Pac-12 Feature: Thompson looks for consistency in new role
The floor leader on a squad with no seniors, Lili Thompson said she doesn’t feel like she’s playing on a young Stanford team.
“I would say we don’t always feel like the most experienced team,” Thompson said. “But we have four junior captains and we are all willing to do what we need to do.”
Thompson did what she needed to do last weekend to get the Cardinal back on the right foot after a tough loss on the road against UCLA the week before.
Thompson had a breakout offensive weekend against Washington and Washington State, putting up 57 points in two games and leading the Cardinal to a pair of big wins.
Thompson, the junior guard from Texas, scored 27 points against the Huskies on Friday, outscoring the nation’s top scorer in Washington guard Kelsey Plum (23) and then added a career-best 30-point performance against Washington State two days later.
She was named the espnW National Player of the Week for the second time in her career and the Pac-12 Player of the Week.
On Tuesday against Cal, she finished with 11 points on a tough shooting night (3 of 15 from the floor). It was a performance emblematic of Thompson’s season, something of a roller-coaster ride.
In the first 15 games of the Cardinal’s season, Thompson was the team’s leading scorer seven times. She scored at least 20 points in four of those games.
But over the next five games (four of those on the road), Thompson didn’t lead the Cardinal in the scoring column, until she busted out against the Washington schools.
“She had some big games early,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “It has been frustrating that she hasn’t been scoring the way we’ve needed her to, but I think offensively, she’s starting to take better shots and that was the key.”
Thompson said the entire team made an effort to get in the gym and put up extra shots after scoring just 36 points against the Bruins.
“We are all committed to making the offense work better,” Thompson said. “I know I try not to get frustrated, not to get down. I know if I keep working, it will come.”
Thompson played her first two seasons alongside Amber Orrange, an experienced point guard who did most of the ball-handling and distributing.
“I think that’s been really different for her this year,” VanDerveer said. “She hasn’t had the point guard she was used to playing with. Both of the (Washington) games this weekend, I think Marta Snizek played well and that helped to free her up.”
Thompson has been asked to be both a “creator and finisher,” VanDerveer said.
But the thing she’s done most consistently is defend.
“She’s allowed us to be in games, even when maybe she wasn’t our leading scorer or when other people haven’t scored as much,” VanDerveer said. “She’s always defending the other team’s best player and she’s really taken on that responsibility.
“But it’s definitely fun to see her find her shot.”
Thompson said she believes there is something to work on in every game and she is dedicated to doing that work.
“At the same time, after you go two or three or four games not shooting the ball well, it’s nice to see the shots fall,” Thompson said.
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse.