To the Stanford Cardinal’s credit, they played relatively outstanding defense for most of tonight’s game against the Baylor Lady Bears.
The problem was on the other end – after a strong start and heading into halftime only down 2 points, Stanford’s offense went stagnant in the second half and Baylor slowly expanded their lead to win a low scoring 59-47 game.
Stanford came up with an outstanding game plan for Baylor that went quite well from the start.
Playing a custom defense, the Cardinal left starter Terran Condrey and Jordan Madden open for shots (in a strategy to that which Cal Golden Bears are familiar with from seeing the same approach used against junior guard Eliza Pierre over the years).
Finding themselves wide open when they caught the ball, both Condrey and Madden took the bait for the most part, which obviously helped limit 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner’s touches. The result was a 7-point first half for Griner and a sub-par shooting performance for the team.
Offensively, Stanford tried to draw Griner out from the paint by putting post players around the perimeter and when they tried to switch someone off of Nneka Ogwumike, she found a way to score off the drive or getting putbacks.
But the second half was a different story and a large part of it was Terran Condrey stepping up.
Condrey finished the game with a team-high tying 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, finding ways to score as Stanford defenders regarded her as an afterthought. While Stanford struggled to score, Condrey stepping up proved to be a major factor in the game and solving the Cardinal’s defensive scheme. Meanwhile, Baylor also got to the line 26 times to Stanford’s 7 attempts, which could be further sign of Stanford’s perimeter-orientation in the second half.
The only way to really describe what happened to Stanford offensively is that they just stopped moving – guards were struggling to get past Odyssey Sims and with everyone standing around late in the shot clock, good shots were tough to come by. But you have to credit Baylor for that – they found ways to keep Griner around the basket in the second half and, as usual, her presence made the guards’ jobs in stopping penetration much easier. Once the clock started working against Stanford with under five minutes left and only down single digits, what seemed to take hold was what ESPN commentator Doris Burke described: Stanford didn’t look like a team that still thought they could win.
By the time Chiney Ogwumike fouled out, it felt closer to the final nail in the coffin than the first dizzying blow.
Stanford senior Nneka Ogwumike never stopped fighting, finishing with a game-high 22 points and team-high 9 rebounds and aggressively attacking the basket regardless of where Griner was. Griner had a sub-par game statistically with only 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks but her defensive presence was clear: she forced a methodical Stanford team out of their comfort zone and it eventually caught up to them in the second half.
Nevertheless, you can’t fault anything about Stanford’s game plan – it worked for the majority of the game despite 2-for-17 3-point shooting and Chiney Ogwumike fouling out with only a minor contribution to the game.
Although some might call that awful basketball, it was a fairly outstanding defensive chess match that was entertaining to watch for fans of the game.