January 12, 2020

Battle of the Bay: Round 1 goes to Stanford

Lexie takes the ball upcourt. (John P. Lozano/ISIPhotos.com)
Stanford vs. Cal is traditionally billed as the Battle of the Bay, but in Stanford’s case on Jan. 10, it was a pleasure cruise as the Cardinal sailed to a 73-40 win over the visiting Bears.

Except for an opening basket in the early going, Cal never led. Instead, Stanford was up 20-5 after the first quarter. It went on to outscore Cal 19-10 in the second (39-14) and 19-3 (58-18) in the third.

While not enough to close the cumulative gap, Cal surged 22-15 in the fourth quarter, when the Cardinal starters were spending most of their time cheering from the bench.

Freebies add to festivities

There was a festive air overall, starting before the game when the 3,529 fans could avail themselves from any number of freebies: pens, pompons, rally towels, glow sticks and lighted headbands.

The latter two items cast a red glow throughout Maples when the home starters were announced. “It’s time to glow,” the videoboard said.

The fans included a sizable contingent in the student section as well as the band, Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders. There seemed to be only a smattering of Cal fans with no appearance by their band, etc.

Fran dunks before game

As the team prepared to finish its warmups with free throws, freshman forward Fran Belibi delighted the crowd with a dunk, which has become a staple for that routine.

The band delivered an impressive rendition of the national anthem, which began with a lone trumpet playing the first few stanzas before the other musicians joined in.

With the same three players out as usual – senior guards DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer along with junior forward Maya Dodson – the starting lineup featured Fran plus senior forward Nadia Fingall, junior guard Kiana Williams, sophomore guard Lexie Hull and freshman guard Haley Jones.

By game’s end, all 12 available players had seen action, and all contributed in some way.

Freshmen make a big impact

Just how important were the four freshmen in this game? Consider this: One more point from them would have tied Cal’s total output, and two more would have defeated the Bears.

Haley was the game-high scorer with 17 points. (Ben Margot/AP)
As it was, Haley with 17 points; forward Ashten Prechtel, 13; Fran, 6; and guard Hannah Jump, 3; combined for 39 points. That was more than half of the team’s total, yet the four rookies played just under a third (a combined 55 minutes) of the team’s total minutes (200).

Halftime entertainment was provided by Swift Shift, a two-person magic act with repetitious tricks, some of which became easy to predict.

There was a festive air to the game in general, especially during the second quarter when the women’s soccer team was honored with cheers and a standing ovation for its second national championship in two years.

Tara hits a conference milestone

Then there was the announcement just after the game that head coach Tara VanDerveer had just won her 500th conference game, the most by any Division 1 head coach with one women’s basketball team.

Although they weren’t shown in the videoboard, several of her former players were on hand for the occasion.

They included Kaylee Johnson, ’18; Briana Roberson, ’17; Ashley Cimino, ’11; Jayne Appel-Marinelli and JJ Hones, ’10; Brooke Smith Easter and Clare Bodensteiner, ’07; and Azella Perryman, ’05.

On the coaching side there was Cal head coach Charmin Smith, ’97, who became assistant coach at Stanford from 2004-07. 

Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye was on the team through 1995; and assistant coach Lindy La Rocque, who has been an assistant coach since the 2017-18 season, graduated in 2012.

Therefore, she was teammates with Jayne, JJ and Ashley and coached Kaylee.

Alumnae join the team and coaches in the locker room after the game (Stanford Athletics)
Lindy invites alumnae to locker room

After the game, she went over to the family section where the player alums were seated and invited them to the locker room to meet the team.

Round 2 of the Battle of the Bay shifts to Cal at 5 p.m. Jan. 12.

After that is what could be the team’s toughest tests to date: road games at Oregon at 6 p.m. Jan. 16 and Oregon State at noon Jan. 19.

Stanford returns to Maples to play Colorado at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 and Utah at noon Jan. 26. That’s when Tara’s 1990 national championship team is slated for a reunion.

