December 30, 2014

Team tunes up for Pac-12 with romp over UCSB

The Stanford women’s basketball team ended its pre-conference schedule with a 90-34 victory over winless UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 28 at Maples.

All 15 players were in uniform and played at least 5 minutes. The scoring was well balanced with four players in double figures: sophomore guard Lili Thompson with 12, sophomore guards Karlie Samuelson and Briana Roberson with 11 each, and freshman guard Brittany McPhee with 10.

In all, 12 players scored, but everyone contributed in some way.

Brittany leads team in playing time

Brittany’s 22 minutes of playing time was a high for the team. Everyone else played 19 minutes or less.

In addition to her 10 points, Brittany contributed five rebounds, three blocks and three steals, playing with energy and hustle that impressed the 4,041 people in attendance.

The Cardinal led in rebounds, 50-21; assists, 17-8; blocks, 6-2; and steals, 8-4. Stanford had only nine turnovers, while UCSB had 12. UCSB had 13 fouls to Stanford’s seven.

Besides Lili and Karlie, the starting lineup featured senior guard Amber Orrange, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson.

“Bird” snares 12 rebounds

Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall had a team-high and career-high 12 rebounds to go with 8 points on 4-of-4 shooting.

Shooting at a 41.7 percent clip from beyond the arc, the Cardinal had 10 3’s with three each from Bonnie and Karlie, two from redshirt junior guard Jasmine Camp and one each from Briana and senior forward Taylor Greenfield. Jasmine’s two baskets were her first for the season.

The atmosphere at Maples was enlivened by the band, cheerleaders and Tree. Kaylee was the game’s featured player. The video board showed some Did You Know facts along with a brief interview. One of the facts was that she was a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in her home state of Wyoming.

A Behind the Bench followed the game, with associate head coach Amy Tucker noting that the team was back after just a three-day break for Christmas.

She then introduced Jasmine, saying that the team co-captain “has been relentlessly positive and optimistic” in addition to being a good mentor to the younger players.

Jasmine applies to graduate business schools

Although she is a redshirt with another year of eligibility, she’s applying for graduate business schools and might consider going into coaching, Jasmine said. A psychology major, she’s not applying to Stanford because its business school doesn’t take students directly out of college. They need some business experience first.

She said the team’s three freshmen – Kaylee, Brittany and guard Taylor Rooks – “are taking everything in stride.” They’re “very well adjusted.”

She started playing basketball on a YMCA team when she was 4 years old.

Answering other questions, she said her most memorable moments with the team include her first Final Four her freshman year (in Denver in 2012) and the team’s trip to Italy in 2013.

Tara speaks to fans

As head coach Tara VanDerveer returned from her post-game press conference, Jasmine was asked for a favorite Taraism. She laughed and said that there are “too many to choose from.”

Tara began her comments by noting that Lili’s grandmother was visiting from Michigan and that Kaylee’s grandparents were making their first visit to Stanford.

“This is a great way to close out 2014,” she said. “We’ve played a really tough schedule.”

“It’s fun to see so many of our younger players do so well for us. It was a fun game for us. … We need this kind of game to allow younger players to make mistakes.”

Asked which Pac-12 team poses the biggest challenge, she answered, “It’s all about our team. We need everyone to continue to improve.”

Coaches continue to work on puzzle

As the coaches continue to work with the new offense, they face “a different puzzle to put together. ... It’s still evolving,” but the team has “mature, unselfish players.” The coaches are trying to take “advantage of our team’s strengths.”

She noted that “the guards are doing more,” and the team is “running more screening on the ball.”

The lineups have mostly been using one true post, with Bonnie and Taylor serving as stretch 4’s. That means that with their 3-point shooting ability, they stretch the defenses more to the perimeter. The offense is emphasizing more 3-point shooting and using more players off the bench.

The trip to Tennessee earlier in December resulted in losses to Tennessee and Chattanooga and showed that “we have a long way to go,” Tara said.

Still, “I’d rather learn what we need to work on earlier (rather) than later.”

Coach praises Kaylee, Brittany

She said that Kaylee has been “a pleasant surprise. … Her rebounding is exceptional,” and she has a good basketball IQ. She also said that “I thought Brittany did a very nice job today,” especially since she missed several weeks of practice while recovering from an injury.

She was noncommittal about whether Jasmine and guard Alex Green, the other redshirt junior, would return next year. The other four seniors – Amber, Taylor, Bonnie and forward Erica Payne – will graduate. To date, the team has four freshmen coming in next fall.

She said she watches the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. “We do learn a lot from watching them.” Former Cardinal player Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10, is a sideline commentator for the Oakland team. “She’s awesome,” funny and insightful, Tara said.

The team kicks off its Pac-12 season at home with games against Colorado at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 and Utah at 5 p.m. Jan. 5. Both will be televised on the Pac-12 network.

December 24, 2014

Players go home on a winning note

With senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson accounting for more than half of its points, the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated UC Davis 71-59 in Maples on Dec. 22.

The victory was most welcome following a road trip on which the team lost 54-46 to Chattanooga on Dec. 17 and 59-40 to Tennessee on Dec. 20. Those losses dropped Stanford from No 7 to No. 16 in AP’s weekly poll.

Allowing for the trip back to Stanford, the team had little time to prepare for UC Davis. Hence, defeating the then 4-6 Aggies wasn’t as easy as one might expect. The Aggies stayed close and even led for much of the first half, which ended 34-30 in the Cardinal’s favor.

UCD edged close several times during the second half, but Stanford kept rallying. Both teams shot 46.2 percent in the first half, while Stanford came out ahead 46.4 percent compared with 35.7 percent in the second half.

Bonnie pours in 30 points

Bonnie, making her first start this season and the sixth of her career, scored a total of 30 points, including 18 on 3’s. She also had five rebounds, one block and two steals in her team-high 35 minutes.

She opened Stanford’s scoring with two 3’s, followed by one from Karlie, who also started. It was the first time that both sisters were in the starting lineup.

Bonnie’s total made her the first non-Ogwumike to score at least 30 points in a game since Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, had 31 in the memorable home win over UConn on Dec. 30, 2010.

Joining the Samuelsons in the starting lineup were senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Lili Thompson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson.

Kaylee has a double-double

Besides Bonnie, the only other player to score in double figures was Kaylee, who had 11 points to go with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes of playing time before fouling out late in the second half.

Karlie had 9 points with her three 3’s plus two assists in 30 minutes. Amber was right behind with 8 points, four assists and four steals also in 30 minutes.

Altogether, the team had 10 3’s with six from Bonnie, three from Karlie and one from Lili, leading to a 58.8 percent success rate from beyond the arc on 10 of 17 shooting.

The team was outrebounded 35-30, but had a 13-10 edge in assists and a 6-5 edge in steals. It had 10 turnovers to UCD’s 14. UCD had 19 fouls, while Stanford had 13.

11 Cardinal players get into the game

Head coach Tara VanDerveer used 10 players in the first half and 11 for the game. All 15 players were available. UCD had 11 in uniform.

The official attendance was listed at 3,375 even though it was a work day during a busy holiday week. Students are on their holiday break, meaning no band or any other student contingent.

Senior forward Erica Payne, who has been getting more playing time lately, was the game’s featured player. The video board had a brief interview with her as well as trivia about her likes during some timeouts.

During some other timeouts, individual players wished the fans happy holidays.

The players will have only a brief visit with their families before returning. They’ll be back in action at home against UC Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. Dec. 28. It will be their last nonconference game before Pac-12 competition starts Jan. 3 against Colorado and Jan. 5 against Utah, both at home.

December 17, 2014

Back to work and a win after finals

After a two-week hiatus for finals, the Stanford women’s basketball team returned to action at home on Dec. 14 and came away with an 82-43 victory over neighboring Santa Clara University.

With most students – except for the band -- home for the holiday break, several youth groups, along with regular fans, helped make up for their absence, leading to an official attendance of 3,527.

Except for senior forward Taylor Greenfield, who reportedly was held out as a precaution because of a sore foot, everyone got in on the fun, and everyone contributed in some way.

Amber leads with 20 points

The biggest contribution point-wise came from senior guard Amber Orrange with 20 points in 26 minutes, in addition to four rebounds, three assists, one block and three steals.

The only other players in double figures were freshman guard Brittany McPhee with 11 points, four rebounds, a block and two steals in just 15 minutes; and senior forward Bonnie Samuelson with 11 points and two rebounds, also in 15 minutes.

Each of them had one three-pointer to her credit, while Amber had two. The total of four 3’s on 21.1 percent shooting was below the team’s usual production.

