Analysis: Stanford’s calm, depth big reason why Cardinal are capable of winning women’s NCAA Tournament

Sometime around 7 p.m. central time, the Stanford women’s basketball team remembered how talented, and how deep, it is.

Trailing 38-26 at halftime, Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, a Hall of Famer and one of the steadiest, calmest coaches in college hoops, didn’t panic. Her team had played maybe its worst half of basketball of the season, shooting 10-of-36 (28%) from the field and a dismal 1-of-9 from 3. The Cardinal’s senior leader Kiana Williams, a San Antonio native who has dreamed of leading her team to the national championship in her hometown, was 1-of-11. 

“I didn’t recognize the people in the jerseys in the first half,” VanDerveer said. “I told them, ‘Don’t worry about winning — compete!’ I did go through some statistics that I think got people’s attention.” 

Then, she put in Ashten Prechtel. With freshman Cameron Brink not moving as well defensively as VanDerveer wanted, in came Prechtel. The 6-foot-5 sophomore from Colorado Springs came off the bench to score 16 points in 16 minutes Tuesday night, going 3-of-3 from deep. She missed just one shot all game, a free throw. Prechtel did not play at all the first half. 

But once she got in, the Cardinal got going, ripping off a 17-2 run midway through the third quarter to trail by just two going into the fourth quarter. And she hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to open the last period that gave Stanford the lead for good.

“It probably looks like I should have put her in in the first half,” VanDerveer quipped. “Maybe watching the first half she understood what to do better. Obviously you can’t expect someone to go 6-for-6 every game but I liked how she rebounded, she finished inside. She looked very confident. 

"Our team was so excited for her. Having depth like that, where everyone is excited for the other players, is really important." 

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BRACKET: Men's and women's NCAA Tournament results and schedule

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