Pac-12 Networks will televise the Cal, Oregon State, Colorado and Utah games. The Oregon game is slated for ESPN or ESPN 2.

January 6, 2020

Cardinal collar the Huskies

Tara joins the team and Stanford Soul Line Dancers for a post-game celebration dance.

After the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Washington 77-56 at Maples on Jan. 5, the players celebrated the usual way by tossing victory balls into the crowd.

But then the celebration became even more joyous when some of the men and women from the Stanford Soul Line Dancers, who had entertained at halftime, joined the players for a spontaneous line dance at center court. Even head coach Tara VanDerveer got in on the fun.

Kiana goes for a 3 on her way to 20 points.
For the most part, the game was fun, too, beginning when junior guard Kiana Williams  opened the scoring with a 3-pointer. The host team tallied 9 points before the visitors finally had their first basket, a 3, at the 6:40 mark.

Half ends in a tie

During the seesaw second quarter, though, Washington overcame Stanford’s 19-15 first-quarter lead to tie the game 32-32 at the half.

After the needed halftime adjustments, Stanford poured it on to end the third quarter up 57-47. The Cardinal allowed only 9 Huskie points in the fourth quarter to guarantee the 21-point win.

Kiana’s opening basket was only the beginning for her as she went on to tally game highs of 20 points and nine assists.

Hannah gets free in the corner to shoot for a 3.
Hannah makes five 3’s

Also in double figures for Stanford were freshman guard Haley Jones with 11 and freshman guard Hannah Jump with 17. The bulk of Hannah’s points came from five 3’s, half of the team’s total.

Also recording 3’s were sophomore guard Lexie Hull with one and Kiana with two. Sophomore guard Lacie Hull also had two 3's plus a 2 in just six minutes of playing time. Lacie made her first 3 during the third quarter, right after she had entered the game after sitting out the Washington State game with a sore ankle on Jan. 3.

Lexie leads a fast break.
Lexie came close to a double-double with 9 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

The starters were Kiana, Haley, Lexie, freshman forward Fran Belibi and senior forward Nadia Fingall.

By game’s end, all 12 available players got in. Senior guards DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer were again in street clothes, as was junior forward Maya Dodson, who had been absent for the past two games. None of them wore a boot.

Band and Tree return

Because Stanford’s winter quarter classes were to start the next day, the students were back on campus, thus heralding the return of the band and Tree.

Many in the pumped-up crowd of 3,273 wore the free T-shirts that were available in the concourses before the game, but they were all one size, extra-large. That didn’t deter one small boy who joined the traditional Conga on the Court after the first quarter . He happily wore his shirt, which came down to his ankles.

Overall, Stanford dominated the stat sheet in rebounds, 38-29; assists, 16-10; blocks, 4-1. Steals were even at eight apiece. Stanford had 17 turnovers (more than usual), but Washington had 19.

Stanford shot a respectable 52.5 percent overall, 50 percent from behind the arc and 83.3 percent at the free-throw line.

Thus Stanford started the Pac-12 season 2-0 and upped its overall record to 13-1.

Up next, Cal visits at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 and hosts Stanford at 5 p.m. Jan. 12. Both games will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.

Photos by John Lozano/ISIPhotos.com

January 4, 2020

Nadia wows the crowd

Nadia towers over a defender.

Senior forward Nadia Fingall helped to get Stanford women’s basketball’s Pac-12 season off to a good start by scoring 20 points, her season-high, in the team’s 77-58 home victory over Washington State on Jan. 3.

Nadia’s accomplishments came almost exactly one year after she had suffered a torn ACL at home against USC on Jan. 4, 2019.

Nine of her points resulted from three 3’s. She got the crowd of 2,643 roaring late in the first quarter when she made two 3’s in a row to help put Stanford up 22-12.

