February 4, 2016

Slow start ends with win over Cal

No one player lit up the scoreboard as junior guard Lili Thompson had done against Washington and Washington State a few days earlier. Nevertheless, the Stanford women’s basketball team managed to top its Cal visitors 53-46 on Feb. 2.

Lili had only 2 points early in the third quarter when her team was up 32-28. She subsequently improved upon that, finishing the game with 11 points and three assists plus a rebound.

Junior guard Karlie Samuelson was the team’s high scorer with 15 points, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 at the free-throw line. She added six rebounds, four assists, two steals and lots of scrappy plays that don’t show up in the box score.

Also in double figures was junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 11 points to go with 13 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season.

Sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson helped out with a game-high 15 rebounds, thus completing the third straight game in which she had more than 10 boards.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer altered the starting lineup somewhat, going with Lili, Karlie, Kaylee, Bird and freshman guard Marta Sniezek. Marta played 7 minutes, replaced mainly by junior guard Briana Roberson at the point. Bri had one of her better scoring games, finishing with 9 points, including two 3’s, plus two assists and one steal.

With 3,268 people in the stands, operatic tenor Don Gustafson opened the game by singing the national anthem as it was written.

Cal’s fan contingent included cheerleaders, band and Oskie, the Golden Bears’ mascot. Stanford countered with its band, cheerleaders, Tree and Dollies. Both bands seemed extra heavy on the drums, making me glad for my earplugs.

Lower level seats were festooned with red Stanford rally towels, which were handed out to other fans in the upper areas.

Cal had only seven available players, while Stanford had its full contingent of 14. They included junior forward Kailee Johnson, who had missed some previous games. She joined eight other players in the rotation.

The game started slowly, with no scoring until a basket by Cal after about two minutes had elapsed. Stanford’s first score came at the 7:32 mark, thanks to a basket by Kaylee.

The first quarter ended with Stanford trailing 7-15. The Cardinal inched up to the 25-24 lead at the halftime break and had only a 35-33 lead at the end of the third quarter.

In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the video board displayed facts about the accomplishments of Stanford women’s sports teams, individual players and alumnae. For example, 22 of the 27 women’s national championships in the past 10 years were won by Stanford teams and individuals.

The Cal and Stanford women will face off again at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Cal.

February 1, 2016

Lili tops herself in WSU game

 Fresh off her 27-point performance against Washington on Jan. 29, junior guard Lili Thompson surpassed that and her own career record with a 30-point outpouring to lead the Stanford women’s basketball team to a 69-52 victory over Washington State on Jan. 31.

Thus she and her teammates overcame a slow start in which their first 9 points came from free throws. Lili finally made the team’s first basket with 27.3 seconds left in the first quarter, which ended with the Cardinal trailing 11-18.

The deficit narrowed to 25-27 at halftime. That’s when the crowd of 3,421 was entertained by the welcome return of agility dogs.

In the meantime, the team stayed in the locker room longer than usual, emerging with only about 3 minutes to go.

Lili goes 5 for 5 on 3’s in second half

Then came the third quarter, when Lili launched an early 3 to tie the score at 28-28. Shortly thereafter, she scored again to put the Cardinal up to stay at 32-30. During the second half, she scored 24 points, going 9 for 11 overall and 5 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Lest anyone think this was a one-woman show, junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall scored 11 points and snared 14 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. Junior guard Karlie Samuelson contributed 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Other major contributions were sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson’s 19 rebounds and sophomore Brittany McPhee’s 9 points.

Kaylee, Bird, Lili, Karlie and junior guard Briana Roberson were the starters. Junior forward Kailee Johnson was unavailable again.

Chiney, Bonnie attend game

As fans waited for the post-game Behind the Bench, they spotted Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, chatting with Bonnie Samuelson, ’15, and Bonnie’s mom (also Karlie’s mom).

Assistant coach Kate Paye started the session by hailing “a great win for our team.” “It feels good to get a win on Sunday,” she said, referring to losses to Oregon State on Jan. 17 and UCLA on Jan. 24.

