March 20, 2018

Time to savor the Sweet 16

Alanna leads the team's celebration after the victory.
Alanna Smith poured in nearly a third of the Cardinal’s points as the Stanford women’s basketball team beat Florida Gulf Coast University 90-70 on March 19 to advance to the 
NCAA’s Sweet 16 for the 11th straight season.

The junior forward had 28 points and 12 rebounds in 37 minutes to make sure that the team’s two seniors would have happy memories of their final game at Maples.

Those two, guard Brittany McPhee and forward Kaylee Johnson, did their part. Britt contributed 17 points and nine rebounds while Kaylee had six points and 12 rebounds.

Kaylee and Britt, watched by Estella, in the locker room after their last game at Maples.
As they sat together on the bench late in the game, the TV broadcast (which I watched later) showed them seemingly treasuring the moment and each other as teammates and classmates.

In addition to Britt and Alanna’s contributions, double-digit scoring came from sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington with14 points and freshman guard Kiana Williams with 12.

Maya pulls in a rebound.
Eagles learn to Fear the Tree

The team showed why a Stanford sports motto is Fear the Tree. With no opposing player reaching 6 feet in height, the much-taller Cardinal crew took advantage in both scoring and rebounding. The home team’s advantage on the boards was a huge 52-18.

Height also helped with the 7-1 edge in blocks, with two each from Kaylee, Britt and freshman forward Maya Dodson and one from Alanna. Britt and DiJonai had three steals each, and Alanna had the other one of the team’s seven.

FGC showed why it’s known for its three-point prowess, making 17 to Stanford’s nine.  Thus the Eagles finished their season with an NCAA single season record of 431, according to FGC Athletics.

Percentage-wise, though, FGC’s three-point success rate in this game was 36.2 percent, while Stanford’s was 52.9 percent.

The shorter Eagles were called for 22 fouls versus Stanford’s 14. However, the Eagles hit five of six free throws, or 83.3 percent, while Stanford made 19 of 26, or 73.1 percent.

As has often been the case in previous games, turnovers were a problem. While FGC had 10, Stanford had 18, some of them caused by the opponent’s close-in defense. They led to 24 Eagles points. Stanford capitalized with 14 points off turnovers.

More stats favor Stanford

Some other notable numbers: Stanford had 40 points in the paint, FGC 12; 12 fast break points to FGC’s two and 19 second-chance points to FGC’s three.

As the game started, Stanford came out strong and was ahead 7-0 within the first two minutes before FGC called a time out. It did result in some three’s, but Stanford still came out ahead 33-17 after the first quarter. By then, Alanna had 13 points, and Stanford had collected 16 rebounds to the visitors’ two.

The second quarter wasn’t so great as the Eagles flew to within eight points for a score of 43-35 when the quarter ended.

The third quarter gave Stanford an 18-point edge, 66-48. Although the Eagles didn’t give up in the fourth quarter, head coach Tara VanDerveer felt comfortable taking out most of the starters with several minutes to go and clearing the bench for the final minute.

Unselfishness pleases fans

Mere numbers don’t tell the whole story. The game was filled with numerous highlights, giving the partisan crowd of 2,049 ample reasons to cheer. Many of the highlights involved unselfish assists by junior guard Marta Sniezek with four and Kiana with six of the team’s 17 total.

The Cardinal are 36-4 in NCAA home games at Maples. Now it’s on to Lexington, Ky., regional for the third year in a row. There the four seed Stanford Cardinal will face the one seed Louisville Cardinals at 6 p.m. PDT March 23 on ESPN.

Also making the Lexington regional are two seed Baylor and six seed Oregon State.

Photos by Bob Drebin/

March 18, 2018

And on we go

The bench celebrates on of  Stanford's 11 three-pointers against Gonzaga.

Hosting the first and second rounds of the women’s NCAA tournament, the four seed Stanford took care of business and defeated 13 seed Gonzaga 82-68 on March 17.

After a quick three by Gonzaga, which stayed ahead for less than four minutes, the Cardinal took charge and never looked back. The first quarter ended with Stanford ahead 22-18. The lead widened to 47-36 at the half and 65-48 at the third quarter.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer stayed with the starting lineup that has been consistent for the last several games: Senior forward Kaylee Johnson, junior forward Alanna Smith, senior guard Brittany McPhee, junior guard Marta Sniezek and freshman guard Kiana Williams.

Starters lead the way

They shouldered most of the scoring load, led by Kiana with 21, Alanna with 20, Britt with 11, Marta with 7 and Kaylee with 6. The other major contribution came from sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington, who had 11. For the game, the Cardinal shot a torrid 50.8 percent. 

Alanna, who had half of the team's eight blocks, goes for one against a Gonzaga shooter.
Tough defense limited the Bulldogs to 41.1 percent.

Stanford was a sizzling 50 percent on threes, netting 11. Five were by Kiana, three by Alanna and one each by DiJonai, sophomore forward Nadia Fingall and freshman forward Alyssa Jerome.

As has been the case the last several games, sophomore guard Anna Wilson was in street clothes, but she was no longer wearing a boot.

Stanford leads in rebounding

Rebounding was a strong point with a 42-27 advantage. Britt led the team with 11 rebounds, while Kaylee had eight and Alanna six.

Fouls were a problem with a total of 21 to the Bulldogs’ 18. Kaylee fouled out with just over six minutes to go. The Bulldogs capitalized at the free-throw line, hitting 17 of 19, or 89.5 percent, while Stanford hit 11 of 20, or 55 percent.

Because it was an NCAA game, the band was relegated to an upper area, as were the other bands.

Florida Gulf Coast University prevails over Missouri

In the earlier game, 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast University upset five seed Missouri  80-70, setting up a meeting with Stanford at 6 p.m. March 19.

During the second half of that game, assistant coach Lindy La Rocque and associate head coach Kate Paye sat at table on the sidelines to scout their potential opponents. Most of the team sat in south bleachers until just over the last three minutes of the game before heading to the locker room. 

FGCU had a large, enthusiastic contingent of fans, but red-clad Stanford backers greatly  outnumbered them in the crowd totaling 2,686.

Stanford’s pre-game warmup was briefly constrained while the north basket was readjusted, but the team overall wasn’t constrained in this satisfying victory.

Photos by Al Chang and Don Feria (