Well the good news was this game was televised. The bad news was maybe it shouldn’t have been. Stanford shot a season-low 29.4 % for the game and held off a uncharacteristic late charge to survive and win 52-43 over Arizona State University. (And 8 of those Stanford points came off of 4 straight intentional fouls within the last minute).
Coming into this Pac-12 tournament semi-final game, ASU only gave up an average of 52.5 points per game. Stanford likes to score. Something had to give there, but let’s also not forget Stanford plays great defense and they only give up 55 or so points a game. And ASU is the team that has 6’5 Kali Bennett, who blocked Stanford Superstar Nneka Ogwumike not once but twice in one possession the last time these two teams met in the regular season, something you don’t see every day.
Kali’s defense and scoring single handedly kept her team in it when they last met. And then she got hurt, a bloody nose I think. She came back I quickly but she wasn’t the same. And then Stanford’s post players, Nneka and sister Chiney went to town. Bennett then fell and hurt her back and was out of the game for good. Stanford cruised to a victory.
In this game, Kali played well but got her third foul with 2 seconds left in the half. She then couldn’t be so aggressive on defense in the second. Stanford is known to play smart and you have to play smarter to beat them, and that was not a smart play. Nneka had head-faked Kali at the three point line and drove past her. When Nneka pulled up, Kali was trying to get back to her and fouled her. Nneka made both shots and took a 29-15 lead in to the locker room. Yes that’s right, that’s not one of C’s infamous typos. ASU only scored a season-low 15 points in the first. We told you Stanford could play some D, too. The sisters combined for 18 at the half, BTW.
Still, ASU held Stanford scoreless for long stretches of time. Most notable was the 8 minutes in the second half where Stanford went without a field goal. Stanford was also 0-10 for threes, and shot a season-low 29.4 % for the game. Even worse, Stanford’s second half statistics were 15.4% made field goals on 4-26 shooting, and 0 points from the bench. Ye Gods! (Nate the Great from Swish Appeal would have a field day with stats like that!). And that kind of play, Ladies and Gentlemen, will bounce you out of the NCAA tourney quicker than my fat cat eats her kibble.
The announcers hit the nail on the head and said if you hold Stanford, the #2 team in the country to 4-26 shooting, and 8 minutes without scoring in the second, and don’t score points yourself, you are wasting a HUGE opportunity. And ASU did. ASU shot about 29 % from the field, too.
Some highlights. Nneka scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds for a double-double. Sister Chiney had 12 points and 13 rebounds, also a double-double. Coach VanDerveer said after the game she knew Nneka and Chiney would not let this slip through Stanford’s fingers. Yes, but what happened to their supporting cast that had made such strides the last few weeks?
Why was it so bad? C and R theorize that one, good ASU defense and and two, playing two games in a row took a toll on both teams. ASU did not let Stanford run or get baskets in transition. Nneka and Chiney were pushed around a lot inside, coupled with really bad refs not calling obvious contact down low and that made for a lot of missed shots.
Stanford has not played back-to-back games all year without a night’s rest, and now they have to play 3 games in a row without a night’s rest? What’s up with that Pac-12? Didn’t they get at least one day’s rest in the old format? (And please move the tourney to Vegas, where the men are thinking of going).
After the game, Tara V said sometimes you got to win ugly and that was ugly, but you learn from it. When teams are that aggressive we have to pass, screen and move and go hard, cutting quicker.. Oh here, listen for yourself.
Tomorrow is the Championship at 11:30 AM Stanford time, on TV again. Stanford’s opponent? Cal
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