November 6, 2010

Let the fun begin

Sure, it was only an exhibition game, the first outing of the 2010-11 season, but the Stanford women’s basketball team gave its fans lots to cheer for and lots to look forward to as it defeated Vanguard 116-65 at Maples Pavilion.

There was some trepidation at first because junior forward Nneka Ogwumike didn’t play. She had a sore left ankle and was kept out of the game as a precautionary measure, according to the sports information department.

But have no fear. Younger sister Chiney Ogwumike started in her place and contributed 24 points and a team-high 16 rebounds to go with one assist, two blocks and no fouls in her 25-minute freshman debut. In fact, she had a double-double just in the first half with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Coming off the bench, the other two freshmen also had auspicious debuts. Guard Sara James scored 16 points – including four 3’s – to go with three rebounds and four assists in her 21 minutes. Fellow guard Toni Kokenis, a speedster who ably filled in at the point, scored 4 points, all on free throws, to go with two assists and two steals in 20 minutes.

The starting lineup featured four forwards -- red-shirt sophomore Sarah Boothe at center plus sophomore Joslyn Tinkle, Chiney and senior Kayla Pedersen – with senior Jeanette Pohlen at the point. Kayla opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, followed by 2 points from Chiney. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Kayla with 25 points, followed by Chiney with 24, Jeanette with 16, and Joslyn and Sarah with 10 each.

Toni was first off the bench, subbing for Joslyn at 17:31 in the first half. Sara was next at 14:35. Head coach Tara VanDerveer substituted rather freely throughout the game so that no one played more than 27 minutes (Sarah).

By the end of the game, every healthy player had seen action. Even junior guard Lindy La Rocque got in for six minutes. That was a good sign because she had been hampered by a foot problem and had just been cleared to practice, according to the sports information departhment. Fellow guard Hannah Donaghe, senior, is out for the season after a recent ACL injury. Fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy, rehabbing her knee after surgery in the spring, is expected to return later this season.

When the team huddled before the second half, it was Mel who was exhorting her teammates. In the meantime, Hannah has inherited the fun duty of high-fiving the bench whenever a teammate scores a 3. She was kept plenty busy as the Cardinal poured in 14 3’s – four each from Jeanette and Sara, two each from Kayla and sophomore forward Mikaela Ruef, and one each from Joslyn and senior forward Ashley Cimino.

It was one of Sara’s 3’s that pushed the Stanford score to the century mark with about 6 minutes to go in the second half. Mikaela had one of her best Stanford games with 7 points, 11 rebounds (second on the team), two assists and two steals.

On the other hand, Vanguard had 16 3’s, in part because its players had a hard time getting past the much taller Stanford women to get to the basket. Rebounding also was a problem for the Lions as the Stanford trees grabbed 67 rebounds, as opposed to Vanguard’s 27.

Because it was an exhibition game, there were no support groups like the band, cheerleaders, Dollies or Tree. “It’s All Right” came through as a recording.

One slight difference from last year is the way the players lined up for the National Anthem. Instead of standing in a line in front of the bench, they lined up by height – from 6’5” Sarah to 5’8” Lindy and then the coaches -- across the court at the free-throw line.

During the first half, the team was cheered by three recent alumni – Jayne Appel and JJ Hones, both ’10, and Morgan Clyburn, ’09 -- who sat in the front row just behind the Vanguard basket. About midway through the half they were joined by Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who completed her fifth year last year. Jayne’s parents sat behind them. After speaking to and signing autographs for several youngsters and adults who gathered around them at the half, the former players left, but Jayne’s parents stayed.

Next up: UC San Diego in another exhibition Nov. 9. Then for-real competition starts with the Cardinal hosting Rutgers on Nov. 14.

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