Kaylee has her 2nd 22-rebound game

Under the boards, the biggest contribution came from freshman forward Kaylee Johnson, who had 22 rebounds for the second time in her fledgling career. As one fan noted, she just seems to know where the ball will be. Kaylee also had nine points, one assist, two blocks and two steals in a team-high 27 minutes.

Starters for the game were Amber and Kaylee along with sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall and sophomore guards Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson. Karlie played 25 minutes and had 7 points, four assists, one block and one steal.

The game started slowly with Stanford lagging for the first few minutes even though SCU couldn’t match the Cardinal in height. Its tallest starter was only 6 feet, while starters Kaylee and Bird both are 6’3”.

Stanford inched ahead in the subsequent minutes, ending the first half with a 40-21 advantage. By then head coach Tara VanDerveer had used 10 players.

SCU maintains enthusiasm

Despite being overmatched on the basketball court, SCU was big in enthusiasm, starting with warmups, when the players were quite vocal. Their enthusiasm and support for one another never flagged. Even when it was apparent that Stanford would win big, SCU players on the bench jumped up and cheered for every basket or anything else in their team’s favor.

Besides lagging in 3-point shooting, the Cardinal also was subpar in overall field goals, making just 29 of 72, or 40.3 percent. Free-throw shooting was somewhat better, 20 of 34, or 58.8 percent. On the other hand, Bonnie made all four of her FT’s, while Brittany made four of five.

SCU shot just 30.8 percent on field goals for the game. It made only one of four free throws for 25 percent. Stanford had more opportunities at the charity stripe because SCU had 27 fouls while the Cardinal had 13.

Thanks in large part to Kaylee, the Cardinal dominated the boards with 57 rebounds compared with SCU’s 33.

Toni helps girls through BAWSI

Among youth groups at the game was a large delegation of girls from the Sunnyvale branch of Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative. According to its website, “BAWSI is a free, weekly after-school program in which elementary school girls develop self-esteem and good health practices from role models they can admire and emulate – female athletes drawn from college, university and high school teams from all over the Bay Area.”

Women from several Stanford teams are involved. Among them is WBB alum Toni Kokenis, ’14, who was one of the leaders with the Sunnyvale group. Toni is a Stanford grad student.

The game’s featured player was freshman guard Taylor Rooks. During the game, the video board flashed “did you know” trivia about Taylor, such as pizza is her favorite food.

Something new in Maples is the updated banner reflecting the women’s volleyball team’s 2014 Pac-12 championship. The team has advanced to the Final Four in Oklahoma City, with its first game on Dec. 18.

Although the WBB win was a nice way to start the holiday break, the players didn’t have much time to celebrate. They were scheduled to board the bus for the airport at about 5:45 a.m. the next day in order to fly to Tennessee. There they’ll face presumably stiffer competition from Chattanooga at 3 p.m. PST Dec. 17 and Tennessee at 10 a.m. Dec. PST 20.

Then it’s back to campus for one more game, UC Davis on Dec. 22, before finally getting a holiday break. It’ll be a quick one, though, because the next game is Dec. 28 at home against UC Santa Barbara before Pac-12 competition starts in the new year.

November 23, 2014

Similar scenario, disappointing outcome

Just as it had done against UConn just three days earlier, the Stanford women’s basketball team scored more than 80 points in a game that ended in overtime, but instead of winning 88-86, the Cardinal lost to Texas 87-81 on Nov. 20 in Maples Pavilion.

And just as it had done against UConn, the team stayed behind but kept the game close until the final few minutes.

Regulation time ended with the score 75-75. Even with 1:27 left in OT, the score was 80-80, but Stanford managed only 1 more point while the Longhorns had another 7. Thus the visitors snapped Stanford’s home winning streak at 28.

Fatigue may have set in

Fatigue may have been a factor in this second OT game in less than a week.

The Stanford starters included two seniors – guard Amber Orrange and forward Taylor Greenfield – along with two sophomores – guard Lili Thompson and forward Erica “Bird” McCall. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson was the other starter.

Freshman guard Taylor Rooks was in street clothes, but the other 14 players were available. Eleven saw action.

However, most of the heavy lifting on scoring was done by Lili with a career-high 28 points in a team-high 43 minutes

and Amber with 15 in 29 minutes. Amber’s time was limited by fouls. She fouled out in OT after deliberately touching a Texas player in a move designed to give Stanford a chance to get the ball back.

No one else got into double figures. The closest was senior forward Bonnie Samuelson with 8.

Cold shooting hurts

Cold shooting was a major factor in the loss. Stanford was 35.9 percent for the game, compared with 48.5 percent for Texas.

Stanford came away with seven 3’s – three by Lili, two by Bonnie and one each by sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson and freshman Brittany McPhee. However, the team had lofted 27 shots from the arc, giving it only a 25.9 percent success rate.

Texas made four of 11 3’s for 36.4 percent.

Texas had its biggest advantage with 34 points in the paint compared with Stanford’s 24.
Its post players consistently outmuscled their Cardinal counterparts, while its perimeter players limited Stanford guards’ drives to the basket. In short, it played better defense than Stanford did.

Free-throw shooting at 73.7 percent

Stanford’s free-throw shooting improved to 73.7 percent compared with 65.6 percent against UConn, but that still meant that the team scored 28 points on at least 38 tries. Texas was 17 of 23. Texas had 30 fouls, Stanford 21 in this closely called game.

Once again Kaylee was a major contributor on the boards with 13 rebounds, but she scored only 7 points, 5 of them on free throws.

The official crowd count was 3,674.

The usual student contingent of the Tree, band, Dollies and cheerleaders was on hand. Not only does the Tree have a new look with his multi-colored palm fronds, but he knows some of the Dollies’ routines.

Something else new this season: Instead of the traditional handshakes before tipoff, the starters fist-bump.

Next on the agenda is New Mexico in Albuquerque at 6 p.m. PST Monday, Nov. 24, before three games in the three days after Thanksgiving at a tournament in Honolulu.

November 19, 2014

Just one word – Wow!

It was an unforgettable sight. Hundreds of Stanford students poured out of the stands and onto the floor of Maples Pavilion after the final buzzer sounded, signaling the women’s basketball team’s hard-fought, overtime win over UConn, 88-86, on Nov. 17.

The victory not only ended the two-time defending national champion’s 47-game winning streak, it also extended the Cardinal’s home winning streak to 28. The student celebrants included former guard Toni Kokenis, ’14, who was on the team when it ended UConn’s record 90-game win streak at Maples in 2010. Now she’s studying for her master’s degree in sociology at Stanford.

With 2.6 seconds left in OT and the Cardinal ahead by 2 after a successful free throw by sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson, UConn had the ball under the Stanford basket. Sophomore guard Briana Roberson wisely restrained her joyful teammates on the bench so that they wouldn’t rush onto the floor and risk a possible penalty.

UConn couldn’t advance the ball fast enough to get a shot

and now it was time for the players to celebrate

with hugs, hugs and more hugs.

The official attendance of 5,367 included a bloc of several dozen UConn fans in the general admission section behind the Huskies bench.

All players in uniform

All 15 Stanford players were in uniform, but only 10 played. Nine accounted for the lion’s share of minutes.

The starting lineup featured senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Lili Thompson, senior forward Taylor Greenfield, freshman forward Kaylee Johnson and sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Amber amassed the most minutes, 42, but sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson came off the bench to provide 40 minutes and some tough defense.

When it came to scoring, Lili led both teams with 24 points, followed by Amber with 17 and senior forward Bonnie Samuelson with 14.

Game stays close

UConn came out of the starting gate with the first 4 points, but Bird put Stanford on the scoreboard with two free throws. UConn stayed ahead by relatively small margins throughout the first half, which ended with the Huskies ahead 40-38.

The story was much the same through most of the second half with UConn’s largest margin, 10 points, coming with 6:32 to go. By the 1:19 mark, however, Stanford lagged by only 3 points, 68-71. With 12 seconds to go, UConn’s edge was still 3 points, 74-77.

That’s when the Cardinal got possession, passing the ball to Amber, who made a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

The score seesawed during the five-minute OT. With slightly more than a minute and a half to go, Amber with a basket, Bonnie with two FTs and Karlie with one FT made the crucial points that sealed the win and set off the celebration.

Free throws a concern

As the game hung in the balance at the half, several fans commented that if the team had hit more of free throws, the score would be in its favor. In 11 tries at the charity stripe, the team collected only 6 points, for 54.5 percent. Since some of those tries were 1-and- 1’s, presumably there could have been more points if the first shots had been made.

Things improved somewhat in the second half with the team going 8 for 13, or 61.5 percent, but the OT tally of 7 for 8, or 87.5 percent, was crucial to the win. For the game, the team made 65.6 percent of its FTs. UConn wasn’t much better, 67.9 percent.

