December 23, 2013

Holiday cheer prevails as team beats Tennessee

There were plenty of presents under the Tree for the Stanford women’s basketball team and its fans when the Tennessee Lady Vols came to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 21.

First – Stanford, ranked No. 6 at the time, upset No. 3 Tennessee 76-70.

Second – Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike had a dominating game, playing all 40 minutes, scoring 32 points and snaring 20 rebounds to go with one assist, three blocks and one steal. When she scored her 14th point with about 6:38 to go in the first half, she surpassed Jeanne Ruark Hoff, ’83, to rank seventh on Stanford’s all-time scoring list. Two days later, on Dec. 23, Chiney was unanimously named espnW's National Player of the Week.

Third – All 15 players were in uniform for the first time this season. Because the Lady Vols remained within striking distance throughout the game, however, only nine players had any playing time.

Fourth – Wearing “Fear the Tree” sweatshirts, Stanford football players were in the northeast bleachers to cheer their fellow nerds and to show their moves for the Dance Cam. The men paraded onto the court during halftime with their Pac-12 Conference championship trophy and the Axe trophy, which goes to the winner of the annual Big Game against Cal.

Fifth – A reported 6,044 fans were on hand despite competition from shopping and other holiday activities. Only a smattering of them wore Tennessee orange.

The list could go on from there, but suffice it to say that this was indeed a gift-wrapped victory.

Fans get rally towels with slogan

Upon entering Maples, many fans received red rally towels with “WHOSE HOUSE? C-HOUSE” in prominent white letters.

This slogan comes from a football team tradition. As senior free safety Ed Reynolds explained at halftime, the team chants this question and response at every game, starting softly and building to a roar. He then led his teammates and fans in the chant.

C-House also is the name given to a Stanford football video series that began just before the 2013 season. C-House stands for Cardinal-House.

The gridders’ halftime appearance included comments from senior running back Tyler Gaffney, the team’s MVP. He noted that some 30,000 Stanford fans are going to Pasadena on New Year’s Day for the team’s second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the game.

Head coach David Shaw thanked Tyler for deciding to return to Stanford after a year away to play professional baseball.

Starters carry the scoring load

When the game began, head coach Tara VanDerveer used a familiar starting lineup of Chiney, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef, senior guard Sara James, freshman guard Lili Thompson and junior point guard Amber Orrange. They accounted for 65 of the team’s 76 points.

The only bench player to score was junior forward Taylor Greenfield, who played 30 minutes. She had 11 points, 9 of them from three 3-pointers. The third of those 3’s came just 3 seconds before the halftime buzzer to put the Cardinal up 37-29.

Also seeing action were redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green and freshman forwards Erica McCall and Kailee Johnson. Kailee was wearing a face mask after suffering a nose injury in the New Mexico game on Dec. 16.

Stanford’s total of seven 3’s included three from Lili, who had a career high 14 points in her 35 minutes. Amber, who had 9 points in 34 minutes, made the other 3.

Stanford never trails after opening minutes

After Tennessee had scored the game’s first 4 points, the Cardinal went to work, pulled ahead and never trailed.

Even though Tennessee had 18 fouls to Stanford’s 16, the Lady Vols were more successful at the free-throw line, making 18 of 25, or 72 percent. Stanford cashed in on only 13 of 21 free throws for 61.9 percent.

On the other hand, Stanford out-rebounded Tennessee 43-40 and had five blocks to the opponent’s two.

Stanford maintained an edge of around 8 or 9 points for most of the game, but the Lady Vols made the score uncomfortably close, 70-68, with just over a minute left.

That’s when Amber made one of her signature drives to the basket, scored and was fouled. Her successful free throw, followed by two from Mikaela and one from Chiney put the game on ice for the Cardinal.

Now the team has a short break before returning right after Christmas to prepare for its game at Fresno State on Dec. 28. That will be its last non-conference game before Pac-12 competition starts Jan. 3 with a visit from Oregon.

December 18, 2013

Chiney joins exclusive group of Stanford greats

Barely a minute and a half had elapsed when Chiney Ogwumike scored her fifth point of the New Mexico game on a free throw. Thus the senior forward became only the fifth Stanford women’s basketball player in history to score at least 2,000 points and make at least 1,000 rebounds in her career.

By the time the Dec. 16 home game was over, she had scored a total of 32 points and led the Cardinal to a 75-41 victory. Playing only 23 minutes, she also had seven rebounds and four blocks.

Besides Chiney, the 2,000/1,000 club includes Chiney’s sister Nneka, ’12; Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell,’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.

During her time in the game, Chiney scored almost at will as her teammates repeatedly passed the ball to her near the basket. The Lobos couldn’t stop her.

No other double figures

No one else managed to score in double figures. The closest were junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Bonnie Samuelson, who had 8 points each off the bench

Two consecutive 3’s in the second half boosted Taylor’s total. Playing in only her second game this season after recovering from an injury, Taylor looked more confident than she had in some games in the latter part of the 2012-13 season.

Bonnie’s point total included one 3. Also scoring once each from behind the arc were redshirt sophomore guards Alex Green and Jasmine Camp. Alex finished with 6 points, while Jasmine had 3.

Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef had a team-high 10 rebounds plus 2 points.

Blocking, stealing help with defense

One statistic of note is that the team blocked 12 shots. Chiney led the way with four, followed by Mikaela with three and freshman forward Erica McCall with two. Junior guard Amber Orrange, freshman guard Lili Thompson and freshman forward Kailee Johnson had one each.

The team also had six steals, with one each by Mikaela, Lili, Amber, Alex, Kailee and junior forward Erica Payne, also playing in only her second game this season.

