November 30, 2009

Big win over Gonzaga, but coaches want more

There’s no doubt that the Stanford women’s basketball team racked up its biggest win of the regular season to date with its 105-74 drubbing of Gonzaga on Nov. 29. The halftime score, 59-38, was almost equal to the 60-41 final score against Utah two days earlier.

Nevertheless, “our post defense wasn’t very good,” associate head coach Amy Tucker told the Fast Break Club after the game. Gonzaga’s 74 points were the most allowed by the Cardinal this season, but the team has the two-week finals break to work on defense before competition resumes, Amy said.

On the other hand, Amy called it “a great offensive game,” citing the play of forwards Kayla Pedersen and Nneka Ogwumike. On her way to a 30-point game, Kayla scored the 1,000th point of her Stanford career with about 14.5 minutes to go in the first half. Nneka’s 29 points marked a career high. She also contributed 13 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. Kayla recorded seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Center Jayne Appel, the third member of Stanford’s post triumvirate, scored the first basket just 18 seconds into the game. She wound up with 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal even though she wasn’t fully recovered from illness that struck on Thanksgiving and limited her production against Utah the next day. “She was a 6’ 4” decoy in that game,” Amy said.

“Gonzaga said, ‘We’re going to run with you,’ ” Amy said, but they couldn’t keep up with the Cardinal in the second half even though “our rotation is not quite as big as we’d like.” She was referring to injuries that have sidelined forwards Sarah Boothe and Joslyn Tinkle along with guards Melanie Murphy and Hannah Donaghe.

Mel, who missed the Utah game after hurting her knee in practice, can play when it no longer hurts. However, Tara said in the post-game press conference that if it has to be scoped, she could be out four weeks or so.

Sarah, a sophomore, has been cleared to practice with contact after foot surgery last spring, but “I have a pretty good idea that she won’t play at all” this season, Amy said, adding that Sarah wants to red-shirt. If she were to come back this season, she might not get much playing time.

It’s not certain when Joslyn, who has a foot injury, can return to action. A team doctor says the freshman can test it in another week or so, Amy said.

In previous comments, coaches have said that Hannah is progressing well from knee surgery early this year, but no date has been set for her return.

The post-game gathering gave the FBC a chance to become better acquainted with freshman forward Mikaela Ruef, who started playing basketball when she was in kindergarten and received a basketball for Christmas when she was 5. Hailing from Beavercreek, Ohio, she has an older brother, Joe, at Wright State in Ohio and a younger brother, Brian, a high school junior. Both are involved in sports. The family has two boxers and two cats who “think they’re dogs,” she said.

She also has relatives on her mother’s side in the Bay Area. They include her grandmother, great-grandmother, two aunts and six cousins.

She chose Stanford because it’s a great school, has a great team, and “I love the weather out here.” She also considered Ohio State and Purdue.

She hasn’t decided on a major, but she’s taking math and physics this term. In summer school she took physics and sports psychology, getting A’s in both.

One of the differences between playing in high school and playing at Stanford is that “in high school I didn’t play much defense because I didn’t have to.” Also, “it’s hard to adjust to not being the best player,” she said, adding that she even played some point guard in junior high. High school practices were two hours long, whereas college practices are three hours, and “there’s not much standing around.” She’s working on her speed and conditioning, and assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey is helping with her shot.

Tara credited Bobbie for a good scouting job on Gonzaga. “We played about as well as we played all season,” she said. “Nneka had a monster game, and Kayla is just awesome good,” she said.

With the two-week break ahead of them and the less-than-stellar Utah game behind them, the team didn’t want Tara mad at them for two weeks. They needn’t worry. “We’re very happy with how they played,” she said.

But maybe they’ll try to hone their defense to get even better.

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