She was accompanied by Bird. “Bird is having a breakout junior year,” Kate said. “Her other nickname is Double-Double.” She noted the value of Bird’s
having played in the World University Games during the summer when, as co-captain, she helped the USA team win the gold.

Bird said that the international experience was helpful and that Chiney advised her during her freshman year. “My confidence is at an all-time high,” she said.

Kate chipped in: “Bird might be the most coachable player we’ve ever had at Stanford.”

Bird credited strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil for helping her and her teammates maintain their energy during games when their opponents seem to flag after a while. As for improving, Bird said she’s working on shooting from farther out rather than just under the basket.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer then joined the session, remarking, “It’s a tough league that we’re playing in.”

Tara praises Kaylee for rebounding

She commended Kaylee’s 19 rebounds (the team had 46 to WSU’s 26). “We’re just getting better,” she said. “We worked really hard” to improve the offense against the zone defenses that have tended to vex the team in past games.

“I’m really proud of this team’s resilience,” she said.

She also commended senior forward/center Tess Picknell, redshirt senior guard Alex Green, senior guard Kiran Lakhian, freshman guard Alexa Romano and freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee.

They don’t get much playing time, but they play a valuable role as the scout team in practice, running the next opponent’s offense. As a result, “our defense has been really good,” Tara said.

One fan asked why freshman guard Marta Sniezek, who logs major minutes at the point, seems reluctant to shoot. “She’s a very unselfish player,” Tara said, but “she has to be an offensive threat.”

Noting that her mother, Rita, was there for the game, Tara said, “She’s undefeated when she watches us play.”

As for this game, “it was very physical out there.”

And for the season thus far: “It’s a fun ride. It’s a difficult ride,” she concluded.

January 30, 2016

Lili's hot start paces team to victory

 After two weekends on the road that wound up 2-2, the Stanford women’s basketball team returned home to rack up a satisfying 69-53 victory over the University of Washington on Jan. 29.

Abandoning its penchant for slow starts, the team surged to a 26-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Junior guard Lili Thompson led the way, scoring the team’s first eight points and finishing the quarter with five 3-pointers and another basket for 17 points. When she made her fifth 3 with just over a minute to go, the crowd went wild.

The crowd of 2,858 also gave her a standing ovation when she left the game for good near the end of the fourth quarter. By then she had amassed 27 points plus seven rebounds and one assist in 32 minutes.

Thus she put up more points than she had in the previous three games and just missed her career high of 28 points scored on Nov. 20, 2014, against Texas.

It was far more than a one-woman show. though. Junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee had 12 points each. Junior guard Karlie Samuelson had 10, including two free throws after a technical was called on the Washington coach late in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Kaylee Johnson did her part with a game-high and season-best 14 rebounds and matched her career high with four assists.

The starting lineup featured Lili, Bird, Karlie, Kaylee and junior guard Briana Roberson.

Eight players, including the starters, Brittany, freshman guard Marta Sniezek and freshman forward Alanna Smith, saw most of the action. Marta had a career-high six assists. Senior guard Alex Green, senior forward/center Tess Picknell and freshman guard Alexa Romano came off the bench to close out the game.

Junior forward Kailee Johnson was unavailable.

The band, Dollies, cheerleaders and Tree were on hand to provide support. Halftime entertainment featured the San Juan Sensations, a girls dance troupe.

Besides the five 3’s from Lili, Karlie added two. Brittany had one to raise the total to eight. She scored 10 of the team’s 14 points in the second quarter.

Next up are Washington State on Jan. 31 and Cal on Feb. 2, both at home.

January 14, 2016

Fans watch practice, tour locker room

An estimated 350 fans, including season ticket holders and their guests, got a peek into the inner workings of the Stanford women’s basketball team during an open practice Jan. 13.

As the visitors entered Maples starting at 5:30 p.m., strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil was putting the team through warmups.

The team next went through layup drills at three baskets, followed by groups of five players doing fast break drills culminating mostly in layups or 3-point shots.

After a water break, five-on-five, red vs. white, scrimmages began, first in the half court, then full court.

