December 24, 2011

Happy holiday sendoff

After their thrilling win over the always-tough Tennessee just two nights earlier, Stanford women’s basketball players were ready for smoother sailing on Dec. 22. They got it courtesy of Cal State Bakersfield, which fell to the Cardinal 90-48.

Decimated by injuries, the Roadrunners had only seven players in uniform, and no starter was over 6 feet. Moreover, the team is transitioning to NCAA Division I, so meeting an elite team like Stanford presented a formidable challenge. Still, the Roadrunners played hard. Mostly unable to penetrate to the basket because of Stanford’s superior height, they amassed the majority of their score from 3-pointers – 10 in all.

For their part, Stanford’s starters had the luxury of spending much of the game on the sidelines, sipping Gatorade and cheering teammates who usually don’t get as much time in the spotlight.

As head coach Tara VanDerveer told fans in Kissick Auditorium after the game, it was a good chance for those players to get some valuable experience. The starters realized that their job on that night was just to get things going.

Those starters – senior forward Nneka Ogwumike, junior forward Joslyn Tinkle, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, senior guard Lindy La Rocque and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis – did just that. On the opening tipoff, for example, rather than tipping the ball to a guard to get the offense going, Nneka tipped the ball straight to Chiney for the first 2 points. Not long after that, Lindy contributed two consecutive 3-pointers. The score was 14-2 at the first timeout with 16:42 to go.

Tara dispatched substitutes rather quickly, often leaving only one starter on the floor and sometimes none. By the time the buzzer had sounded to end the first half, the score was 47-17. During the half, fans who happened to go into the east concourse could look outside and see the Fiesta Bowl-bound football team practicing.

The same five starters took to the floor for the second half. Except for Joslyn, though, they didn’t stay there for long. Playing a total of 24 minutes, compared with between 13 and 15 for the other four starters, Joslyn led the team with a career-high 20 points plus 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist.

Coming off the bench, freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson was the second-high scorer with 14, plus three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 20 minutes. Freshman forward Erica Payne wasn’t far behind with 12 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and one assist in 27 minutes, the most of any Cardinal.

Chiney was the only other player in double figures – 10 points to go with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 15 minutes. Nneka, who was so spectacular against Tennessee, produced 8 points, four rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal in her 13 minutes.

The Cardinal dominated in nearly every statistical category – 51-32 in rebounds, 24-12 in assists, 8-1 in blocks and 12-5 in steals. Stanford had 13 turnovers vs. Bakersfield’s 20, but eight fouls to the opponent’s five.

Accounting for Stanford’s six three-pointers were Lindy, Joslyn and Bonnie with two each.

Every available Stanford player saw action. However, only 11 players were available. Freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, who has started several recent games, was in uniform and warmed up but didn’t play. Tara said after the game that Taylor wasn’t at 100 percent, so she was held out as a precaution. Joslyn started in her place.

Freshman guard Alex Green is out for the season to rehab an Achilles injury. It was recently announced that freshman guard Jasmine Camp will miss the rest of the season and undergo surgery because of a stress fracture in her foot. Junior forward Mikaela Ruef has missed several games because of a foot problem, but the coaches hope to have her back in action.

During the post-game session, fans were treated to a visit from Nneka, who received a standing ovation. In the Tennessee game, Nneka delivered “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on our home floor,” said associate head coach Amy Tucker. She was referring to Nneka’s career-high 42 points and 17 rebounds in 39 minutes.

In typical Nneka fashion, the team captain was modest about her accomplishments. Asked if she realizes the legacy she’s leaving, Nneka said, “I feel like I’m still a part of a legacy,” and cited such great predecessors as Jayne Appel, ’10, and Candice Wiggins,’08. “I’m a part of this program. I just do what I can do to help.”

One of the things she does is to mentor the six freshmen. “I call them my babies,” she said.

“She’s our unpaid assistant,” Amy said, noting Nneka often explains the coaches’ comments to the freshmen. This is a bit of a turnaround, for Nneka was known for asking many questions in earlier seasons. In the meantime, Amy said she had never seen a player improve as much from year to year as Nneka has.

Someone asked if Nneka felt as if she were in a zone against Tennessee. Nneka said it wasn’t really a zone. Instead she felt more in tune with what was going on and with the team and coaches. “I felt so alive. It was weird,” she said.

As the season continues, she’s trying to be more aggressive and to develop a 3-point shot. She also praised Susan Borchardt, sports performance coach, for helping her to get and stay in good condition. “She’s a huge help.”

Nneka “is the whole package,” Tara said, citing her unselfishness among other qualities. “She’s something really special.”

As for the team, “We’re really excited about this group,” she said, but “we still have a lot of work to do.”

The holiday spirit was evident at Maples as several fans sported Santa hats. A man seated upstairs near the flag was in full Santa regalia, white beard and all, and was accompanied by someone dressed as an elf. The band, down to an octet plus the leader, added its usual entertainment.

During a timeout in the second half, the video board showed pictures of the team and staff helping out at St. Anthony’s dining room in Menlo Park the morning after the Tennessee game. This holiday visit is a tradition for the team.

Now the players are enjoying a brief Christmas break at home with their families. They’ll report back on Dec. 26 to prepare for their Pac-12 opening games against USC and UCLA on Dec. 29 and 31 on the road.

December 22, 2011

Unstoppable Nneka wows crowd

There were ample reasons for excitement, but nothing could surpass the exuberance, exhilaration and sheer joy generated by Nneka Ogwumike at Maples Pavilion on Dec. 20. The senior forward’s career-high 42 points led the Stanford women’s basketball team to a 97-80 victory over the visiting Tennessee Lady Vols before a sell-out crowd of 7,329.

The team captain also hauled in 17 rebounds, dished out three assists and had two steals in her 39 minutes on the floor. Not to be overlooked, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis also posted a career high with 26 points plus four assists, one rebound and one steal in her 38 minutes. Also scoring in double figures was sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike with 14 points plus five rebounds and one assist in 30 minutes. Her time was limited by an accumulation of four fouls.

Despite all this excitement, the evening had its poignant moments, too, in the wake of Tennessee head coach Pat Summit’s announcement before the season that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. To honor the legendary coach, who has more wins than any other coach, male or female, in NCAA history, fans were given red rally towels emblazoned with an “S” and reading, “We back Pat.”

After warmly applauding the Lady Vols as they came onto the court, the fans greeted Pat’s entrance with a prolonged standing ovation. Just before her arrival, a short video featured head coach Tara VanDerveer talking about her longtime colleague and friend’s accomplishments and courage. In a video shown at the half, Tara talked about ways to possibly prevent Alzheimer’s. “Reasons for hope” messages concerning Alzheimer’s flashed onto the video screen during timeouts.

To accommodate the expected crowd, doors at Maples opened earlier than usual, and two extra rows of chairs were added at both ends of the court. Once inside, a substantial number of people in orange could be seen searching for their seats. The fans also included players’ family members as well as the parents of alum Jayne Appel, ’10.

The evening got under way with an a cappella singing of the national anthem by Hookslide, the male quartet whose members include Stanford’s Bud Anderson, director of creative video. (In my account of the Princeton game, I neglected to say that team manager Natasha von Kaeppler sang the anthem.)

And speaking of creative video, Episode 3 of “The Real Ladies of Maples,” shot mostly by Chiney and shown before the game, focused on the team’s Thanksgiving dinner at the Ohio home of junior forward Mikaela Ruef.

Mikaela remained on the sidelines because of a sore foot. Joining her were freshman guards Alex Green, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and, for the first time, Jasmine Camp, who was on crutches because of a foot injury. As the team lined up while the starters were introduced, freshman forward Erica Payne gave Alex a big hug.

Besides Nneka, Chiney and Toni, the starters were freshman forward Taylor Greenfield and senior guard Lindy La Rocque. Together the starters accounted for all but 6 points in the final score. Freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson had five of those other points thanks to a 3-pointer and two free throws.

Tara had sent her to the free-throw line after a technical was called on Tennessee for having six players on the floor after a timeout in the first half. Also chipping in 3-pointers were Lindy with one, Taylor with two and Toni with five.

As the game started, Tennessee had the upper hand, leading by 9 points with 13:21 to go in the first half. That’s when Nneka and her teammates turned on the jets, closing the first half with a 48-41 lead. Stanford led by as many as 19 points with 2:06 to go in the second half. It was only a few seconds after that when Tara pulled all of the starters and sent in the reserves to ice the game.

After shooting 61.5 percent in the first half, Tennessee dropped to 37 percent in the second half, thanks in large part to tough Cardinal defense. It seemed that only free throws kept the Lady Vols’ hopes alive in the second half, when they made 16 of 21.

Besides winning the game, Stanford dominated in other stats: 35-29 in rebounds, 20-11 in assists and 7-3 in blocks. Junior forward Joslyn Tinkle recorded four of the blocks. Tennessee prevailed only in steals, 6-4. Stanford forced 13 turnovers while having nine of its own. Each team had 16 fouls.