Stanford made 7 of 14 3’s, or 50 percent. Bonnie had two. Taylor, Amber, Lili, Karlie and Briana each had one. Bonnie’s first 3, her first of the season, came at the 3:53 mark in the first half. She followed with another at 1:44 to put Stanford ahead 36-35.

Stanford outrebounded UConn 41-37. Kaylee snared 13 to lead both teams. Amber and Karlie were next with five each for Stanford.

With the game so close and the crowd so big, the atmosphere at Maples was electric and loud. My ears were still ringing long after I got home.

Coaches rank Stanford No. 1

In the aftermath of the game, the USA Today coaches poll came out the next day, Nov. 18, and pushed Stanford up to No. 1 from No. 6 while bumping UConn down to No. 4 from No. 1. Notre Dame was ranked second, followed by South Carolina at third. Texas, Stanford’s next opponent, was 13th.

Before the game started, a men’s barbershop quartet, Motley Q, gave a fine rendition of the national anthem.

Three men and a woman from Oakland-based Showtime Dunk provided halftime entertainment with their athletic runs to the basket, aided by a trampoline and large cushion.

Betty Ann is back after marriage

And one final note: Announcer Betty Ann Boeving made a most welcome return after missing the first three games. She had a good excuse, though. On Oct. 11 she was married to Bob Hagenau before they went on their honeymoon to New Zealand and Fiji.

She said she is using his last name and intended to make some reference to it at the end of the game, but all the excitement apparently changed her mind.

In the meantime, Stanford players and fans don’t have a lot of time to bask in euphoria. Texas comes to Maples at 6 p.m. Nov. 20.

After that, the team takes to the road, playing at New Mexico on Nov. 24. After that, it’s on to Honolulu for three games in the three days immediately following Thanksgiving before a two-week break for Dead Week and finals.

November 17, 2014

Bright spots in season opener

While the game was far from perfect, fans of Stanford women’s basketball had reason for optimism as Boston College fell 96-63 in the season-opening game Nov. 14 at Maples Pavilion.

The win wasn’t quite as easy as the score might indicate, especially in the first half, when the Cardinal went to the locker room with only a 49-40 lead. Because of lapses in Stanford’s perimeter defense, BC unleashed nine 3’s, while the Cardinal managed only three.

With 6:16 to go in the first half, the score was just 30-29 in Stanford’s favor following a series of BC 3’s. Head coach Tara VanDerveer called a time out, but shortly thereafter, BC popped in another to make the score 34-32 with 4:55 to go.

Halftime adjustments pay off

Thanks to the necessary adjustments at halftime, though, BC hit no more 3’s, while Stanford added four to its total of seven.

Sophomore guard Lili Thompson had three for the game, followed by sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson with two. Senior forward Taylor Greenfield and freshman guard Brittany McPhee added one each.

Brittany’s trey marked the first official points of her Stanford career. She added a free throw to give her 4 points in nine minutes. She has recently returned after recovering from a foot problem.

Stanford had been outrebounded in the first half, too, but the second half went better, leading to a final total of 38 rebounds for Stanford and 27 for BC. Senior guard Amber Orrange had nine, while junior forward/center Tess Picknell had six in seven minutes of action.

Taylor, Amber and Lili were in the starting lineup along with sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson. All five logged double-digit minutes, led by Amber with 29.

Also getting double-digit playing time were Karlie, sophomore forward Kailee Johnson and redshirt junior guard Alex Green.

Everyone gets in on the fun

All 15 players were dressed, and all had played by the time the final buzzer sounded. The starters were on the bench to stay with just over seven minutes to go.

In keeping with a tradition in which one player is featured on the video board at each home game, Taylor was the season’s initial honoree as her parents observed from the family section.

Finishing with 10 points, Taylor showed more offensive aggressiveness than in some past games. She also displayed defensive leadership, often directing her teammates to appropriate spots.

Except for the perimeter lapses in the first half, the players seemed more aggressive on defense, making concerted efforts to steal the ball. Their efforts paid off in 11 steals. Amber and Lili had three each, followed by Bird and Kailee with two each and Alex with one. BC had only three steals.

The steals helped the team amass 12 fast-break points, compared with 2 for BC. BC had 17 turnovers, while Stanford had 15.

Stanford also led in blocking with six -- three by Kailee, two by Bird and one by Kaylee.

Lili, Bird tally career-high points

When it came to scoring, Lili’s 26 points and Bird’s 16 were both career highs. Amber had 11 points to go with a team-high six assists.

Among boosters in the crowd of 3,278 were the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree as well as pairs of students waving red Stanford flags during timeouts. One of those students in the second half was an enthusiastically cheered man in a wheelchair.

Because the men’s basketball team was scheduled to play at 9 p.m., everyone had to leave Maples. However, fans with ticket stubs to the women’s game were given free general admission seats.

In the meantime, the ever-energetic band entertained fans outside.

While this game was a nice way to start the season, the new-look Cardinal with its emphasis on speedy guard play will face an acid test at 6 p.m. Nov. 17. That’s when the team will play host to two-time defending national champion UConn.

November 10, 2014

Big sis prevails in sibling matchup

Rita VanDerveer, visiting from Colorado, wore a gray sweatshirt diplomatically emblazoned with Stanford on the first line and UC San Diego on the second at an exhibition game between the two women’s basketball teams Nov. 8 at Maples Pavilion.

That way she could show support for both her oldest daughter, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, and her youngest daughter, UCSD head coach Heidi VanDerveer. It was Tara who guided the winning team with the Cardinal winning 74-51.

The two sisters have a close family and basketball relationship, with Heidi usually serving as an unofficial consultant as the Cardinal go through tournaments. Therefore, she’s familiar with Tara’s coaching style and players.

UCSD challenges Stanford

Heidi has a good team, one that gave Stanford a more challenging game than the previous exhibition against Vanguard, when the score was 105-50.

UCSD got 27 points from 3-pointers, more than half of its final score. Miranda Seto of Redwood City connected on four toward her total of 24 points.

Stanford benefited from six 3’s. Sophomore guard Lili Thompson and senior forward Taylor Greenfield each had two. Two seniors, guard Amber Orrange and forward Bonnie Samuelson, had one each.

The afternoon started with the addition of the band, Dollies and new-look Tree. This one sports multi-colored palm fronds, perhaps a salute to the scenic Palm Drive approach to campus.

The national anthem was delightfully harmonious, thanks to Counterpoint, a student vocal ensemble of women.

Senior forward Erica Payne was the only one of the team’s 15 players not in uniform. Tara said after the game that she had a knee problem.

The starting lineup fielded Lili, Amber, sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson, freshman forward Kaylee Johnson and sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall. Karlie scored her team’s first point with a free throw.

Brittany gets first taste of competition

As Tara continued to look at various combinations of players, she first inserted Taylor and freshman guard Brittany McPhee, who was seeing her first collegiate action after rehabbing from a foot problem.

Brittany scored her first collegiate points with two successful free throws with less than a half-minute left in the first half. She finished with 4 points in nine minutes. Tara said after the game that she had been playing full-court for only three days.

Others who came off the bench during the first half were redshirt junior guard Alex Green, Bonnie and sophomore guard Briana Roberson.

Four players finished in double figures – Bird with 18, Taylor with 16, Amber with 11 and Lili with 10. Amber had 12 rebounds for the only double-double. Bird had five of the team’s 12 blocks, while Kaylee had three to go with her 12 rebounds. She and Taylor each had two of the team’s seven steals.

The first half ended with the score at 37-25. UCSD pulled within 3 points during the second half, but Stanford clamped down to seal the 23-point victory.

During the game’s final minutes, Stanford got the ball out of bounds under its own basket with only 2 seconds left on the shot clock. Tara called a time out to call a play. The ball went to junior forward/center Tess Picknell, who easily scored, much to the delight of the team and fans.

Fans meet team Behind the Bench

The Behind the Bench after the game started with associate head coach Amy Tucker telling the fans that Tara would join them after visiting with Triton players in their locker room.

Amy then introduced the three freshmen – Kaylee, Brittany and guard Taylor Rooks. “They all did exceptionally well in summer school both academically and athletically,” Amy said. She noted that Brittany, who comes from Normandy Park, Wash., has a twin sister, Jordan, who’s playing basketball at Seattle Pacific University.

Tara then took the microphone to say that UCSD “did a great job.”

Before introducing the rest of the team, she noted that Kaylee is “doing a great job on the boards.”

