April 18, 2018

A look back at ’17-’18, Part 2 of 2

After ending 2017 and beginning the Pac-12 season with home wins over the SoCal teams, the Stanford women’s basketball team began 2018 in the desert.

The Cardinal defeated Arizona 61-46 on Jan. 5 but lost to Arizona State 66-73 on Jan. 7. After freshman guard Kiana Williams led the team in both games with 12 points against Arizona and 14 against ASU, she was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Jan. 8.

The Washington schools came calling for the next two games, and both left with losses. Washington State fell 70-57 on Jan. 12. The Farm team shot a sizzling 64.7 percent in the first quarter and 58.8 percent in the second to go into the locker room up 45-17.

Britt and Tara show off Britt's plaque from USA Basketball. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos0
It was a nice way for senior guard Brittany McPhee to celebrate her 22nd birthday. In addition, head coach Tara VanDerveer gave her a plaque honoring her summer with USA Basketball and the U23 National Team in Japan.

Tara gives a shout-out to Kaylee

Washington fell next, 71-45, on Jan. 14. During the Behind the Bench, Tara said the team still had a long way to go, but she saluted senior forward Kaylee Johnson, who had 12 rebounds and eight points in this game and 10 points and 15 rebounds against Washington State.

During the Washington game, junior forward Alanna Smith had a game-high 19 points, while Britt had 15 and sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington had 11.

Also during the Behind the Bench, former associate head coach Amy Tucker said her duties as women’s basketball administrator include managing the Nike apparel contract and helping Tara with correspondence and engagements.

Split decision in SoCal

A trip to SoCal gave Stanford a 59-55 victory over USC on Jan. 19 but a 53-64 loss to UCLA on Jan. 21. DiJonai had a team-high 15 points against USC, while Kiana had 14 against UCLA.

Britt became the 39th player in SWBB history to notch 1,000 points during her team’s 74-50 home victory over Arizona State on Jan. 26. Needing just 14 to reach that mark, she hit it early in the fourth quarter. She had scored a buzzer-beater in the third and then hit the team’s next three shots in the fourth. In all, she scored 24 points.

Ros Gold-Onwude, '10, of Pac-12 Networks, interviews Marta after the ASU game .(Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Junior guard Marta Sniezek’s 13 points were a career high, and she dished out six assists, half of the team’s total. DiJonai also was in double figures with 13 points.

Reporting on the game, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “No other team in the country has played as many games against ranked teams as Stanford, but (this) win was just its second against the top 25.”

Fourteen three-pointers by six different players sparked the team to a 79-42 victory over the visiting Arizona on Jan. 28. Britt, Alanna and Kiana had three each. Marta and sophomore guard Anna Wilson had two each, while freshman forward Alyssa Jerome added one. Another notable stat was that the team had only seven turnovers.

Season’s peak: Upset over Oregon

Traveling to Oregon, the team notched two major wins by defeating Oregon State 60-57 on Feb. 2 and upsetting No. 6 Oregon 78-65 on Feb. 4.

In the tight Oregon State win, DiJonai (nine points) sealed the victory with a steal in the final seconds. Britt had 18 points, Kiana 14 and Alanna 11.

Against Oregon, Britt poured in 33 points, while Alanna and Kiana had 14 each. Kiana suffered a cut on her nose after a collision with Britt. She had to have stitches, but returned to play in the fourth quarter. Oregon didn’t score during the final 6:29 minutes.

These weekend victories vaulted Stanford to 17th from 24th in the AP poll, its largest jump in SWBB history.

Honors for Britt, Kiana

They also gave Britt the honors of ESPNW National Player of the Week, Pac-12 Player of the Week, U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week and a Naismith Trophy finalist. Kiana was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.

The Cardinal breezed to a 70-49 win over visiting Utah on Feb. 9. Tough defense played a role again, as did 18 points from Britt, 11 from Marta and 10 from sophomore forward Nadia Fingall. Nadia’s total came from 4-4 shooting, including 2-2 from beyond the arc.

Kaylee and Britt, with freshman forward Estella Moschkau, in the locker room. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Senior Day was celebrated with a Feb. 11 victory over Colorado, 62-53. During the post-game ceremony, Kaylee and Britt said they hope to play professionally after graduation. Kaylee then hopes to go to law school, while Britt aims for med school. It later was reported that knee issues would end Kaylee’s pro hopes.

The game brought the team’s winning streak to six and elevated it to 14th from 17th in the weekly AP poll. It remained tied for first with UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12.

Split decision for cross-bay rivals

The annual Battle of the Bay ended in a split decision, with Stanford taking the first round at home against Cal 74-69 on Feb. 15. Kiana led the team with a career-high 26 points, including five three’s in this final home game of the regular season.

