Riding the booster bus to Berkeley on March 4, 39 fans of Stanford women’s basketball enjoyed cookies and the radio broadcast of the Stanford-Cal men’s game at Maples. Cheers broke out when that game ended with a Stanford win, 75-70.
After their women had squeaked out a 3-point OT win over Cal in January, the bus riders said that the men’s victory was a good omen. They also talked about the fact that head coach Tara VanDerveer and her team wouldn’t succumb to the upset bug that had bit so many top-ranked teams in the past few days.
They were right. Stanford took charge and won the game handily, 86-61, thanks to a balanced scoring attack and tough defense. Thus Stanford won its 25th consecutive game of the season and its 75th consecutive conference game.
Arriving at Haas Pavilion about 45 minutes before the 6 p.m. tipoff, the riders became part of a large contingent of fans wearing red. Those of us who had reserved seats above the Stanford bench were joined by former Stanford greats Jayne Appel and Ros Gold-Onwude, both ’10, along with Kayla Pedersen, ’11, who were seated with the team’s family members and friends just behind the bench.
The Stanford band sat in a high corner of the gym. One of the trombone players whom I passed in the hall said the musicians had played for the men’s game, then hopped on their own bus for Berkeley, joined by the Dollies, but not the Tree or cheerleaders.
About a half-hour before tipoff, senior forward Nneka Ogwumike, as she usually does, came out to get balls for the team’s entrance. She was greeted by cheers that grew even louder when she was joined by forward Sarah Boothe, who was in uniform for the first time after missing several games with an injury. She smiled, waved to the fans and pointed to her uniform, obviously sharing their joy.
Later the fans were happy to see that freshman forward Taylor Greenfield also was in uniform after missing two games. Neither she nor Sarah played, but it was good to know they’re available, especially when the team faces the prospect of three games in three days at the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles this week.
Between the bands and the loud PA system, the noise in Haas was deafening. Luckily, I had my earplugs, but they didn’t stop me from hearing some booing by Cal fans after the Stanford band played “All Right Now.”
However, the Stanford women silenced the crowd fairly quickly as they widened the gap between themselves and the Bears. Sophomore guard Toni Kokenis led the scoring barrage with 23 points (including three 3’s) plus six rebounds and four assists.
Nneka was right behind her with 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and three steals. Next came junior guard Joslyn Tinkle with 16 points (including two 3’s), four rebounds, one assist, five blocks and one steal.
Sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike had the only double-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Freshman Bonnie Samuelson provided a spark off the bench with 9 points from three 3’s, plus two rebounds and two assists.
The two teams were even in rebounds with 41 each and turnovers with 12 each. Stanford held the edge in assists, 17-10, and blocks, 10-5. Stanford committed 15 fouls to Cal’s 21, giving the Stanford a chance to make 24 of 27 free throws, while Cal made only 10 of 21. Cal had nine steals to Stanford’s 5.
There were some anxious moments late in the second half when a Cal player inadvertently gave Toni a bloody nose and sent her to the bench. Not long after, though, both she and trainer Marcella Shorty were smiling, and Toni gave a thumbs-up to her mother and brother, who were seated nearby.
As the Stanford boosters returned to their bus and took their seats, they joined in as one woman started singing, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”