San Francisco Chronicle
Tag-team effort helps Cardinal women roll
TEMPE, Ariz. — With just a second left in the first half, Stanford’s Agnes Emma-Nnopu sank her fourth 3-pointer. The Cardinal bench rushed the court to mob the junior guard before returning to the locker room with big smiles.
Emma-Nnopu finished with a career-high 17 points, going 5-for-6 from 3-point range in just 16 minutes in Sunday’s easy 96-64 win against Arizona State. After a loss to Washington on Feb. 5, Stanford appears to be back to its winning brand of tag-team basketball.
“The biggest thing I told our team (coming into the weekend) is we’ve got to play hard,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We didn’t play hard enough. It’s on me too; I need to sub people out. You’re going to come out after two or three minutes no matter what, so play hard and come out or if you don’t play hard, you’re not going to come back in.”
Eleven Cardinal scored against the Sun Devils, who remain winless in the Pac-12. Stanford, which beat No. 17 Arizona 84-60 on Thursday, will return to Palo Alto with all traces of doubt erased after its loss to Washington.
Though a win Sunday was expected, it was a confidence-booster as Stanford (24-3, 12-2 Pac-12) prepares to face USC, the only other Pac-12 team with a win over the Cardinal, on Friday.
“This is the first time we’ve gone backto-back on a road trip in the Pac-12, so it was really important that we played well,” VanDerveer said. “I thought this was an excellent weekend for us, especially coming off of a really tough weekend up in Washington. But sometimes you have to learn the hard way and we did.”
The improvements Stanford has made since the Washington loss are marked, especially on the glass. The Cardinal posted a season-low 24 rebounds at Washington but outrebounded Arizona 45-27 and matched a season-high with 58 boards against Arizona State (7-16, 0-12).
“‘Grit’ has been a word for us this past week, being really gritty and tenacious,” said Cameron Brink, who scored 15 points and leads the team with 257 rebounds after grabbing eight Sunday. “I think we’ve really taken that to heart and got better.”
Brink said she thinks the Washington loss was the “kick in the butt” the team needed to keep playing well. Hannah Jump agreed.
“We learned a lot from that Washington game and the USC game as well,” she said. “I think that if that’s what it took to get our minds right and teach us to come in with a lot of energy every game, then that’s best.”
Playing tag-team basketball the way Stanford does requires being confident that each individual will contribute, and the Cardinal got a big dose of that this weekend. Five players had double-digit points on Sunday, with Emma-Nnopu leading the pack off the bench.
Brink said when EmmaNnopu reached the locker room after her first half buzzer-beater, Kiki Iriafen poured water on her because she was so hot.
“We call (Emma-Nnopu) ‘green light,’ ” said Jump, who scored 12 points and had five rebounds and three assists. “She has the confidence to knock it down and we all have that confidence in her to shoot that shot.”