January 1, 2013

It was fun while it lasted

Two seasons ago, on Dec. 30, 2010, UConn came calling at Maples Pavilion with a record 90-game winning streak that the Stanford women’s basketball team snapped by a score of 71-59.

The tables were turned on Dec. 29, 2012, when UConn again came calling, but this time the Huskies snapped the Cardinal’s record home winning streak at 82. It was the Cardinal’s first home loss since Florida State prevailed 68-61 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 19, 2007.

Most pundits and fans had expected this most recent game between No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 UConn to be close, but it wasn’t. It was a 61-35 blowout that had some of the 7,329 fans leaving with about 12 minutes to go.

While the Huskies shot at only a 37.5 percent clip, the Cardinal were even worse, achieving only a dismal 19.3 percent. Shot after Stanford shot clanged off the rim while UConn applied a smothering defense.

Chiney leads the way

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike led Stanford with 18 points, making only six of her 22 shots, but she connected on six of seven free throws. She also had a team-leading 13 rebounds plus one assist and one steal.

The only other Stanford starters to score were junior guard Toni Kokenis with 6 points and senior forward Joslyn Tinkle with 2. Off the bench, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson had 8 points, and sophomore forward Erica Payne had 1. Four of five UConn’s starters were in double figures.

Things looked promising when Stanford won the tipoff and Joslyn scored, giving Stanford its first – and what turned out to be its only – lead of the game. The score was tied a 5-5 at the 15:33 mark, but Connecticut prevailed from then on. The score was 31-13 in UConn’s favor at the half.

Cardinal fans had a glimmer of hope for a comeback when Bonnie shot back-to-back 3’s to make the score 44-29 at the 11:33 mark in the second half, but it wasn’t to be. She was the only Cardinal to score from beyond the arc. Shortly before that, she had made both free throws after UConn head coach Geno Auriemma was called for a technical foul.

The only game statistics in Stanford’s favor were rebounding, 44-40, and fouls, 13 for Stanford and 15 for UConn in a very physical game.

A look back at some Final Four halftime scores

To compare the 31-13 tally in this game, my unofficial research of halftime scores in recent Final Four games shows that eventually victorious Baylor led Stanford 25-23 during the semi-final game in Denver in 2012.

Stanford led Texas A&M 27-23 before losing by a heartbreaking 63-62 in the 2011 semi-final game in Indianapolis.

Stanford also led UConn 20-12 in the championship game in San Antonio in 2010. The year before that, UConn was on top 37-24 in the semi-final game in St. Louis. Stanford lost both of those two games.

The recent home loss to UConn reportedly marked the first time in 28 years that Stanford had scored fewer than 40 points in a game. Head coach Tara VanDerveer called the results disappointing.

Exciting start to the afternoon

The afternoon had started off with lots of excitement as the doors to Maples opened 30 minutes early to accommodate the expected sellout crowd. The giveaway table in the northwest concourse had a supply of “Fear the Tree” signs in addition to poster board and crayons for making signs. Some fans made signs wishing Joslyn a happy birthday – her 22nd.

Fans also received red rally towels emblazoned with a large white Stanford ‘S’ logo plus “WOMEN’S BASKETBALL vs. UConn/ Dec. 29, 2012/ Maples Pavilion/ #GoStanford”.

Players’ families filled their section of the stands, and several alumnae were on hand. They included Chiney’s older sister, Nneka, and Lindy La Rocque, who both graduated last year, along with Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10, and Markisha Coleman, ’07. Lindy’s mother, Beverly, and older sister, Ally, sat courtside on the north.

Ros interviews Nneka

Fans clapped and cheered as Nneka and Ros strolled along the sidelines and posed for pictures before the game. Then Ros, who works as a sports broadcaster, interviewed Nneka while fans watched on the video board.

In response to Ros’s question about the toughest part of her transition from college to the WNBA, Nneka quipped, “Not being here, first.” Last spring the Los Angeles Sparks selected Nneka No. 1 in the WNBA draft. She went on to win the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

Wearing a Cardinal T-shirt, Nneka said, “Chiney is doing a really great job.” Her advice to Chiney would be to “appreciate every moment.” Their father, Peter, also was at the game. Playing in Poland during the WNBA’s off season, Nneka had visited with her family in Texas over Christmas.

When I chatted with Bonnie’s father, Jon, and Toni’s mother, Marie, both expressed their sorrow at the recent death of John Pohlen, father of Jeanette Pohlen, ’11. They said that after their daughters had committed to Stanford, John went out of his way to welcome them to the Stanford family. Marie said that John called her a freshman mom.

Now that the nonconference season is over, Stanford will take its 11-1 record on the road to begin Pac-12 play. It visits Colorado at 7 p.m. Jan. 4, Utah at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 and Cal at 7 p.m. Jan. 8.

No comments:

Post a Comment