November 17, 2013

It’s home sweet home for the Cardinal

Even though it might have looked that way on paper, the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 86-51 home victory over Cal Poly on Nov. 15 was more than just the Chiney Ogwumike show.

The senior forward scored a career-high 36 points in 30 minutes, plus 11 rebounds for her 61st career double-double. However, she had plenty of help along the way with 10 of the 12 available players adding to the total.

After returning to the bench for good with 6:28 to go in the second half, Chiney still wasn’t quite done. As redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green stood in front of the bench to inbound the ball, Chiney gave her some last-minute instructions.

Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef was second in points scored with 9. However, her biggest contributions came from other stats, such as her career-high and team-high 14 rebounds. She was a regular rebounding machine. She added a team-high seven assists, most of them on nifty passes to Chiney. She also had one of the team’s five steals in her 27 minutes.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer reconfigured the starting lineup slightly, inserting freshman guard Lili Thompson in place of Alex, who had started the two previous games.

Otherwise, Tara stuck with the rest of her starters: Chiney, Mikaela, junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Chiney, Mikaela and senior guard Sara James were the captains.

Junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne along with freshman guard Briana Roberson were on the bench in street clothes.

Also unavailable were the band, Tree, cheerleaders and Dollies. Perhaps they were at the soccer field to support the women’s soccer team, which had the same start time for its first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal won the match 1-0.

The WBB game started slowly and sloppily with an unusual number of Cardinal turnovers, some of them caused by Cal Poly’s alert defense. The home team had 11 turnovers in the first half but only four in the second.

The visitors outscored their hosts for about the first five minutes of the game. During that time, Chiney did most of the Stanford scoring. For example, at the 10:30 mark, when Stanford trailed 13-11, she had 9 points.

After that, though, the Cardinal began showing more cohesion and amassed a 23-15 lead with 7:39 to go in the half. The lead was 41-25 at halftime. By then, all available players had seen action.

During the first half, the women’s swimming and diving team was introduced. The team won the 2013 Pac 12 championship and ranks No. 4 nationally. In return for the crowd’s recognition, the women tossed mini-balls into the stands.

It was victory balls flying into the stands at the end of the game as the WBB team celebrated success in its first home game of the season and upped its record to 2-1.

Excluding the slow start, it was an all-around win for the team as it outrebounded Cal Poly 47-36 and scored more points in the paint, 46-22.

Bench players added 22 points to the final score, led by freshman forward Erica McCall with 8 for third on the team. Freshman forward/guard Karlie Samuelson chipped in with 6 thanks to two 3-pointers.

Threes also came from Kailee, Lili and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, all with one each, for a team total of five.

In her post-game comments to the press, Tara said she’s still shopping “for players who are going to step up and make plays.”

She probably hasn’t hit on the perfect combination yet, especially with Taylor and Erica P. still out. However, she does have a good selection, especially as the five freshmen mesh more completely and as the team develops its on-court chemistry.

There were signs of both in this game with some nicely executed plays and fast breaks that had the crowd cheering.

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