February 27, 2012

Grace-ful note to Senior Day

There were many reasons to celebrate the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 69-42 victory over Utah on Feb. 25, Senior Day, but none were more rousing than the final moment. That’s when senior guard Grace Mashore made a 3-point shot, her first basket of the season, leading to a tremendous roar from the crowd.

Grace’s basket was a fitting way to cap off the victory, the team’s 78th straight at home and head coach Tara VanDerveer’s 700th win at Stanford. Overall, the Hall of Fame coach has won 852 games in her career.

After a slow start against Colorado earlier in the week, the Cardinal left no doubt about how this game was to proceed. Freshman guard Amber Orrange scored on Stanford’s first possession, while a stifling Cardinal defense led Utah into shot-clock violations on its first two possessions. Utah was down 9-0 before scoring its first basket with 15:30 to go in the first half, which ended 36-14 in Stanford’s favor.

Utah made some good adjustments in the second half, scoring 28 points, only 5 less than Stanford but not enough to overcome the home team.

Sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike led the Cardinal offense with 16 points to go with 12 rebounds, one assist and one steal. Her senior sister, Nneka, was right behind her with 15 points plus seven rebounds, one assist, five blocks and two steals.

Both Amber and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle had 12 points, while the other starter, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis, had 6. Amber also had four rebounds and one assist. Joslyn contributed nine rebounds, two assists and one steal; and Toni pitched in with four rebounds, three assists and one steal.

Grace also had a rebound in her brief court appearance, while senior guard Lindy La Rocque had 3 points and two assists. Senior center Sarah Boothe was still sidelined by a foot problem, but Tara continued to express hope that she would soon return to action.

For entertainment during the game, there was another visit by Shockwave, a T-shirt-shooting robot, during two timeouts. Bloomer basketball at halftime featured players much older than the collegians. Unlike the full-court game seen today, these women followed more limited rules from the ’50s and ’60s.

The video board showed a photo of Stanford’s 1896 team, which won the first-ever women’s college basketball game 2-1 over Cal on April 4, 1896.

Also during halftime, the No. 1 nationally ranked men’s volleyball team accepted the crowd’s cheers and tossed victory balls into the stands.

Salute to the seniors at Maples

Nevertheless, the afternoon belonged to the Class of 2012 – Grace, Lindy, Sarah and Nneka – as they were honored in a post-game ceremony in Maples and afterward in a Fast Break Club gathering in Dallmar Court.

The post-game ceremony started with video saluting each player and ending with a list of the class’s accomplishments: three consecutive Final Fours, three consecutive conference championships, no losses at Maples and a 127-11 record overall. Click here to access the video.

Entering through an aisle formed by the other players and WBB staff, each of the four walked to center court with her parents and other family members. There they received red flowers from Tara, who introduced each one, starting alphabetically with Sarah.

Sarah, who will earn her degree in psychology in June, was with her parents, Rose and Mark of Gurnee, Ill., in the Chicago area, along with her California family.

Lindy, slated to graduate in June with a degree in science, technology and society, was joined by her parents, Al and Beverly of Las Vegas, her sister, Ally, and another family member. Tara noted that Lindy has made 103 3-pointers during her Stanford career.

Grace came onto the floor with her parents, Derrick and Paula of Washington, D.C. She’s getting her degree in American studies.

Nneka was escorted by her parents, Ify and Peter of Cypress, Texas, near Houston, along with sisters Chiney, Olivia and Erica. Tara said that she’s a two-time All-American and a member of Stanford’s exclusive 2,000-point/1,000-rebound club.

All of their teammates, coaches and other staffers joined them at center court to congratulate them and pose for photos as the band played the alma mater song.

As fans and players arrived at Dallmar, Morgan Clyburn, ’09, hugged her former teammates. Morgan had conducted a basketball clinic for youngsters before the game.

Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, announced that Stanford would have an allotment of tickets for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in March. Stanford will learn its seeding and bracket placement during a program to be televised at 4 p.m. March 12 on ESPN.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker introduced the locker sponsors for the six freshmen, who each gave their sponsors photos of themselves with the sponsors.