The red team included four players who usually don’t get much time during games, plus a male practice player.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer explained later that red team players -- senior forward/center Tess Picknell, freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee, freshman guard Alexa Romano and redshirt senior guard Alex Green -- are the scout team, mimicking the plays of the next opponent, Oregon. “They run it amazing well,” Tara said, referring to the scout team’s running the opponent’s offense.

Classes keep Kiran, Bird away

Senior guard Kiran Lakhian is on the scout team, too, but she was absent because of a class conflict. Likewise, junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall had a class conflict that kept her from practicing with the other eight players on the white team.

White team players who weren’t on the floor practiced free throws on the sidelines.

Taking a break from scrimmages, the team paired off for free throws. Another scrimmage was followed by more free throws.

The final scrimmage saw Alex switching to the white team, while sophomore guard Brittany McPhee and junior guard Briana Roberson went to the red team.

Redecorated locker room stresses tradition

In the meantime, groups of fans toured the team’s redecorated locker room. The walls of the lounge area are adorned with action shots of past SWBB greats. One especially large photo shows Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, hugging Tara after a victory.

Other photos show Tara and associate head coach Amy Tucker cutting the nets after championships. (Amy wasn’t at the practice because she was on the road recruiting, one of her principal responsibilities. She would join the team in Oregon, Tara said.)

Also on the wall are lists of the team’s accomplishments over the years, such as the national championships, Final Fours and conference championships.

The new décor is meant to emphasize SWBB tradition, Tara said afterward. Returning players like it, she said, noting that Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, took a photo of her picture during a recent visit.

The final stop on the tour was the Arrillaga practice gym, used by the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the men’s and women’s volleyball teams, said tour guide Eileen Roche, director of women’s basketball operations.

Following scrimmages, the team ran sprints, put in more time at the free-throw line and finally met with Tara and the rest of the staff in a circle at center court. The players left the court shortly before 7:30 p.m.

Rigorous schedule

The players wouldn’t have much time to rest. They had to shower, dress, eat dinner and report back for a short practice the next day at 6:45 a.m. before traveling to Oregon.

Following the Oregon game on Jan. 15, there would be a day to prepare for and travel to Oregon State for a game on Jan. 17.

“This is a pretty typical practice,” Tara told the crowd as most of the team headed for the locker room although Bri, Brittany and freshman forward Alanna Smith put in some more free-throw time before leaving.

During the course of a week, the players watch videos of themselves on their iPads and view videos of previous games and their upcoming opponents’ games with the coaches. Assistant coaches Tempie Brown and Kate Paye share scouting duties and prepare scout reports for the team.

Tara cites progress

“We’re playing well defensively” and stressing an uptempo offensive strategy, Tara said, but the players “have to be able to run a half-court offense,” which she called only fair at this point.

Still, “I’m seeing great progress. … If we did everything well now, it would be boring.”

It would appear from this practice that every player works hard and that the players have good rapport and enjoy one another.

Finally, the coaches have two overarching goals for the team: first, stay healthy; second, improve, Tara concluded.

January 11, 2016

Milestones for Kaylee, Lili

Kaylee Johnson chose a good time to post two career highs for the Stanford women’s basketball team.

With the score 0-7 in favor of Colorado on Jan. 10, the sophomore forward came off the bench with the clock at 6:36 in the first quarter. Just 26 seconds later, she gave the team its first basket. She went on to score all of the team’s 6 points until junior guard Karlie Samuelson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee hit successive 3’s.

Kaylee (5) and Bri  (10) go for a rebound. (Photo by Stanford Athletics)

Logging 32 minutes, Kaylee recorded team- and career-highs of 17 points and four assists plus 11 rebounds and two of the team’s five blocks to help the Cardinal to a 71-56 home victory.

Also contributing to the win were three other players in double figures: junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 16, junior guard Lili Thompson with 12 and Karlie with 11.

Double-double duo of Kaylee, Bird

With Bird adding 11 rebounds to her stat line, she and Kaylee became the first SWBB duo with double-doubles since Chiney Ogwumike (29/15) and Mikaela Ruef (11/13), both ’14, in the 82-57 Sweet Sixteen victory over Penn State on March 30, 2014.

Both have gone on to play professionally. Mikaela is with an Australian team, and Chiney is with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun with fellow alum Kayla Pedersen, ’11. During this offseason she’s a women’s basketball commentator for the Pac 12 Network.