When the teams went to their benches for timeouts, Maples provided other diversions. The one with the loudest, most enthusiastic reception was the introduction of the Stanford football team, which is headed for the Fiesta Bowl next month. Then there were fun features like Elf Cam, Santa Cam and Mistletoe Cam along with the ever-popular twist.

At halftime fans were treated to the gravity-defying stunts of the Showtime Dunkteam. Using their acrobatic and gymnastic skills as well as a mini-trampoline and a bouncy mat, these five young men bounced and flipped their way to the basket with increasingly difficult maneuvers set to music. The crowd loved them.

After the game, the players and coaches lined up to exchange their traditional greetings. Then both teams gathered in a circle at center court, their arms around each other, for a few moments. As the Lady Vols departed, the Stanford players remained in their own circle, many of them congratulating Toni as they awaited Nneka, who was being interviewed. She joined them to complete the circle before they all ran to the sideline to grab victory balls.

It was indeed a victory to celebrate – a decisive win over an always-formidable opponent and the successful defense of the home court win streak, now at 68 and in its fifth season.

Next up: Cal State Bakersfield and a short Christmas break before Pac-12 competition, starting with a road trip to USC on Dec. 29 and UCLA on Dec. 31.

December 17, 2011

West is best in battle of brains

Princeton, a leading Ivy League women’s basketball team, paid a visit to its West Coast academic match, Stanford, and left with an 85-66 defeat before a crowd of 4,277 on Dec. 17.

The visitors kept the game close throughout the first half and went to the locker room trailing by only 7 points, 39-32. Returning for the second half, Stanford turned up its offensive and defensive effort to lead by as much as 27 with 2:23 to go.

As expected, the Ogwumike sisters led the way, with senior forward Nneka pouring in 22 points to go with 12 rebounds, while sophomore forward Chiney had 21 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Toni Kokenis was third in scoring with 11 and was the only other Cardinal in double figures.

Nneka and Chiney both started the game, joined by freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, freshman guard Jasmine Camp and senior guard Lindy La Rocque. Head coach Tara VanDerveer substituted liberally, giving everyone a taste of the action except for junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who’s still sidelined by a foot problem. There’s no timeline for her return, said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

When it comes to the rotation, “we’re giving everyone a look,” Amy said in a behind-the-bench session after the game. Except for Nneka and Chiney, who “are solid” at the 4 and 5, she said, the 1, 2 and 3 spots are still in flux, mainly because so many players are so young.

Speaking after the game, Tara gave her “compliments to Princeton. They have an excellent team.” She also complimented several players, including Chiney, Toni and Taylor, who “did a really nice job. She’s coming along well.”

Nneka also came in for accolades, especially her good-looking, high-arcing mid-range shot. She has been working on that shot to become more versatile. “She’s a woman with girls out there,” Tara said, citing her for great leadership, too.

However, “we’re going to need more contributions” from other players. “I don’t think we shot as well (45.2 percent) as we needed to today,” she said. “We have to rebound better and take care of the ball better.”

Stanford had a slight edge in rebounding, 46-42, but both teams had 17 turnovers. Princeton steals contributed to nine of Stanford’s TO’s, while Stanford had seven steals. On the plus side, Stanford had five blocks, while the Tigers had none. Stanford also led in assists, 13-9.

The team was coming off a two-week hiatus for finals, which ended Dec. 16. The team has two more games – Tennessee on Dec. 20 and Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 22 -- before taking a brief holiday break and returning to the Farm on Dec. 26, said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations.

One member of the Princeton coaching staff, Milena Flores, is a Stanford basketball alum, class of 2000. Now that this visit is behind her, “I’m looking forward to cheering for Stanford all the rest of the way,” she told the post-game crowd.

While Stanford fans gathered behind the bench to hear the coaches, dozens of Princeton fans socialized in the area of their bench while they waited for the team to emerge from the locker room. Princeton players Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Polansky are from the Bay Area and accounted for a large contingent of family and friends to cheer for them.

Stanford players had their own contingents. For example, several children and adults wore red and white tie-dye shirts with “Kokenis” and “31” stamped on them.

In keeping with the tradition of inviting the individual freshmen to speak to fans after a game, Jasmine was the post-game guest. She said she has been playing basketball “since I was 4 years old and never thought I’d wind up at Stanford.” She thought she’d play closer to her Atlanta home, but Stanford “is truly worth the trip. I have a great time here. It’s such a family. I love it,” said the articulate guard.

She has two brothers, ages 30 and 26. Her mother is an assistant principal at an elementary school, and her father heads the county probation department. As for her Stanford major, “I have no idea.”

She was asked to compare Stanford practices with her high school experiences. Her high school practices were much shorter and more casual while in “practice here, we go hard every minute.”

Another fan asked about the recruiting process. She said Tara and then-assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey made the official visit and had dinner at her home. Jasmine didn’t know that Tara is a vegetarian, but luckily “I made pasta salad on my own. She loved it. It got me in,” she joked. Several SEC schools and others recruited her, but “why go there when you can go to Stanford?” she said.

“We’ve been very excited about Jas,” Amy said. She brings great energy to the team and is loud and vocal, qualities that are important in a point guard, Amy added.

And as for the team’s victory over Princeton, it “was a good tune-up game for Tennessee,” Tara said. The game is sold out, so Eileen advised fans to arrive early.

December 6, 2011

Cardinal outshoot, outrebound Fresno State

“Fresno State has a good team ---- at their level.”

That’s the comment I heard from a man wearing a Fresno State sweatshirt as spectators were leaving Save Mart Center in Fresno on Dec. 4. That’s where the Stanford women’s basketball team had just defeated the home team 93-59.

Fresno State had a 5-2 record going into the game, helped in large part by sharpshooting from the 3-point line. The Cardinal edged out the Bulldogs in that statistical category with nine 3’s compared with Fresno’s eight. Once again, freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson led the team in treys by scoring on six of eight attempts, a 75 percent success rate. Senior guard Lindy La Rocque chipped in with two, while freshman forward Taylor Greenfield added one.

Wearing black road uniforms, Stanford led from the get-go and never ceded the lead or even tied. It pulled ahead 56-27 at the half. Shortly into the second half, the Cardinal led by 37 points, its largest margin.

The starting lineup featured Taylor along with senior Nneka Ogwumike and sophomore Chiney Ogwumike at the forward spots, while sophomore Toni Kokenis and freshman Jasmine Camp took on guard duty.

Initially, the game looked like “The Nneka and Chiney Show” with the two sisters dominating the boards and the scoring. Chiney played 27 minutes, the most of anyone on the team, scored 13 points and had a career-high 16 rebounds.

Even though Nneka sat out much of the first half with two fouls and played a total of only 18 minutes, she scored a team-high 21 points and pulled in 12 rebounds. Even when she wasn’t playing, she was helpful. When the ball got stuck between the backboard and rim, she got off the bench and used her leaping ability to free it.

Stanford’s superior height allowed the Cardinal to virtually own the boards, recording 67 rebounds to Fresno’s 28. The Cardinal also dominated in the assist department 26-12. Lindy led the team with five assists, closely followed by sophomore guard Sara James and freshman guard Amber Orrange with four each. The Cardinal had seven blocks to Fresno’s two. Bonnie and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle had three blocks each. Nneka had the other one.

On the other hand, Fresno took better care of the ball, amassing only 10 turnovers to Stanford’s 16. Fresno proved to be better at theft, too, recording seven steals to Stanford’s five. Stanford had 13 fouls to Fresno’s 18 but could have done a better job at the free-throw line, cashing in on only 44.4 percent of its shots, while Fresno made 55.6 percent.

It was good to see Lindy back in action after she had missed the UC Davis game with a sore foot. She took her customary place at the head of the line and led the team onto the floor for warmups. She had a total of 10 points, five assists and one steal in 22 minutes.

Junior forward Mikaela Ruef was still on the sidelines with a sore foot and leg. Freshman guard Alex Green, though on crutches, was able to travel with the team. She had missed the Thanksgiving week road trip to have surgery for a torn Achilles tendon. As the team warmed up, Laurie Payne, mother of freshman forward Erica Payne, went down to the bench to greet Alex. Various teammates and staff members also talked with her throughout the afternoon.

Otherwise, head coach Tara VanDerveer was able to allot playing time to everyone else on the team.

The arena went silent during the second half when Fresno’s Alex Furr, a 5’5” guard who had been pressuring Stanford’s point guards, cried out and fell to the floor clutching her knee. She was helped off the court and to the locker room. Wearing a large ice bag on her knee, she later walked back to the bench during a timeout and was warmly applauded.

Save Mart Center, which seats about 15,500, seemed sparsely populated, but the official attendance was 3,324. Several dozen Stanford fans figured into that number.

