Cardinal correct course, rout Cal, turn attention to two top-10 teams
Stanford made sure Cal knew from the start that the joy the Golden Bears felt jumping up and down on their home court Thursday wasn't going to carry over to Saturday at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal led 10-0 and never looked back enroute to a 75-50 win after losing at the buzzer at Haas Pavilion.
Cal made a season high 12 threes Thursday but that shooting touch went cold at Stanford. The Golden Bears shot 16-of-60 FG and only 3-of-17 3FG. Stanford outscored Cal 22-5 in the first quarter, all but ending the game with 30 minutes left to play.
The Cardinal found success inside as the result of great movement off the ball and the well-placed pass to a cutter. Shannon Coffee dished out two such assists in quick succession that punctuated that point.
Stanford once again got most of its scoring from Alanna Smith (16 points), DiJonai Carrington (19) and Kiana Williams (19). It was a frustrating night at Haas for Williams, who only scored two points in the first half of that game and had limited opportunities to put up shots. Saturday she created more chances for herself with her speed and found the bottom of the net on three attempts from beyond the arc.
The most important player on the court for Stanford's long-term success was the return of sophomore Maya Dodson. The athletic 6-4 center missed a month due to a foot injury before playing Thursday. She scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in that loss while handling the almost unfair assignment of stopping double-double machine Kristine Anigwe.
Anigwe has 22 straight double-double games and scored 20 points and had 20 rebounds Saturday. No single player could stop her for long, but Dodson was able to at times and it was possible for everyone in the gym to see Dodson's confidence grow.
It was a tough month without Dodson, who was hurt the game before starting forward Nadia Fingall was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
"We lost so much when we lost Maya and Nadia," said head coach Tara VanDerveer. "It's so great to have Maya back and get her to play in this game and play so well. In both games she played well. I think that boosts everybody."
Dodson gives Stanford and VanDerveer more options to attack opponents and defend size. That will be useful with top-10 Oregon State and Oregon coming to The Farm next week. The Beavers are first up Friday and Carrington believes the formula to win simple.
"Extremely (excited for the games)," she said. "We owe Oregon one. Last year we didn't come out how we wanted to in the Pac-12 Tournament and we let that one slip past us. We never want to lose at home. We want to protect our home court. I know that we have the capability to beat both of these teams if we play our game, play within ourselves and play together. None of us can do it by ourselves. We know that and we're going have to follow the game plan."
Tara VanDerveer Opening Statement
"I like this game a lot more than the other one. I thought our team really needed. We played much better defensively. I thought we worked harder to rebound. Cal has a very talented team and we had to play really well to win.
"I thought we took better shots. Everything that we talked about, and we learned from Thursday night, our team and team leaders -- Kiana (Williams), Di (DiJonai Carrington), Alanna (Smith), Shannon (Coffee) -- really talked to the team. I thought we saw results. It's a new month. We're headed into tournament in February and March. We want to keep improving.
"It is great to have Maya (Dodson) back. I love that. We're excited about what we can do and we need to keep working to get better."
Was your strategy any different than what you did Thursday?
VanDerveer: "I don't know if it was that different really. How we were playing screens, but I think we learned from the mistakes that we made. I think one thing, they shot too many free throws. If we were playing them again in two days I'd say we can't be fouling them as much. We have to work harder to get in our stance and play better defense. I wouldn't say it was extremely different, no."
Was there an effort to step on their necks right away?
VanDerveer: "I think you always want to come out and play well. Di talked about it, we were playing with a chip on our shoulder. We didn't like what happened in our last two games. There were a lot of things we needed to do better, including coaching decisions. We're trying to get Kiana a little more rest, Di a little more rest, so we subbed a little more freely. That lead allowed us to do that a little bit, which was great. Lacie came right out of the gate, scored the layup and the three. Then we were taking better shots."
Was there a difference in energy?
Carrington: "I think so. We knew coming into the game Thursday how bad Cal wanted it. But I think seeing how excited they were after the win got to us and we didn't want that again. We knew we had to come out from the start and never let up. We know how much this rivalry means to both teams. At no point did we think the game was over until the last horn."
Kiana, you scored 14 points in the first half. What was it like from your point of view and how motivated were you?
Williams: "I wanted to play within the offense. Thursday they did a great job of not allowing me to get shots up. I watched film and my teammates did a great job of running offense. They had breakdowns and I took advantage of it."
How much of a difference does Maya make?
VanDerveer: "It's like, 'Wow!' Her blocks -- She's not going to play against anybody better all year and I thought she did really well. I didn't like a couple of her fouls because we need her out here. To be able to come out after sitting for a month not playing, to step up to that challenge, it was impressive. You're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with her."
What was the key adjustment defensively?
VanDerveer: "We had a better effort and maybe sometimes it's hard to explain to our team ... we have a lot of young players and maybe they don't understand the history of the rivalries. For us it's everybody. We get everybody's 'A' game. We've got to really respond to that challenge."
What happened today that is helpful for next weekend?
VanDerveer: "We came off, honestly, I thought three bad games: Colorado we didn't play the way we're capable of playing, except for one quarter, Utah ... and then Thursday. This sets up in a better position. I hope the team is as hungry as we were today to come out against Oregon State on Friday night."