Manhattan, KS -- To Stanford, home court advantage is nothing short of a myth. Words jumbled together and used as a scare tactic. A thought that creeps into weak and weary minds.
To Stanford, the Cardinal’s 172-36 away/neutral game record over the past 10 years is prime evidence of that.
“We knew coming in that we had to play very well,” said Tara VanDerveer, Stanford head coach. “I think we took the crowd out by getting that big lead.”
On Monday, No. 2 seed Stanford almost didn’t blink while adding the 172nd win to that record in Bramlage Coliseum after defeating the No. 7 seed Kansas State Wildcats.
This matchup was only the second overall for these two teams. The first happened in 2002, where the Cardinal topped the Cats 63-57 on the heels of 12 made 3-pointers: 5 from Kelley Suminski.
That win was No. 400 as head coach at Stanford for Tara VanDerveer.
Fast forward 15 years, and VanDerveer tops the Wildcats yet again 69-48, led by Brittany McPhee’s five makes from beyond the arc.
This win is No. 1,010 for VanDerVeer, and marks the team’s 10th consecutive bid to the Sweet 16.
History really does repeat itself.
Coming into Monday’s matchup, the height similarities between both teams was apparent, leading to a crucial battle for rebounds. Stanford rounded out the night with 39 compared to K-State’s 25.
Stanford’s Alanna Smith was tasked with defending K-State’s center hotshot Breanna Lewis, and came away with 7 boards.
“Alanna is really coming into her own,” VanDerveer said. “She is just playing with a lot of confidence. She gives us another big body in there that has experience. She can stretch defenses with her 3-point shot.
“I think we played really good help defense,” Smith said. “We knew that when they go inside that we have to help, (and) because (Lewis) is 6’5” she forces us to rotate well off it. Credit goes out to all the guards as well, coming in and helping us bigs, because with 6’5” you cannot do it yourself.”
Kansas State’s season-long battle with turnovers came to a point as the Wildcats allowed 20 points off 15 turnovers. The second quarter would seal the deal for the Cardinal as great ball movement and rebounding helped dig a hole K-State would not recover from. Stanford would steal the stat for points in the paint with 30, compared to K-State’s 24.
Senior center Breanna Lewis had two fouls by the start of the second quarter, and Stanford would key in on her benching in the second quarter with an 8-0 run.
“We did not control the ball very well,” said Jeff Mittie, Kansas State head coach. “Turnovers were a problem for us. We were pressing a little bit to make plays, trying too hard, we were doing out of character things. We got a couple buckets early, but as soon as the turnovers (came), it wasn’t just one player turning the ball over, it was everybody.
“I just think everybody was trying to do way too much (and) we’re really not a very good team when we try to do individual things.”
Kindred Wesemann led the Wildcats with 11 points and 5 assists, while Stanford would successfully silence Lewis who ended her career with a 9-point performance highlighted by only 4 rebounds. However, Wesemann will end a solid career fifth in school history and 13th in Big 12 history with 264 three-pointers. Lewis also ends her career at K-State with a school-record 282 blocks.
“It’s hard to think about (moving forward from Wesemann and Lewis) right now,” Mittie said. “I would say that I feel bad that we didn’t, I didn’t, put them in a position to play better today. It’s disappointing sitting here.”
McPhee led Stanford with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, followed by Alanna Smith with 19 points and 7 rebounds of her own. McPhee’s 21 points marks her second slaughter of Big 12 teams after previously putting up 28 in a 71-59 win against Texas earlier this season.
Coincidentally, Stanford will face No. 3 Texas on Friday in the Sweet 16 in Lexington.
“I am sure they remember that was not a fun trip back to Austin, and our team is going to have to really focus on playing really well,” VanDerveer said of facing Texas. “I have confidence in our team. I think it works better for us to play a team again. I think it will be a great game that we are really excited to play.”
The Stanford bus will return to California in time for players to take finals, then depart for Lexington for the matchup.