January 24, 2017

Bedeviling defense defeats ASU

The Stanford women’s basketball team completed its sweep of the Arizona schools by defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 66-56 at home on Jan. 22.

Marta, Brittany and Kaylee team up on defense. (Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group)

Stifling defense limited ASU to 29.6 percent shooting, while the Cardinal had a 45.8 percent success rate. Defense also led to several shot-clock violations by the visitors.

Also contributing to the win was relentless rebounding. Stanford had 37 rebounds, while ASU had 29.

Kaylee returns as starter

After missing several games and then coming off the bench for several more, junior forward Kaylee Johnson returned to the starting lineup. Playing 25 minutes, she had 6 points, four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers.

Joining her as starters were senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall, senior guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson, and junior guard Brittany McPhee.

All players were available except sophomore center Shannon Coffee, who was in street clothes. Head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game that she wasn’t feeling well.

Bird led the scoring with 18 points, followed by Karlie with 15 and Brittany with 13.

Stanford led from start to finish. The score was 14-7 after the first quarter, 30-19 at the half and 49-33 after the third.

Helping to keep the crowd of 3,280 entertained, the cheerleaders and a portable cannon-wielding student tossed out T-shirts during the first quarter. In the third quarter, more T-shirts descended on parachutes.

Halftime started with the men’s soccer team parading onto the court carrying two NCAA national championship trophies –- one for last season and one for this.

A few minutes later, agility dogs from Ace Dog Sports showed their stuff, weaving through poles, jumping hurdles and scooting through tunnels, much to the crowd’s delight.

By the way, in the video showing Tara promoting this event, the attentive pooches on the sofa were her three golden retrievers.

Brittany hurts ankle but comes back to play

One scary moment came shortly before the half when Brittany fell under the south basket and gripped her ankle. She was assisted off the court to the locker room, and most fans assumed she was done for the day.

Thus there was a roar from the crowd when she returned from the locker room with her teammates to start the third quarter.

During the third quarter, an ASU player was assessed a flagrant 1 foul after a review of an encounter with Karlie, who made both free throws.

After the game, fans heard from associate head coach Amy Tucker, Karlie, Tara and Mary Murphey, commentator for the Pac 12 Network.

Commentator cites team’s improvement

Mary’s assessment of the team: “They’re getting better and better.” She praised Bird’s steady progress from her freshman year, when she was mentored by Chiney Ogwumike, ’14. “Don’t you see the Chiney effect?” Mary said.

In addition, “I love watching Karlie … Karlie is a great basketball player,” Mary said.

Amy echoed that sentiment, noting that Karlie is more than a 3-point shooter. “She’s one of the smartest players we’ve ever coached. She’ll be a fabulous coach.”

Karlie said she’s not sure what she’ll do after she graduates. Amy responded, “She’ll make a tremendous impact in everything she does.”

Free throw percentage, road wins lead conference

Even though some fans worry about free throws, Amy cited a little-known statistic: Stanford leads the Pac 12 in free throw percentage in Pac 12 games. The Cardinal logged a 77.3 percent success rate during that afternoon’s game.

Tara added that Stanford is the only conference team that’s undefeated on the road.

She was happy with this game’s defense and rebounding but not so happy with unforced errors. “Consistent play is what we’re looking for.”

She’s also pleased with the team’s camaraderie and its senior leadership.

Next the team will take its spotless road record to Washington State at 8 p.m. Jan. 27, followed by Washington at 5 p.m. Jan. 29. Both games can be seen on the Pac 12 Network.

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