Not to be overshadowed, Lili logged the 1,000th point of her career at 3:08 in the second quarter, becoming the 36th SWBB player to do so. Fans waving handmade signs helped to celebrate her feat.

Colorado didn’t make things easy. Stanford didn’t get its first lead until 1:40 in the first quarter when junior guard Briana Roberson sank a 3 to make the score 12-11.

The first quarter ended in a 14-14 tie, but the team inched ahead to lead 28-21 at the half. Interviewed by the Pac 12 Network’s Mary Murphy before going to the locker room, head coach Tara VanDerveer was far from pleased with the team’s performance.

Colorado has 24 fouls to Stanford’s 12

It was a physical game, especially on Colorado’s part. The Buffaloes had 24 fouls, and two players fouled out in the fourth quarter. Stanford cashed in on the fouls by making 23 free throws, but that number represented only a 67.6 percent success rate at the line.

On the other hand, the Cardinal had only 12 fouls, yielding 4 Colorado points on 50 percent shooting at the line.

All 14 Stanford players were available, but only the usual nine-player rotation saw action because the game was so tight.

Speaking briefly during the post-game Behind the Bench, Tara was a little more upbeat than she had been at the half. “We’re excited about our team’s improvement,” she said.

When Lili and associate head coach Amy Tucker preceded Tara, Amy had a bit more to offer. “The best thing we’re doing is on the defensive end. … We need to pick up our offense to match our defensive effort.” She added that junior forward Kailee Johnson has “been very valuable this season,” especially on defense.

Amy listens as Lili speaks after the game. (Photo by Dave Cortesi)
Lili thanked the fans for their support and gave credit to her teammates and the staff. It’s an honor to be in the company of the other members of the 1,000-point club, she said.

Lili cites tag team approach

Noting differences from her freshman year, Lili said, “We’re playing a lot faster” with a tag team approach. “When the other team gets tired, we’re not.”

As for the much-lamented 49-31 loss at Arizona State on Jan. 4, “We didn’t execute our game plan,” she said.

After graduation, she sees the WNBA as a possible option, but she wasn’t quite as definite about becoming U.S. president as she was in her freshman year. She’s still young, she said, but her Stanford degree -- in science, technology and society with an emphasis on innovation and organization -- will help.

For now she’s relishing “day in and day out just being with my teammates.”

The keys to balancing basketball and academic demands are “managing your time and communicating with your teachers” about when the team will be out of town, she said.

Discussing recruiting, Amy said Lili didn’t receive much focus from other colleges because she had moved from Hawaii to Texas while in high school. However, her high school coach at Mansfield, Texas, alerted Stanford to her.

Freshman forward Alanna Smith, an Australian who’s the team’s first international player, first gained notice when her father sent Stanford a video of her. However, Amy said, the coaches had to assess Alanna in person, so she made an official visit to Stanford in September 2014. Because she had already graduated from high school, NCAA rules allowed her to work out.

After that, “we were confident that she would like Stanford. … She will have a great future here,” Amy said.

The team will take its 13-3 record (3-1 Pac 12) on the road to the Oregon schools and then the Southern California schools over the next two weekends. The team returns to the Farm to host Washington at 8 p.m. Jan. 29 and Washington State at noon Jan. 31.

January 9, 2016

Back on track

Playing its first home conference game, the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Utah 72-52 on Jan. 8.

It was a refreshing and reassuring change from the 31-49 loss at Arizona State on Jan. 4. Those 31 points represented the lowest total ever for the SWBB program.

Instead of starting the team’s five juniors as she has for the past several weeks, head coach Tara VanDerveer gave freshman Marta Sniezek the nod at point guard over junior Briana Roberson.

Bri has career-high eight assists

However, with Stanford trailing 4-7 at the 5:29 mark, Bri entered the game. She finished with 4 points, two rebounds, three steals and a team-high and career-high eight assists in 32 minutes. Marta had 2 points by making the team’s first basket, plus one rebound and one assist in eight minutes.

