Stanford’s freshmen make an impact in first NCAA Tournament action

STANFORD — Stanford’s experience has been considered a massive advantage whenever the Cardinal takes the floor.

But even with several key contributors who have played in back-to-back Final Fours and won the national championship in 2021, the Cardinal will need their freshmen to make an impact, too.

And that’ll be especially important if All-American Cameron Brink misses No. 1 seed Stanford’s second round game against No. 8 seed Ole Miss at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday with a non-COVID related illness, too.

In their first taste of NCAA Tournament action, each of Stanford’s three freshmen — center Lauren Betts and guards Talana Lepolo and Indya Nivar — had a solid game in a first round rout of No. 16 seed Sacred Heart and got a chance to enjoy their first taste of March Madness.

“It’s just really exciting,” Betts said. “This is something that Indya and I have grown up watching for a very long time, so it’s just an honor to be here and play on this team and just have this experience with the amazing people I get to be with every day.”

Both Nivar and Betts said their Big Dance debut was just like any other, though Nivar added, “But just with a little bit more excitement behind it knowing that this game, we have to do what we have to do to get to the next.”

Nivar scored double-digit points for just the second time all season, making 4-of-6 shots (one 3-pointer) and both free throws to tally 11 points in 20 minutes. Lepolo, a Carondelet alum Lepolo had a game-high seven assists and three steals while adding three points in 23 minutes.

Perhaps most encouraging for the Cardinal was Betts’ night, as the 6-foot-7 center filled in for Brink had 10 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes of action. She gave Brink credit for helping her improve to this point in practice.

“I think Cameron and I, KiKi and I, go at it every day and definitely put me in this position,” Betts said. “Today, if someone can’t make it, I’m ready to go, and I know what I have [to contribute].”

Brink posted on Instagram that it was “just a stomach bug” right as the game started on Friday, but included a photo of her at the hospital with an IV in. She’s considered day-to-day.

But with as deep of a team as Stanford has, coach Tara VanDerveer often has a hard time taking her leaders, like seniors Haley Jones and Hannah Jump and Brink, off the floor.

“It is very hard to get minutes for 15 people. It’s really impossible,” VanDerveer said. “I feel sometimes like, when I watch the Warriors play, you know, sometimes someone might play a lot in this game, not that much in the next game. That’s really hard on a young person. But we’re led by Cam and Haley and Hannah Jump, and I think Talana is doing really well.”

Jones and Jump have played 35 minutes or more 15 times each this season and Lepolo has also crossed the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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