Getting to know more about Sarah

As was true at Maples, Tara introduced the seniors alphabetically starting with Sarah and asking what had attracted her to Stanford. “I was always attracted to Stanford. This is an amazing campus,” she said.

Sarah’s mom, Rose, said that when Sarah was younger, she and her two brothers, one older and one younger, would play basketball together. All three were so competitive in those games and their school games that she would afraid they’d get hurt.

Representing the team, Toni said Sarah is “like everyone’s big sister.” She takes coffee to Toni, and “she’s always there for you. We call her Mama Boothe.”

As a psych major, Sarah said she hopes to earn advanced degrees, become a psychologist and work with youngsters. Because she missed her sophomore season following foot surgery, she has another year of eligibility and could return next year.

Lindy comes up with signature plays

“Some players have a signature play,” Tara said. For Lindy, it was the home game against Cal when Lindy was a freshman. She dove onto the floor for a loose ball, flipped it to a streaking Jillian Harmon, ’09, who scored an uncontested layup. Tara said people still come up to her to talk about this play. It’s featured on several videos, including the senior tribute. But then, Lindy has made “so many great plays,” Tara said.

Reflecting on other Stanford highlights, Lindy said, “The UConn game was great.” She referred to last season at home, when Stanford snapped the Huskies’ Division 1 record winning streak at 99 games. And “The Final Fours are amazing,” she said, adding that she has enjoyed getting to know the fans.

Her dad, Al, a former high school basketball coach, noted that he retired in 2008, when Lindy graduated from high school. Since then, he has attended nearly all of her games. Now that she’s leaving Stanford, he’s not quite sure what he’ll do with his time.

Even though Joslyn is from Montana, she had known Lindy before Stanford because they played against each other in an AAU tournament in Las Vegas. So when Joslyn came to campus for her official visit, “it was nice to see a friendly face.” Since then, “she’s always been there for me.”

“We call her Coach La Rocque. She will be very missed,” Joslyn said, adding that she has enjoyed getting to know Lindy’s family, too.

Looking ahead, Lindy said, “I do want to be around basketball next year” and thereafter. After this season ends, she plans to seek advice from her coaches.

“We do talk about coaching stuff,” Tara said. She credited Lindy for a suggestion that led to a signature play for Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, when Stanford was in Sacramento playing Xavier for the right to go to the 2010 Final Four. With 4.4 seconds left and the game tied, the ball was inbounded to Jeanette from under the Xavier basket. Jeanette streaked the length of the court and scored the game-winning basket as time ran out.

Grace is important to the team

When Tara spoke of Grace, she noted “how important she is to our team.” She first came to Stanford when she attended a summer basketball camp. When she and Tara recently teamed up against assistant coach Kate Paye and freshman forward Erica Payne in the team’s traditional 2v2 game in Arizona, Grace made the winning shot. She’s a “high-energy person, very positive,” Tara said.

Grace’s father, Derrick, said that Grace was born 10 ½ weeks premature and spent the next five weeks in ICU, followed by six months at home on a bedside monitor and another month in the hospital, he said. “She’s a tough kid.”

When she was in third grade, she played on her first regular team, which lost a game 2-1. Grace cried after that, but one week later she led her team to victory over the same team, he said.

“I am really going to miss Grace,” said sophomore guard Sara James, representing the team. Sara said she was shy when she arrived last year, but this year she got to know Grace well and found her well-rounded, hard-working and competitive. “Grace has helped me through” bad days,” Sara said. “She makes me want to work even harder.”

Grace said she doesn’t have definite plans for after graduation but that she’s looking at all possibilities.

Tara enjoys coaching Nneka

Next came Nneka’s turn. “I just enjoy coaching Nneka every day,” Tara said. “It’s really amazing to have a player who gets it in a big way.” Like all of the other players, she comes from a great family, Tara said.

Ify, Nneka’s mother, responded, “You’ve made this home for my girls.” Recalling Nneka’s childhood, Ify said, “Nneka has always been full of energy.” When she was 4 months old, she hadn’t yet mastered the knack of crawling, so to get from Point A to Point B, she would roll.