Bird “has big shoes to fill” with the graduation of leading post scorers Chiney Ogwumike and Mikaela Ruef. Karlie “is back 100 percent” after dealing with an injury. Sophomore forward Kailee Johnson (no relation to Kaylee) is working hard.

After introducing the other sophomore guards, Lili, who “hit some big shots,” and Briana, who’s “one of the hardest working guards,” she went on to Tess, congratulating her for “a nice out-of-bounds play.” As she continues to improve, she’ll contend more, Tara said.

Erica, Amber, Jasmine serve as captains

“Taylor (G.) had a great game today,” Tara said, moving on to the six seniors. Erica, a team captain, is “a leader invested in our whole team.”

Another captain, redshirt junior (senior academically) guard Jasmine Camp is “a vocal leader of our team.” Amber, the other captain and “an excellent defender,” puts in a lot of time outside of practice and has “real quick hands.”

Alex “prides herself on being a great defender,” Tara said. Overall, “we’re quicker, more guard-oriented,” she said before excusing the players and introducing Heidi.

“I was impressed with how her team played,” Tara said, adding that she was pleased no one was hurt on either team.

Heidi said, “We knew everything because I’ve been watching Tara for 30 years. You guys are spoiled in a good way.”

“Our team is a very young team,” Tara countered. “Their team came out very motivated and very prepared,” while “I wanted to play a lot of different people.”

“We’re trying to find different combinations” she said later. “We gave them too many easy baskets.”

Still, “it’s a win-win” because both teams learn, Heidi said.

She verified published reports that she had twice refused requests to provide Stanford-UCSD game tapes to UConn, Stanford’s Nov. 17 opponent.

Expressing her love for Heidi, Tara said they attended hoops camps together, and “we talk all the time.”

Heidi responded: “Tara’s the biggest influence on my life. She says things just to help me get better.”

November 4, 2014

New season opens with first taste of competition

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a new Stanford women’s basketball season.

It starts with the donning of my red apparel – from red earrings and a red top right down to red socks. Next it’s off to the Farm and the familiar chime of tickets being scanned by friendly ushers in red vests.

Then into the Maples Pavilion, where familiar faces are seen in their customary spots, ready to cheer the Cardinal.

In the case of the 2014-15 season, the beginning came Nov. 2 with an exhibition game against Vanguard in the freshly painted facility. Because it was an exhibition game that doesn’t apply to the team’s season record, a few elements, especially the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree, were missing.

Cardinal win 105-50 against Vanguard

Likewise, the crowd was relatively sparse, an official 2,605. Probably some fans were lured by the 49ers’ game against the Rams. However, those fans didn’t have nearly as much fun as the Maples crowd, which saw the Cardinal win 105-50, while the Niners lost 13-10.

To give Vanguard its due, it’s not a Division 1 team, only 10 players were available, and it had played (and lost to) Cal the afternoon before. Nevertheless, it was a plucky team that didn’t quit despite the odds.

All 15 Stanford players were introduced and were in uniform. Fourteen saw action before the final buzzer. Only freshman guard Brittany McPhee, recovering from a foot problem, remained on the bench.

2 seniors, 2 sophomores, 1 freshman make the start

The starting lineup featured two seniors – point guard Amber Orrange and forward Taylor Greenfield. They were joined by two sophomores – guard Lili Thompson and forward Erica “Bird” McCall. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson got the other starting nod and took the opening jump.

Taylor opened the scoring with a basket and free throw. Playing 13 minutes, she finished with 9 points and two rebounds.

Lili was a virtual scoring machine with 26 points in 27 minutes. She also contributed two rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal.

Sophomore Karlie Samuelson, who was first off the bench, added 17 points plus a rebound and two assists in 19 minutes.

Bird with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Kaylee with 12 points and a team-high 16 rebounds were both in double figures.

Karlie was joined off the bench at the 15:54 mark by sophomore Kailee Johnson. Also coming off the bench during the first half were redshirt junior guard Alex Green, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and sophomore guard Briana Roberson.

First half ends 52-22 in Stanford’s favor

The score was 52-22 at the half, thanks to speedy play and a tough defense that sometimes included full-court presses.

The same five starters took to the court for the second half, but Bird made an early exit after apparently tweaking her ankle. After going to the locker room, she soon returned and appeared to be walking normally, but stayed on the bench.

Seeing their first action of the season during the second half were redshirt junior guard Jasmine Camp, senior forward Erica Payne, freshman guard Taylor Rooks and junior forward/center Tess Picknell.

Tess, who received enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, finished with 3 points and was third on the team with seven rebounds in her 10 minutes.

Jasmine had the honor of upping the score to 100 with a free throw at the 3:47 mark.

A few minutes after the final buzzer sounded, the players tossed the coveted victory balls before exiting the court.

Team makes 33.3 percent of 3’s

The team made seven of its 21 3-point attempts, or 33.3 percent. Karlie had three, Lili had two, and Alex and Jasmine had one each.

Free-throw shooting was respectable in the first half, with eight of nine, or 88.9 percent, going through the hoop. Accuracy was down to 57.1 percent in the second half for a game average of 69.6 percent.

After the game, most fans seemed to agree that Kaylee was impressive in her freshman debut.

Although it’s far too early to tell how this team will fare during the regular season, it seems that head coach Tara VanDerveer’s new offensive strategy, which focuses on the team’s speedy guards, is headed in the right direction.

Note: Photos are by Baranduin Briggs. See more Vanguard game photos in FBC FanPix.

October 19, 2014

Preliminary preview of the new team

More than 100 fans of Stanford women’s basketball got their first peek at the 2014-15 edition of the team during an open practice Oct. 17.

With all 15 players in uniform, practice was already under way as fans began arriving at the announced 5 p.m. start time. Most of the players were going through various offensive and defensive plays with no shooting.

As drills continued, sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson was at the opposite basket shooting and making one 3-pointer after another before switching to free throws with equal accuracy.

In the meantime, her sister, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson was pedaling a bike on the sidelines or taking some practice shots. Head coach Tara VanDerveer said later that Bonnie was a bit under the weather.

Male practice players help out

Soon the four male practice players, coached by assistant coach Tempie Brown and alternately joined by junior center/forward Tess Picknell, sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall and senior forward Erica Payne, became involved.

When the men went up against the women in full-court scrimmages, starters for the women were senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Lili Thompson, senior forward Taylor Greenfield, sophomore forward Kailee Johnson and Bird.

They appear to be likely candidates for starting in the season. However, the availability of Bonnie and Karlie, as well as freshman guard Brittany McPhee, might change the picture. Moreover, frequent substitutions altered the lineup during practice.

During this time, several players, especially Taylor, were impressive from the 3-point line.

With the advent of some non-contact drills, Karlie joined in while Bonnie and Brittany observed. The final minutes of practice were devoted to free throws.

Although the players remained serious and focused throughout the practice, their spirits and teamwork seemed high.

Tara introduces players

Tara then gathered the entire team and staff at center court for a few final words. They serenaded trainer Marcella Shorty with “Happy Birthday.”

The Behind the Bench session was short as Tara introduced each player, starting with the three freshmen. “We’re very excited about them,” Tara said, adding that the upperclassmen have been helpful to them.

Besides Brittany, who hails from Washington, the freshmen are guard Taylor Rooks from New Jersey and forward Kaylee Johnson from Wyoming. Tara noted that Kaylee is only the team’s second player from that state and asked fans if they know the first. Many remembered that she was Kristen Newlin, ’07, who plays professionally in Turkey.

In addition to Karlie, Lili, Kailee and Bird, the other sophomore is guard Briana Roberson. Tess is the only junior.

The senior roster includes Amber, Bonnie, Erica, Taylor and guards Alex Green and Jasmine Camp. Alex and Jasmine are redshirts, making them potentially available for another year after this.

After this quick introduction, Tara excused the players, noting that they were to return to practice at 10 a.m. the next day.

Newcomers welcomed

Finally, she introduced the staff, starting with the coaches: associate head coach Amy Tucker, assistant coach Kate Paye and Tempie.

The staff has two newcomers -- Evan Unrau, special assistant to Tara; and Hana Potter, intern. In addition, John Cantalupi, sports information director; Shelley Heward, manager of fan experience and community relations; are new to Stanford and will be promoting the team.

Returning to the staff are Brittany Keil, sports performance coach; Lauren Greif, video coordinator; Marcella; Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations; and Allison Perry, team manager.

It’s too early to predict how this team and individual players will fare during the season. Certainly things will be much different. There’s no apparent superstar on the roster after a succession of great players, most recently Chiney Ogwumike, ’14; and her sister, Nneka, ’12. Both are enjoying great success in their professional basketball careers.