She then made another 3 to start the second quarter. Topping off this behind-the-arc binge, junior guard Estella Moschkau, getting into action earlier than usual, followed up with a 3 of her own.

DiJonai high-fives teammates on the bench after a Stanford 3.
Team notches 9 treys

In all, the team made nine 3’s. Besides Nadia’s three and Estella’s one, junior forward Alyssa Jerome had two, while sophomore guard Lexie Hull, senior guard Anna Wilson and freshman guard Hannah Jump had one each.

As the game began, senior guards DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer were again in street clothes. Junior forward Maya Dodson, who hasn’t played all season, was absent, as she was for the UC Davis game on Dec. 28. Sophomore guard Lacie Hull was in uniform but, unlike past games, didn’t play.

Backed by Nadia, Kiana drives to the basket.
Besides Nadia, those in double figures were junior guard Kiana Williams with 12, and Alyssa and freshman guard Haley Jones with 10 each.

Starters were Nadia, Lexie, Haley, Kiana and freshman forward Fran Belibi.

Although the Cougars never gave up, they never led in this one either. They lagged Stanford in nearly every statistical category except steals, snaring 11 to Stanford’s seven.

Two Cougars produce lion’s share of points

Moreover, only two WSU players produced 48 of the team’s 58 points. Two others were responsible for the other 10. The first WSU basket didn’t come until the 5:33 mark of the first quarter.

Meanwhile, 10 Stanford players scored, and all 11 who played contributed in some way.

WSU has not defeated Stanford in any of the teams’ 66 meetings.

Washington visits Maples at 2 p.m. Jan. 5. Pac-12BA will televise the game.

Photos by John Lozano/ISIPhotos.com

December 29, 2019

What a difference a half makes

Haley, trailed by Nadia, takes the ball upcourt. (Karen Ambrose Hickey/Stanford Athletics)
Fans who were expecting the Stanford women’s basketball team to easily leave UC Davis behind in a cloud of dust were – surprised? disappointed? dismayed? – when the Cardinal finally pulled out a 67-55 home win on Dec. 28 after a short holiday break.

The first two quarters were the most anxiety-producing with merely a 2-point cushion, 19-17, after the first quarter and a 2-point deficit, 30-32, at the half.

At that point, too, the Aggies had outrebounded the Cardinal 21-14.

Full-court press helps make the difference

And then came the third quarter, after head coach Tara VanDerveer probably had given the team a good talking-to and instituted a full-court press that worked in its favor.

After some more back and forth, Stanford finally went ahead for good when freshman guard Haley Jones made a basket to put her team up 42-40.

Right after that, an Aggies player was assessed with a technical for an intentional foul. Freshman guard Hannah Jump made a free throw to add another point to the margin, and the quarter ended 46-41.

The final score, 67-55, was the team’s largest lead.

Stat sheet shows Stanford’s advantages

Stanford’s more aggressive stance in the second half led to a rebound advantage of 35-33. Stanford also had more assists, 12-11; more blocks, 8-1; more steals, 7-3; more free throws, 11-5; and fewer turnovers, 14-20.

On the other hand, UCD’s 10 3-pointers on 50 percent shooting helped to keep it in contention, while Stanford managed only four, 30.8 percent. Sophomore guard Lexie Hull contributed three of the 3’s. Her twin, Lacie, had the other.

Not only did Haley put the team ahead in the third quarter, she led it in both total points, 21, and rebounds, 11, for the first double-double of her college career.

Nadia goes for a layup. (Tony Avelar/AP)
Lexie also was in double figures with 14 points. Senior forward Nadia Fingall had 11.

Starters were Haley, Lexie, Nadia, junior guard Kiana Williams and freshman forward Fran Belibi.

Three players still out

Two senior guards, DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer, were still in street clothes. Junior forward Maya Dodson, who has yet to play this season, was absent. No reason was given, but during the Behind the Bench after the game, Tara said, “We’ve gotta heal the heel. It’ll be a while.”

