January 15, 2010

Guards gain one, lose two in win over Washington State

Stanford’s guard situation remained in flux after the women’s basketball team’s 80-43 home victory over Washington State on Jan. 14. Nursing a sore knee, JJ Hones was on the sidelines from the start, along with forward Sarah Boothe, who hasn’t played all season because of a foot injury. Then Jeanette Pohlen reinjured her ankle early in the second half and missed the rest of the game. “It’s pretty swollen,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game.

On the plus side, Hannah Donaghe was back in uniform for the first time since tearing an ACL in practice nearly a year ago. She didn’t play, but it was great to see her warming up with her teammates. “Hannah’s getting close to coming back,” Tara said.

Also on the plus side, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude had another big game after playing a key role in the team’s close win, 65-61, at UCLA last weekend. Against WSU, Ros had 11 points – including three 3s -- seven rebounds, three assists and a steal in addition to her usual tenacious defense. “Ros is feeling a sense of urgency,” Tara said, with a maximum of only nine more games (assuming two in the first NCAA round) at Maples left for her and center Jayne Appel.

The absence of Jeanette and JJ meant more playing time for Melanie Murphy and Lindy La Rocque. Mel, whose knee has been iffy and who was wearing black sleeves on both legs, played 16 minutes and contributed two points, two rebounds and an assist. Lindy was in for 24 minutes and accounted for five points, two assists and a steal. That steal was a nifty one. She intercepted a pass in Washington’s back court, ran the ball all the way back to the Stanford arc and nailed a three. You can see it in the game highlights video. “Lindy did a nice job for us,” Tara said.

Grace Mashore came in for the last four minutes and contributed one rebound and the 3-pointer that was Stanford’s final basket. Before leaving the game, Jeanette had played 11 minutes, scored five points (including a three), grabbed one rebound and made three assists.

Because of the guard situation, “we had some interesting combinations out there,” Tara said. In addition, the Cardinal’s wide scoring and rebounding margin gave several bench players more action than usual, a valuable experience. “We want to play more people,” Tara said. It’s fun to note that yet another post player, Ashley Cimino, showed that she can hit from the outside as she tossed in a three late in the game – much to everyone’s delight. It was the first of her college career. She also had four rebounds in five minutes of play.

Sports writer Michelle Smith was to have been the post-game speaker, but she was ill and couldn’t make it. Consequently, assistant coaches Kate Paye and Bobbie Kelsey spoke for a while. Both gave quick summaries of their activities after graduating from Stanford. They had started on the Farm the same year, but Bobbie red-shirted as a freshman because she had injured her knee during her senior year in high school. Kate said that during that first year, Bobbie asked to borrow her car one weekend while the rest of the team went on the road. After the weekend, Bobbie commented that the car hadn’t driven well and made funny noises. Kate discovered that the emergency brake had been on the entire time.

Several fans groused about the announcement that ringing little bells after forward Joslyn Tinkle scores violates NCAA rules against artificial noisemakers. “Sorry about the bells. Nothing I can do about the bells,” said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations.

Despite all the contributions mentioned already, and despite continued outstanding play by the three starting bigs – Jayne, Nneka Ogwumike and Kayla Pedersen – Tara wasn’t entirely happy with the game. “We had some slop in the first half,” the coach said, adding that “the second half got better.” She was especially unhappy with some of the passes.

Asked about whether the team is influenced by its No. 2 ranking in the nation, Tara said, “We don’t talk about it.” Rather, “we have to improve.” One way to do that is to study videos. “We do a highlight film after every game,” she said. Because of the way it’s programmed, Tara or anyone else can zero in on a player whenever she’s in the game. There’s no need to fast-forward. “Video is a great tool.”

Although some fans have been concerned that Jayne’s point production isn’t as high as it was last season, Tara was quick to point out that “Jayne is all about our team.” She missed six months for knee surgery after last season, but “she’s doing well” and working hard. “She gets clobbered a lot” under the basket,” but she’s an unselfish player who willingly passes the ball to a teammate. “I love coaching her,” Tara said.

The highlights video on the FBC site also shows another facet of Jayne’s game – setting screens, such as the ones that helped Ros make 3-pointers. That’s something that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. The stat sheet does show that Jayne played 28 minutes, scored 14 points, snared nine rebounds, blocked six shots, and had four assists and four steals. Moreover, “Jayne is moving back (from the basket to score). She’ll be hitting a three before she graduates,” Tara said.

We’ll look forward to that.

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