November 22, 2008

Cardinal women regain their winning ways

Morgan Clyburn got another workout Nov. 20 as the Stanford women coasted to an 84-46 win over the University of New Mexico. The senior forward, still recovering from foot surgery, high-fived her benchmates 12 times to celebrate three-point shots.

The fireworks started early as freshman guard Lindy La Rocque hit the first of her four three-pointers. Guard Jeanette Pohlen added two more, followed by two more from Lindy. Thus the duo treated the crowd to five consecutive threes to open the scoring. The tally was up to 10 at the half and 12 at the end. Like Lindy, Jeanette had four, guard JJ Hones had three and guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude had one.

Speaking to the Fast Break Club after the game, Head Coach Tara VanDerveer said the team has a goal of making at least 10 threes per game. Besides boosting the score in a hurry, the threes will open things up for center Jayne Appel, who has had to contend with a swarm of defenders under the basket, the coach said.

“Jayne is a very unselfish player,” Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker said earlier, so when she can’t do her own shooting, she passes off to someone who can. That’s how she tallied a team-high seven assists against New Mexico. “We’re not worried about Jayne. She’ll come through,” Amy said.

Besides the lopsided score, the game was noteworthy for several other reasons. One is that Lindy got the first start of her career. She looked nervous when she was introduced, but obviously she shook the nerves off in a hurry. Tara said at a news conference after the game that Lindy got the nod because Ros was late for practice. She redeemed herself with her usual tenacious defense.

Also noteworthy is that JJ was able to play. She had been sidelined for two games with a stress reaction in her right foot. She didn’t start, but she came off the bench about seven minutes into the game and began providing her steady leadership at the point.

Finally, all 14 healthy players saw some playing time, and 13 of them scored. It was a balanced attack with five players in double figures: forward Jillian Harmon, 13; Lindy, Jeanette and JJ, 12 each; and forward Nneka Ogwumike, 11.

Some items of note emerged during the talk after the game. Asked about recruiting, Tara said the coaching staff is happy with its two recruits, both forwards. “They’re really talented players.” She has no plans to pursue anyone else. “That means Ros stays,” Tara said, referring to the additional year of eligibility the guard gets after missing much of her sophomore year with a knee injury. “Ros is excited about that,” she said.

Tara also said the team is going to Italy next fall, but provided no details. Amy said afterward that Stanford will play several Italian teams and “eat lotsa pasta.”

In keeping with tradition, FBC members met another freshman, forward/center Sarah Boothe, introduced by Amy. Sarah has an older brother at Hope College in Holland, Mich., and a younger brother in high school in their hometown, Gurnee, Ill., north of Chicago. Her family also has a pet albino rabbit, Sugar, living in the basement.

Her biggest adjustment to college life is sharing a room, she said, noting that with two brothers, she’d always had her own room. She was quick to add that she has a good roommate. Doing her own laundry for the first time has been another challenge. She has had to spend time on the phone getting tips from her mother.

As for basketball, “I like being physical,” she said. Amy agreed, saying, “Sarah is by far our most physical player in practice,” but she’s getting good experience by playing with Jayne and forward Kayla Pedersen. “You have yet to see Sarah play up to her abilities,” Amy said. To help her do so, her coaches are trying to get her to slow down for at least a second and look around before acting.

Tara had some final comments. “We’ve seen people improve a lot” since the tough home victory against Minnesota and the road loss to Baylor the previous week. “This is a very different team from last year. … The puzzle is not together yet.”

Losing to Baylor “was horrible,” but no one tried to make excuses. Instead players wanted to watch the video to see where they could improve. “We expect great things on Sunday,” against Rutgers, she said. “We’re going to play really hard.” The team is excited to meet an opponent that’s “really, really athletic.” Rutgers also is well coached by C. Vivian Stringer, whom Tara has known and liked for many years, she said.

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