One of the game’s most memorable plays came during the second quarter. Fran blocked a shot, Lacie grabbed the rebound, took a few steps and hurled the ball to Fran, who scored, bringing the crowd of 2,871 to its feet.

Fran followed that up with yet another block on UCD’s next possession. She later had one more to reach her total of three for the game.

UCD coaches taught Tara the Princeton offense

After the game, assistant coach Tempie Brown started the Behind the Bench by saying that Tara learned the team’s present offense, the Princeton, from Aggies coaches, including head coach Jennifer Gross.

Anna scored 9 points and played tough defense.
(Tony Avelar/AP)
Tempie was joined by the four seniors, Mikaela, DiJonai, Nadia and guard Anna Wilson, who answered several questions from fans.

When Tara came out after the post-game press conference, she complimented the seniors. “Our seniors are doing a great job of mentoring our younger players.”

She then said she was glad the game wasn’t on TV. Still, “this is a great game for us to learn from them,” she said, referring to the advice from UCD coaches.

As for the 11-1 team’s lone loss at Texas, 64-69 on Dec. 22, she said, “They took it to us.”

Tough conference schedule lies ahead

Nevertheless, “we’ve had a great preseason. … We’re going to be ready for conference play,” which will be challenging.

In addition to Stanford at No. 5 in AP’s Dec. 23 rankings, four other Pac-12 teams are in the top 25. They are Oregon No. 2, Oregon State No. 3, UCLA No. 10 and Arizona 18.

Conference play starts with Stanford hosting Washington State at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 and Washington at 2 p.m. Jan. 5. Both games will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.

December 19, 2019

Team spreads holiday cheer with win over Tennessee

Her teammates, including Nadia (4), congratulate Kiana (23) as she  leaves the game shortly before it ended.
Santa arrived a week early for fans of Stanford women's basketball as his team of helpers delivered a sleigh full of goodies Dec. 18 during the 78-51 victory over the visiting Lady Vols of Tennessee, then ranked No. 23 in AP's national poll.

Senior forward Nadia Fingall, who usually scores closer to the basket, started the merriment on the team’s first possession by hitting a 3-pointer for a go-ahead score of 3-2.

This followed Tennessee’s taking the tip-off and scoring for its only lead. The visitors managed to tie the score for less than two minutes during the entire game. That was about as much hope as they could give their orange-clad fans seated behind the bench and scattered throughout the crowd of 4,676.
Kiana does a little victory dance in the locker room after the game.
Kiana scores her 1,000th point

Later, during the fourth quarter, junior guard Kiana Williams made a free throw that gave her 1,000 points for her collegiate career, the 41st player to do so in the program’s history.

Upping their season record to 10-0, the team looked entirely deserving of AP’s No. 1 spot by expending terrific effort both offensively and defensively.

The only missteps were 13 turnovers, still an improvement from previous games. Several came from travel calls and one from three seconds in the key.

Tennessee’s coaching staff didn’t help the Vols’ cause by getting a technical foul in the third quarter. Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer sent freshman Hannah Jump out for the free throws, both of which she made.

Amy chats with Fran in the locker room.
Fran fouls out

While Tennessee had 14 fouls, Stanford had 13, five of them by freshman forward Fran Belibi. She had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter, but not before contributing 7 points, three rebounds and three blocks in 14 minutes.

Maybe one of the coaches should do what women’s basketball administrator Amy Tucker did as associate head coach early in the stellar career of forward Jayne Appel, '10. On Jayne's locker she attached a sign that said, “Thou shalt not foul.”

Before the game started, the Lady Vols went through various stretches and other warm-up exercises joined by the young son of head coach Kellie Harper and assistant coach John Harper. The boy wore a warm-up shirt with 14 and Harper on the back.

USA Basketball honors Fran, Kiana

Just after the national anthem sung by the Greene Middle School choir of Palo Alto, Tara presented plaques to Fran and Kiana honoring their playing on USA Basketball teams during the summer.