Several years later, after Nneka had been joined by three younger sisters, Ify came home one day and saw a big patched hole in the wall. The girls said the vacuum cleaner did it. Later they told her the real story. Nneka had come up with a plan to slide down the stairs on a big book inside a metal baking pan.

“She’s been a wonderful daughter and a great, great sister,” Ify said. She thanked the coaches for what they’ve done for Nneka and for giving straightforward answers when they made their home visit during the recruiting process. Nneka had been heavily recruited by other colleges, including several in Texas, but the Stanford coaching staff was a major factor in Nneka’s decision to attend Stanford, Ify said.

Ify and Peter are both from Nigeria, so when Nneka, whose full name is Nnemkadi, was born, they gave her a name that has significance in their native country. Her birth had followed several losses in Ify’s life, so her name “was given in honor of the strong traits in the female line. She has done a beautiful job of living up to that name,” Ify said.

Peter referred to one of his favorite sayings, “Every disappointment is a blessing. … Four years ago, we started this voyage with Nneka.” Now she’s moving on to the next opportunity in her life.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Nneka said, and her next opportunity will come quickly. She’ll graduate after this term in hopes of going on to the WNBA. “I’m nervous but excited.” Eventually she wants to go to business school and possibly represent sports foundations working with kids.

When she arrived at Stanford and went to her first basketball practices, she asked many questions. Finally, before one practice started, Tara decreed there would be no questions. “When can we ask questions,” Nneka responded.

Chiney, the more outgoing of the two Stanford sisters, got up to represent the team and said, “I think I was born with a mike in my hand.”

In elementary school, Nneka was tough and energetic. “She had so much energy, it basically wound us up in private school,” Chiney said. To channel some of that energy, their parents got them involved in sports like volleyball and gymnastics.

When they joined an AAU basketball team, “We had no clue what we were in for,” she said, for they had never played basketball. Nneka didn’t do well at first, Chiney said, “but now she’s the best player in the nation.”

“She has taught me so many, many lessons. She’s a mother to all of us,” Chiney said.

Nneka introduced her other two sisters, who both play basketball. Olivia is a forward, and Erica is a guard. She also thanked her parents for having the faith and trust to send herself and Chiney to Stanford.

February 24, 2012

Colorado strategy fails against Stanford

When the Colorado women’s basketball team visited Stanford on Feb. 23, it took a highly aggressive but risky approach. It worked for a while in the first half, but Stanford dominated the second half and closed with a 68-46 victory.

This win extended the Cardinal’s nation-leading home win streak to 78 games and marked head coach Tara VanDerveer’s 699th victory at the Stanford helm.

Colorado’s aggressiveness kept the game close during most of the first half and resulted in 15 of Stanford’s 19 turnovers. (Colorado also had 19 TO’s.) For the game, it resulted in 25 fouls, leading to 27 Stanford points. By comparison, Stanford committed only 14 fouls that led to 8 Colorado points. That was a 19-point Cardinal advantage in the 22-point victory.

All of Stanford’s points in the first four minutes came from free throws until sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike broke the basket drought. She finished the game with 18 points to go with seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

Her scoring was topped only by her senior sister, forward Nneka Ogwumike, who tallied 23 points plus 11 rebounds, one block and one steal. Scoring her 13th point just before the first-half buzzer, Nneka moved past Kate Starbird, ’97, into second place on the team’s all-time scoring list. By the end of the game, her career total had risen to 2,230 points.

After the usual tossing of victory balls into the stands after the game, the players donned T-shirts commemorating their championship in the first Pac-12 season. Gloria Nevarez, Pac-12 senior associate commissioner, presented the championship trophy to Tara, who passed it on to the happy players.

After posing for a team picture in front of a Pac-12 championship banner, the team left the floor with Nneka carrying the trophy.

February 22, 2012

Tara, Nneka, Joslyn, Chiney take to the air

Fresh from clinching Stanford’s first-ever Pac-12 conference title in a sweep of the Oregon schools, head coach Tara VanDerveer and the three starting forwards talked about the women’s basketball team during a radio interview Feb. 20.

