March 27, 2013

Joslyn’s time to shine

Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it any better. Playing in her last-ever game at Maples Pavilion, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle led the Stanford women’s basketball team to a 73-40 victory over Michigan in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament.

She did so on 7-for-10 shooting, including 5-of-5 on 3 pointers, resulting in a team-high 21 points. She also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

This game was far from a one-woman show. Joslyn had several co-stars, including her fellow starters. Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike had 12 points and 15 rebounds along with one assist and one steal.

Sophomore point guard Amber Orrange pitched in with 11 points, two rebounds and six assists, while redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef tallied 9 points, six rebounds and one block. Junior guard Sara James completed the starters’ contributions with 9 points and three assists. Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson had 9 points and one rebound.

Team makes season-high 12 3’s

Joslyn’s five 3-pointers were a career high. Together, the team made a season-high 12 from beyond the arc, with three each from Bonnie and Sara and one from Amber. Three-pointers bookended the game. Joslyn made the first less than a minute into the game to get the Cardinal on the scoreboard. Bonnie finished the barrage and the team’s scoring with less than three minutes to go in the game.

Although Chiney, the team’s leading scorer overall, usually is the first option on offense, other teams know that and guard her heavily. Therefore, it appeared that in this game, the focus was on other players to score from farther out, taking the pressure off Chiney and thwarting the defense.

Every Cardinal played tough defense, but credit Sara for limiting Michigan’s leading scorer, Kate Thompson, to just 7 points, 5 of them from free throws. The Wolverine sharpshooter, who usually is stellar from behind the arc, went 0-for-6 there. When Sara took breathers on the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield took over with equally good results.

Credit head coach Tara VanDerveer and her staff – associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coaches Kate Paye and Trina Patterson – for an excellent game plan.

At halftime, when the score was 41-16, the Stanford women’s water polo team was honored for recently winning the NCAA national championship.

Time to cheer for Toni

In the second half, the more than 4,700 fans were in a celebratory mood as the team made one impressive play after another. When the video board showed a close-up of much-missed junior guard Toni Kokenis, the crowd roared while she blushed. Toni has missed the past several games because of an undisclosed illness.

The crowd roared again when the video board focused on former team stalwarts Lindy La Rocque,’12, and Jayne Appel, ’10. Lindy is working for a software company in Redwood City and serving on the staff of the Bay Area Basketball Academy. She also is an assistant coach for the girls team at Menlo-Atherton High School along with fellow alum Markisha Coleman, ’07, while Morgan Clyburn, ’09 is head coach. (Markisha was with Lindy and Jayne congratulating the team as it left the floor.)

Jayne played professionally in China this past winter and will soon rejoin the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars, which drafted her in the first round in 2010.

It was time to cheer again when head football coach David Shaw and his family were seen on the video board.

Standing ovation for starters

Then there were a standing ovation and prolonged cheering as the starters left the game to be replaced by bench players with just over two minutes to go.

As the team headed for the locker room, Joslyn blew kisses to the crowd. The players then returned for a victory lap around the court, waving to their cheering fans.

Could Hollywood have written anything better?

Next up: the Cardinal journey to Spokane to face Georgia in a Sweet 16 game on March 30. If victorious, Stanford will play the winner of the Louisiana State-Cal game on April 1 for the regional championship and a ticket to the Final Four in New Orleans the following weekend.

March 26, 2013

One down, more to go

As more than 5,000 fans streamed into Maples Pavilion to watch the Stanford women’s basketball team take on Tulsa on March 24, some changes were immediately evident.

First, instead of just having their tickets scanned at the door, they had to open their bags to ensure that they didn’t have any water. Those who did had to dump it – so be forewarned.

Second, the venue has been transformed from all-Stanford to mostly-NCAA with the NCAA logo on the floor and NCAA features on the video board.

Third, the women’s basketball banner in the southeast corner has already been updated to add 2013 to the list of the team’s Pac-12 championships.

