There’s a lot to be learned from the Stanford women’s basketball team’s two exhibition games this week. Most of it is quite encouraging, as evidenced by the team’s 100-52 win over UC San Diego on Nov. 9.
Others have already reported well on the UCSD game’s many highlights, such as the strong performance by the three freshmen and the luxuriously versatile depth at the forward spots.
So just to summarize: Head coach Tara VanDerveer’s starting lineup featured the Big Three – senior guard Jeanette Pohlen, senior forward Kayla Pedersen and junior forward Nneka Ogwumike – along with red-shirt sophomore forward Sarah Boothe and freshman guard Toni Kokenis. Toni scored the Cardinal’s first two points after stealing the ball.
After being held out of the Vanguard exhibition game because of a sore ankle, Nneka was used sparingly but still contributed eight points, three rebounds and one block in 13 minutes. Her younger sister, freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike, came off the bench to lead the stat sheet with 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one block in 23 minutes. Fans are eager to see what happens when Nneka is back to full speed and the sisters are teamed up on the floor.
Kayla and Jeanette, though playing only 20 minutes each, are looking better than ever. Neither does any showboating. Both play with determination and intelligence. Kayla sometimes seems unstoppable, while Jeanette has become smooth as silk, playing with little wasted motion.
The defense looked better than it had against Vanguard. UCSD didn’t get its first basket until almost five minutes into the game. On the other hand, Vanguard limited the Cardinal to just three 3’s (one from Jeanette, two from Kayla), but it had no answer for the taller, stronger front court. Moreover, the forwards were generous in passing the ball, dealing out 16 of the team’s 23 assists.
With Stanford comfortably ahead 47-17 in the first half, Tara turned the floor over to the three freshmen – Toni, Chiney and guard Sara James -- along with the two sophomores – forwards Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef -- who closed it out with the score at 51-20.
All 12 healthy players got into the game with most making solid contributions. It’ll be interesting to see how the starting lineup and player rotation evolve during the season, when the Cardinal will face some tough contenders.
While the Vanguard exhibition had been no frills with none of the usual supporting student cast, this one took on a more seasonal flavor with the addition of the band, Tree and Dollies. The scoreboard, though still set for volleyball, added a video feed with real-time action and replays. Betty Ann Boeving was back at the mike to provide her well-balanced, skillful announcing.
For those with fond memories of the past 36-2 season, a halftime video of 2009-10 highlights was awe-inspiring, especially the repeat of Jeanette’s remarkable 4.4-second dash across the court to defeat Xavier and send the Cardinal to the Final Four for the third consecutive year.
A key player on that team, graduated guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, was seen chatting with Eileen Roche, director of women’s basketball operations, and others before the game. I later learned that she provided color commentary for the gostanford.com video feed. She reportedly was practicing for the national coverage she’ll be doing for ESPN this season.
Next up: An it-counts-on-the-record encounter with Rutgers in Maples at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14.