Pac-10 play gets under way
CAL --- Ending 2010 with decisive victories over Xavier and UConn and a 9-2 record (the only losses before the Final Four), the Stanford women’s basketball team started 2011 off right with a 78-45 win at Cal on Jan. 2.
Of the nearly 5,200 spectators watching this Pac-10 opener, many wore Cardinal red. They included 45 who rode the booster bus, whose driver quipped, “We’ve got a longer win streak than UConn.”
The Cardinal presented a balanced scoring attack against Cal with five players in double figures led by senior guard Jeanette Pohlen with 15, junior forward Nneka Ogwumike with 14, freshman guard Toni Kokenis with 12, plus senior forward Kayla Pedersen and freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike with 11 each.
This game also marked fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy’s first time in uniform after knee surgery the previous spring. Even though she didn’t play, fans were pleased to see her progress.
ARIZONA --- Returning to Maples, the Cardinal defeated Arizona 87-54 on Jan. 6. The game got close in the first half, but then the home team turned on the jets and shot a torrid 70.4 percent, outscoring the Wildcats 47-21 in the second half. Although her status was doubtful after she had landed on her shoulder during the Cal game, Nneka led the scoring with 24 points and eight rebounds. Chiney and Kayla both had double-doubles of 11 and 11 while Jeanette had 13 points.
Afterward the Fast Break Club had a chance to become better acquainted with Toni, who’s from the Chicago area. In high school she played soccer as well as basketball, but she complied with Stanford coaches’ request not to play soccer her senior year to avoid injuries, said associate head coach Amy Tucker. When the team went to Chicago to play DePaul in December, Toni’s mother cooked dinner for everyone, Amy said.
ARIZONA STATE --- By defeating Arizona State 82-35 on Jan. 8, the Cardinal handed head coach Tara VanDerveer her 805th career victory. Her milestone 800th win had come at USF on Dec. 22, but the official tribute was delayed because many in the Stanford community were on vacation or in Miami for the football team’s Orange Bowl victory after that.
Stanford president John Hennessy and athletic director Bob Bowlsby gave Tara flowers, a game ball and a framed poster showing her holding a net aloft following a tournament victory. A video also honored her.
“Well, 800 was a lot of fun, but how about 802?” Bowlsby said, referring to the 71-59 home victory on Dec. 30 that ended the Huskies’ historic 90-game winning streak.
Thanking everyone, Tara said, “800 wins is because I work for a great university” with a great administration and coaching staff as well as “fabulous players” in front of “the loudest fans in the land.”
After the game, Kayla spoke to the FBC. She said she had already completed the coursework for her major in psychology and was taking the one class needed to complete her other major in communication. She aimed to finish a quarter early with hopes of going into the WNBA and playing overseas.
UCLA --- With Stanford ranked fourth in AP’s national poll and UCLA ranked eighth, a competitive game was expected when the Bruins visited Jan. 20. Instead Stanford won decisively, 64-38, and placed itself squarely atop the Pac-10 Conference.
One highlight of the game was Mel’s return to action after being cleared to play only two days earlier. She entered the game with 6:03 left in the first half. Five minutes later, she stole the ball, ran the length of the court and made a tough basket, bringing the crowd of nearly 4,300 to its feet.
Kevin Aha, the new marketing associate for women’s basketball, talked to the FBC after the game. He was followed by two more additions to the WBB staff, interns Lauren Greif and Sha'Rae Gibbons Mitchell. The two 2010 grads are guards from Cal and UC Santa Barbara, respectively.
USC --- While many students were outside basking in the unusually warm winter sunshine, USC was the latest team to feel the heat in Maples, falling 95-51 on Jan. 22. Jeanette led the way with a career-high 12 assists to go with 21 points, five rebounds, one steal and zero turnovers. Twelve of her points came from four 3-pointers.
Kayla added 16 points, including three more of the team’s 10 3-pointers. The others came from junior guard Lindy La Rocque with two and senior forward Ashley Cimino with one. Also scoring in double figures were Chiney and Nneka with 14 each and red-shirt sophomore Sarah Boothe with 11.
After the game, Kayla told the FBC that the team has benefitted from Jeanette’s 31 points against UConn because opponents have to pay so much attention to her, leaving openings for her teammates.
Kayla also modeled the team’s new home white uniform. Made of a “hyper-elite, aerodynamic,” lightweight material, it was designed by Nike with some input from Amy, the coach said. Behind the number on the back are faint pictures of campus landmarks along with a block S.
WASHINGTON STATE – After two successful road trips, during which Stanford defeated Oregon 91-56 on Jan. 27, Oregon State 77-44 on Jan. 29, Arizona State 72-54 on Feb. 3 and Arizona 91-51 on Feb. 5, the Cardinal returned home to topple Washington State 100-59 on Feb. 10. Thus Stanford won its 49th consecutive Pac-10 game, breaking its own record.
Because it was a night for breast cancer awareness, everyone was asked to wear pink. Continuing a practice started by Joe Appel, father of Jayne Appel, ’10, Jeanette’s dad, John Pohlen, wore Joe’s pink tutu over his pants but added a pink scarf rather than Joe’s pink shower cap.
In a halftime video promoting the wrestling team, Tara wore a Stanford wrestler’s uniform and took on wrestling coach Jason Borrelli, who dubbed her “Tara the Terror.” The wrestling team then came onto the court for cheers and applause.