As the teams warmed up, a remote-controlled mini-blimp floated above the perimeter of the court. A four-person honor guard from the Fresno State Air Force ROTC presented both the U.S. and California flags preceding a recorded version of the national anthem.

The Stanford players had reason to celebrate even before the game because they knew that the women’s soccer team had won the NCAA national championship by defeating Duke 1-0 earlier in the day.

Stanford athletes are now taking a two-week break for study and finals. Women’s basketball returns to action Dec. 17 when Princeton comes to Maples.

December 2, 2011

Cardinal get their kicks with home win 66

Stanford women’s basketball had a relatively easy route to the team’s 66th consecutive home win by routing UC Davis 93-44 on Nov. 30.

The Aggies were a scrappy, disciplined group, but couldn’t overcome Stanford’s superior size and skill.

Four Stanford forwards – one from each class – scored in the double digits. They were led by senior Nneka Ogwumike with 20. She was closely followed by junior Joslyn Tinkle with a career-high 19. Next came sophomore Chiney Ogwumike with 18 and freshman Bonnie Samuelson with 15.

All of Bonnie’s points came from five of the team’s 11 3-pointers. Also scoring from beyond the arc was sophomore guard Sara James with two 3’s. Joslyn, freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis and freshman guard Amber Orrange had one each.

With senior guard Lindy La Rocque sidelined by what was reported to be a sore foot, Amber did the honors of leading the team onto the floor for pre-game drills. Freshman guard Jasmine Camp took Lindy’s place in the starting lineup. She was joined by regulars Nneka, Chiney, Taylor and Toni.

Even though Lindy didn’t play, she apparently had some influence on hairstyles. Bonnie, Joslyn and Nneka all sported Lindy’s signature long braid rather than their usual ponytails.

Junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who has had a sore foot and leg, was dressed but didn’t participate in the warmups or play. However, she was kept busy with the traditional high-fives along the bench after each 3-pointer.

As the buzzer signaled 10 minutes to go before the start of the game, the players lined up as usual for the national anthem. However, it was preceded by a minute of silence to honor Chester McGlockton, the Stanford assistant football coach and former pro player who had unexpectedly died that morning at the age of 42.

Although the score stayed close during the first few minutes of the game, Stanford began pulling ahead, ending the half up by 51-23. Things were so comfortable in the second half that Nneka went to the bench with 17:24 to go. She had played only 21 minutes.

None of the starters played more than 25 minutes (Chiney). Joslyn logged the most time with 31 minutes. With 3:19 to go in the game, announcer Betty Ann Boeving told that crowd that Joslyn had reached a career high with 17 points. Joslyn then added 2 more for her 19 total.

The Cardinal outrebounded the Aggies 47-16, led by Nneka, Chiney and Joslyn with nine each. Stanford won the assist battle, too, 24-10. Jasmine with six and Amber with five were the leaders in that category. Stanford had only nine personal fouls to the Aggies’ 14. The turnover numbers were exactly the same in Stanford’s favor.

Freshman guard Alex Green, who had surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon last week, rejoined her teammates after missing the road trip to UConn and Xavier. She was on crutches and is expected to miss the rest of the season. She had just recently begun playing after recovering from an ACL injury that kept her out of action during her senior year of high school. Several fans stopped by to wish her well before the game, and various teammates and staff members talked with her during the game.

The scoreboard was still set up for volleyball because the women’s team will be in action this weekend as Stanford hosts first-round action in the NCAA tournament.

November 23, 2011

Fans cheer from new venue

Several dozen Cardinal fans who couldn’t make the trip east and who wanted to share watching the UConn game with others had a new place to do so. They had the upstairs room at the Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto to themselves on Nov. 21 as they alternately cheered and groaned as the Stanford women’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, 58-68, to one of its most respected rivals.

Fans began to gather at 4 p.m. and helped themselves to water from a large cooler while a waitress took orders for food or beverages. Most of the fans sat on comfortable chairs at long wooden tables where they could watch the game on five large screens around the room. More fans watched the game in the main room downstairs while other people focused on screens showing Monday Night Football.

The first big cheer went up about 4:30 p.m. when the broadcast showed the team and senior forward Nneka Ogwumike. At the tipoff, Stanford went with a familiar starting lineup featuring Nneka, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, senior guard Lindy La Rocque and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis.

Freshman guard Alex Green didn’t make the trip because she had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during practice last week. Junior forward Mikaela Ruef was sidelined with what was reported to be a quadriceps injury.

All of the coaches wore orange lapel ribbons, and players on both teams wore something orange, such as hair ribbons for several Stanford women. They were honoring Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna, who were killed in a plane crash in Arkansas Nov. 17. Scenes from the Stillwater, Okla., memorial for the two were shown during halftime.

The game started slowly, with neither team scoring until Chiney broke the drought with a free throw at 16:42. The score stayed fairly close throughout the first half, which ended 26-32 in UConn’s favor. Nneka had spent much of the half on the bench with two fouls, but she returned for the second half and helped to put the Cardinal in front for a bit. However, turnovers, fouls, limited rebounds and difficulty with UConn’s press proved to be Stanford’s undoing.

The Old Pro is the third venue in as many years that has hosted WBB fans for viewing parties. First and Main in Los Altos was the first and perhaps the most comfortable, although seating was somewhat limited and the screens were smaller. Its menu was the most varied with entrees available. Parking was free but crowded in a city lot behind the building.

Next came Mike’s in Menlo Park. Its somewhat sterile atmosphere didn’t lead to as much conviviality as the other two places. Its screens were small and its food, which included entrees, OK. The parking lot was cramped.

The Old Pro features a moderately priced menu of mostly appetizers, salads, burgers and other sandwiches, and pizza. Fans in the upstairs room received a 10 percent discount on their bills. Portions were generous, and most fans seemed satisfied with their orders. Free underground parking is just a few steps away.

The main drawback, which is true of most such venues, is that it was hard to hear the commentary. That’s why I was glad to go home and watch the recorded game in the quiet comfort of my family room.

Back to the game – it’s never fun to watch the team lose, but there were more than a few glimmers of hope for this young team. Best of all, these are smart players who will learn valuable lessons from playing an elite team this early in the season.

November 18, 2011

Old Dominion overwhelmed

With the Stanford women’s basketball team dominating in every statistical category, overmatched Old Dominion fell to the Cardinal 97-48 on Nov. 17. It was the Cardinal team’s 65th consecutive home victory.

This game and the home opener against Gonzaga were the first that I can remember in a long, long time that all 15 players were healthy and available for action. In this game, all 15 did see action and contributed to the win in some way – if only for hustle and defense.

In terms of scoring, senior guard Lindy La Rocque led the way with a career-high 15 points, all of them from a career-high five 3-pointers. She was followed by fellow starters Nneka Ogwumike, senior forward, with 14 points and Chiney Ogwumike, sophomore forward, with 13.

The other two starters weren’t far behind. Freshman forward Taylor Greenfield had 8, and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis had 7. Coming off the bench to score in double figures were junior forward Joslyn Tinkle with 12 and redshirt junior center Sarah Boothe with 10.

Besides the fact that all 15 players got into the game, the night was memorable for 12 3-pointers. Besides Lindy’s five, they included sophomore guard Sara James’s three and Taylor’s two. Toni and freshman guard Jasmine Camp each had one.

Also noteworthy is that no one played more than 20 minutes, the total logged by Sarah. Of the starters, Taylor and Lindy had the most time with 17 minutes each. Nneka, Chiney and Toni each played 16 minutes.

Another good sign: Chiney made five of her six free throws, thus showing a big improvement in this aspect of her game.

And some other notable stats: 52 rebounds (Chiney with nine), 23 assists (Lindy and Jasmine each with four), four blocks (Sarah with two) and nine steals (freshman guard Amber Orrange with two). There were only seven fouls (no one with more than one) and 12 turnovers.

Before the game started, head coach Tara VanDerveer was presented with a plaque honoring her as the national Women’s Coach of the Year.

In the meantime, Old Dominion got off on the wrong foot before the game started when a technical foul was assessed for failure to report its starting lineup on time. (The same thing happened when Texas visited last year.) Toni made both free throws, making the score 2-0 before the first whistle.

When Nneka went for the opening tipoff, the play was somewhat different but quite effective. Rather than tipping the ball to Toni, who then would set up the half-court offense, Nneka tapped it to Chiney, who scored an easy layup. Shortly after that, Taylor made two consecutive 3s, making the score 10-4. There was no looking back after that. The score was 56-24 at the half.

All of the game stats indicate that the starters could sit back and enjoy the game while head coach Tara VanDerveer could allow their teammates, especially the other five freshmen, to gain valuable experience. They’ll need it with the Cardinal headed into a tough stretch of games, starting with Thanksgiving week on the road against UConn on Monday and Xavier on Friday.