Perhaps a clearer picture will begin to emerge with the exhibition games at home against Vanguard on Nov. 2 and UC San Diego on Nov. 8, both at 2 p.m. The regular season starts at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when the Cardinal host Boston College.

April 28, 2014

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

Having become the Pac-12 season champion and earning a first-round bye as well as the top seed, the Stanford women’s basketball team headed north to Seattle for the conference tournament at KeyArena.

Stanford’s first game was a 69-54 victory over No. 9 seed Colorado on March 7. Colorado did well during the seesaw first half, which ended with the Buffaloes on top 23-21. It was the only the fifth team to be ahead of the Cardinal at the half this season.

The second half was a different story as Stanford made the necessary adjustments and gradually pulled ahead, leading by as many as 19 points with just over five minutes to go.

Four starters were in double figures, led by senior forward Chiney Ogwumike with 19 points plus 11 rebounds for her 23rd double-double of the season.

Freshman guard Lili Thompson contributed 16 points, while junior forward Bonnie Samuelson had 15 points. Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef had 10 plus 16 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.

In an indication of the game’s physicality, Colorado had 28 fouls, the most called on a Cardinal opponent this season. Stanford cashed in by making 21 of 30 free throws, 70 percent. Stanford had 15 fouls, but Colorado made only six of nine FTs. Stanford’s 15-point advantage at the line matched its margin of victory.

Team makes unexpected exit after upset by USC

Prior to the March 8 game against No. 5 seed USC, several dozen fans gathered at the team’s Westin Hotel for an informal chalk talk by assistant coach Tempie Brown and a sendoff for the team.

Speaking of the previous USC game in LA when Stanford was down by 19 points before coming back to win 64-59 on Feb. 21, Tempie said, “It was a really great comeback. Our kids showed a lot of guts and determination.” Stanford went on to defeat USC 86-59 in Maples on Jan. 27.

The outcome was different this time. USC won 72-68 and kept Stanford out of the championship game for the first time ever. It was only the third tournament loss since 2002.

The game was close during the first half, ending in a 32-32 tie.

Only about one minute had elapsed in the second half when Bonnie went down hard, landing on her back and staying on the floor for several minutes before going to the locker room.

Fans were relieved to see her return to the bench at about the 17:28 mark and get back into the game at the 16:07 mark, when USC was ahead 41-36.

Its largest lead was 10 points with 14:30 to go, but Stanford pulled ahead 60-57 at the 5:06 mark. However, USC scored 7 unanswered points to go ahead 67-60 with 1:23 to go. Stanford narrowed the margin to 70-68 with just 26.6 seconds left, but USC scored 2 more points to clinch the 72-68 upset.

Chiney made 30 points, raising her career total to 2,629 and tying her with Stanford’s Candice Wiggins, ’08, for the Pac-12 and Stanford record.

The only other players in double figures were Lili with 13 and junior guard Amber Orrange with 11.

In all, the Cardinal shot only 31.9 percent, its lowest of the season.

Playing its fourth game in four days, USC went on to win the tournament, defeating third-seeded Oregon State 71-62 on March 9.

On to the NCAA tournament

Because of the early exit from the Pac-12 tournament, the players had two weeks to rest, recover and regroup before the NCAA tournament.

When the brackets were announced March 17, the team was somewhat surprised at its No. 2 seed and perhaps even more surprised that it would have to travel to Ames, Iowa, for the first two games.

Nevertheless, junior forward Taylor Greenfield was pleased because she’s from Huxley, Iowa, only about 10 miles from Ames. Therefore her family and friends could easily come to see her play.

The first game was March 22, when Stanford defeated the 15th-seeded University of South Dakota 81-62.

Stanford had four players in double figures: Chiney with 23, Bonnie with 18, Lili with 11 and Amber with 10.

Two days later, on March 24, Stanford defeated No. 10 seed Florida State 63-44. Once again, Chiney led with 21, followed by Lili with 14 and Bonnie with 11. Fans were glad to see Mikaela in her usual spot in the starting lineup after she had suffered a hard fall in the South Dakota game.

Medically retired senior guard Toni Kokenis was at both games, playing flugelhorn with the band.

Home Sweet 16 home

As previously scheduled, Stanford hosted the third and fourth regional rounds, giving the Cardinal a chance to play for the home crowd again.

Because it was an NCAA event, Maples had some new wrinkles, most notably a new floor with a large NCAA logo in the center and the Stanford ‘S’ on either side of the center court line.

Defeating No. 3 seed Penn State 82-57 on March 30, Stanford turned in one of its best performances of the season. It’s no surprise that Chiney led all players with 29 points and 15 rebounds for her 25th double-double of the season.

Amber added 18 points, while Lili and Mikaela had 11 each. Mikaela also had 13 rebounds for her own double-double. Lili also was credited with tenacious defense, limiting Penn State’s best player, Maggie Lucas, to a mere 6 points.

Among those watching the game were some WBB grads. Five of them – Nneka Ogwumike, Lindy La Rocque and Sarah Boothe, ’12; Kayla Pedersen, ’11; and Jayne Appel, ’10 – sat a few rows up from the scorers’ table. Toni joined them after rebounding for the team during warmups.

Many fans as well as present players’ parents stopped by to chat with them. The entire arena erupted in loud cheers when the video board showed them.

After the game, they went to the locker room to celebrate with the team and coaches, who include another Stanford grad, assistant coach Kate Paye,’95.

Other grads at the game were Ros Gold-Onwude,’10; Melanie Murphy, ’11; Vanessa Nygaard and Heather Owen,’98; and Brooke Smith, ’07.

Although many fans left after the game, others stayed for the second game to see whether No. 1 seed South Carolina or No. 4 seed North Carolina would be the Cardinal’s next opponent. North Carolina won that assignment 65-58.

Triumphant farewell before the Final Four

In a game filled with nail-biting moments, Stanford won its Elite Eight game over North Carolina 74-65 on April 1.

Except for Amber’s opening basket, the Cardinal trailed throughout the first half as UNC’s physical defenders bottled up Chiney. The half ended with UNC ahead 36-30, and Chiney had only 4 points. She hadn’t made her first basket until the 14:47 mark.

Stanford finally took a 43-42 lead with 15:32 to go in the second half, thanks to a basket by Chiney. Stanford stayed ahead for the next few minutes. UNC took its final lead, 63-62, at the 3:50 mark, but Stanford’s clutch plays assured the victory.

Chiney finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for her 26th double-double of the season.

Mikaela had a career-high 17 points plus nine rebounds. Nine of her points came from three 3-pointers, the most of her collegiate career. She made numerous other contributions that weren’t on the stat sheet but that were crucial to the win.

Amber had 14 points, while Bonnie had 13 and Lili had 10.

As it was in the win over Penn State, the atmosphere in packed Maples was electrifying, the din deafening.

When the team fell behind 7-16 with 14 minutes to go in the first half, Toni instigated and led the “Go! Stanford!” cheer from her seat. She did so again in the second half when Stanford took its first one-point lead.

She had been on the floor with the team until tipoff, then moved to her seat. She joined the team for the post-game celebration and net-cutting.

With Stanford ahead 54-46 at the 9:38 mark in the second half, freshman forward Kailee Johnson jumped up and down to incite the crowd from her spot on the bench.

When the final buzzer sounded, the screaming bench players streamed onto the court to hug their teammates and jump in elation.

Everyone got hats and gray T-shirts reading “NET WORTHY” with an ‘S’-emblazoned ball going through the basket.

An NCAA official presented the regional championship trophy to Tara, who handed it off to Chiney.

When the all-regional team was announced, its five members included one each from North Carolina and South Carolina plus Amber, Chiney and Mikaela, who was named the regional’s most outstanding player.

Then it was time to cut down the net before preparing for a trip to Nashville and the team’s sixth Final Four in seven years.

UConn prevails again

As the bracket would have it, Stanford’s first opponent was undefeated defending national champion UConn. The Huskies had downed Stanford 76-57 in Storrs, Conn., on Nov. 11, the Cardinal’s second game of the season.

The outcome on April 6 in Bridgestone Arena was almost identical as UConn prevailed 75-56, a 19-point difference again.

UConn went on to defeat previously undefeated Notre Dame 79-58, a 21-point difference, for the national championship on April 8. It was UConn’s ninth overall championship, surpassing Tennessee’s record. Notre Dame had advanced to the final game by defeating Maryland 87-61 in the game preceding Stanford’s.

During its game, Stanford led UConn 16-10 about midway through the first half and kept a lead for 12 minutes, 10 seconds, the longest UConn had been behind all season.

However, UConn edged ahead 28-24 at the end of the first half and just kept going from there.

UConn’s defense and size were too much for Stanford, but rebounding was fairly even with 35 for UConn and 33 for Stanford.

