March 21, 2011

The reign of 3’s

The weather outside Maples Pavilion was cold and rainy March 19, when the No. 1-seeded Stanford women’s basketball team hosted No.16-seeded UC Davis for the first round of NCAA tournament. Inside, however, it was warmer as the Cardinal reigned with 13 3-pointers. They helped account for an 86-59 victory and advancement to the second round game against St. John’s, which defeated Texas Tech 55-50 in the earlier game.

Those 13 3’s were the most since 14 in the opening exhibition game against Vanguard on Nov. 6. The most in a regular game was 12 at Arizona on Feb. 5.

Junior guard Lindy La Rocque led the way with four 3’s. Senior forward Kayla Pedersen, senior guard Jeanette Pohlen and freshman guard Toni Kokenis had three each.

Also of note statistically – all five starters were in double figures. Junior forward Nneka Ogwumike had the game high 22 points, followed by Lindy with 14, Jeanette and Kayla with 11 each and freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike with 10. Toni had 11 off the bench.

All 13 uniformed players got into the game, and all of the starters were on the bench for the final minutes. Kayla logged the most time with 35 minutes, followed by Nneka with 33 and Jeanette with 32.

Although Stanford hosts the first two rounds of the Spokane regional, Maples underwent some transformation to reflect its NCAA status. Center court bore the NCAA logo, and the chairs at each team’s bench had NCAA covers over their Stanford stamp.

Stanford still appeared in bold red letters on the floor behind each basket, and the banner listing the team’s championships had already added 2011 to its Pac-10 array.

Another difference was that the players’ families sat behind the bench rather than across from it. To sweeten their experience, Jeanette’s mother, Cindy, was handing out little bags of customized red and white M&M’s imprinted with “Go Stanford” and 2010-11.”

The first game between No. 9 seed St. John’s and No. 8 seed Texas Tech was a rather sloppy affair. Each team had its band, cheerleaders, mascot and some fans in the stands. The Texas Tech crowd was larger because two of its players are from Solano County.

While that game was under way, head coach Tara VanDerveer and assistant coaches Bobbie Kelsey and Kate Paye observed from a courtside table. Associate head coach Amy Tucker was in the stands at the south end in front of the Stanford players. The Davis team sat behind them. The Stanford team left at halftime, but coaches continued to scout.

Another difference from Stanford home games was that the video board streamed NCAA features during timeouts. Near the end of the first game, it showed highlights of the 2008 Final Four championship game, when Candace Parker-led Tennessee defeated Candice Wiggins-led Stanford. Fans booed this clip, but cheered later when the live cameras showed Candice in the stands.

She was among the more than 6,500 people packing Maples as the Stanford-UCD game got under way. At halftime, the score was 42-30 in Stanford’s favor.

More of the Stanford flavor popped up at halftime when the 2010 national champion women’s tennis team was introduced. As of March 7, the team had amassed a 12-year streak of 173 match victories on its home court, the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
The streak extends back to Feb. 27, 1999, when Cal won 5-4, according to the Stanford sports site. This record is “recognized as the longest active home winning streak of any intercollegiate sport in NCAA Division 1 athletics,” the site says. The team is undefeated in Pac-10 play this year and will host the NCAA national championship in May, as will the men’s team.

As the Cardinal continued to pull ahead in the second half, the crowd was entertained by the antics of the Aggies’ mustang mascot, Gunrock, during timeouts. He cavorted about the court, dancing, doing handstands and maneuvering on his stomach. Sorry, Tree, but Gunrock beats you for entertainment value.

During the final minutes, when the game’s outcome was inevitable, Davis fans chanted “Thank you, Sandy” to honor head coach Sandy Simpson, who had announced he would retire from his post after the last game. They also chanted “We’ll be back.”
Not now, though. For now it’s the Cardinal who are looking ahead to another game as well as the opportunity to extend their own home winning streak to 63 games, meaning that the four members of the class of 2011 – Kayla, Jeanette, forward Ashley Cimino and guard Hannah Donaghe – have never lost a game at Maples.

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