The team reportedly was scheduled to fly to Connecticut on Nov. 19, giving it a day to adapt to the three-hour time difference before facing the Huskies. Geno Auriemma’s team will no doubt be seeking revenge for the way that Stanford snapped its unprecedented 90-game winning streak 71-59 when the Huskies visited on Dec. 30, 2010.

Rather than flying back to California after that and then back to the Eastern Time zone later in the week – a grueling prospect - the team will go to Ohio to prepare for its meeting with Xavier in Cincinnati on Friday. The team will celebrate Thanksgiving at the home of junior forward Mikaela Ruef in Beavercreek, Ohio, a Dayton suburb that’s some 52 miles north of Cincinnati. I can just imagine the look on the Ruefs’ neighbors’ faces when a bus pulls up in front of the house and 15 female athletes plus coaches and staff members file out.

November 14, 2011

Victory balls fly for the 64th straight time

On a night when some of the greats of Stanford women’s basketball were honored, the team did its part by winning its home opener on Nov. 13. The Cardinal defeated a very good Gonzaga team 76-61. Thus it extended the home winning streak to 64 games for the beginning of a fifth year and sent the victory balls flying into the stands.

It wasn’t an easy win. The Zags led 32-31 at the half, but senior forward Nneka Ogwumike and her sophomore forward sister, Chiney, took over to start the second half, scoring all of the team’s 17 points by the 13:36 mark. A 3-pointer by sophomore guard Toni Kokenis with about 13 minutes to go was the first score by someone not named Ogwumike.

In the end, Nneka led the scoring with 33 points plus 18 rebounds, while Chiney had 19 points and six rebounds. Toni, with 14 points and six rebounds, was the only other Cardinal in double figures. These three, plus senior guard Lindy La Rocque and freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, started the game and logged the most minutes.

Honors for Cardinal Greats

During a timeout in the first half, Trisha Stevens Lamb, ’91, was honored for her induction into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame. She was accompanied by her two daughters.

The 1991-92 team, the last Stanford WBB team to win the national championship, was honored at halftime. In addition to several support staff members, honorees at center court included Chris MacMurdo, Christy Hedgpeth, Tanda Rucker, Anita Kaplan Fiedel, Ann Adkins Enthoven, Angela Taylor and Niki Sevillian-Hendrix. Kate Paye, now the team’s assistant coach was in the locker room with the team. Former assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey, who became head coach of the University of Wisconsin team this season, sent her former teammates good wishes via video.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer received her accolades after the game, when athletic director Bob Bowlsby gave her a trophy and framed photomontage to recognize her induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this past summer. Bowlsby was accompanied by Vanessa Nygaard, ’98, who had led a campaign that resulted in 60 WBB alumnae donating to the Buck/Cardinal Club. She gave Tara a commemorative whistle. Tara’s HOF acceptance speech was replayed while the video board showed highlights of her illustrious career.

Besides Vanessa and the 1992 team, some of the alumnae that I saw in the audience included Heather Owen, ’98; Candice Wiggins, ’08; Morgan Clyburn, ’09; and Melanie Murphy, ’11. Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, who’s playing professionally in the WNBA and Turkey, was represented by her mom, Cindy Pohlen.

Fans get to meet Taylor

Fans then gathered behind the bench for a post-game session that started when associate head coach Amy Tucker introduced Taylor. Like some of her five freshman teammates, Taylor is a bit shy, but “she doesn’t play shyly,” Amy said. In Stanford’s 72-59 season-opening victory at Texas on Nov. 11, Taylor started at the 3 position, guarded the Longhorns’ best player and “did a wonderful job on her,” Amy said.

Taylor then took some questions from fans, revealing that she has a beloved cockapoo at home and that she started playing basketball in about first grade and joined an AAU team in fifth grade.
She hails from Huxley, Iowa, population 2,000, but it’s only about 9 miles from Ames, home of Iowa State, the alma mater of both of her parents. Despite those influences, she chose Stanford for “everything minus the part of leaving home,” Taylor said. Her parents backed her decision, have visited her several times and stay connected via Skype. They also went to the Texas game. Besides Stanford and Iowa State, the schools she considered were Duke and Texas.

During her visits to Stanford with her parents, she liked the weather and “this team. On my official visit, they made everything easy,” she said. She also liked the coaches.

One fan asked which of her teammates is the hardest to guard in practice. “Luckily I don’t have to guard Nneka,” she said. Sophomore guard Sara James is the hardest for Taylor to guard because Sara is strong and knows what she’s doing, Taylor said.

She has found that the biggest change from her high school playing days is that she was her team’s point guard, mainly responsible for getting the ball to others. Now, as a forward, she has to sprint down the floor and rebound.

Both of her parents played basketball, and her brother plays at Central College in Pella, Iowa. She hasn’t settled on an academic major, but she’s leaning toward human biology with thoughts of becoming a pediatrician.

When Tara joined the post-game session, she said of Taylor: “She’s making a great adjustment” and made good passes in the game.

Tara passes out praise

Overall, though, “we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Tara said. She had praise for veteran players. “I think Nneka showed up today,” she said in an understatement as she cited Nneka’s stats. “Her leadership has been great.”

“Lindy helped us a lot,” she said. And although freshman forward Erica Payne didn’t get many minutes, she’s “a small post that gives a lot of people trouble.” She also said that redshirt junior center Sarah Boothe, junior forward Joslyn Tinkle and freshman guard Amber Orrange did well in the Texas game.

One fan asked what she had said to her players at the half, when they were behind by a point. “Sometimes we have to make some adjustments,” she said. She has to factor in the reality that the freshmen don’t know all the plays, so “keep it simple” is her motto. “Our freshmen will come along,” she said, adding that the front line still has veterans like the Ogwumikes, Joslyn and Sarah.

With the graduation of Jeanette and classmate Kayla Pedersen, who each played major minutes in 155 of their 156 college games, Tara and her staff have been subbing more than usual as they look for what combinations work best in which situations. “It’s going to be a puzzle every night,” she said, thanking the fans for their support.

November 5, 2011

Team hits century mark again

The Stanford women’s basketball team coasted to another easy exhibition win at home on Nov. 5, defeating Vanguard 100-54.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer revised the starting lineup, going with two seniors, forward Nneka Ogwumike and guard Lindy La Rocque; a sophomore, forward Chiney Ogwumike; and two freshmen, forward Taylor Greenfield and point guard Amber Orrange.

Others got into action fairly quickly, starting with junior forward Joslyn Tinkle and freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson. By game’s end, everyone had seen action except for junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who has had a sore foot; and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis, who had left the UC San Diego game and stayed on the bench with ice on her ankle after taking a tumble. Both were in uniform, though.

The afternoon was highlighted by a barrage of 3-pointers – 14 in all. Bonnie and Lindy had five each and tied for game scoring honors with 17 points each. Taylor and sophomore guard Sara James each contributed two more 3’s.

Six players finished in double figures. Besides Bonnie and Lindy, they were Joslyn with 15, Chiney with 11, and Sara and Taylor with 10. Nneka, who usually leads the team in scoring, had 6 points in her 15 minutes of playing time. Since this was just an exhibition game and since there’s no doubt about her abilities, there wasn’t much need to play her any longer.

Often playing with four freshmen, as she did during Pro-Am summer play at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, Joslyn logged the most playing time with 23 minutes, closely followed by Bonnie with 22.

The crowd seemed somewhat sparse, perhaps because the high-flying football team was playing Oregon State in Corvallis at the same time. Still, the official attendance was pegged at 3,072. The video board showed the football game until 30 minutes before the tipoff, but WBB fans were given periodic updates after tipoff. (Stanford went on to win 38-13.)

Once again Lindy led the team onto the floor, and Nneka met with the officials as the team captain. Maples was a bit quieter than usual because the band was in Corvallis. Instead recordings were used for the national anthem, “All Right Now” and the alma mater song. The Tree and Dollies also were absent.

The game was marked by a number of heads-up and unselfish plays, as shown by the team’s 24 total assists. Amber had the most with six, but nine other players had at least one.

Turnovers were limited to just seven, while Vanguard had 16. Freshman guard Jasmine Camp had three of the team’s eight steals. Rebounding was fairly well balanced. Of the 51 total rebounds (to Vanguard’s 28), Joslyn and Amber led the team with eight each, followed by Nneka and Erica with six each. Ten Cardinal players got into the rebounding column.

A handful of fans met in the south concourse after the game to share their views. The consensus was that they liked the freshmen players’ hustle and cited the “pesky point guards” who harassed their Vanguard counterparts from one end of the court to the other. With “no complaints,” the fans agreed the team’s performance was “very impressive.”

However, no one ventured an opinion on the outcome of the team’s first official outing, an away game at Texas at 5 p.m. PT on Friday, Nov. 11.

November 3, 2011

Freshmen frolic in Maples debut

All six freshmen got into the scoring column as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated UC San Diego 106-56 in the season’s first exhibition game Nov. 2 at Maples Pavilion.