Fouls were a problem, with 16 by the Cardinal and 10 by the Huskies. The Huskies got 17 points from FT’s, while Stanford got only 8. Turnovers were yet another problem, with 13 by Stanford and eight by UConn.

Amber led the team with 16 points, followed by Chiney with 15 and Lili with 12.

Junior forward Erica Payne received the NCAA’s Elite 89 Award, the first Stanford women’s basketball player to do so. The award goes “to the student athlete with the highest GPA participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships” in all three divisions, the NCAA website says. Erica’s GPA is 3.515.

Prior to the game, fans gathered for a reception at the team’s Hilton Hotel across the street from Bridgestone Arena.

They included recent alums like Nneka, Lindy and Grace Mashore, ’12; and Jeanette Pohlen, ’11; along with Kerry Blake,’11, who was the team’s manager for four years.

After the game, the team gathered for one last huddle before waving to the fans and heading for the locker room, joined by Toni.

Later, long-faced fans returned to the hotel in the rain to welcome the team shortly before 11 p.m.

“The outcome was not what we had wanted,” Tara said. However, “I’m exceedingly proud of our team.”

Speaking for the team, Chiney said, “We are so thankful to have fans like you… We competed so hard. … The biggest privilege of my life is the ‘S’ on the front of my jersey.”

One last farewell to the team

The mood was decidedly more upbeat as several hundred people gathered at the Arrillaga Alumni Center for the annual spring banquet April 17.

The evening began with a social hour while fans chatted with each other and the players, who were all dressed up.

Two of the players garnering the most attention were Chiney and Mikaela. Chiney, who earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations at the end of the spring quarter, was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft on April 14. She’ll go to the Connecticut Sun, where she’ll join Kayla.

Mikaela, who completed her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering at the end of the spring quarter, was taken No. 31 in the draft. She’ll go to the Seattle Storm, joining classmate Joslyn Tinkle, '13.

Another focus of attention was senior guard Sara James, who leaves for New York City on May 21 to begin a two-year graduate nursing program at Columbia University.

After a buffet dinner, Tara presided over the program. Noting that returning players would begin spring conditioning April 21, she thanked the many people who help the team and fans behind the scenes.

She also introduced each player, starting with the freshmen and going on to the rest of the team class by class, ending with the seniors.

Along the way, she cited individual accomplishments, such as Lili’s being named to the Pac-12 all-freshman team and Erica’s Elite 89 award. She noted that Bonnie made 62 3-pointers and missed only one free throw all year for a 96 percent success rate at the line.

Amber’s honors included All-Pac 12, honorable mention on the Pac-12 academic team and finalist for the Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s best point guard.

When the seniors came to the front, their framed jerseys served as a backdrop to the dais.

Tara praised Toni for staying with the team and helping her teammates.

She called Sara “a tough competitor” and lauded Mikaela for her improvement since her freshman year. She cited Mikaela’s being named the Stanford regional’s most outstanding player.

Chiney, a three-time All-American, was first on the team in scoring and rebounding, setting Stanford and Pac-12 records in both. Her other honors included the Wooden Award for best female basketball player. She was the first Stanford and Pac-12 player to be accorded the honor.

After a video with highlights from the season, Tara wrapped up the evening by saying, it was “just a fabulous year.”

April 25, 2014

Thanks for the memories: Part 2 of 3

It wasn’t always easy, but the Stanford women’s basketball team won the Pac-12 season championship with only one blip along the way, ending with a 17-1 record in the conference and a 28-2 record overall before the Pac-12 tournament.

Conference play began at home on Jan. 3 when the Cardinal defeated the University of Oregon 96-66.

Less than eight minutes into the game, senior center Chiney Ogwumike snared the 1,267th rebound of her career to move into first place on Stanford’s and the Pac-12’s all-time rebounding list. In doing so, she eclipsed former teammate Kayla Pedersen, ’1l. Earlier in the game, she passed another Cardinal great, Jayne Appel, ’10. In a previous game, she passed her sister Nneka, ’12.

When the record was announced, the crowd of nearly 3,500 accorded her a standing ovation. She received another with 5:34 to go in the game, when she returned to the bench to cheer her teammates.

She finished the game with 33 points, the fifth time she had scored 30 or more points in the season, plus 14 rebounds to register her ninth double-double of the season.

The only other player in double figures was junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, who came off the bench for 17 minutes to score a career-high 21 points, most of them on 6 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc.

Bonnie led the team’s rain of 12 3’s. The others came from junior forward Taylor Greenfield and freshman guard Lili Thompson with two each, while redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp and freshman guard Karlie Samuelson had one each.

All 15 players were available for only the second time in the season, and all 15 played.

Also noteworthy was that the Ducks came into the game with the nation’s highest scoring average of 105.3 points per game. They left with their lowest total of the season.

Chiney gets Pac-12 honors

With Chiney leading the way with 31 points, 13 rebounds and a team- and career-high six assists, the team beat visiting Oregon State 89-67 on Jan. 5.

Another stellar performance came from Lili, who poured in a career-high 19 points and made three of four of her 3’s.

Altogether, the team made seven, or 70 percent, of its 3’s. Taylor had two, while Bonnie and senior guard Sara James had one each.

At halftime fans were treated to a performance by the always popular agility dogs from Ace Dog Sports.

During the Behind the Bench, Karlie and fellow freshman guard Briana Roberson were on hand to answer questions.

On the road to Utah, Colorado and the Arizona schools

The next two weekends found the Cardinal traveling, first to Utah, where the team won 87-61 on Jan. 10.

Chiney’s game-leading 30 points included her first 3-pointer of the season.

Then the team was off to the Rockies, where Colorado fell 87-77 on Jan. 12. Stanford’s 55 first-half points were the most it had scored in a half during the season.

After some less than noteworthy results at the free-throw line in some past games, the Cardinal shot a season-high 87.5 percent (21 of 24).

Karlie had career-highs in points, 19, thanks to five 3’s plus four free throws. Chiney made her second consecutive 3-pointer of the season and finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds, leading to her sixth Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.

After a few days back on the Farm, the team flew to Arizona and a 96-52 victory on Jan. 17.

This game was highlighted by a barrage of 15 3-pointers made of 32 attempted. They came from Karlie with four; Taylor and Bonnie with three each; and junior guard Amber Orrange with two. Chipping in with one each were Lili, Sara and freshman forward Kailee Johnson.

The team’s travels ended with an 80-56 victory over Arizona State on Jan. 20.

Back to the Bay Area

Despite what appears to have been a lopsided score, 72-55, over UCLA at home on Jan. 24, it was far from an easy win.

UCLA had only eight healthy players, but they were well prepared in trying to keep Chiney in check and limiting the perimeter attack. At slightly more than halfway into the first half, for example, the Bruins were ahead 15-14 and Chiney had scored only 2 points.

The score seesawed throughout the first half, which ended in the Cardinal’s favor, 36-35. It stayed close partly into the second half until the Cardinal widened its lead and Chiney went to work. Despite being on the bench for about two minutes with her fourth foul, she came back to finish the game with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Also in double figures were Lili with 15, freshman forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 12, and Sara with 11.

The officiating crew ended plays with a whistle 29 times. Some of the whistles, as well as the lack thereof, drew boos from the crowd of 4,434. A woman who used loud, foul language to express her displeasure was ejected.

The next game was a little easier, as USC fell 86-59 on Jan. 27 at Maples. All 15 Cardinal players got into the game and made positive contributions, if only a rebound or assist. Kailee played for four minutes without the face mask she had worn since her nose was broken in the New Mexico game on Dec. 16.

Chiney had 30 points and 12 rebounds. Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef had 11 points and 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. She also made her second 3-pointer of the season.

Battles of the Bay

It wasn’t just the relatively late hour that wearied many Cardinal fans at home but the relatively close score, 70-64, over Cal on Jan. 30.

Stanford had led by as many as 30 points with 13:35 to go in the second half. That’s when Cal began closing the gap and outscored Stanford 39-27 for that half. However, Stanford had led 43-25 after the first half.

Free throws helped, too, with Stanford making 11 of 16, or 68.8 percent, compared with Cal’s six of 12, or 50 percent.

Chiney had only 11 points in the first half, while Karlie had 12. She electrified the crowd by hitting a 3 in the last second of that half. She finished the game with 14 points, second only to Chiney’s 23.

Many members of the band as well as a number of fans wore black T-shirts reading “We A.R.E. Pride.” The initials stand for Athletes Reaching Equality, an initiative started by medically retired senior guard Toni Kokenis and Cal guard Mikayla Lyles.