Some 40 or so fans gathered at Gordon Biersch Restaurant in downtown Palo Alto to hear and see host John Platz interview the coach plus senior Nneka Ogwumike, junior Joslyn Tinkle and sophomore Chiney Ogwumike for KNBR’s “Inside Stanford Sports.” Because of technical glitches, the program started about 15 minutes past its scheduled 8 p.m. start time and finished about 10 minutes past its 9 p.m. ending time.

John started the program by reeling off some of the team’s accomplishments this season and over the years: 24-1 record, #2 ranking in national polls, 15-0 conference record, 21st conference championship, 10 first-team All Americans (including Nneka), three national Players of the Year, 76 consecutive home wins (longest streak in the country) and Naismith Hall of Fame membership for Tara.

Tara assesses the season

He then talked to Tara about the season. “We’ll keep it going,” she said, referring to the team’s impressive wins in Oregon. “We’re starting to play our best basketball.”

The team lost a lot of production and leadership with last year’s graduation of guards Jeanette Pohlen and Melanie Murphy plus forward Kayla Pedersen. However, as this year’s team has developed, Tara has seen that “we can play a lot of different combinations.”

Joslyn has “battled her way into the (starting) lineup,” while starting guards freshman Amber Orrange and sophomore Toni Kokenis add a lot of speed to the backcourt. Tara also praised everyone else on the team for their contributions.

As for Nneka, “I’m enjoying every minute with her,” Tara said. She’s a great player and an even better person with her leadership and maturity. When she and younger sister Chiney play together, Tara calls them Batman and Robin.

After John cited Nneka’s 42 points in Stanford’s home win over Tennessee earlier in the season, Tara noted that unlike forward Jayne Appel, ’10, who could pretty much score at will from under the basket because of her size and strength, “we try to keep Nneka on the move.” That’s possible because she, like her fellow forwards, has great range and versatility.

Nneka’s also unselfish. “Nneka is about the name on the front of the jersey,” Tara said.

Toni is versatile, too, able to play either the point guard or shooting guard, and “she’s a top defender,” Tara said. “She’s also a mature player.”

Tara praised the team’s tough defense and gave part of the credit to detailed scouting reports by assistant coaches Kate Paye and Trina Patterson.

Looking at the team’s six newcomers, “We have a great freshman class – a phenomenal group, very mature,” Tara said. Unfortunately, guards Jasmine Camp and Alex Green suffered season-ending injuries last fall. In the meantime, their classmates have proven to be solid additions to the team, Tara said, citing the attributes of Amber and forwards Taylor Greenfield, Bonnie Samuelson and Erica Payne, “our Jeremy Lin.”

As March and tournament time draw near, Tara said she and her staff are trying to tweak everything. “Taking care of the ball is really important,” she said. She wants the rebounding to improve, but she was pleased with the 3-point shooting in Oregon.

“Keeping people healthy” is paramount, as is doing “the little things every day.” She wants the players to want to keep playing for each other. “We have to stay focused and disciplined.” The team isn’t quite where it wants to be yet, but “anything’s possible.”

Finally, she termed her Hall of Fame induction experience really exciting and “a dream come true.”

Nneka stresses togetherness, team spirit

After a commercial break, Nneka was given the microphone. John noted that she’s third on the list of the team’s all-time leading scorers and seems destined to move into second.

He asked her about the Tennessee game. “It was a lot of fun,” she said, and “the energy was amazing” in Maples. She loves the atmosphere that fans provide at every game. “Stanford is very special.”

Noting that she had learned a lot from Kayla, Jeanette and Jayne, she said, “I want the younger players to be a part of that tradition. They’re catching on quickly. …What drives our team is our togetherness and team spirit.”

Playing with Chiney “is like playing with three other people rather than four. She’s like an extension of me,” Nneka said.

As the season continues, she’s trying to become more versatile and to improve her ball handling to help the guards. “I always work on my perimeter shot,” as does Chiney.