The starters were Nadia, Kiana, junior forward Alyssa Jerome, sophomore guard Lexie Hull and freshman guard Haley Jones.

Senior guards DiJonai Carrington and Mikaela Brewer along with junior forward Maya Dodson were again in street clothes, but sophomore guard Lacie Hull, who had missed the Ohio State game with an injury, was back in action.

The first quarter ended 20-12 after Stanford held the visitors scoreless for just over five minutes.

The advantage widened to 34-24 during the half, when Luna Dance Studio of Palo Alto provided entertainment.

In addition to Hannah’s free throws following Tennessee’s technical, a third-quarter highlight came when the timeout camera focused on several members of the men’s basketball team who were there to back the women. When the quarter-ending buzzer sounded, the score had again widened, this time to 58-40.

Kiana led the team in scoring with 19 points in a game-high 34 minutes. She also had four rebounds, seven assists and one steal.

Ashten makes one of her three blocks.
Lexie, Ashten join Kiana in double figures

Lexie with 11 points (plus nine rebounds, two assists, one block and three steals in 29 minutes) and freshman forward Ashten Prechtel with 10 also were in double figures. In addition, Ashten contributed eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

In all, the team had 11 3’s: two each by Nadia, Lexie, Kiana, Ashten and Hannah plus one by senior guard Anna Wilson.

All 12 available players got in on the fun, and most contributed in one or more ways. Thus they gave their team advantages in shooting, 42.6-27.8 percent; free-throw shooting, 75-54.5 percent; rebounds, 50-44; assists, 14-7; blocks, 9-5; and steals, 7-6.

The team travels to Kiana’s home state of Texas to take on the Longhorns at 10 a.m. Dec. 22 before taking a short holiday break. ESPN2 will air the game.

The pre-conference season ends with UC Davis visiting at 2 p.m. Dec. 28 followed by a Behind the Bench.

Photos by Stanford Athletics

December 17, 2019

Winning – It’s habit-forming

Junior guard Estella Moschkau (standing) and senior guard DiJonai Carrington (in T-shirt) like what they see.

Stanford women’s basketball players have developed a habit that its fans and everyone else connected to the team hope will continue. It’s called winning.This habit has led the team to compile a 9-0 record and a No. 1 AP national ranking.

Its latest manifestation was a 71-52 victory over the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes on Dec. 15. 

According to the Stanford Daily, this was the 1,100th win in program history.

With a two-week break for finals behind them, all 11 available players saw action, and most of them helped to assure the win.

Four players on injury list

The major downside was that the three players who have been sidelined recently were joined by a fourth, sophomore guard Lacie Hull, who had a walking boot on her right foot.

Also out with injuries are senior guard DiJonai Carrington, senior guard Mikaela Brewer and junior forward Maya Dodson.

Lexie makes her way toward the basket.
However, Lacie’s twin, Lexie, gave her and her teammates plenty of reason to cheer. The guard stole the ball a career-record seven times, according to the Pac-12 Network announcers, on her way to 13 points and three rebounds in 30 minutes.

Undaunted by the defense, Haley gets ready to shoot.
Haley, one of four in double figures, leads with 15

Joining her in double figures was freshman guard Haley Jones with a team-high 15 points to go with seven rebounds, six assists, one block and two steals in a team-high 34 minutes. She was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for the second time.

Fran towers over her Buckeye defender.
Freshman forward Fran Belibi had 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, one assist and one steal in 20 minutes, while junior guard Kiana Williams had 13 points, six rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.

Freshman guard Hannah Jump, as has become her own habit, gave the crowd of 2,970 lots to cheer by making three 3’s for 9 points in seemingly effortless fashion.

For the game, the team had six 3’s, while Ohio State had four. The Cardinal shot 50 percent overall, compared with 38.6 percent for the visitors.