Its purpose is to “promote safe and supportive communities for LBGT athletes as well as to raise awareness of LGBT issues in sports,” according to the Stanford Daily.

Four days later, on Feb. 2, the second round of the Battle of the Bay got under way at Cal, but this time things were easier for the Cardinal, who won 79-64.

One difference is that officials in the second game were quicker to blow the whistle, calling 27 fouls on Cal and 16 on Stanford. The Cardinal didn’t have its first foul until 8:38 in the first half, when Cal already had seven.
Stanford cashed in by making a season-high 24 of 30 free throws, 80 percent. Cal made 12 of 21, or 57.1 percent.

Karlie was 7-for-7 at the charity stripe. She made six of her FTs as time began to run out and Cal deliberately fouled her. She finished second on the team with 16 points.

Chiney had 29. Her performance in the two Cal games led to her seventh Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.

Tripping up on the Washington trip

Journeying north, Stanford defeated Washington State 77-69 on Feb. 7. Chiney led the team with 36 points and 17 rebounds. Taylor and Amber also were in double figures with 11 each.

Then came the season shocker: Washington defeated the Cardinal 87-82 on Feb. 9. All five Huskies starters were in double figures, compared with three Stanford starters and one bench player. Chiney had 23, while Mikaela had 16 and Lili had 13. Bonnie came off the bench for 14.

The loss dropped the Cardinal to No. 6 from No. 3 in AP’s national rankings. It also caused the team to look at what went wrong. Part of the problem was attributed to lack of defensive intensity.

Back on the winning track

Therefore, when the team returned home to host Arizona State on Feb. 14, it ratcheted up its defense against the No. 15 Sun Devils and won 61-35. It held the opponent to a mere 1 point from a free throw until 11:51 in the first half. That’s when the first ASU shot went in, making the score 14-3.

The Cardinal had its largest lead, 55-23, at 8:32 in the second half, with mostly bench players on the court. Chiney was already done with 20 points and 13 rebounds for her 19th double-double of the season.

One oddity is that the Cardinal made none of its four 3-point shots. ASU was 1 for 12 on 3’s.

Cardinal in the pink

Soundly defeating Arizona 74-48 at home Feb. 16, the Cardinal clinched a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. That victory, combined with the earlier one over ASU, elevated Stanford to No. 5 from No. 6 in the AP poll.

A footnote to this victory is that the Wildcats had only six players in uniform. Stanford had 14, with all of them getting into the game. Karlie didn’t play because of a sore foot, but she could have if needed. She felt it would be better to give her foot a chance to heal, said head coach Tara VanDerveer, praising the maturity of her decision.

Despite the odds, Arizona played with heart and went ahead or kept the game close for the first few minutes. Then the Cardinal took over and never looked back, ending the first half with a 48-19 advantage. The Wildcats outscored the Cardinal 29-26 in the second half, when bench players were getting major minutes.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for Stanford was 3’s, with Bonnie living up to her nickname, “Lights Out,” by going 5 for 8 and finishing with a team-high 17 points.

Altogether, the team made 13 of 24 treys for 54.2 percent. Besides Bonnie’s five, Amber added three, while Taylor and Lili had two each and Kailee had one.

Playing a season-low 22 minutes, Chiney had 15 points and nine rebounds.

Because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day, pink was evident throughout Maples.

After the game, Lili attended the Behind the Bench for a traditional freshman introduction. The youngest of three girls and three boys, she introduced her parents, brother and a toddler niece. As a Texan, she had known Amber, Chiney and redshirt sophomore Alex Green before coming to Stanford. Her parents have since moved to San Jose.

As for a major, she’s leaning toward science, technology and society. Asked about her once-stated aim to become president, she said, “Aim high. That’s what I say.”

Off to SoCal

Journeying south, Stanford defeated the University of Southern California 64-59 on Feb. 21, but it was a far from easy victory.

The team came back from a 19-point deficit (13-32 in the first half) to tie its biggest comeback in its history and to tie for eighth-largest comeback in NCAA Division I. Stanford previously overcame a 19-point deficit on Nov. 25, 2007, against Temple in the U.S. Virgin Islands and won the game 63-54.

Finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds, Chiney posted her 23rd 20-point game of the season. Bonnie recorded her sixth game in double figures, scoring 14 points and going 8 for 8 from the FT line. The latter was a career high.

Lili missed the game because of a sprained ankle. Karlie started in her place.

When Stanford visited UCLA on Feb. 23, Tara altered the starting lineup. Joining regulars Chiney and Amber were Bird, Bonnie and freshman guard Briana Roberson. It was the first start for Bonnie and Briana, the second for Bird.

The team finished with a 65-56 victory that clinched its 14th consecutive Pac-12 regular season title.

Payback time against Washington

When Washington came calling on Feb. 27, there was no way the Cardinal would allow it a chance to repeat its victory three weeks earlier.

Instead, Stanford turned the tables with an 83-60 win at home, where 2014 had already been added to the Pac-12 list on the championship banner.

The Huskies were short-handed with only nine players in uniform, while all 15 Cardinal players were available. The starting lineup featured Chiney, Mikaela, Bonnie, Lili and Amber.

Together they scored 71 points, led by Chiney with 32 plus 11 rebounds. Bonnie scored 14 points while Lili had 11 and Amber had 10. Mikaela made her biggest contribution under the boards with a game-high 14 of the team’s 50 rebounds. She also had 4 points.

Shortly after the lead swelled to as much as 30 points with under 7 minutes to go in the second half, the starters were done for the night, turning the game over to their teammates.

The crowd included Chiney’s family, including Nneka. She was seeing Chiney play in person for the first time this season after returning from playing professionally in China.

Senior Night, the last regular season home game

With more than 5,600 fans in Maples Pavilion, March 1 was emotion-packed as the team defeated Washington State 84-64 and honored its four seniors on Senior Night.

Even before the game started, the occasion was evident as several members of the band sported tie dye or wore T-shirts honoring Toni, who played flugelhorn with the band when she wasn’t involved with the team.

Also before the game, Tara presented flowers to the WSU seniors. Then it was time to introduce the starters, a ritual featuring an upbeat video, “Feel the Moment,” with highlights from the season. The starters were Chiney, Mikaela, Bonnie, Lili and Amber.

Chiney scored a career-high 37 points to go with 13 rebounds. Even though she had four fouls as the clock ticked down, Tara kept her in long enough to reach her record. With slightly more than two minutes left, she went to the bench, the crowd gave her a standing ovation, and the band chanted, “We love you.”

A few second later, with the lead at 82-62, all starters were on the bench, leaving their teammates to retain a 20-point lead.

After the game, the team tossed the traditional victory balls to the crowd, then joined the cheerleaders, Dollies, Trees (there were three that night) and band for “Hail, Stanford, Hail.”

Then the festivities began. The players received Pac-12 championship T-shirts, and a Pac-12 official presented the championship trophy to Chiney.

After a video honoring the seniors, each was escorted to center court by her family to receive flowers from Tara while announcer Betty Ann Boeving enumerated the player’s accomplishments.

Toni, wearing her No. 31 home jersey, was first, followed by Sara, Mikaela and Chiney.

The post-game Behind the Bench was devoted to the seniors, who sat in a semi-circle with their parents. The team sat behind them.

Toni, who will earn her degree in sociology, said she’s staying at Stanford to pursue a master’s degree in the same subject. She’s also starting a nonprofit, We A.R.E. Project, intending to give all student athletes a voice in seeking equality. “She came to practice every day” and supported her teammates, said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Sara, a human biology major, will go to Columbia University immediately after graduation to study in its master’s degree program for becoming a nurse practitioner.

Mikaela, after earning her bachelor’s degree in management science and engineering last spring, will receive her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering this spring. At the time, she wasn’t sure what she’d do next. As it turned out, she was drafted by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm a few weeks later.

After earning her degree in international relations, Chiney was widely expected to be a high WNBA draft pick (which she was, going No. 1 to the Connecticut Sun in April).

Then several players stepped forth to represent the team in honoring the seniors. Kailee spoke about Mikaela. She was followed by Erica P. talking about Sara. Redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green saluted Toni, and redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp honored Chiney.

Each senior’s parents also spoke, and Tara had good things to say about each one.

Next: The Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments

April 24, 2014

Thanks for the memories, Part 1 of 3

During a 2013-14 season that went from coast to coast and took the players to two foreign countries, the Stanford women’s basketball team compiled a 33-4 record and went to its sixth Final Four in seven years.

This series of three articles will recall how it all unfolded.

For the players returning from the 2012-13 season, the new season began with workouts and conditioning right after the 2013 spring banquet. Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, an international relations major, had an internship in Nigeria during the spring quarter.