Before the game, there was much speculation about how the newcomers would fare, but “all the freshmen played well,” one fan commented during an informal discussion in the south concourse immediately after the game.

When it came to scoring, freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson led her classmates with 15 points – going five for seven on 3-pointers – in just 10 minutes of playing time. She also recorded one assist.

For the team, scoring honors went to sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike with 19 points, followed by her sister, senior forward Nneka, with 17 and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle with 16. Both Chiney and Joslyn made eight of their nine shots. Rebounding honors went to Chiney with 14 and Joslyn with 11.

The starting lineup featured team captain Nneka plus Chiney along with senior guard Lindy La Rocque, sophomore guard Sara James and, at the point, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis. Freshman guard Jasmine Camp was first off the bench, subbing for Toni less than 3 minutes into the game. Joslyn and freshman forward Taylor Greenfield were next, soon followed by freshman guard Amber Orrange.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, all 14 healthy players had played and scored. Only junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who was in uniform but has had a sore foot, remained on the sidelines, but she did the high-five honors every time a Cardinal made a 3-pointer. She made that trip along the bench eight times thanks to Bonnie’s five, plus one each by Lindy, Sara (the game’s first) and senior guard Grace Mashore.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer used various combinations of players throughout the game, but no one played more than 20 minutes (Joslyn and Jasmine). There were a few times when as many as four freshmen were on the floor together, but always there was an experienced player with them to provide leadership if needed.

During one of those times, Joslyn was the veteran with the freshmen, bringing to mind her outstanding performances with them during summer league play at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco.

The score was 47-24 in Stanford’s favor at the half. Following halftime entertainment by 12 members of Stanford Taekwando, the Cardinal outscored the visitors 59-32, leading to the 50-point margin of victory.

By game’s end, the freshmen had logged significant minutes: Taylor with 19, just behind Jasmine’s 20, followed by Amber with 18, forward Erica Payne with 16, Bonnie with 10 and guard Alex Green with six.

Even though UCSD was outmatched, the players were scrappy and didn’t let up. A few fans and a spirited bench cheered them on. UCSD pressed fairly often, but Stanford pressed back, especially in the second half.

Stanford’s bench was equally supportive, especially of plays by the freshmen. Alex was the last newcomer to see action, but it was her first in nearly a year after an ACL injury early in her high school senior season. Her arrival was greeted by applause and cheers that were even louder when she scored the first basket of her college career.

Some other stats of note: Stanford outrebounded UCSD 54-23, had 21 assists to UCSD’s six and notched only 13 turnovers to the visitors’ 17. Amber had the highest number of assists with seven. UCSD had 20 fouls to Stanford’s 17. Redshirt junior center Sarah Boothe was the only player to foul out.

Also noteworthy, the band, Tree and Dollies were there to cheer the team, something that hasn’t always been in case in previous exhibition games. Betty Ann Boeving was back as announcer.

As some fans discussed the game in the south concourse, there was some debate but no conclusion about the merits of Amber vs. Jasmine, both speedy, seemingly fearless guards.

For the entire team, “there were a lot of nice plays,” one fan concluded.

The next exhibition game is against Vanguard at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in Maples.

October 23, 2011

Let the games begin

Fans of Stanford women’s basketball got a taste of what’s to come when they attended an open practice Oct. 21 in Maples Pavilion. And while no one’s predicting how the season will end, this preview promised some exciting times.

It was especially intriguing because it gave fans their first look at the new crop of freshmen. The team has what might be an unprecedented six newcomers, but only five were present. The sixth, guard Amber Orrange, had a cold and couldn’t attend.

Of the nine returning players, only eight saw action. The ninth, junior forward Mikaela Ruef, was there and in uniform but mostly stayed on the sidelines because of a sore foot. However, she didn’t waste her time. When she wasn’t on the exercise bike, she was being put through conditioning paces by Susan King Borchardt, ’05, the team’s new sports performance coach.

As the session began at 4 p.m., Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, handed out rosters to help fans identify the freshmen. She later estimated that about 170 people were there by the end of the three hours.

After 15 minutes of drills as the coaches watched, Susan took over and led stretching and warmup exercises. Fifteen minutes later, everyone gathered at the center circle as head coach Tara VanDerveer spoke to them.

Then came something familiar to fans – the traditional opening run onto the court, this time led by senior guard Lindy La Rocque. I don’t recall seeing any misses on the subsequent layup drill.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye worked with the guards as they shot 3s at one end of the court. Assistant coach Trina Patterson, another new addition to Tara’s staff, worked with the bigs on the other end. Tara alternated between the groups before going to the microphone to welcome the fans.

Most of the rest of the practice was taken up by three 15-minute scrimmages between the white and red teams, overseen by three referees. On the white team for the first round were freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, freshman guard Jasmine Camp, sophomore guards Sara James and Toni Kokenis, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, junior forward Joslyn Tinkle and senior forward Nneka Ogwumike.

Their red-team opponents were freshman guard Alex Green, freshman forwards Erica Payne and Bonnie Samuelson, Lindy, senior guard Grace Mashore, senior center Sarah Boothe and two male practice players.

Even though the 6’2” Nneka is 3 inches shorter than Sarah, she won the tipoff. Jasmine and Lindy started as the point guards for their teams, but Toni played at that position, too.

Various combinations of players saw action as they were subbed in and out during the scrimmages, all of which were characterized by lots of hustle by everyone. Worth noting in the first scrimmage is that Alex beat everyone on two fast breaks despite a brace on her knee. The score ended at 45 white to 32 red.

The second scrimmage saw Sara, Jasmine, Nneka, Chiney, Alex, Sarah and Lindy in white. Erica, Toni, Joslyn, Sara, Bonnie and Grace wore red, as did the two men. There was a scary moment when Nneka fell clutching her elbow. Trainer Marcella Shorty checked on her and soon had her on her feet and going to the sideline. Not long after that, Nneka reappeared with a red pad on her elbow, returned to action and seemed none the worse for wear – a great relief to everyone.

This scrimmage was highlighted by some good assists by Sarah, two 3s in a row by Taylor and two steals in a row by Erica. The score ended at 30 red to 22 white.

For the final scrimmage, the white team fielded Toni, Nneka, Chiney, Joslyn, Lindy, Taylor and Erica. Players in red were Sarah, Grace, Alex, Jasmine, Sara, Bonnie and the men. The final score was white 34, red 28.

Overall, the team looked good for this early in the season. It was good to see Sarah playing with no sleeve on her right shoulder after undergoing surgery during the summer. She seemed to play with more confidence and hit her layups more consistently. Sara also played with a lot more confidence and hit several 3s. Lindy had some nice 3s, too. And of course the Ogwumike sisters were terrific. One of their specialties is putbacks: If one misses her shot, the other is there to rebound and put the ball in.

The scrimmages were followed by free-throw practice. Everyone then gathered again at the circle for some words from Tara and team physician Dr. Elaine Lambert.

After the practice, 132 fans packed neighboring Jimmy V’s for a dinner of salad, fresh fruit, chicken, pasta with a choice of sauces, steamed vegetables and cookies.

While the fans ate, the team arrived, and Tara briefly introduced each player, starting with the seniors.

She said that Lindy, who usually is a 2 guard, was playing the point in the place of the speedy Amber. Introducing Grace, she said, “Our seniors are doing a fabulous job of mentoring our freshmen.”

Nneka “doesn’t need any introduction,” Tara said. “We’re looking forward to a great senior year.”

Of Sarah, who is a senior academically but a junior athletically after red-shirting her sophomore year, Tara said, “We are so excited that Sarah’s 100 percent and healthy. She played in pain” with her shoulder last season.

Joslyn “worked hard this summer. She tore up in the Pro-Am,” Tara said, referring to the summer recreational league at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. Joslyn was the standout on her team, which included all of the freshmen except Alex, who was still recovering from ACL surgery during her senior year of high school.

Mikaela also worked hard during the summer. To Sara she said, “You had a great scrimmage today.”

Toni had “another outstanding day. All of our guards are pushing each other, and Toni is leading the way.”

Chiney, among other assets, “plays within herself.” “This is a hungry team,” she added. “Our inside game has a lot of experience.”

She described Bonnie as “high energy, always positive. She does so many things well.”

Taylor “has had great practices.”

Entering college “is a big adjustment for freshmen, (but these) freshmen catch on quickly, and they’re fast.”

Even though Alex hadn’t played for a year because of her ACL, “she’s doing well,” Tara said, as Chiney hugged her freshman teammate.

As for Erica, “I love your aggressiveness. She’s fearless,” Tara said.

Later she said that “Amber changes things a lot.”

Completing the team introductions with Jasmine, whom she called “a vocal floor leader,” Tara said, “This is an exceptional freshman class.”

