January 1, 2011

Stanford stops the streak

Is the roof still on Maples Pavilion? I would have sworn that the sold-out crowd of more than 7,300 blew it off as the Stanford women’s basketball team blew out the vaunted UConn Huskies 71-59 on Dec. 30.

It truly was a storybook ending with the Cardinal book-ending UConn’s unprecedented 90-game win streak. The last time UConn lost was to Stanford 998 days earlier in the semi-finals of the 2008 Final Four in Tampa. Not to be overlooked is that while the Stanford women ended the UConn streak, they extended their home-game winning streak to 52 games.

The final score was indicative of the whole game. Except for 0-0 at the tipoff, the score was never tied, nor did UConn ever take the lead. And with its victory, the Cardinal gave head coach Tara VanDerveer her 802nd career win.

Tara used the same starting lineup that was so successful in the preceding win against Xavier. The forwards were senior Kayla Pedersen, junior Nneka Ogwumike and freshman Chiney Ogwumike, while senior Jeanette Pohlen and junior Lindy La Rocque handled the guard duties. Coming off the bench at various points were three forwards – red-shirt sophomore Sarah Boothe and sophomores Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef – plus freshman guard Toni Kokenis.

Jeanette was the game’s undisputed MVP, scoring 31 points, including five 3-pointers, and snatching nine rebounds while dishing out six assists and making one steal. Also in double figures was Nneka with 12. Kayla snared 11 rebounds.

When Chiney fouled out in the final minutes after helping to control UConn great Maya Moore, she went to the visitors’ bench and hugged head coach Geno Auriemma. It was a classy gesture that exemplifies the way that Stanford players and coaches conduct themselves.

In her post-game remarks at center court, Tara praised the UConn team and coaches. After all, their 90-game win streak is the longest of any NCAA team, men’s or women’s. Tara also lavished praise on her own team. “Our team believed in each other,” she said, adding more praise to her coaching staff for their scouting on the Huskies.

Both Tara and Jeanette thanked the crowd. “It was a tremendous atmosphere,” the coach said. “This place was rocking, and all of us really appreciate it,” Jeanette said.

After tossing victory balls to the fans, the players went to the locker room, but Tara called them back to relish the crowd’s cheers. When they returned to the locker room again, they were joined by last year’s graduates Jayne Appel, JJ Hones and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude along with Candice Wiggins, ’08, who wore a shirt reading, “No. 1.” All of them were on the Stanford team that had previously defeated UConn. This year’s seniors – Kayla, Jeanette, forward Ashley Cimino and guard Hannah Donaghe – also were on that team, as was fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy.

Prior to the game, Angela Taylor, ’93, hosted a gathering in Dallmar Court to announce the launch of her new venture, Networks Sports Consulting. She plans to use her experience as a WNBA player and administrator to implement “a huge dream of mine.”

"Our mission is to assist potential employees & employers at collegiate institutions within women’s sports & Olympic sports by broadening the coaching/employment opportunities within the industry for a diverse group of rising stars,” says its website, www.networkssports.com.

Among others, she credited her older brother, Gary, who played football at Stanford; Alana Beard, a Duke graduate who plays with the Washington Mystics and who is doing an internship with Jamba Juice during the off-season; and Candice for helping her. She said Alana and Candice “are what women’s basketball is like.”

One of her first projects is to help Candice organize a tour of Spain, where she played two years ago. Candice said that experience made her realize how valuable it was to go overseas, but American fans don’t hear much about teams in other countries. She wants to “bring the fans overseas” and “show the world what we go through when we finish playing in college,” she said.

Candice plays for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx and spent her first off-season in Spain and her second in Greece. After tearing her Achilles tendon, she returned to Stanford last quarter to complete her undergraduate degree. The link for the trip to Spain is www.travelwithcandice.wordpress.com.

While the group enjoyed Angela’s hospitality, which included refreshments, other fans were lining up to get into Maples, which opened 90 minutes before the game, rather than the usual hour. Five TV trucks were parked outside the southwest entrance, and Chron Live was broadcasting in the concourse.

It was all a prelude to a game that will long be remembered – even though it was only in December, as Tara noted. Next up – the Pac 10.

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