Nneka and the other three seniors – forward Sarah Boothe and guards Lindy La Rocque and Grace Mashore – have been to three of Stanford’s four consecutive Final Fours and have returned without the trophy each year. Those experiences have fueled her. “It’s getting a little annoying,” she said. “What I want most is to bring my teammates there.”

Nneka had nothing but praise for her coaches. “Tara has really shaped me as a player and as a leader.” She knows what Nneka can do and brings it out. “Trina has been a wonderful addition” to the staff, while Kate, associate head coach Amy Tucker and Bobbie Kelsey, who left after last season to become head coach at Wisconsin, have been helpful, too. “I’m very happy for the experience.”

Joslyn ‘doing what it takes’

Joslyn came up after another break. John noted that she entered the starting lineup during the season after coming off the bench. Joslyn said she has fun no matter when she comes in. She’s just “doing what it takes.”

There’s a lot of pressure on Nneka and Chiney, who are the team’s leading scorers and rebounders, but it takes everyone to win, Joslyn said. The players must “focus on having very good team chemistry.”

Like Nneka, she’s glad she had a chance to learn from Jayne and Kayla. Now she’s willing to play the 3, 4 or 5 spot. She wants to be versatile.

John noted that Joslyn’s father, who is head coach of the Montana men’s basketball team, just won his 20th game of the season. “I was very lucky to grow up in a basketball family,” Joslyn said, noting that she lived overseas for eight years while her father played professionally. Her mother, who was a star player at Montana, was her AAU coach. Both give her good advice and support, she said.

Looking ahead, she sees that “this year has gone by fast,” but it’s still important to focus on one game at a time. “We have so much more to improve on,” she said.

Chiney takes nothing for granted

Chiney continued on that same line after the final break. “This is a time when basketball is really exciting,” but “we don’t take the moments for granted.”

Teamwork was a theme for her, too. “The person with the best shot is the person who’s open,” she said. She and her teammates look to have someone step up at every game.

Unlike her freshman year, “I feel more comfortable and relaxed.” She added, “This year we’ve been focusing on every play, every possession.”

She also stressed how much she enjoys playing with Nneka. John noted that people sometimes mistake the sisters for twins, but Chiney said Nneka has more finesse and is more graceful. Chiney described herself as the one with the big eyes.

After Nneka graduates, Chiney knows that Stanford still gives her many ways to excel. She also wants to promote sisterhood among the entire team.

Moreover, “I want a national championship for everyone that’s here tonight and the entire university,” she concluded.

February 13, 2012

Cardinal in the pink

It was Pink Zone Day, and that’s where the Stanford women’s basketball team was on Feb. 12 as it recorded an 82-59 victory over visiting UCLA.

Sponsored by the Stanford Cancer Center and focusing on breast cancer awareness, the game saw the players and many of the 5,507 fans at Maples sporting pink.

In keeping with a tradition started by the father of Jayne Appel, ’10, senior guard Lindy La Rocque’s father, Al, wore a pink tutu to go with his pink pants and pink shirt. He had received the tutu last year after it was worn by John Pohlen, father of Jeanette, ’11.

Jeanette was at the game accompanied by classmate Hannah Donaghe and joined at halftime by another 2011 graduate, Melanie Murphy. Jeanette was drafted by the Indiana Fever last spring and will return to that team when the WNBA season starts this spring.

Hannah is working on her Stanford master’s degree in marine science communications. She’s in Monterey for this term but will return to campus in the spring. Mel is an investment adviser for Clear Rock Capital in Palo Alto and coaches basketball for a youth program.

In the meantime, the Stanford women were upholding their own tradition – winning at Maples, recording their 76th home win, their 70th consecutive conference win and their 19 consecutive win of the season.

As they ran onto the court for warmups, they were led by Lindy, who wore a pink headband. All of the players had pink shoelaces and white T-shirts with pink ribbons emblazoned on them. During some of the timeouts, the cheerleaders tossed pink T-shirts into the crowd.

Two-time cancer survivor Sandy Kuwahara sang the national anthem. During a timeout, people who have survived cancer or who are fighting it were asked to stand for applause.