Junior guard Lili Thompson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee shared scoring honors with 16 points each. Lili added three rebounds and three assists, while Brittany had five rebounds.

Also in double figures was junior guard Karlie Samuelson with 13 points, two assists and one steal despite playing only 20 minutes because she got three fouls fairly early into the game.

Junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds of the team’s 36 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. She had three of the team’s six blocks.

The evening got off to a good start with an excellent rendition of the national anthem by the Choral Project, an adult mixed chorus based in San Jose.

Even before that, out of the public eye, former Stanford and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, now with the University of Michigan, gave the team a pep talk in the locker room.

The crowd of 4,030 included a student booster contingent with the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree.

Brittany’s free throws give team first lead

Fans saw the game get off to a less than auspicious start in the first quarter with the Cardinal trailing with only .01 second left. That’s when Brittany hit two free throws to put the team up 13-12.

The second quarter was a seesaw battle, but Stanford eked out a 30-28 lead before heading to the locker room for halftime.

The third quarter was a different story as the home team surged to a 55-40 advantage. It was more of the same in the fourth quarter. With the nine rotation players on the bench and the score 70-52 at the 1:14 mark, the other five players came in. Freshman center/forward Shannon Coffee hit a basket to make the winning score 72-52.

Shannon sheds headband

By the way, without her usual white headband, Shannon looked like a different person. When the team came out for its pregame warmups, I had to look twice to make sure that someone new hadn’t been added.

However, something new had been added to the fans’ experience. Instead of just having their tickets scanned and breezing into Maples, they now must subject their bags to a search.

For details on this new policy, go to http://gostanford.com/fls/30600/pdf/facilities/14-prohibited-items.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=30600.

Next the Cardinal will host Colorado at noon Jan. 10, followed by a Behind the Bench.

December 30, 2015

Fine farewell to '15

The Stanford women’s basketball team completed its pre-conference schedule by defeating Chattanooga 73-30 at home on Dec. 28.

It was the team’s third consecutive rout at home, following victories of 93-38 over Cornell on Dec. 19 and 83-41 over Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 22.

This most recent win improved the Cardinal’s record to 10-2 and represented payback against a team to which it had lost 54-46 a year ago in Tennessee.

Once again stingy defense was given much credit for the victory. Chattanooga was limited to 21.1 percent shooting, while the Cardinal shot a more respectable 42.9 percent.

Everyone gets in on the fun

And once again the lopsided score gave all available players a chance to get into the game. The only missing player was sophomore guard Brittany McPhee, who was in street clothes.

As she has in several previous games, head coach Tara VanDerveer tapped the team’s 

Tara instructs the team during a timeout.
five juniors to start: guards Briana Roberson, Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson along with forwards Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall.

Because Brittany was unavailable, the coach used eight players instead of nine for the standard rotation. Coming in quickly off the bench were sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson, freshman forward Alanna Smith and freshman guard Marta Sniezek.

Band, Dollies, Tree return

With the return of the band, Dollies and Tree –- absent for the holiday break –-the atmosphere was livelier.

Motley Q, a men’s barbershop quartet, got things going by singing the national anthem as written, the way sounds best.

Bird hit the game’s first basket at the 8:46 mark, and it was off to the races. Chattanooga didn’t make its first basket until the 7:27 mark, making the score 7-2.

The score continued to widen with the first quarter ending 21-9, the half 40-18, the third 51-25 and the final buzzer at 73-30.

The final difference would have been even greater if a Chattanooga player hadn’t sunk a desperation 3-point shot with just fractions of a second left on the clock.

Before that, the Cardinal went on a 22-0 run that started in the third and continued into the fourth, capped by the first of senior forward/center Tess Picknell’s two baskets late in the fourth.

According to Stanford Athletics, “The Cardinal has held 11 of 12 opponents this season to below 40 percent shooting, five below 30 percent and one below 20 percent. Stanford is now limiting its foes to convert at only a 30.6 percent clip, the second-best mark in the country.”

Bird has 18 points

Bird led all scoring with 18 points to go with eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 29 minutes.

Also playing 29 minutes, Lili had 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal.

Karlie was the only other Cardinal in double figures, recording 10 points, three rebounds,

Karlie goes for the basket.

four assists and one steal in a team-high 32 minutes.