Because of new NCAA rules allowing coaches some time to work with players during the summer, all returning players and the five incoming freshmen attended summer school or were in the area and available for practice. Several players helped out at head coach Tara VanDerveer’s summer hoops camps for youngsters.

Tempie, Brittany join the staff

The team had a new assistant coach, Tempie Brown, a 14-year coaching veteran who joined the Stanford staff after recently being promoted to associate head coach at Michigan State University. She replaced Trina Patterson, who went to Old Dominion University in Virginia, her home state, after two years at Stanfor

Also new to the Stanford staff was sports performance coach Brittany Keil, who came to Stanford from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where she was an assistant strength and conditioning coach. She also played basketball there.

The team’s summer climaxed with a 10-day trip to Italy, Aug. 27-Sept. 5. Visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, the players combined sightseeing and competing, playing against three Italian women’s teams.

Because of this trip, the team was allowed to practice for two hours a day during the 10 days before leaving, said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Fans, alums enjoy open practice on Homecoming Day

Fans at home got their first glimpse of the new edition of the team during an open practice Oct. 19, Homecoming Day. This was the first time that fans saw the effect of a new rule giving teams only 10 seconds to cross the center line after gaining possession of the ball. It wasn’t a problem for the Cardinal.

Fans also got their first look at the freshmen: forwards Erica McCall and Kailee Johnson and guards Lili Thompson, Karlie Samuelson and Briana Roberson. Only Erica, Karlie and Kailee practiced. The other two, plus junior forwards Erica Payne and Bonnie Samuelson, were at the north end of the court working out with Brittany.

Also with the team but not participating was senior guard Toni Kokenis, who took medical retirement in July after several concussions in previous seasons. She went on to remain with the team throughout the season.

Observers also included a dozen WBB alums who were on campus for homecoming.

Competition starts with exhibition win

The next chance to see the team came with a 79-47 exhibition victory at home against Vanguard on Nov. 3. The win came even though the team was shorthanded. Briana, senior guard Sara James and junior forwards Taylor Greenfield, Erica P. and Bonnie were unavailable.

The starters were Chiney, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef, junior point guard Amber Orrange, redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green and Kailee.

Everyone scored, but Chiney led the way with 27 points and 15 rebounds in 21 minutes. Her contributions were nearly equaled by Kailee and Erica McCall, who teamed up for 27 points (13 and 14, respectively) and 13 rebounds (nine and four, respectively).

After the game, the team gathered in front of the bench while Tara introduced each player. “This is going to be a great season,” Tara said. “We’re playing a tremendous schedule.”

On the road to the East Coast

The season started for real with an East Coast trip that took the team to Boston College on Nov. 9 and defending national champion UConn on Nov. 11.

It started on a victorious note with an 83-71 win in Massachusetts. For the record, Alex scored the first official basket of the season, and Amber was just one rebound short of a triple double with 19 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Chiney scored 30 points.

Things got tougher two days later when UConn topped the Cardinal 76-57. Amber led the team with a career-high 22 points. Chiney had 16.

Back home for two wins

Then it was back to the friendly confines of Maples Pavilion, where Stanford defeated Cal Poly 86-51 on Nov. 15.

Tara reconfigured the starting lineup somewhat, inserting Lili in place of Alex, who had started the previous two games. Otherwise, the starters were the same: Chiney, Mikaela, Amber and Kailee.

Playing only 30 minutes, Chiney scored a career-high 36 points plus 11 rebounds for her 61st career double-double. Ten of the 12 available players added to the final score. (Taylor, Erica P. and Briana were in street clothes.)

Mikaela contributed a career-high and team-high 14 rebounds plus a team-high seven assists, most of them nifty passes to Chiney.

Tara praises freshmen

The team chalked up another home win on Nov. 17, defeating UC Davis 66-48. During the Behind the Bench after the game, Tara praised the five freshmen, saying they’re all “spectacular. They’re really fabulous young players.”

Nevertheless, they’re still adapting to Stanford basketball. “We’re not running a lot of plays” because there are so many young players. “They have to learn the system and study scouting reports,” Tara said.

Fans heard from two of the freshmen, Kailee and Erica McCall, nicknamed “Bird.”

Kailee, who hails from Portland, Ore., said that although it’s too early to declare a major, she’s interested in business and might major in science, technology and society.

“All the freshmen have bonded,” said Bird, who comes from Bakersfield, where her father, Greg, is coach of the CSU Bakersfield women’s basketball team. Her older sister, DeWanna Bonner, plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

Bird was in the starting lineup for the first time, joining Lili, Chiney, Mikaela and Amber. Briana, Taylor and Erica P. were still unavailable.

Long road trip starts in Texas, continues in Mexico

It was back on the road again, as the team traveled to Texas and recorded a victory on Nov. 23. In the starting lineup were Chiney, Mikaela, Karlie, Lili and Amber.

Texas limited Chiney in the first half and led 37-17. Then Chiney asserted herself, and the team outscored Texas 33-17 in the second half to win the game 63-54. Chiney had 18 points.

From there the team flew to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for the Hardwood Tournament of Hope during the Thanksgiving break.

The team had a lot to be thankful for, enjoying successive wins over Purdue, 86-69, on Nov. 26; Florida Gulf Coast, 83-59, on Nov. 27; and South Dakota State, 80-60, on Nov. 28.

Tara chalks up 900th career win

The Florida Gulf Coast victory marked Tara’s 900th career win. After the South Dakota State victory, the team was awarded the tournament championship trophy and Chiney was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Also noteworthy in that latter game is that the freshmen accounted for 30 points. Kailee had 10, Bird 9, Karlie 8 and Lili 3. Chiney had 29 and Amber 13.

When the team returned to Maples after its long road trip and 16 days off for finals, it defeated Gonzaga 73-45 on Dec. 14.

Home fans honor Tara

After the game, the team and fans as well as the Gonzaga players stayed to honor Tara for her earlier 900th career victory. While the video board flashed highlights of her career, the Stanford women donned red T-shirts emblazoned with “900.”

Stanford president John Hennessy and athletic director Bernard Muir unveiled a framed white Stanford jersey with Tara’s last name and the number 900. Joining Tara at center court was her mother, Rita, who had surprised her with a visit the night before.

Yet another reason to celebrate that night is that Taylor and Erica Payne returned to action for the first time this season. Briana, still rehabbing from an injury, was in uniform but didn’t play. Karlie was in street clothes.

At the beginning of the game, fans honored Nicole Powell, ’04, who was 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 before tipoff. The video board showed highlights of her Stanford accomplishments followed by a prolonged ovation.

An earlier video honored the Stanford football team for winning the Pac-12 conference to earn the right to play in its second consecutive Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

A subsequent video featured WBB highlights. It ended, “Tradition never graduates.”

Chiney joins 2,000/1,000 club

When the team defeated New Mexico 75-41 at home on Dec. 16, Chiney marked a major milestone in her career when she became the only the fifth Stanford WBB player in history to score at record at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career.

Thus she joined an exclusive club whose members are her sister Nneka, ’12; Jayne Appel,’10; Nicole, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.

By the time the game was over, she had scored a total of 32 points to go with seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

Stanford upsets Tennessee; all players in uniform

There were plenty of presents under the Tree for the team and more than 6,000 fans when Tennessee came to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 21.

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

Second, Chiney had a dominating game, playing all 40 minutes, scoring 32 points and snaring 20 rebounds. When she scored her 14th point with 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 she 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, though, only nine got onto the court.

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, when the team was honored, the team chants this question and response at every game, starting softly and building to a roar.

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

Win in Fresno concludes pre-conference schedule

Wrapping up its pre-conference schedule and the year 2013, the team traveled to Fresno State for an 86-54 win on Dec. 28. The victory upped the Cardinal record to 11-1 and kept its national ranking at No. 4 for the second straight week.

Because Sara was unable to play (as was Karlie), Taylor started in her place. She played 25 minutes and scored 18 points to go with six rebounds.

Chiney played only 23 minutes yet had 20 points and 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season. She upped her career total to 2,079 points, moving her into fifth place on Stanford’s all-time scoring list. Her career rebounding total rose to 1,257, putting her just six behind Jayne for second and nine behind the Pac-12 and Stanford record of 1,266 held by Kayla Pedersen, ’11.

Briana got into the game for the first time since a three-minute stint in the UConn game. This time she played seven minutes. When she made a free throw, the first point of her collegiate career, she was roundly cheered by her teammates and fans. She had been limited by an injury.

Another highlight was the team’s season-high 12 3-pointers. Taylor and Bonnie had four each, while Amber had three and Mikaela had one.

Next: Pac-12 competition