For the game, the team shot 50.8 percent with 29.4 percent on 3’s and 75 percent on free throws. Offensive rebounding proved to be somewhat problematic with Stanford snaring 12 and New Mexico 20.

The three of the five starters – Chiney, Mikaela and Amber – combined for 40 points, and the bench contributed 35. Starters Lili and senior guard Sara James had no points.

From the start, the game was never in doubt thanks to Chiney, a stout defense and an injury-depleted opponent. The halftime score was 40-21.

With victory assured about halfway through the second half, head coach Tara VanDerveer had the luxury of leaving Chiney on the bench. Thus the coach gave the team’s best player a chance to rest and avoid injury while other post players got more playing time.

These factors are important because the Cardinal, ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll, will face a far more formidable opponent, No. 3 Tennessee, at home at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 21.

December 16, 2013

Tribute to Tara: 902 and counting

After a long road trip followed by 16 days off for finals, the Stanford women’s basketball team returned home to Maples Pavilion and defeated Gonzaga 73-45 on Dec. 14.

In the process, the team handed head coach Tara VanDerveer her 902nd career victory.

Because win No. 900 came against Florida Gulf Coast while the team was in Mexico for a tournament, the major celebration was saved for home court. It started when fans entered Maples and received signs and eyeglasses commemorating 900 wins.

At the request of their head coach, Kelly Graves, the Zags remained in their seats after the game while the video board flashed highlights of Tara’s career. In the meantime, the Stanford players donned red T-shirts emblazoned with “900.”

Tara gets her own jersey

As the Stanford players and staff looked on, Stanford president John Hennessy and athletic director Bernard Muir unveiled a framed white Stanford jersey with Tara’s last name and the number 900.

Taking the microphone, Tara introduced her mother, Rita, who had surprised her with a visit the night before. Tara then thanked the president and athletic director for their support and added, “I just want to keep it going.”

She said that the framed jersey would hang in her office, and she joked that it was the only way she would get a Stanford jersey.

After acknowledging her staff, she said, “It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around 900.”

“Let’s get some more,” she concluded.

On behalf of her teammates, senior forward Chiney Ogwumike echoed the sentiment. “Here’s to 900 more.”

Win No. 800 was three years ago

Chiney and her two classmates – guards Sara James and Toni Kokenis (recently medically retired) – plus red shirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef were all on the team for Tara’s 800th win, which came on Dec. 22, 2010, when Stanford traveled to the University of San Francisco and won 100-45.

Those on hand who had contributed to the 800 wins included USF head coach Jennifer Azzi and associate head coach Katy Steding (now at Cal). They were in the first class that Tara recruited to Stanford after she arrived on the Farm in 1985. They went on to help Stanford win its first national championship in 1990 and played for Tara on the undefeated U.S. Olympics team that won the gold in 1996.

Contributors included Tara’s two assistant coaches, Stanford graduates Bobbie Kelsey (now head coach at Wisconsin) and Kate Paye.

Then there was the woman who has been associated with Tara the longest time – associate head coach Amy Tucker. She played at Ohio State for two of Tara’s five years as head coach there, was a graduate assistant coach for her for a year and an assistant coach there for another year. When Tara left Ohio State for Stanford in 1985, Amy joined her as an assistant coach.

Chiney didn’t play in that USF game because she had tweaked her ankle in the morning, but she high-fived the bench for each 3-pointer. She made that trip 11 times, thanks to four 3’s by Sara and one each by Toni and Mikaela, among others.

Balanced scoring by starters, bench

Fast-forward 102 victories to the Gonzaga game: Chiney, Sara and Mikaela all started, joined by junior guard Amber Orrange and freshman guard Lili Thompson.

The five of them scored a total of 42 points, while bench players contributed 31.

This time there were eight 3’s, with two each by Sara, redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp and freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Amber and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson had one each.

Chiney led the team in scoring with 19 points. Also in double figures were Kailee with a career high 11 and Amber with 10.

Two juniors see first action

In addition to the victory, fans had two more reasons to celebrate. Junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne returned to action for the first time this season. Taylor played a total of 11 minutes, scored 4 points and made two rebounds. After making her first basket on an inbound pass with 10:47 to go in the second half, she ran up the court with a big smile.

Erica, who had just been cleared to play earlier in the week, entered the game with slightly less than two minutes to go. She and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell, who played about four minutes, were the only two Cardinal players who didn’t score.

All told, 14 of 15 players were in uniform. Freshman guard Briana Roberson, still rehabbing from an injury, was suited up but didn’t play. Freshman guard Karlie Samuelson was in street clothes. It’s hoped that she’ll return for the Tennessee game at home on Dec. 21, Amy told the Fast Break Club after the game.

A fan at the gathering commented on the fine play of Kailee and fellow freshman forward Erica McCall, who had 5 points and seven rebounds. Amy responded that when the freshmen arrived for summer school, Bonnie, Sara, Taylor and Erica Payne weren’t able to play. Since those four often play the 3 position, Kailee and Erica M. got a lot of time in that spot.

Still, “we’re excited to have them back,” Amy said of the four upperclassmen.

Video salutes Nicole Powell

Yet another woman who contributed to Tara’s 900 wins was Nicole Powell, ’04, who’s in her first year as an assistant coach at Gonzaga after playing professionally for the WNBA and overseas.

“Fans, today we welcome back one of Stanford’s all-time greats,” announcer Betty Ann Boeving said shortly before tipoff. With that, the video board showed highlights of Nicole’s Stanford accomplishments, followed by a prolonged ovation.

An earlier video honored the Stanford football team for winning the Pac-12 conference and the right to play in its second consecutive Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1. “See you in Pasadena,” it concluded.

A subsequent video featured women’s basketball highlights. It ended, “Tradition never graduates.”