Fourth, the band sat in an upper corner rather on the risers at floor level.

Stanford struggles during first half

Fifth, although the faces and names were familiar, the team didn’t seem much like itself or a No. 1 seed during the first half of this first round of the NCAA tournament. Instead, it allowed the No. 16 seed Golden Hurricane to lead several times and to wind up in a 24-24 tie at halftime.

After that, the team that fans had come to see showed up for the second half and finished with a 72-56 victory and the chance to advance to the second round against the afternoon’s other winner, Michigan.

During the first half, the Cardinal had trouble beating the shot clock, either tossing up desperation shots at the last second or letting time expire. That in part explains why Stanford shot only 38.5 percent during that half (compared with 65.5 in the second half). Other turnovers also played a role as the pesky Tulsa defense stole the ball several times.

However, Tulsa’s defense couldn’t contain junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who had already scored 12 of her 29 points with 7:33 to go in that half. On the other hand, she had to go to the bench with 2:21 to go because she had two fouls.

Three-pointers help the cause

Junior Sara James helped the Cardinal get going in the second half by scoring a quick 3-pointer, the first of two for her. Later, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson and sophomore guard Amber Orrange each added another. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield had scored the team’s other 3 during the first half.

Besides her 29 points, Chiney had eight rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal in 35 minutes. The only other Cardinal in double figures was Amber, who had 14 points to go with six rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal in a team-high 38 minutes.

Coming off the bench, Taylor came close with 9 points plus three rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes. In part she was filling for redshirt junior Mikaela Ruef, who started but played only 10 minutes, contributing eight rebounds and one assist.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer later said that Mikaela hadn’t practiced for two weeks because of an undisclosed injury.

When Chiney left the game with one minute to go, she was replaced by freshman forward/center Tess Picknell. Tess made the most of her limited time by scoring 2 points and snaring two rebounds.

After the game, the team gathered at the center circle, then left the court waving to the cheering fans. No victory balls this time – not in this NCAA venue.

Chiney gets hug from Candice

While her teammates left the floor, Chiney went over to TV commentator Mary Murphy for a quick interview, then responded to the crowd’s cheers with waves and a smile. As she neared the tunnel to the locker room, she was hugged by former Stanford star Candice Wiggins, ’08.

Candice was recently traded from the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx to the Tulsa Shock. There she will join two other Stanford greats, Kayla Pedersen, who was drafted by the Shock in 2011; and Nicole Powell,’04, who was just traded from the New York Liberty.

The second game featured No. 8 seed Michigan vs. No. 9 seed Villanova. Watching intently at an official table were associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistants Kate Paye and Trina Patterson, who were scouting their team’s next opponent. Tara came in to watch with about 12 minutes to go in the first half and sat with her sister Heidi in the stands near the Villanova bench.

The Stanford players watched part of the first half from the south stands, then departed at halftime, when the score was 26-24 in Michigan’s favor. While they sat there, Chiney graciously posed for pictures with several children.

Michigan pulled ahead during the second half and finished with a 60-52 victory and the chance to advance to the second game against Stanford at 6:30 p.m. March 26.

The winner joins the ranks of the Sweet 16 and goes to Spokane for the regional starting March 30 with the tournament’s round 3. The round 4 game is April 1.

March 15, 2013

Reflections from Seattle

Flying home from Seattle on March 11, the Stanford’s women’s basketball team packed some extra items.

The biggest and best was the Pac-12 tournament championship trophy, representing the team’s seventh consecutive conference title and automatically qualifying the team for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Also impressive was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player trophy, which went to junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who, among her other accomplishments, recorded the first 20-20 game in the tournament’s 12-year history. Actually, she had 23 points and 21 rebounds in the team’s quarter-final victory over Washington State on March 8.

Finally, sophomore point guard Amber Orrange brought home her own trophy as part of the all-tournament team. She turned in impressive performances in all three tournament games, highlighted by her career-high 20-point output against UCLA in the championship game on March 10.

