It’s safe to say that most people were expecting a close game when the Stanford women’s basketball team hosted Xavier on Dec. 28. After all, Stanford had beaten Xavier by only 2 points in March, thus keeping the Musketeers out of the Final Four in March. So surely Xavier would want revenge and would figure to be tough with the loss of only one starter from last season.
So much for expectations. Stanford routed Xavier 89-52 and outplayed the visitors in every aspect of the game. “This was a statement game for our team,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told the Fast Break Club after the game.
Maybe the short holiday break was good for the Cardinal. More likely, the team learned a lot from its two road losses against DePaul and Tennessee before Christmas. And surely the coaches had prepared the team well and had a good game plan. The Cardinal knew all of Xavier’s plays and followed the game plan, Tara said. “I liked how our team came out and was the aggressor,” she said.
“That game plan was on the money,” said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, as she awaited the coaches’ post-game arrival.
Not to be overlooked in all the statistics is that this was Tara’s 801st career win. She reached the 800 mark at the University of San Francisco on Dec. 22. Winning 800 games “is an amazing accomplishment,” Eileen said.
Stanford fans will have a chance to celebrate that milestone in a big way during the Arizona State game on Jan. 8 when more of Tara’s colleagues and others are on campus. Many of them are already in or on their way to Miami for the football team’s Orange Bowl game on Jan. 3.
Besides the victory over Xavier, it was gratifying to see the entire team at Maples. Many fans had wondered if everyone would be able to get back because of the blizzard that struck the East Coast. Associate head coach Amy Tucker said after the post-game gathering that everyone had left early enough to miss the worst of the weather.
The starting lineup featured senior Kayla Pedersen, junior Nneka Ogwumike and freshman Chiney Ogwumike in the forward spots along with senior Jeanette Pohlen and junior Lindy La Rocque in the guard positions. By the end of the game, all 12 healthy players saw action, and nearly everyone scored. Even with most or all of the starters on the bench as time dwindled, the scoring margin grew. It went from +18 (46-28) at the 17:10 mark, to +21, +26, +30, +31 and finally +37 at the buzzer.
Some other telling stats: The Cardinal shot 49.3 percent for the game while holding Xavier to 30 percent. Stanford’s 3-point advantage was 38.1 percent (eight of 21) vs. 11.1 percent (two of 18). Contributing to the 3-point advantage were Jeanette and Lindy with two each, plus Kayla, junior guard Grace Mashore, senior forward Ashley Cimino and sophomore forward Joslyn Tinkle with one each.
The Cardinal had 19 assists to Xavier’s four, 44 rebounds vs. 41, 13 steals vs. four, five blocks vs. two, and only eight turnovers vs. 17. Xavier had the advantage in fouls, 11 to Stanford’s 16, but Stanford made 13 of its 16 free-throw attempts for 81.3 percent, while Xavier made 14 of 23 for 60.9 percent.
Amy’s guests at the post-game gathering were Vanessa Nygaard, ’98, and her 6-month-old daughter, Emerson. Vanessa, who is coaching the girls basketball team at the private Windward School in Los Angeles, said the Cardinal “looked great today.”
“We’re nothing but pleased with this game,” Amy said. “This is a nice little tune-up” for the UConn game on Dec. 30. To continue its tune-up, the team was scheduled to watch video at 6:15 p.m. after the Xavier game.