Undaunted by Friday night traffic, the oncoming rain and a 6 p.m. tipoff, about 30 fans of Stanford women’s basketball gathered at the First & Main sports bar in Los Altos to watch their team defeat the University of Utah 62-53 on Nov. 19.
And undaunted by the absence of junior forward Nneka Ogwumike and a sloppy first half, other players stepped up to clinch the win. Nneka was in uniform but did not play for undisclosed reasons. Fans in Los Altos noted that two fingers were taped together.
Red-shirt sophomore center Sarah Boothe started in Nneka’s place, along with senior guard Jeanette Pohlen, senior forward Kayla Pedersen, sophomore forward Joslyn Tinkle and freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike.
The gathering at First & Main was a last-minute affair arranged by Cardinal fan André Lalana. Although the game was televised by the Mountain Network, it wasn’t available in the Bay Area except to Direct TV customers. Luckily, First & Main is one of them. Consequently, the fans there got to watch the game in comfort while enjoying their dinner and drinks.
There were lots of groans after missed opportunities during the first half and many more cheers in the second half as Jeanette, Kayla and teammates began to take over. Still, people gave the young Utes credit for staying in close range.
Even though the fans wanted Stanford to win, they cheered loudly for starting Utes forward Michelle Harrison, who played 36 minutes. Her 14 points, including four 3’s, led her team in scoring.
Michelle had worn the Stanford uniform with the number 5 for the past four years and graduated in June, but she had a year of eligibility left after missing a year with a torn ACL. The Utah resident was granted a waiver to play that final year while in graduate school at Utah, and 5 is still on her uniform.
Jeanette led the Cardinal scoring with 19, followed by Kayla with 13. The TV announcers noted that when Kayla scored her 10th and 11th points on a 2-point basket, she moved into the ranks of Stanford’s top 10 all-time scorers.
The game ended with Kayla holding the ball and Michelle guarding her as the final seconds ticked off. The two hugged when the final buzzer sounded. There were more hugs all around as the two teams exchanged their traditional greetings.
Speaking immediately after the game, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said, “This is a great win for our team.” She praised the younger team members who were able to record more playing time than they had against Rutgers. Tara had said after that game that she wanted to get more players into the mix and not rely so heavily on the Big Three of Kayla, Jeanette and Nneka.
She realized that goal against Utah as Chiney, Sarah, Joslyn, sophomore forward Mikaela Ruef, junior guard Lindy La Rocque and freshman guards Sara James and Toni Kokenis all had a chance to contribute.