The blue, spiraled glass trophies for the championship and Chiney were specially made for the Pac-12 by Glassybaby, a woman-owned glass studio in Seattle. Amber’s votive trophy came from there, too.

Amber takes the lead in championship game

Stanford needed every one of Amber’s 20 points because the rugged UCLA defense limited Chiney to a career-low 3 points. Chiney scored her team’s first basket, followed shortly by a free throw, and that was that. After getting two fouls in the first half, she sat out nearly 12 minutes.

She returned to action for the second half and had no more fouls, but was scoreless. However, she still had 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal for the game. It should be noted that she had absorbed much of Colorado’s physicality the night before, March 9.

Moreover, Stanford played the second game March 9, while UCLA had the earlier game, giving the Bruins a bit more time to rest. Both teams lost an hour because of the switch to Daylight-saving Time that night.

Tournament starts with win over WSU

For Stanford, the tournament began with the Washington State game, a relatively easy 79-60 win marked by 10 3-pointers from the Cardinal. Junior guard Sara James had five of them, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson had three, and Amber had two.

That day began with a sendoff by the band, Dollies, cheerleaders, family members – including head coach Tara VanDerveer’s mother, who had flown there from Colorado -- and a few fans at the team’s Westin Hotel. In the meantime, other fans gathered at the Spectator, a downtown Seattle sports bar.

There was some speculation about whether WSU head coach June Daugherty would be at the game because she had undergone an emergency appendectomy the day before. Assistant coach Mike Daugherty, her husband, was the coach of record that night, but she was seated behind the bench and often got up to join the huddle during timeouts.

At this game and the next two games, fans who were seated in upper rows of the Stanford section were given tickets to seats in lower rows, consolidating the red cheering section.

One highlight in this game came at the 19:07 mark of the second half, when redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef stole the ball, gave it to Sara, who passed it to Chiney, who passed it behind her back to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who scored. 

Besides Chiney’s 21 points, double figures also came from Sara with 17 and Joslyn with 10. It was later reported that Joslyn had been fighting the flu since earlier that week. 

UCLA upsets Cal in semi-finals

In the first game of the semi-finals March 9, UCLA defeated Cal 70-58. When I arrived early in the second half, I had to look twice to realize that No. 3-seeded UCLA was up something like 42-19 over No. 2-seeded Cal. Cal had defeated UCLA twice during the season.

In the 61-47 victory over Colorado, Stanford had only one 3-pointer, scored by Sara. Chiney led with way with 25 points and 19 rebounds for another double-double. Also in double figures were Amber with 13 and Mikaela with 11.

Amber’s 20 points led the scoring against UCLA in the championship game. She was the only Cardinal to score in double figures.

She made the game-winning basket with 8.3 seconds to go. UCLA got the ball up the court, shot and missed as the buzzer sounded. It was assumed that the game was over then, but the joyous Stanford bench had to return to the sidelines while the referees checked to see if time had expired. It hadn’t.

The officials added .2 second to the clock, so UCLA had a chance to inbound the ball, but could score only if the player receiving the ball tipped it in. A basket wouldn’t count if she caught and shot. 

Tess helps seal the championship

While the referees were looking at the game monitor, Tara used that time to insert freshman forward/center Tess Picknell into the game. Her job was to stand in front of the inbounding UCLA player. 

She didn’t just stand there. The 6’5” Tess waved her arms and jumped up and down, presenting a formidable obstacle and sight-blocker for the inbounder. Tess succeeded, the final buzzer sounded, and the Stanford players hugged and screamed in celebration.

On reflection, this tournament championship was a tribute to the entire team and coaches and their ability to overcome the difficulties mentioned above. It also should be noted that the team was missing its most experienced guard, junior Toni Kokenis, who didn’t make the trip after missing several previous games with an undisclosed illness.

Next up is the NCAA tournament, with Stanford hosting first- and second-round play at Maples on March 24 and 26. The NCAA will announce the brackets at 4 p.m. March 18 in a show telecast by ESPN.