Indicative of its defense, the team had eight blocks and 11 steals.  Kaylee was the biggest disrupter with four steals to go with 8 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Similarly, the team had only nine turnovers, while Chattanooga had 21. However, free-throw success was a mediocre 61.5 percent, and 3-point shooting was 22.7 percent – five of 22. Bri made all three of her 3’s. Karlie made two of her 10.

Jeanette, Mel watch the game

During the third quarter, the video board showed Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, in the stands. With her were her mother, Cindy, and Kerry Blake, ’11, who was the team’s manager for four years. She shot Kerrycam videos of some of the team’s travels.

During the class of 2011’s four years at Stanford, the team went 63-0 at Maples. Afterward Jeanette said she plans to continue playing for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and to get married in July.

Yet another 2011 grad at the game was Melanie Murphy, who was spotted upstairs during the half. She’s coaching the varsity girls basketball team at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton. Her team has compiled a 7-1 record, with its only loss coming recently against Menlo-Atherton High, coached by Markisha Coleman, ’07.

The Cardinal will start Pac-12 play with a trip to the desert to play Arizona at 2 p.m. Jan. 2 and Arizona State at 5 p.m. Jan. 4. Both games will be televised by the Pac-12 network.

Photos by Hector Garcia-Molina, Stanford Athletics 

December 23, 2015

Second rout in a row

After coasting to a wide margin of victory over Cornell three days earlier, the Stanford women’s basketball team staged a near-repeat performance by defeating Cal State Bakersfield 83-41 at home on Dec. 22.

The unique aspect of this game was that the Roadrunners are coached by Greg McCall, father of junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Father and daughter had some moments in front of the crowd and Bird’s teammates before the game. Greg and head coach Tara VanDerveer presented her with a USA Basketball plaque honoring her performance in the World University Games in South Korea during the summer.

Bird holds the plaque presented by her father, Greg, and Tara.

Bird was co-captain of the gold-winning USA team, aiding its efforts by averaging 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

By the time the final buzzer sounded against her dad’s team, she had led her Stanford team with 15 points and 10 rebounds, her eighth double-double of the season. In 22 minutes on the court, she also had a team-high four blocks along with one steal. One noteworthy aspect of her scoring is that she made some mid-range jumpers, a relatively new addition to her repertoire.

Bench players contribute 42 points

As has been true in recent games, Bird was in the starting lineup along with the team’s other four juniors: forward Kailee Johnson and guards Lili Thompson, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson. Together they accounted for 41 points. Bench players added 42.

Coming off the bench first were the other four players in the usual rotation: guards Marta Sniezek, freshman, and Brittany McPhee, sophomore; and forwards Alanna Smith, freshman, and Kaylee Johnson, sophomore.

As a team, everyone played at least five minutes, and no one played more than Karlie’s 25.

The score was 18-12 after the first quarter, 42-18 at the half and 62-33 after the third. All of the starters were on the bench with slightly more than 3 minutes to go in the third.

Everyone except freshman guard Alexa Romano scored at least 1 point, but she had one block in her 5 minutes.

Alanna, Karlie, Kaylee in double figures with Bird

Close behind Bird in scoring was Alanna with 14 points plus three rebounds and two blocks. Also in double figures were Karlie with 13, plus five rebounds, two assists and a block; and Kaylee with 11, plus seven rebounds and an assist. This was Kaylee’s third consecutive game with at least 10 points.

Karlie made three of the team’s six 3-pointers, followed by Alanna with two and Lili with one.

Stanford dominated on the boards with 61 rebounds, compared with CSB’s 36. For the game, Stanford shot 50.8 percent, CSB 19.1 percent.

The team had 12 blocks, tying for second with three other games in Stanford single-game history. The record is 13, tallied against Arizona State in 1989.

Main rotation players cheer for bench players like Tess.

Tess has 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks in 7 minutes

Blocking was led by Bird’s four and senior forward/center Tess Picknell’s three in her 7 minutes. Tess, who doesn’t always get much playing time, also scored 4 points and had six rebounds. When she made her first basket at the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter, the crowd and her teammates erupted into cheers.

