January 23, 2011

Trojans trip up at Maples

While many Stanford students were outside basking in the unusually warm winter sunshine, the USC Trojans were the latest women’s basketball team to feel the heat inside Maples Pavilion, falling 95-51 to the Cardinal on Jan. 22.

There was lots of praise to spread around, what with senior guard Jeanette Pohlen recording a career-high 12 assists to go with 21 points, five rebounds, one steal and zero turnovers. She notched 12 of her points via four 3-pointers.

And how about fellow senior, forward Kayla Pedersen, who pitched in with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. She accounted for three more of the team’s 10 3-pointers. Joining her and Jeanette in the 3-point parade were junior guard Lindy La Rocque with two and senior forward Ashley Cimino with one.

Also scoring in double figures were freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike with 14 (plus 11 rebounds), junior forward Nneka Ogwumike with 14 and red-shirt sophomore forward Sarah Boothe with 11 (plus nine rebounds).

What may be even scarier to upcoming opponents is that even though Stanford shot 52.1 percent for the game, more than a few missed shots, especially some layups, could easily have gone in.

Repeating the stats of her season debut against UCLA on Jan. 20, fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy played seven minutes and scored two points. She also snared one rebound. “It’s really great having Mel healthy,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told the crowd in Maples after the game. Mel had knee surgery after last season and was cleared to play shortly before the UCLA game.

Freshman guard Toni Kokenis was held out of the game as a precaution after falling in the UCLA game. She reportedly is expected to play next week.

Tara complimented USC, saying, “They are a really skilled offensive team.” On the other hand, “The thing that’s been consistent (for Stanford) is our defense.”

Kayla comes in for praise

The coach lauded Kayla, who “had a great game. (She’s) just a rock.” She also noted that Ann Roubique, the Ogwumike sisters’ high school coach from Cypress, Texas, was at the game.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker joined in the praise for Kayla. “I thought she put together two great games” this week. Kayla said of her recent shooting prowess, “It’s all mentality.” The coaches tell her to keep shooting and eventually the shots will fall.

Responding to a question, Kayla said that the rest of the team has benefitted from Jeanette’s 31-point performance in the win over UConn because opponents have to pay so much attention to her, leaving openings for her teammates.

Kayla will graduate after this term and plans to enter the WNBA draft as well as play overseas, she said.

Uniform has a new look

Kayla then became the model for the new home white uniform as Amy pointed out its subtle features. Amy also cleared up a mistaken report that she had designed it. Made of a “hyper-elite, aerodynamic,” lightweight material, it was designed by Nike with some slight input from Amy.

Behind the number, the back has faint pictures of campus landmarks like Memorial Church and the quad along with a block S. The team’s red road uniform also features the new material and design. Next year the black road uniform will incorporate them.

As Kayla headed back to the locker room, she hugged her grandparents, whom Amy acknowledged. As a final compliment, “We started recruiting Kayla when she was an eighth grader,” Amy said.

Amy then fielded more questions. One concerned whether the coaches look at a recruit’s potential compatibility with the team. First, “they’ve got to get in” to Stanford, meaning they have to have the grades, she said. Second is skill level. “There are no superstars (on this team). It’s all about winning and playing together.” Smart kids figure that out, Amy said.

Once these smart kids get into Stanford, they get a lot of academic support, Amy said, noting that freshmen each have three advisers.

Regarding offensive plays, she said the team has been using only about five or six rather than 60 offensive sets in recent years. These are in addition to some plays for specific situations.

“We have settled on a starting lineup,” she said. Lindy has become a part of it – joining Nneka, Kayla, Jeanette and Chiney – because of her “high basketball IQ. She knows exactly what everyone else should be doing, and she has that 3-point shot going.”

During this question-answer session, a long line of people across the court waited for autographs from Nneka, Sarah, sophomore forward Joslyn Tinkle, junior guard Grace Mashore and senior guard Hannah Donaghe. The five also were featured on trading cards handed out at the Fast Break Club table before the game.

The team is on the road to Oregon next week and Arizona the week after. Fans won’t see the team at home again until Feb. 10, when Washington State comes to call.

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