In a KerryCam video created by manager Kerry Blake during the previous week’s trip to the Arizona schools, Tara teamed with Sarah to challenge assistant coach Kate Paye and Ashley in a two-on-two basketball matchup, which Kate and Ashley won.
The videos were shown to the FBC after the game, when fans got to meet Kerry and her fellow manager, Dorothy Boakye-Donkor, who are both seniors. Even with their many duties, “it’s a really great job,” said Dorothy, a political science major. Kerry is majoring in sociology.
Another FBC guest was Jenny Claypool, director of championships, who has been in her post for 11 years.
WASHINGTON – After coasting to easy wins, the Cardinal had a tougher time against Washington on Feb. 12 but emerged with a 62-52 home victory. Washington held Jeanette to 3 points, but the three starting forwards stepped up with Nneka scoring 22, Chiney 21 and Kayla 13.
“It was a very physical game. It was a battle,” Amy said afterward. Washington was whistled for 27 fouls that led to four players fouling out. Stanford had 16 fouls. Washington had 21 turnovers compared with 12 for the home team.
Fans also had a chance to catch up with Sarah Dimson, ’01, who works for a social entrepreneurship organization in Washington, D.C. She travels a lot and recently spent a year and a half in India and Pakistan.
Senior guard Hannah Donaghe, an earth systems major, talked about her summer travels. She had an internship through the biology department and spent most of her time in a dry tropical forest near Oaxaca, Mexico. Hannah isn’t playing because she tore her ACL during a fall practice.
OREGON STATE --- After returning with two wins – 78-64 over USC on Feb. 18 and 67-53 over UCLA on Feb. 20 -- from what is often its most challenging Pac-10 trip, the Cardinal completed the conference season at home.
First up was Oregon State, which fell 73-37 on Feb. 24. The victory assured Stanford of a least a share of its 11th consecutive Pac-10 season title and marked the team’s record-tying 59th straight victory at Maples.
Nneka missed both this game and the UCLA game after injuring her ankle at USC. Against Oregon State, Sarah came off the bench and helped to make up for that lost production by pouring in a team-high 16 points along with six rebounds. Joslyn started in Nneka’s place.
A halftime highlight was Bloomer Basketball, featuring a half-court game between some bloomer-clad fans and graduates between the ages 50 and 80. They followed the rules from the 1950s and 1960s, which are quite different from today’s rules.
Prior to the regular game, Stanford fans loudly applauded the OSU players and head coach Scott Rueck as they were introduced. The fans were showing their respect for a program that made remarkable progress after the termination of Rueck’s predecessor and decimation of the roster due to transferring or quitting.
“Our fans are first class,” Tara said.
Those fans were honored as part of Fan Appreciation Night after the game. Other schools envy the support that the Stanford team gets from its fans, especially through the FBC and its website, said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations. She acknowledged webmaster Marian Cortesi and others who write for the site.
Sponsors of the freshmen’s lockers received photos of themselves with their freshmen. Wally Mersereau, who reports on most away games for the FBC site, was honored with the annual Fan Spirit Award.
OREGON – With a 99-60 victory over Oregon on Feb. 26, the team won its 11th consecutive Pac-10 season championship and its 20th overall in the league’s 25 seasons of women’s sports. The win and championship were expected, so Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was on hand to present the trophy to Tara after the game. She in turn gave it to the team captains: Kayla, Jeanette and Nneka.
The game also marked a milestone as the team won its 60th consecutive home game, a team record. That streak started with the first game of the 2007-08 season, meaning that seniors Kayla, Jeanette, Ashley and Hannah have never lost a home game.
With only one more conference game on the schedule, Tara used this game to rest the starters for much of the game. Hence, everyone got in, and no one played more than 22 minutes. Nneka returned to action but played only 12 minutes and had 4 points. Playing 20 minutes, Jeanette scored 20 points, while Kayla had 13 (plus 10 rebounds for a double-double) and Sarah had 11. Chiney, Mel and Toni had 10 each.
Three of the seniors – Hannah was on a field trip – plus Mel spoke to fans after the game. Mel said she hopes to get into talent management, while Jeanette and Kayla were hoping for the WNBA. Ashley said she has applied for graduate school in Boston and for Teach for America.
CAL -- The seniors were honored more extensively following the team’s 75-51 victory over Cal on March 3.
As fans began filling Maples before this Senior Night game, many carried signs thanking the seniors and picturing the five of them. Shortly before the game, Tara gave flowers to Cal’s two seniors, Rama N’diaye and Rachelle Federico. A video showed Tara thanking all the people connected with the games, people who aren’t usually recognized but who are so important to the team’s success and the fans’ experience.
During timeouts, three Trees cavorted in their costumes, joined by a green-hued guy, the Sprout, who will be next year’s Tree. As the second half wore on, this year’s Tree removed his costume and helped his successor put it on.
Then there was a touching moment with 25.8 seconds left and Cal with the ball. Tara put Hannah into the game, kept her safely in front of the bench, and then quickly called a timeout to allow her to return to the bench.
After the game, a video honored the senior players and the managers. Then Tara presented flowers to the two graduating male practice players, Greg Klausner and Ilan Kolowitz, followed by managers Kerry and Dorothy.
Then it was time to honor the players, starting with Ashley, joined by her mother and sister. Hannah was escorted by her parents and sister, and Mel was escorted by her mother. Kayla came onto the floor with her parents, followed by Jeanette with her parents and two brothers.
Because the game had started at 8 p.m. on a school night, there was no opportunity to hear directly from the players and their parents.
After that, it was tournament time – coming in Part 3