Free-throw shooting was somewhat improved at 71.4 percent in a game in which each team had only nine fouls. The first quarter was foul-free.

Too many turnovers

The one major flaw in this game was the 21 turnovers, many of them from passes that went to a Buckeye or from lapses that allowed a Buckeye to swipe the ball.

Both teams had 15 steals, but OSU had 24 turnovers, while Stanford had 15 assists to OSU’s nine.

The starting five were senior forward Nadia Fingall, who was first to score after a steal by Lexie; junior forward Alyssa Jerome; Lexie; Kiana and Haley.

The game had sentimental significance for head coach Tara VanDerveer, who coached at Ohio State before coming to Stanford in 1985.

With most students gone for the winter break, no student contingent such as the band was there. Even the traditional Conga on the Court after the first quarter had to recruit one of the kids to lead.

Trinkling Team entertains fans at halftime

Halftime entertainment that held many fans spellbound came from the youngsters of the TR Trinkling Team from Daly City.

Working in pairs, six of them each slapped two long bamboo poles rhythmically on the floor while other team members hopped back and forth between them with their arms behind their backs. Overseen by their coach, the maneuvers became increasing more intricate and challenging.

Speaking of challenging, the Cardinal’s next challenge comes at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 against Tennessee in Maples. It will be followed by a 10 a.m. Dec. 22 game at Texas. Pac-12 Networks will air the Tennessee game. ESPN2 will carry the Texas game.

Photos by Don Feria/ISIPhotos.com

December 7, 2019

Players learn the importance of happiness

All Stanford student athletes have access to an array of resources to help them physically, academically and mentally.

Fred Luskin, PhD
The women’s basketball team has an additional resource, short weekly sessions with Dr. Fred Luskin, senior consultant for wellness education with Stanford’s health and human performance center.

Although he’s a world renowned authority on the benefits of forgiveness, with the team “the heart of what I do is more along the lines of the happiness stuff,” he said in a recent phone interview.

He teaches a happiness class for the university and was “surprised at how hard these young people (Stanford students) are on themselves.”

“Being the best will never make you happy”

“It’s a way of the culture. We haven’t taught them that just being the best will never make you happy.”

Therefore, he reminds the players “to be kind to themselves when they fail.”

“It’s good to win, but it’s better to be better and to like themselves,” he said, adding that such people tend to win more often.

The difference between wanting to win and having to win is that the latter causes a lot of stress.

He meets with the team in the locker room for about 15 minutes preceding a practice. This session always includes meditation and the use of positive imagery, such as what each player wants to accomplish in the upcoming practice.

Associate head coach Kate Paye added that he also talks about mindfulness, stress reduction techniques, breathing techniques and wellness.

Players find the sessions helpful

The players enjoy these sessions, she said, and find that the things he talks about are helpful. “If it helps one, two, three – it’s helpful,” she said.

She called him a “wonderful teacher who cares about our team.”

He has done some work with the men’s tennis team and the women’s beach volleyball team, but this is the third year he has worked with WBB.

He started at the request of head coach Tara VanDerveer. “Being able to have Tara as a teacher is a life gift” to the players, he said.

Because his time with the team is so limited, he hasn’t had much time to talk with individual players.

However, he goes to as many games as possible and sits in the family section, where he enjoys meeting the players’ parents and other relatives.

Therapy dogs visit the team

Players enjoy a visit by therapy dogs. (Stanford Athletics)
Yet another example of helping with stress reduction is the recent visit by seven therapy dogs, courtesy of Martha Kessler, executive director of finance and administration for the Department of Health Research and Policy, Spectrum-Translational Research Program, Population Health Sciences, Basic Science Shared Services Consortium and the Department of Structural Biology. 

She also coordinates the university’s therapy pet visits to de-stress student, staff and faculty events.

Quite possibly the best way to way to end a practice in the history of basketball practices,” says a recent SWBB tweet.

As the “Peanuts” characters say, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”