UCLA played the Cardinal fairly close during the first half, which ended 35-30, but Stanford began pulling away in the second half even as UCLA upped its pressure.

“This reminds me of a typical Stanford game,” TV commentator Mary Murphy told fans during the post-game talk. Stanford seems to get a feel for its opponent during the first half, makes the necessary adjustments during halftime, and then in the second half, “here they come,” she said.

“We got out running” and set better screens in the second half, head coach Tara VanDerveer said during the post-game session.

All available players got into the game, and nearly all contributed in some way. Senior forward Nneka Ogwumike led the scoring with 25 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists, one block and three steals.

Sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike pitched in with 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field. She also had two rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Joslyn came close to a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds as well as one each in assists, blocks and steals. The other player in double figures was sophomore guard Toni Kokenis, who had 12 points, three rebounds, and one assist.

UCLA’s scrappy defense led the Cardinal to commit an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers, compared with UCLA’s 14. Ten of the Stanford turnovers came from UCLA steals, while Stanford had only four. UCLA had 21 fouls to Stanford’s 16.

While speaking after the game, Mary saw Toni going over to visit with fans. Mary called Toni to the microphone and asked if she likes to play against UCLA. “Maybe a little bit,” Toni said. Mary then explained that Toni has relatives who went to the LA school.

“There’s so much to be excited about watching this team play,” Mary said. Freshman forward Taylor Greenfield “was amazing. She’s a machine.” Coming off the bench, Taylor had 8 points, with 6 of them coming from two of the team’s four 3-pointers (Joslyn and Toni had the others). Mary marveled at how few turnovers Taylor has had in more than 400 minutes of playing time.

Mary also likes the way Joslyn plays. “She can clean things up. Her game is just getting better and better,” Mary said, adding, “You’re so spoiled over here.”

She and her broadcasting partner, Jim Watson, had announced the previous night’s Cal-USC game in Berkeley that USC won 76-75 in overtime. “I thought it was disturbingly physical,” she said. She noted that while Stanford has a terrific sister act with Nneka and Chiney, USC has its own noteworthy sisters, Briana and Stefanie Gilbreath.

Because her job takes her across the country, she has seen games with the University of Wisconsin, where former Stanford assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey is in her first year as head coach. “Bobbie jumped in the deep end,” she said, going into the Big 10 conference. Her team has had to deal with numerous injuries, but “she’ll do a great job.”

Winter might prove to be a problem for the Georgia native, who spent her college years and most of her previous coaching years at Stanford. The Midwest has had an unusually mild, dry winter, so Bobbie didn’t realize that she’ll probably have to hire someone to plow her driveway, Mary said.

Tara’s first comment about the afternoon’s game was that “UCLA played very hard.” Like many teams, it has had to deal with injuries, so it has a short bench. Stanford, on the other hand, has six players available on the bench.

Responding to a fan’s question about how she measures success, Tara said that one way is “seeing players improve” at Stanford and then seeing what they’re doing 10 years or more after they leave Stanford. She’s “enjoying the journey.”

Earlier in the week Tara had said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that, among other things, the Pac-12 doesn’t get enough respect in comparison with East Coast teams. “We get everyone’s A game,” Tara told the crowd. Therefore, Pac-12 games help Stanford prepare for the teams they’ll meet in the NCAA tournaments. “We can play with anyone, and we know it,” she said about all Stanford sports.

After this session, Tara was to be the featured speaker at the annual Women in Sports luncheon, with Mary as the emcee.

Beverly and Al La Rocque carry on a Stanford tradition

Cardinal fans Hannah and Jeanette

Mary Murphy and Toni at the post-game meeting

February 10, 2012

And the streak goes on

Defeating USC 69-52 on Feb. 9, the Stanford women’s basketball team extended its home winning streak to 75 games, second only to UConn.

While they were at it, the 21-1 team also recorded its 69th consecutive conference win and raised its current winning streak to 18.

Not to be overlooked, senior forward Nneka Ogwumike surpassed Jayne Appel, ’10, to advance to No. 3 on the team’s all-time scoring list. A free throw about seven minutes into the first half gave her the boost.