Cal got revenge on its Senior Day, defeating its visitors 66-78 on Feb. 17. Three Cardinal starters shouldered most of the scoring load, 87.8 percent.

Britt had 24 points, followed by Alanna with 20 and Kiana with 14. The fourth starter who scored was Kaylee with six. The loss bumped Stanford down to 16 from 14 in the AP poll.

Washington win ends regular season

Going north, the Cardinal prevailed 86-79 over Washington on Feb. 23.  Although only seven players saw action, they were productive. Four scored in double figures: Britt 25, Alanna 15, Marta 13 and Nadia 10 (on 5-5 shooting). Kaylee’s 13 rebounds contributed to the Cardinal’s 38-22 advantage on the boards.

The victory marked the program’s 500th in the Pac-12 and the 17th straight season with at least 20 wins.

Washington State was scheduled for Feb. 25, but the sudden death of its strength coach led to the game’s cancellation.

Hence Stanford’s regular season record remained at 20-9 and 14-3 in the conference, cementing a two seed for the Pac-12 tournament and keeping the team at No. 16 in AP rankings.

Honors for Tara, players

In the meantime, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Assn. gave Tara its annual Carol Eckman Integrity in Coaching Award. She also was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

At the same time, Britt was named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was named to the All Pac-12 Team along with Alanna. Kiana was honorable mention for that team and named to the all-freshman team. Kaylee and Marta were honorable mention for the all-defensive team.

Traveling to Seattle for the Pac-12 Tournament, Stanford defeated USC 69-59 on March 2, led by Kiana’s 18 points. Arizona State fell to the Cardinal 58-46 on March 3, when Kiana led with 24 points.

In the championship game on March 4, Stanford lost 57-77 to Oregon. Kiana was named to the all-tournament team, and the Cardinal moved up to 15 in the March 5 AP poll.

Britt garnered another honor, being named to the USA Today Women’s Basketball All-America third team on March 7.

She and six teammates also were honored by the Pac-12 for their academic achievements on March 12. She and Kaylee were named to the All-Academic first team. DiJonai, Nadia, Alanna, junior forward Shannon Coffee and junior guard Alexa Romano received honorable mention.

Team hosts first two rounds of NCAA

The team’s record entitled it to a four seed and the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The bench celebrates one of Stanford's 11 three's against Gonzaga. (Stanford Athletics)
The home environment proved advantageous as the team defeated 13 seed Gonzaga 82-68 on March 17.

Tara used the same starting lineup that had carried the team through the past several games; Kaylee, Alanna, Britt, Marta and Kiana. They did most of the scoring, led by Kiana with 21, Alanna with 20, Britt with 11, Marta with seven and Kaylee with six.

Home wins send squad to Sweet 16

Next to fall was 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast, 90-70, sending Stanford to the Sweet 16 for the 11th straight season.

Alanna poured in nearly a third of the team’s scoring, with 28 points plus 12 rebounds. Her 28 points were the most for a Stanford player in the tournament since Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, scored 29 against Penn State on March 30, 2014. It was Alanna’s seventh double-double of the season.

Alanna leads the team in celebrating the Florida Gulf Coast win. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Thus Alanna made sure that Britt and Kaylee had happy memories of their last game at Maples.

Their last game ever wasn’t quite as happy as the Cardinal fell 59-86 to one-seeded Louisville on March 23 in Lexington, Ky. Despite shooting 72.7 percent in the first quarter and 43.4 percent for the game, Stanford was undone by 19 turnovers and by a better team.  Louisville went on to defeat Oregon State to advance to the Final Four.

Thus the season ended with a 24-11 record.

The players had some time off between the Sweet 16 and the start of spring classes on April 2.

Players and coaches gather for one last photo session after the banquet. (Stanford Athletics)
Banquet wraps up the season

The team, coaches and fans then had one final get-together, the annual spring banquet April 8 at Arrillaga Alumni Center. Unlike past banquets, it was a brunch rather than dinner.

With Tara as emcee, the crowd of 160 heard praise for team and individual accomplishments.

The afternoon ended with a nostalgic video showing highlights of the season starting with the team’s trip to Italy and ending with the Sweet 16.

“This team has been really special,” Tara said.

Looking ahead

Returning players gathered for a team meeting right after the banquet. The next day, April 9, they began working with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil for six hours a week and with the coaches on the court for two hours a week.

Spring finals are June 8-13. After a break, the three incoming freshmen will join their new teammates for summer school, which starts June 25 and ends with finals Aug. 17-18. Workouts and practices will be part of the routine.

Fall classes start Sept. 24.

The pre-conference schedule will include home games against Baylor and Ohio State and away games at Tennessee and Gonzaga. In honor of its two Canadians, Alyssa and sophomore guard Mikaela Brewer, the team also will travel to Toronto to play Buffalo.