While Stanford dominated in nearly every statistical category, two stats were less impressive. One was the 14 turnovers, compared with CSB’s 11.

The second was free throws. CSB made 10 of 12, or 83.3 percent. Stanford made 13 of 33, or 39.4 percent. Freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee made only two of her 10 shots at the line, but she had 4 points and four rebounds in 5 minutes.

After tossing the victory balls and showering, the players were free to begin their short holiday break. They’ll be back at Maples to take on Chattanooga at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 to complete the non-conference schedule.

Photos by Stanford Athletics

December 20, 2015

Cakewalk over Cornell

With everyone playing at least nine minutes and no one playing more than 19 minutes, the Stanford women’s basketball team easily defeated visiting Cornell 93-38 on Dec. 19.

With no starters taller than 6 feet and only 10 available players, the visitors were at a disadvantage right from the opening tip. On Stanford’s first possession, junior guard Lili Thompson launched a 3-pointer that kept the Cardinal ahead for the entire game, except for an early, 41-second tie.

Lili and her four classmates –- guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson along with forwards Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall –- started for the Cardinal. Less than 4 minutes into the first quarter, the starters had racked up a 12-3 lead on 100 percent shooting.

It wasn’t long before the next four players –- freshman forward Alanna Smith, sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson, sophomore guard Brittany McPhee and freshman guard Marta Sniezek -- in the usual nine-player rotation sprang into action and continued to widen the lead.

Also coming off the bench in the first quarter were red-shirt senior guard Alex Green and senior forward/center 
Tess Picknell.
Alex plays tough defense, with Tess behind her. (Bill Dally, Stanford Photo)

Still-speedy Alex plays 14 minutes

Although Alex had seen very limited action in earlier games, this game marked her first significant playing time since recuperating from injuries. Although she didn’t score, she contributed a rebound, an assist and a steal in 14 minutes. Moreover, she seemed to be as speedy as she was before her injuries.

The first half ended with Stanford up 53-13.

The starters returned to open the third quarter, but all of them were done for the afternoon about midway through that period, which ended with a 72-28 advantage.

By early in the fourth quarter, all 14 players had gotten the nod from head coach Tara VanDerveer. In the meantime, those who had gone to the bench cheered loudly for their teammates.

One of their loudest cheers came when freshman guard Alexa Romano, who has played sparingly, made her first basket. She finished with 2 points, two rebounds and one rebound in 12 minutes.

For the first time since a road win over Oregon State in February, five players finished in double figures. Bird and Alanna had 12 each, Karlie and Lili 11 each and Kaylee 10. Almost there were Bri, Brittany and senior guard Kiran Lakhian with 9 each.

Kiran makes 75 percent of her 3’s

Kiran’s 9 points in her career-high 10 minutes came from shooting 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. Adding to the team’s total of 10 3’s were Karlie and Lili with three each and Bri with one.

Kaylee’s 10 points and team-leading 11 rebounds represented her first double-double of the season. It was the sixth of her career and her first in the past 23 games. She also had three assists, three blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.

Stanford dominated the stat line, leading 54-28 on rebounds, 20-9 on assists, 6-0 on blocks, 7-4 on steals and 49.2 - 22.6 percent in shooting.

The advantage applied to free throws, too, with Stanford making 21 of 24, or 87.5 percent, while Cornell made four of 12, or 33.3 percent. Stanford had eight turnovers, Cornell 11.

Next up: CSU Bakersfield comes calling at 2 p.m. Dec. 22. The team then gets a short break before returning to host Chattanooga at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 to conclude 2015 and the non-conference schedule. 

December 18, 2015

Victory over the Lady Vols

“We love winning.” With those three words, associate head coach Amy Tucker summed up the feelings of Stanford women’s basketball fans following the team’s 69-55 victory over visiting Tennessee on Dec. 16.

It was a win with much to savor, such as the fact that except for the Lady Vols’ first basket and a tie early in the first quarter, Stanford led for the entire game.

The score was 17-11 after the first quarter and 35-20 at the half. The spread grew to 21 points early in the third quarter, which ended with the Cardinal ahead 48-30.

