January 11, 2016

Milestones for Kaylee, Lili

Kaylee Johnson chose a good time to post two career highs for the Stanford women’s basketball team.

With the score 0-7 in favor of Colorado on Jan. 10, the sophomore forward came off the bench with the clock at 6:36 in the first quarter. Just 26 seconds later, she gave the team its first basket. She went on to score all of the team’s 6 points until junior guard Karlie Samuelson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee hit successive 3’s.

Kaylee (5) and Bri  (10) go for a rebound. (Photo by Stanford Athletics)

Logging 32 minutes, Kaylee recorded team- and career-highs of 17 points and four assists plus 11 rebounds and two of the team’s five blocks to help the Cardinal to a 71-56 home victory.

Also contributing to the win were three other players in double figures: junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 16, junior guard Lili Thompson with 12 and Karlie with 11.

Double-double duo of Kaylee, Bird

With Bird adding 11 rebounds to her stat line, she and Kaylee became the first SWBB duo with double-doubles since Chiney Ogwumike (29/15) and Mikaela Ruef (11/13), both ’14, in the 82-57 Sweet Sixteen victory over Penn State on March 30, 2014.

Both have gone on to play professionally. Mikaela is with an Australian team, and Chiney is with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun with fellow alum Kayla Pedersen, ’11. During this offseason she’s a women’s basketball commentator for the Pac 12 Network.

Not to be overshadowed, Lili logged the 1,000th point of her career at 3:08 in the second quarter, becoming the 36th SWBB player to do so. Fans waving handmade signs helped to celebrate her feat.

Colorado didn’t make things easy. Stanford didn’t get its first lead until 1:40 in the first quarter when junior guard Briana Roberson sank a 3 to make the score 12-11.

The first quarter ended in a 14-14 tie, but the team inched ahead to lead 28-21 at the half. Interviewed by the Pac 12 Network’s Mary Murphy before going to the locker room, head coach Tara VanDerveer was far from pleased with the team’s performance.

Colorado has 24 fouls to Stanford’s 12

It was a physical game, especially on Colorado’s part. The Buffaloes had 24 fouls, and two players fouled out in the fourth quarter. Stanford cashed in on the fouls by making 23 free throws, but that number represented only a 67.6 percent success rate at the line.

On the other hand, the Cardinal had only 12 fouls, yielding 4 Colorado points on 50 percent shooting at the line.

All 14 Stanford players were available, but only the usual nine-player rotation saw action because the game was so tight.

Speaking briefly during the post-game Behind the Bench, Tara was a little more upbeat than she had been at the half. “We’re excited about our team’s improvement,” she said.

When Lili and associate head coach Amy Tucker preceded Tara, Amy had a bit more to offer. “The best thing we’re doing is on the defensive end. … We need to pick up our offense to match our defensive effort.” She added that junior forward Kailee Johnson has “been very valuable this season,” especially on defense.

Amy listens as Lili speaks after the game. (Photo by Dave Cortesi)
Lili thanked the fans for their support and gave credit to her teammates and the staff. It’s an honor to be in the company of the other members of the 1,000-point club, she said.

Lili cites tag team approach

Noting differences from her freshman year, Lili said, “We’re playing a lot faster” with a tag team approach. “When the other team gets tired, we’re not.”

As for the much-lamented 49-31 loss at Arizona State on Jan. 4, “We didn’t execute our game plan,” she said.

After graduation, she sees the WNBA as a possible option, but she wasn’t quite as definite about becoming U.S. president as she was in her freshman year. She’s still young, she said, but her Stanford degree -- in science, technology and society with an emphasis on innovation and organization -- will help.

For now she’s relishing “day in and day out just being with my teammates.”

The keys to balancing basketball and academic demands are “managing your time and communicating with your teachers” about when the team will be out of town, she said.

Discussing recruiting, Amy said Lili didn’t receive much focus from other colleges because she had moved from Hawaii to Texas while in high school. However, her high school coach at Mansfield, Texas, alerted Stanford to her.

Freshman forward Alanna Smith, an Australian who’s the team’s first international player, first gained notice when her father sent Stanford a video of her. However, Amy said, the coaches had to assess Alanna in person, so she made an official visit to Stanford in September 2014. Because she had already graduated from high school, NCAA rules allowed her to work out.

After that, “we were confident that she would like Stanford. … She will have a great future here,” Amy said.

The team will take its 13-3 record (3-1 Pac 12) on the road to the Oregon schools and then the Southern California schools over the next two weekends. The team returns to the Farm to host Washington at 8 p.m. Jan. 29 and Washington State at noon Jan. 31.

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