She finished the nationally televised game with a team-high 22 points, making her career total 2,143, according to the Nneka Watch on this website. She needs only 73 more points to pass Kate Starbird, ’97, and move into second place. Candice Wiggins, ’08, is on top with 2,629.

Playing 32 minutes, Nneka also had eight rebounds and one assist. Several fans in the crowd waved large posters with her picture.

Her sophomore sister, Chiney, was right behind her in scoring with 21 points along with 12 rebounds and one assist in 35 minutes. Doing her best Brittney Griner imitation, she had a career-high and team-high six blocks even though she’s 5 inches shorter than the Baylor star.

The only other player in double figures was sophomore guard Toni Kokenis, who had 15 points to go with five rebounds, five assists and one steal in a team-high 38 minutes.

It literally was a night for the fans as people received team fans upon entering Maples. One side, reading “Cardinal Rules,” features photos of the team’s sophomores, juniors and seniors. The other side reads “Go Stanford.” While many people kept the fans unfurled with that side high, others kept them folded and used them as noisemakers whenever a USC player went to the free throw line.

Overall, Stanford shot a respectable 48.9 percent compared with USC’s 29.3 percent. However, the 3-point percentage was a mere 16.7 percent with Toni and freshman Taylor Greenfield recording the only two treys. This was in marked contrast to the pre-game warmups, when all of the team’s outside shooters knocked in one after another from behind the arc.

During the half the crowd saluted the No. 6 nationally ranked lacrosse team, which was opening its season the next day against No. 1 Northwestern. The team got in some shot practice of its own by hurling mini-balls into the stands.

Fans also saw a new-look Tree with a brown trunk and face beneath scalloped, dark green fronds. When he twirled, the fronds spread out like a propeller.

February 4, 2012

ASU gets a big dose of the O’s

More than 30 fans who couldn’t make it to the desert to watch the Stanford women’s basketball team take on Arizona State on Feb. 2 gathered at the Old Pro sports bar in downtown Palo Alto to watch the game.

There weren’t a lot of reasons to cheer during the first half, which ended in a 28-28 tie. Slightly more than eight minutes into the second half, the score was tied again at 40-40, but then Stanford took over, the fans cheered and the game ended with a 62-49 Stanford victory.

Much of the credit goes to the Ogwumike sisters – senior Nneka and sophomore Chiney. Nneka poured in 22 points, while Chiney added 20, and they pulled down 16 rebounds each. Thus the two forwards combined for 42 points and 32 rebounds.

The only other Cardinal to score in double figures was freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, whose 10 points came off one free throw and three 3-pointers. Hers were the team’s only 3’s. She also had four rebounds. As a team, the Cardinal had 48 rebounds to ASU’s 24.

The Fast Beak Club had the Old Pro’s upstairs room and multiple big-screen TVs to itself. Fans had a few anxious moments shortly before tipoff when those TVs were showing only the Direct TV logo. Then when the picture came on, there was no sound. At that point, the fans really didn’t need sound to cheer as Stanford players were shown leaving their bus. There also were some bemused comments as a “Fear the Fork” sign was shown. Hmm, I wonder where ASU got that idea.

The sound came on right after that, and the game was under way. Noise from both the Stanford fans and all the people packed into the main room downstairs limited how much of the commentary could be heard, though.

That’s why I was glad to go home and watch the recording afterward. Then I could be sure that I had heard head coach Tara VanDerveer correctly. Interviewed by commentator Mary Murphy right after the first half, Tara said, “I’m excited about how poorly we played and we’re tied.”

Several fans won T-shirts and a jersey that were raffled off during halftime. Throughout the game, they enjoyed good service from the Old Pro staff. They also got a 10 percent discount on their bills. Sliders and burgers seemed to be the most popular choice for dining, as well as some pizzas and salads. However, the only dessert choice is do-it-yourself s’mores.

Seating at the long tables is comfortable and conducive to conviviality as well as viewing. All in all, it was a good experience, especially with another Stanford win to savor.