The visitors made a run in the fourth quarter, twice closing to within 7 points, but each time the Cardinal made clutch plays to widen the margin and clinch the win.

Juniors start the game

The team’s five juniors were the starters, with Lili Thompson, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson as the guards and Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall as the forwards.

Four other players subbed in: Freshmen Marta Sniezek at guard and Alanna Smith at forward; and sophomores Brittany McPhee at guard and Kaylee Johnson at forward.

All nine players scored, led by Lili with 19, Bird with 14 and Kaylee with 10. Bird also led in rebounding, snaring 10 of the team’s 42, followed by Lili with seven and Kaylee with five. The visitors had 31.

Kailee is introduced as a starter.
This game was Kaylee’s best this season, a hopeful sign from the player who had led the team in rebounding last year. “I think she’s back for good,” Amy said after the game.

Marta also got the crowd’s attention. Playing 29 minutes, she had 9 points, three rebounds, two steals and four assists. Her assist total matched Lili’s.

The team’s other five players were available and cheering from the bench.

Among the crowd of 3,768 was a smallish band, reflective of Stanford’s holiday break, along with a palm version of the Tree. Also on hand was the Rose Bowl-bound football team, which cheered loudly from the north bleachers before parading onto the floor with its Pac-12 championship trophy at halftime.

Krista, Brooke, Jayne visit the team

Three WBB alums were there, too: Krista Rappahahn Birnie, ’06; Brooke Smith, ’07; and Jayne Appel, ’10. They visited the team in the locker room after the game. Jayne’s parents and fiancé were with her.

Although Stanford outscored and outrebounded the Lady Vols, it also recorded 20 turnovers, compared with the visitors’ 14. Tennessee held the edge in free-throw percentage, 70.6-63.3.

The visitors held their hosts to a mere two 3-pointers, one by Lili and one by Karlie. Points in the paint – 40 – helped to overcome the lack of production from behind the arc.

Black panels replace white championship banners

Fans who complained about the loss of the white championship banners that had adorned Maples got to see their replacements in three corners.

Women’s basketball is in its usual spot in the southeast corner. The information appears on three wall-mounted black panels.  The words are in red, the numbers in white.

The first panel reads STANFORD WOMEN’S BASKETBALL. The second lists conference championships. The third lists national championships and Final Four appearances.

Women’s volleyball in the northeast corner and men’s basketball panels in the northwest corner have the same design.

Alanna, Alexa introduced at Behind the Bench

Amy opened the Behind the Bench session after the game by introducing Alanna and a fellow freshman, guard Alexa Romano.

Even though Alanna is a long way from her home in Melbourne, Australia, she has relatives in Ohio and will spend her holiday break with them.

Her father, whom she credited for drilling her on her hook shot, will visit next week. He and her uncle played professionally, and her uncle played in the Olympics.

Her main adjustment to playing in America was learning new terminology. Otherwise, “the fundamentals are pretty much the same,” she said.

As for academics, she graduated from high school in December, so she had eight months off before facing the rigors of college.

Unlike most of her teammates, she didn’t go to summer school because she was in Russia playing for Australia in the U19 world championship. Her team lost to Russia in the semi-finals but beat Spain for the bronze medal. She was one of five all-star players for the tournament. Overall, it was “an awesome experience,” she said.

Alexa’s relatives attend game

Alexa, who comes from New Mexico, noted that her parents, brother and a friend were at the game. She said her biggest adjustment to college playing was “the pace of the game.” She also said, “I’ve never played with such great,  smart people” before.

She’s working on “running out of my lane on offense” and being “a more disruptive defender.”

Commenting on the game, Amy said, ‘We played really well for three quarters” against a team that had pressed for nearly 40 minutes.

“We’re a work in progress,” but she said she’s pleased to see different players contributing.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer said essentially the same thing. “We’re very excited about it,” she added. “Any time you beat Tennessee and you’re Stanford, it’s a great night.”

“We (just) have to keep our focus,” she concluded.

Next up: Cornell at 2 p.m. Dec. 19 and Cal State Bakersfield at 2 p.m. Dec. 22, both at home.

Photos from Stanford Athletics