She then introduced her staff, including Trina, who “brings experience and is a super person. There are some big shoes to fill on this staff,” she said, referring to Bobbie Kelsey, who left at the end of last season to become head coach at the University of Wisconsin. Bobbie “is going to do great.”

Besides the other coaches, Eileen and Marcella, the staff includes Lauren Greif, who has been named special assistant and video coordinator after serving an internship last season. This year’s intern is Liz Rizza.

Susan didn’t attend the dinner, perhaps because “she really has her hands full with 3-month-old twins and an 18-month-old,” Tara said.

Tara excused the players and took questions from the fans.

She explained that the 3-point line has been moved out to the men’s line, and “I’m OK with it.” A new line around the basket marks a restricted area where no charges are allowed -- an effort to protect players going to the basket.

Although Amber and Mikaela didn’t scrimmage, they’re in the top group of players, Tara said, adding, “It might be different every night.” The team has many good offensive players, so defense and rebounding will determine who sees the most action.

A recent newspaper article said Tara might consider red-shirting one or two freshmen. At the dinner, Tara said that’s a possibility only if it were good for the player and the team. She doesn’t have to make any decision until after the two exhibition games. NCAA rules allow freshmen – but not upperclassmen -- to play exhibition games before being red-shirted.

“This is a very different team” from the past, Tara said. “It’s going to grow on you.”

The players all have a good attitude, and the upperclassmen are doing a good job of mentoring. The younger players are mature. “They have already exceeded my expectations for them.”

She’s hoping to extend the team’s defense. Its speed and depth will allow the team to be more aggressive.

Overall, “They’re all great young women,” she said.

July 28, 2011

Summer seasoning for Cardinal players

Although summer provides a break from actual game competition, Stanford women’s basketball players are using the time to prepare for the next season.

As is traditional, the six incoming freshmen are getting a head start on the academic aspects of their Stanford careers by attending summer school. Except for guard Alex Green, who is rehabbing from knee surgery, they’re also working out and playing pickup games.

In addition, guards Jasmine Camp and Amber Orrange, along with forwards Taylor Greenfield, Erica Payne and Bonnie Samuelson played together on the South Bay team in the San Francisco Pro-Am recreational league. Joining them on that team and in summer school was junior forward Joslyn Tinkle.

Others attending summer school are r/s junior forward/center Sarah Boothe, junior forward Mikaela Ruef and sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike. These veterans also worked at head coach Tara VanDerveer’s summer hoops camps. Sarah had shoulder surgery in the spring but is recovering well and is expected to be ready for the opening of the season, said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Junior guard Lindy La Rocque wasn’t in summer school, but she was on campus quite a bit, working at the camps and joining her teammates in workouts and pickup games, Amy said. Sophomore guard Toni Kokenis worked at the final camp session after training at home in Illinois.

Senior guard Grace Mashore has spent her summer at home in the Washington, D.C., area while working at an internship.

Senior forward Nneka Ogwumike, although based at home in Houston, has been traveling a lot. She went to Nigeria with her family, went to the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles with Chiney and went to Washington, D.C., to watch her younger sisters play in a basketball tournament.

Next she and Chiney will be at the USA Basketball Women’s World University Team training camp in Colorado Springs from July 31 to Aug. 8 in hopes of making the final cut and playing in the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China, Aug. 14-22.

Sophomore guard Sara James spent two weeks in Europe with her family, then worked at Tara’s hoops camps.

In the meantime, Tara, Amy and assistant coach Kate Paye have been dividing their time between hoops camps and the recruiting trail. Besides helping with these responsibilities, their new colleague, assistant coach Trina Patterson, who started work earlier this summer, has been moving her family to the area and getting settled. The coaches will have some vacation time in August.

July 23, 2011

End of the line at Kezar

The Stanford-dominated South Bay team put up a good fight but in the end was dealt a 100-95 overtime loss at the hands of the bigger, stronger San Francisco team in the first playoff round of Pro-Am competition July 23 at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco.

South Bay sorely missed the presence of junior forward Joslyn Tinkle, its leading scorer and rebounder. The team captain, who has averaged more than 30 points per game, was in Las Vegas with her family.

Freshman forward Taylor Greenfield was there but not in uniform because of a sore back. Freshman guard Alex Green, rehabbing a knee injury, was there for moral support, as she has been throughout the summer. Some other stalwarts were absent, leaving South Bay with only seven players.

The game was played in front of a good turnout of Stanford fans, who saw several lead changes. At the half, the score favored South Bay 51-47. During the second half, the team led by as many as 13 points, but San Francisco kept whittling that down to pull ahead.

South Bay trailed 85-90 with just 55.5 seconds to go but narrowed the gap to 90-91 with 19.1 seconds to go. A San Francisco free throw and a 2-point basket by South Bay’s Jessica Kellogg, who has played professionally in Spain, tied the game at 92-92 just before the final buzzer.

By then South Bay was down to five players because guard Markisha Coleman, ’07, and freshman guard Jasmine Camp had fouled out during regulation play.

With 3:11 to go in overtime and the score knotted at 94-94, freshman forward Erica Payne fouled out, leaving South Bay with only four players on the floor. Besides Jessica, they were Kelsey Shea of Cal and two Stanford freshmen --guard Amber Orrange and forward Bonnie Samuelson.

Bonnie led the team with 30 points. She was six for seven on 3-point shooting. I didn’t keep track of free throws per se, but if she missed any, it was only one. She also had three rebounds and a block.

Among the other Stanford players, Amber was next in scoring with 15 points to go with three rebounds and a steal. Jasmine had 6 points, one rebound and four steals, while Erica had 5 points, nine rebounds, a steal and two blocks. Markisha contributed 4 points, two rebounds and a steal.

The starting lineup featured Jasmine, Bonnie, Jessica and Markisha with Erica at center. Jessica filled in for Joslyn as captain.

Besides Bonnie’s laser-like 3-point and free-throw shooting, the game was notable for how fearlessly Amber and Jasmine drove to the basket. Bonnie and Erica had the unenviable task of guarding Cal’s bigger and stronger Talia Caldwell. Other Cal women playing for San Francisco included Natasha Vital, Lindsay Sherbert and Brittany Boyd.

Stanford fans got a bit of a scare when Bonnie was fouled and landed on her knee under the basket, but she bounced back to make her free throws. An assistant coach applied an ice pack to it during a timeout. After the game, she said it was OK.

As has been true throughout the summer, South Bay was plagued by turnovers and poor rebounding.

Still, the team delivered a lot of fun, exciting basketball for fans. It also provided an enticing look at what might lie ahead for the Stanford Cardinal when the entire team gathers in September and head coach Tara VanDerveer and her colleagues take over.

July 18, 2011

Mixed bag for Stanford women in Pro-Am play

After coasting to a 98-65 victory over East Bay on Saturday, July 16, the Stanford-led South Bay team lost 91-87 to Mission Rec Center in overtime the next day in women’s SF Pro-Am play at Kezar Pavilion.

As she has throughout this summer program, junior forward Joslyn Tinkle led South Bay with 38 points (my unofficial tally) and 14 rebounds in the East Bay game. Stanford freshmen pitched in with 13 points each from guards Jasmine Camp and Amber Orrange, while forwards Erica Payne added 9 and Taylor Greenfield added 6.

Guard Markisha Coleman, ’07, completed the Stanford scoring with 7 points. The speedy little guard also had three rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson missed both games.

Among the interested observers both days was freshman guard Alex Green, who’s rehabbing a knee injury. The Ogwumike sisters – senior Nneka and sophomore Chiney, both forwards – watched the first game.

That game was marked by sharp passing and good teamwork by the Stanford women, but rebounding was a problem, especially on the offensive end.

Rebounding hurt the South Bay team in the July 17 loss to Mission Rec Center in a makeup game. The opponent’s speed also led to numerous costly turnovers by South Bay.

Whereas Saturday was quite foggy, Sunday was sunny, but parking around Kezar was tight because of the crowds participating in the annual AIDS Walk in Golden Gate Park. Inside Kezar, though, the South Bay fan turnout was light, perhaps because the game was scheduled to start shortly after the USA team lost the championship Women’s World Cup soccer match to Japan. Fan interest in that match was keen.

The game started late because it was preceded by an exhibition game between a Canadian team from Calgary and a group of Pro-Am players who have no more college eligibility. The Pro-Am players won.

The Kezar crowd included one new Stanford fan, Daisy, the nearly 4-year-old English bulldog that belongs to Erica and her East Bay family. The gregarious canine was accompanied by Erica’s parents, Laurie and Harry, and watched the whole game.

South Bay opened a lead that varied between 10 and 11 points during most of the first half, but turnovers began to take their toll, cutting the lead to 47-43 at halftime.

The game was tied 78-78 with 2:11 left. Both teams eked out another 6 points each to make the score 84-84 at the final buzzer and send it into overtime. Joslyn prevented a possible loss with a timely defensive rebound with 1.5 seconds left in regulation play.

