Shortly after the San Francisco 49ers had secured a Super Bowl berth with a 28-24 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Stanford women’s basketball team secured its familiar spot atop Pac-12 standings by thwarting a USC comeback to win 75-66 before a home crowd of 3,864 on Jan. 20.
“It was a great day for the Bay Area,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said to fans at the Behind the Bench after the USC game. “We’re very excited about the 49ers and of course our game.”
“How ’bout the 49ers,” head coach Tara VanDerveer added. She said she wants her team to show the kind of grit that the Niners showed when they were down 17-0 to the Falcons.
Stanford coaches have extra ties to the Niners because head coach Jim Harbaugh was their colleague when he coached the Stanford football team until two seasons ago, when he took the 49er job.
Cardinal lead begins to ebb
The Cardinal had more or less cruised to a 33-20 lead over USC at the half and led by as much as 19 points, 43-24, at the 17:10 mark in the second quarter. Then the Women of Troy began chipping away at that lead, pulling to within 5 points at the 2:28 and 1:55 marks, but Stanford managed to prevail.
As is her wont, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike led all scorers with 29 points plus a game-high 16 rebounds. She also contributed one assist, two blocks and one steal in just under 40 minutes.
Thanks to making all three of her 3-pointers, Joslyn Tinkle added 15 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and one block in 36 minutes. Going back to the UCLA game, Joslyn is 7-for-7 on 3’s for the week.
Junior Sara James, making her second consecutive start at the small forward spot, had 13 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Sophomore guard Amber Orrange also scored 13 points plus three rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes.
Completing the scoring, the other starter, junior guard Toni Kokenis accounted for 5 points, one rebound and two assists in 34 minutes.
Although redshirt junior guard Mikaela Ruef didn’t score, she had five rebounds, two assists and one steal in 17 minutes. Her time was limited by fouls, and she wound up fouling out.
Stanford dominates the boards
Stanford won the battle of the boards, snaring 41 rebounds to USC’s 25. Likewise, Stanford had more assists, 14-9, and blocks, 3-1. The pesky USC defense forced Stanford into 14 turnovers – five of them from steals – while USC had 10 turnovers, including two caused by Cardinal steals.
Stanford fared slightly better in fouls – 16 to USC’s 17. On the other hand, USC made 13 of 18 free throws for 72.2 percent. Stanford made nine of 13 free throws for 69.2 percent.
Stanford’s 3-point picture looked better than in some past games as the Cardinal nailed six from beyond the arc – three by Joslyn and one each by Sara, Toni and Amber.
Prior to this game, Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA were all atop the Pac-12 with 4-1 records. However, Cal beat UCLA earlier in the day, so the Golden Bears and Cardinal moved to the top with 5-1 records as the first third of the conference season wrapped up.
The afternoon started well when the Peninsula Women’s Chorus sang the national anthem. The group did so well that fans were still applauding as they left center court.
Halftime entertainment featured Stanford Taiko, a student group dedicated to furthering the Japanese art of taiko drumming. The group writes its own works, in this case performed by nine students of apparently varying ethnicities moving in graceful unison.
Fans hear about Buck/Cardinal Club
During the Behind the Bench, fans heard from Heather Owen, a ’98 WBB alum who’s an assistant athletic director and who runs the Buck/Cardinal Club, which raises funds for Stanford athletics.
Heather noted that until seven years ago, each team raised its own funds. Then it was decided to pool the funds. This arrangement has worked well, Heather said, especially since it has been able to “ride the wave of the success of the football team.”
The arrangement has been especially good for the sports that don’t always draw big crowds. Now “people support Stanford athletics” instead of individual teams, Heather said.
Referring to the Fast Break Club, though, she said, “This is a tried and true group” when it comes to financial support. One fan asked about the annual auction, which has not taken place the past two years. She said it could perhaps return, depending on what volunteers decide to do. It’s a lot of work.
Even though Buck/Cardinal Club funds are pooled for all sports, individual teams can still raise funds for things like foreign travel.
Team to travel abroad
Amy noted that a foreign tour is in the offing for WBB team in September, but she’s not sure where. The last foreign tour took the team to Italy in 2009. Fans are welcome to come along if they pay their own way, Amy said.
Speaking again of the USC game, Amy called it “a game of spurts. It’s a good message to our team that teams don’t give up.”
Looking ahead to the Utah game on Jan. 25, Tara said the visitors are “an unbelievably great 0-5 (now 1-5) team.”
“It has never been easy. We get teams’ absolute A games,” she said.
When the team was in Colorado earlier this month, Tara visited with her 85-year-old mother, who lives there. Her mom goes to Pac-12 games and wants to go to the women’s tournament in Seattle with some friends. “I’m real excited that she’s coming,” Tara said. “There are going to be some great games.”