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

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