February 14, 2017

Cruisin’ past the Utes

With all 12 available players contributing, the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated visiting Utah 87-51 on Feb. 12.

As head coach Tara VanDerveer has often said, this year’s team wins by committee rather than relying on just one superstar. Therefore, different players step up at different times.

Alanna goes to the basket. 
Stepping up this time was sophomore forward Alanna Smith, who contributed a game-high 16 points along with five rebounds, one block, one assist and two steals in 20 minutes.

Also in double figures were senior guard Karlie Samuelson and junior guard Brittany McPhee with 13 each and senior guard Briana Roberson with 10.

Junior forward Kaylee Johnson led the team in rebounding, snaring six of the Cardinal’s 45.

The team dominated in all categories, but one of the brighter lights was its 90 percent free-throw success, making 18 of 20. Free throws haven’t been a strong point in some previous games.

Nine 3’s from seven players

Seven players contributed a total of nine 3-pointers. Karlie and Bri had two each. Alanna, Britt, senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall, sophomore guard Alexa Romano and sophomore center Shannon Coffee each had one.

Shannon’s trey resulted in some of the loudest cheers from her teammates because she has had limited playing time. This time she made the most of her five minutes by adding an assist and a block to her stat line.

The team got off to a fast start, leading 31-8 after the first quarter. The second quarter was tight, with each team scoring 12, but still giving the hosts a 43-20 lead at the half.

Shannon, Nadia and Alexa scramble for the ball in the fourth quarter..
The third quarter ended 66-41. With bench players carrying most of the load in the fourth quarter, Stanford outscored the Utes 21-10, leading to the final score of 87-51.

The starting lineup was unchanged from recent games with Bird, Kaylee, Britt, Karlie and Bri.

As was the case in the Colorado game, freshman guard Mikaela Brewer wasn’t there. Speaking at the post-game Behind the Bench, associate head coach Amy Tucker said, “Mikaela’s dealing with a personal situation. She’ll be back.”

Since it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day, many fans wore pink. The team’s  white home uniforms had pink accents.

Sophomore guard Marta Sniezek, whose parents were there from McLean, Va., looked gift wrapped with a big pink bow in her hair. She gifted the game with 5 points, two rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 17 minutes.

The game ran into some glitches. First, the tipoff was delayed for a few minutes because of technical difficulties.

Just over four minutes into the first quarter, a referee was injured. He limped to the locker room assisted by trainer Katelin Knox. He sat by the Gatorade bucket after the first quarter with a pant leg rolled up and a crutch behind him. He left later. Thus most of the game was played with only two referees.

The second quarter was momentarily delayed because the clock wasn’t running.

Shannon, Nadia answer questions

To start Behind the Bench, Amy was accompanied by Shannon and freshman forward Nadia Fingall, who answered fans’ questions.

Nadia said, “I still have a lot to work on. I really like getting my teammates involved.” Her goals are to take her game to the next level and avoid mistakes. She also wants to extend her range and improve her free-throw shooting. She had 5 points, five rebounds, one assist, one block and three steals in 13 minutes.

Shannon, whose mother was there from Centerville, Ohio, said she’s “working on mobility and getting up and down the court,” along with finishing at the basket.

Amy interjected that she and assistant coach Tempie Brown, who work with the bigs, “have a lot of fun with our post players. I’m really pleased with our young players.”

Asked about academics, Shannon said her favorite class has been sign language. Her most challenging is human biology.

Nadia’s favorite has been African American history, while her most challenging is Breaking Codes and Finding Patterns this quarter.

Tara pleased with everyone

When Tara arrived, she said she was pleased with how the team finished with its young players. She lavished praise on everyone, especially the seniors for their leadership.

She noted that although Utah is one of the top 10 rebounding teams in the nation, it had only 28 rebounds, while Stanford had 45.

She’s hoping that a record seven Pac-12 teams will get bids to the NCAA tournament, but she doesn’t know where Stanford will go.

Its expected high seed would normally allow it to host the first two rounds, which start March 17. However, Pac-12 gymnastics championships are slated for Maples on March 18, precluding basketball.

Cal is next. The Cardinal will cross the bay to face the Bears at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 and will host Cal at 5 p.m. Feb. 19. Since it’s the last home game, it’s also Senior Day. Both games will be shown on the Pac-12 Network.

(Photos by Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle)

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