica got us off to a poor fourth quarter start, and the energy of our team on offense just seemed not to be there. In the absence of serious threats from Karlie or McPhee at the perimeter, the SC defense was not allowing penetration as it did in the first half, and simply took long and often off-balance jumpers that missed, while at the other end SC was getting the ball inside and scoring. Finally Roberson buried a trey to get us to a 43-47 deficit. DiJonai subbed in, got a steal and a layup, but Gray made as spectacular shot off glass the other way and-one to give SC a 53-45 lead with 4 minutes left in the game.
Smith began to catch fire toward the end of the game, and I had the feeling that if the game continued for a bit longer she would have willed us to victory. First she hit a hook to get us to 47-53, and then a trey to get us to 50-53 with 2 minutes left. Would the cardiac Cardinal do it again? Alas no. The chance to win was lost in a 30 second span beginning with Erica inexplicably losing the ball out of bounds at 1:26 when we were only down four, followed by a Ty Harris jumper at the other end, a Britt miss of a trey, and a 3/4 length of the court outlet pass to an unopposed Allisha Gray under the basket at the other end. We were down 8 with 43 seconds and the game felt over emotionally. Smith continue her heroics and hit a trey, but the fouling game was not kind to us and time dribbled away.
Blocks, turnovers, rebounds, and assists were all relatively even team to team. Each side had 34 points in the paint. Shooting percentages were a poor 37% for both teams. The most glaring difference was that SC scored 13 points off of free throws and we scored 3. In the second half, points from free throws were SC 11, Stanford 1.
In her last college game, Erica played very respectably and was the solid every-game player we have come to expect. She had 14 points on 7/19 shooting with 14 rebounds and 2 blocks--one emphatic. To manage a double double while playing against A'ja Wilson was special.
In her last college game, Bri was 2/4 for 5 points, 3 assists to 2 turnovers and a steal.
In her last college game, Karlie played with courage on a bad ankle, but could not generate a stat line.
Alanna Smith showed once again that she is a great hope for the future, scoring 14 on 6/14 with 12 rebounds and 2 blocks for a double/double in just 26 minutes. 4 fouls, however, marred her day.
Marta Sniezek's first half was worthy of a great point guard; the second half was not, but again she showed us just how good she can be. She scored 8 points on 3/6 shooting--all in the first half--and had 6 assists to 3 turnovers, with two of those turnovers being overly aggressive efforts to pass the length of the court that sailed a little too far.
Kaylee Johnson played rugged defense and did not look at all like one of the "nice girls from Stanford" but banged with A'ja Wilson and probably left her bruised. She made a basket at a time we really needed it, and collect 5 rebounds in 13 minutes.
Carrington and Fingall both got into the game.
This team dramatically overachieved what we thought it could do this year, and it did it by steadily improving--a hallmark of Tara's system. We say good bye to Erica, Karlie, and Bri, who in the absence of Lili this year helped to forge one of the tightest sisterhoods in Stanford WBB history. And we have the optimism borne from watching Alanna Smith come-of-age, and the flashes of brilliance we have seen at times from Marta, Britt, and Nadia earlier in the season. Next year, Tara's new team will be a fascinating puzzle to put together, and it will be wonderful to watch the puzzle-master at work.