She finished the game with a team-leading 28 points (unofficial), her first under-30 tally this summer. She also hauled in 10 rebounds and had three steals and five blocks.

She was closely followed by Erica with 26 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Amber added 8 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Jasmine had 6 points, two rebounds and a steal. Markisha had 2 points, three rebounds and four steals, but she fouled out with 4:11 left. Taylor played only a few minutes in the first half and had no points.

South Bay, which fell to second place in the six-team league, will face fifth-place San Francisco in a playoff game at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 23. If it wins that game, it will play the winner of the Bay City-Golden State game at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 30.

Championship games (two out of three) are scheduled at 2 p.m. Aug. 6 and 7 with a final game – if needed – at 2 p.m. Aug. 13. Stanford’s summer term ends that day with the last day of finals.

All games are at Kezar Pavilion, which is on Stanyan Street at the east end of Golden Gate Park. Paid parking is available in an adjacent lot.

July 2, 2011

Joslyn leads rout at Kezar

Junior forward/center Joslyn Tinkle led South Bay, “the Stanford team,” to a 111-81 victory over San Francisco in Pro-Am play at SF’s Kezar Pavilion on July 2.

Joslyn scored 38 points – including four 3’s – and hauled in 10 rebounds for a double-double. She also accounted for a steal, several assists and some blocks.

The Stanford freshmen also acquitted themselves well. Guard Jasmine Camp had 15 points and three rebounds. Forward Bonnie Samuelson, had 14 points, including four 3’s, plus four rebounds and a steal. Forward Taylor Greenfield had 8 points and two rebounds. Guard Amber Orrange and forward Erica Payne had 6 points each. Amber also had two rebounds and a steal while Erica had three rebounds and two steals. Guard Markisha Coleman, ’07, had 3 points from a 3, plus a rebound. (Rebound and steal numbers are unofficial.)

This was Erica’s first action at Kezar after missing last week’s game with a sore ankle. She impressed the 15 or so Stanford fans on hand with her hustle and scrappiness, as did Jasmine. All of the Stanford players displayed good teamwork and willingness to share the ball, traits that will serve them well when the season starts.

One area where the South Bay team could use more work is rebounding. I didn’t keep track, but it seemed that San Francisco consistently dominated the glass both offensively and defensively.

The start of the game was delayed a few minutes because the jerseys for San Francisco – which has several Cal players on its roster – hadn’t arrived. South Bay used the time well by going through a shooting drill similar to the one that precedes Stanford games.

South Bay’s starters were Joslyn, the team captain, along with Bonnie, Jasmine, Markisha and Jessica Kellogg, a San Jose State grad who has played in Spain. During the course of the game, all of the 10 or so South Bay players saw action.

The score stayed fairly close during the first few minutes as South Bay seemed to have a low shooting percentage. As the half wore on, however, South Bay inched ahead, taking a 47-38 lead into the half.

Sitting at the end of the South Bay bench was freshman guard Alex Green, who is recuperating from a torn ACL suffered during her senior year in high school. She said she hopes to be ready to play this fall.

South Bay will play again at 4 p.m. July 9, 4 p.m. July 16 and 3 p.m. July 17 (a makeup game against Mission Rec). Playoffs are scheduled July 23 and 30 with championship games on Aug. 6 and 7 and, if necessary, Aug. 13.

Pro-Am games are played at Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan St., at Waller, at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Admission is free, and parking costs $2.50 an hour in the adjacent lot.

A weather word to the wise: Even if it’s hot elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Kezar neighborhood can be chilly, windy and foggy, so dress in layers.

June 26, 2011

First look at 4 freshmen

Several dozen fans of Stanford women’s basketball got their first chance to see four of the six incoming freshmen in action as they played a SF Bay Area Pro-Am game June 25 at Kezar Pavilion. Their team, South Bay, defeated Bay City 85-81.

The win came in large part from the skills of junior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who scored 37 points, snared numerous rebounds, blocked several shots and seemed to serve as the floor general for her freshman teammates: guards Amber Orrange and Jasmine Camp and forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Taylor Greenfield. She was especially vocal on defense during the first half, shouting, “Rebound, rebound.”

Two other Stanford women on the South Bay roster were on the sidelines. Freshman forward Erica Payne had a sore ankle, while junior forward Chiney Ogwumike didn’t arrive until late in the first half. She said after the game that she won’t be playing in the recreational league. She and her senior forward sister, Nneka, hope to play with the USA Basketball team in the World University Games later this summer.

Joining them on the sidelines was incoming freshman guard Alex Green, who is recovering from an ACL injury in November.

Former Stanford player, guard Markisha Coleman, ’07, is on the South Bay roster, too. However, as game time neared, South Bay had 10 players, while Bay City had only two. Therefore, four Bay City players, including Markisha, were recruited to play for Bay City, giving each team six players.

(Markisha said after the game that she has completed her master’s degree in education with an emphasis on psychology at Pepperdine and is working as a probation officer for Santa Clara County. Her young niece was with her.)

With so few players on each team, everyone got lots of playing time. Joslyn played the entire 40 minutes, while her teammates had only brief breathers.

As mentioned, Joslyn led the scoring by Stanford women with 37 points. She was followed by Bonnie and Amber with 16 each, Jasmine with 12 and Taylor with two. I didn’t keep track of rebounds, but Taylor had several, as did the other Stanford women. Joslyn, Taylor and Bonnie got into foul trouble with four each, but they managed to stay in the game.

Markisha, who doesn’t seem to have lost a step since her Stanford days, had 10 points. Some of them came as a Bay City player would make a defensive rebound and lob a long pass to her as she streaked toward the basket. She also stole the ball several times.

Joslyn started the game with several unsuccessful 3-point attempts but soon found her footing by posting up under the basket. She did wind up with several 3s, but I didn’t keep track.

South Bay trailed by 11 points, 44-33, at the half, but Joslyn led a rally that brought her team to within 2 points, 70-68, with 7:15 left. At one point she scored several successive baskets, helping to put South Bay ahead 82-81 with 2:01 to go.

As the players warmed up before the game, fans tried to figure out who was who, aside from Joslyn and Markisha. The program was no help because it didn’t have jersey numbers. Finally, the scorekeeper went onto the floor and got them from the players.

Before the officials decided to send some South Bay players to the Bay City team for the afternoon, Joslyn came over to the Stanford fans and jokingly asked if anyone wanted to play.

It’s too early to predict how well this freshman class will do. The promise they show is awaiting Stanford coaching and collegiate competition. They’ll also benefit from the time they spend on the strength and conditioning regimen.

In the meantime, they all showed a good work ethic and sense of teamwork with some efficient ball movement. Both guards, Amber and Jasmine, are speedy, and neither is afraid to penetrate the defense and drive to the basket.

South Bay will play again at noon July 2, at 4 p.m. July 9, at 4 p.m. July 16 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday July 17.

The July 17th game, between South Bay and Mission Rec. Center, has been added to a schedule as a makeup game for the one which didn't exactly happen on June 18th. The original game did take place, but with four borrowed players for South Bay.

Playoffs are scheduled July 23 and 30 with championship games on Aug. 6 and 7 and, if necessary, Aug. 13.

Pro-Am games are played at Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan St., at Waller, at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Admission is free, and parking costs $2.50 an hour in the adjacent lot. There’s a North Beach Pizza just across the street, where several fans went after the game.

May 1, 2011

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

By virtue of its second consecutive undefeated Pac-10 season, the Stanford women’s basketball team earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in Los Angeles.

Because of a change in the tournament format, the Cardinal enjoyed two byes and automatically went into the semi-final game. Moreover, another change moved that game and the final game to Staples Center, while the earlier games were played at USC’s Galen Center, where all the women’s games had been played in recent years.

Finally, the men’s and women’s games were scheduled over the same time period, but all of the men’s games were at Staples.

Pac-10 Tournament

ARIZONA --- The new format meant that Stanford’s first opponent was Arizona, which had to win two games on two consecutive days to reach the semi-finals on March 11. The game was scheduled at noon, but a sort of competition started two hours earlier at the hotel where the teams were staying.

Both teams’ bands and fans were there for a send-off, with the Arizona delegation forming a reception line outside one door toward the waiting buses, while the Cardinal group formed another line at the adjacent door. Mostly the bands took turns playing, but when the Arizona band launched into “Born to be Wild,” the Stanford players happily joined in the refrain.

The players and their fans also were happy at the game’s outcome, with Stanford winning 100-71. All 13 uniformed players got into the game, but the forwards led the way. Junior Nneka Ogwumike had 32 points, followed by freshman Chiney Ogwumike with 21, senior Kayla Pedersen with 16 and red-shirt sophomore Sarah Boothe with 12. The Cardinal outrebounded the Wildcats 41-29 and had 30 assists to Arizona’s 10.

After briefly joining their families, the players, along with the coaches, returned to the arena to scout the Cal-UCLA semi-final game. Thus they saw Kayla receive the annual Pac-10 Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Award. She got a plaque, and Toyo Tires, the sponsor, gave $1,000 to the Stanford athletic scholarship fund.

UCLA --- The team enjoyed another sendoff from the hotel the next day, March 12, before facing UCLA for the championship. Stanford trailed 21-30 at the half, but heated up in the second half. Freshman guard Toni Kokenis came off the bench to provide a spark, finishing the game with a team-high and career-high 17 points. The final score was 64-55.

Thus Stanford became the last Pac-10 women’s champion. Next season the conference will become the Pac-12 with the addition of Colorado and Utah.

NCAA Rounds One & Two

UC DAVIS --- NCAA competition began March 19 at Maples. The weather outside was cold and rainy, but the No. 1-seeded Cardinal reigned inside with 13 3-pointers and an 86-59 victory over No. 16 seed UC Davis. The 13 3’s were the most since 14 in the exhibition game against Vanguard. The most in a regular season game was 12 at Arizona in February.

Junior guard Lindy La Rocque had four 3’s, followed by Kayla, senior guard Jeanette Pohlen and Toni with three each. All five starters were in double figures. Nneka had a game-high 22 points, while Lindy had 14, Jeanette and Kayla had 11 each, and Chiney had 10. Toni had 11 off the bench.

As the Cardinal continued to pull ahead in the second half, the more than 6,500 people packing Maples were entertained by the antics of the Aggies’ mustang mascot, Gunrock.

ST. JOHN’S --- The Cardinal’s next opponent at Maples was No. 9 seed St. John’s, which had defeated No. 8 seed Texas Tech. Stanford won handily, 75-49. Thus the team’s four true seniors did something no other Cardinal class before them had done – they ended their collegiate careers with a perfect 63-0 home record of 63-0. They also gave their team a berth in their fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen in hopes of heading for their fourth Final Four.

Still, the March 21 victory was a total team effort with the scoring led by Nneka with 22 points and Kayla with 14. Chiney, celebrating her 19th birthday, had 13 points and 12 rebounds. The team’s two sophomores, forwards Mikaela Ruef and Joslyn Tinkle, made significant contributions. Their heads-up plays resulted in 7 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one block by Joslyn and 5 points, four rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal by Mikaela. They each had a 3-pointer, to go with two each by Jeanette and Kayla.

The only unsettling moment came when Toni limped off the court and then into the locker room with what appeared to be an ankle injury. When she returned to the bench with about 11 minutes to go in the second half, the crowd of just more than 5,900 gave her a prolonged standing ovation.

Spokane Regional

Stanford fans were vastly outnumbered at the Spokane regional, but their team was not outscored. Instead the Cardinal defeated No. 5 North Carolina 72-65 on March 26 and No. 11 Gonzaga 83-60 to win the regional trophy on March 28.

Because Spokane is Gonzaga’s hometown, the Spokane Arena was packed with its fans. The roar was deafening when the underdog Zags defeated No. 7 Louisville 76-69 on March 26.

Everywhere you looked around town, people sported the Gonzaga logo. Two exceptions were the Davenport Hotel, the Cardinal headquarters, and the neighboring Post Street Ale House, which hosted fan get-togethers before the team send-offs.

Even though most of the Louisville and North Carolina contingents had left, the arena was packed for the Stanford-Gonzaga showdown. While waiting for the game to start, fans kept track of the game between a No. 2 seed, Notre Dame, and another No. 1 seed, Tennessee. The Irish won that one 73-59.

Gonzaga trailed through most of the game but stayed fairly close during the first half, which ended 47-38. With 1:14 left and the score at 79-58, Gonzaga’s phenomenal senior point guard, Courtney Vandersloot, left the game. She received a prolonged standing ovation from the entire crowd and ended as the game’s leading scorer with 25 points.

She also was named to the all-regional team along with Kayla, Chiney and North Carolina’s Italee Lucas. Nneka was named the tournament’s most outstanding player with a total of 42 points and 14 rebounds in the two games.

Final Four

Stanford’s hopes for a national championship evaporated in a mere 3 seconds after Texas A&M scored the winning basket to inch ahead 63-62 in the semi-final game at Indianapolis on April 3.

It appeared that the Cardinal had the upper hand when a basket by Nneka put her team ahead 62-61 with 9 seconds to go, but the Aggies managed to get the ball down the court and score.

It was a bitter disappointment for the team that had gone to four consecutive Final Fours and returned home empty-handed. Still, the team and individual players can point to a long list of accomplishments.

The outcome might have been different if just a few things had been different, but the Aggies played strong defense, an attribute that led them to dispatch Notre Dame 76-70 in the championship game on April 5. Both Notre Dame and the Aggies were No. 2 seeds. The Aggies had bounced Baylor in their regional, while Notre Dame defeated Tennessee in their regional before knocking off UConn in the other semi-final game.

The day of the semi-final games began with high hopes and high spirits at Stanford’s Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The crowd included several hundred fans and family members like Erica and Olivia Ogwumike. They were wearing T-shirts made by their mother that had “Go Sis” on the front and the numbers 13 and 30 on the back, for older sisters Chiney and Nneka, respectively.

Three children wearing Tree costumes with “Sprig” on one, “Sprout” on another and “Shrub” on the third, quickly became favorites for photos, posing with the cheerleaders.

The Stanford-Texas A&M game was tight, with nine lead changes and four ties. Statistically, Stanford led in rebounds, 39-29; assists, 13-10; blocks, 8-5; steals 8-7; and points in the paint, 32-22. The Cardinal had 18 fouls to the Aggies’ 19, but the Aggies made all 10 of their free throws while Stanford made 13 of 19. The Aggies had 12 turnovers, which led to 10 Stanford points, while Stanford had 22 that led to 21 Aggie points.

Nneka led both teams in scoring with 31 points. Jeanette was the only other Cardinal in double figures with 11, while Kayla was the game leader with 10 rebounds. Chiney and fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy both fouled out late in the game. Jeanette went to the bench with a sprained ankle after the Aggies’ final basket with 3.3 seconds left. Stanford’s effort to get the ball up the court was unsuccessful, and so ended the game.

Despite their deep disappointment, the Stanford players and coaches accepted the loss gracefully, as demonstrated in the post-game press conference with Nneka, Kayla, Mel and head coach Tara VanDerveer.

There was no finger-pointing, no blaming. Instead they complimented the Aggies. The players’ biggest regret, as voiced by Kayla, was that they would no longer be playing with and for their teammates. That’s a sentiment shared by their saddened fans, who will miss Mel, Kayla, Jeanette, forward Ashley Cimino and guard Hannah Donaghe.

Spring Banquet

The team and fans had one more opportunity to get together at the annual spring banquet on April 20 at the Stanford faculty club. It was both a celebration of the 2010-11 season and a sad farewell to some of the people who made it so successful.

Besides the five senior players, the team is losing senior managers Kerry Blake and Dorothy Boakye Donkor. The coaching staff is losing assistant Bobbie Kelsey, who has been named head coach at the University of Wisconsin.

People in the sold-out crowd of more than 300 congratulated her and wished her well. She told the guests that she hopes to import some of Stanford’s wisdom to her Badger team, but “for all you folks who want us to schedule Stanford – forget about it,” she said.

Like Bobbie, Kayla and Jeanette drew crowds of well-wishers during the social before the dinner. Kayla is headed for the Tulsa Shock after going seventh in the recent WNBA draft, and Jeanette will play for the Indiana Fever after going ninth.

Ashley is applying for graduate schools near her home in Maine and is hoping for an internship in public relations. Mel said she’ll probably go back to New York and perhaps run basketball clinics. She wants to continue working with Candice Wiggins,’08, who’s leading an autumn trip to Spain, where she played after her first season with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Hannah is going to Australia to fulfill a study-abroad requirement.

Tara introduced the players and talked about their strengths and accomplishments, starting with the freshmen and ending with the seniors, who all thanked the fans for their support over the years.

The evening also featured a video that highlighted great plays by each team member as well as memorable moments during the season, including the “Got Bounce” music video created by Mel.

Then it was time to announce the team’s choice for the Lizard Lung Award, a light-hearted tradition honoring the team’s most gullible player. It was presented to Chiney by last year’s winner, Hannah, joined by other previous winners Jeanette, Sarah and Bobbie.

Tara wrapped up the evening by praising the team for its courage and “the emotional energy that went into this season.” Looking ahead, she said she’s excited about the six freshmen who will join the team this coming fall.

“The seniors have set such a high bar” that was learned from others before them. Therefore, she urged the returning players to continue that tradition with their new teammates. “Returnees (are the) keepers of the culture,” she said.

With that, she reminded the returnees that they had a 7:15 a.m. workout the next day – time to start looking forward to 2011-12.