January 29, 2014

Fun for everyone except USC

All 15 members of the Stanford women’s basketball team got into the act as the team defeated the University of Southern California 86-59 on Jan. 27 at Maples Pavilion.

Not everyone scored, but nearly everyone made at least one positive contribution such as a rebound or assist. Worth noting is that freshman forward Kailee Johnson played her four minutes without the face mask she has worn since her nose was broken in the New Mexico game Dec. 16. She had one rebound.

As usual, much of the heavy lifting was done by senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a team-high 34 minutes. This was her 10th game with at least 30 points and her 15th with a double-double.

Four join Chiney in double figures

She wasn’t the only player in double figures, though. Major contributions came from junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman guard Lili Thompson with 12 points each, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef with 11 and freshman guard Karlie Samuelson with 10.

Mikaela added 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. In her 31 minutes, she also recorded one assist and two steals. Her point total included her second 3-pointer of the season.

Amber had one steal, six assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes. Playing 24 minutes, Lili had one rebound and three assists.

Undefeated in Pac-12 play so far, the Cardinal dominated the second-place Trojans in rebounds, 42-28, and assists, 22-9. The teams were even in blocks with two each, while the Trojans had four steals to the Cardinal’s three.

For the game, Stanford shot 50.8 percent to USC’s 37.5 percent. Stanford hit 78.9 percent of its free throws (an improvement over some games), while USC hit 68.2 percent. Mikaela, Amber and Karlie were all perfect from the free-throw line.

Team hits seven 3’s
Stanford prevailed from beyond the arc, hitting seven of its 20 attempts for 35 percent. USC hit two of 15 for 13.3 percent.

The 3-point party came courtesy of Lili and Karlie, who had two each. Mikaela, senior forward Sara James and redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green had one each. The crowd of 3,360 was especially pleased by Alex’s trey in her six minutes on the court.

Stanford had only seven turnovers, while USC had nine. Personal fouls were close with 19 for Stanford and 20 for USC. The Trojans amassed four of them in less than two minutes into the second half.

Game goes on national TV

The game was nationally televised by ESPN2 with star commentating power provided by retired basketball greats Bill Walton and Rebecca Lobo. As Bill stood on the sidelines before the game, Lili’s father went to talk with him.

The game was witnessed in person by head coach Tara VanDerveer’s mother, Rita.

USC held the lead only twice and tied only twice. Otherwise, Stanford pulled steadily ahead, leading by as many as 28 points with 8:46 to go in the second half. With slightly more than three minutes left, the players who had put in the most time were on the bench, ceding the action to teammates making their first appearance of the evening.

With an 8-0 Pac 12 record and 19-1 overall, Stanford has two challenging games ahead as it hosts cross-bay rival Cal on Jan. 30 before visiting Berkeley on Feb. 2 for the second round of the Battle of the Bay. Cal’s conference record is 6-2, its overall record 14-5.

January 26, 2014

Stanford overcomes UCLA in tight game

It wasn’t pretty, but still, a win is a win, and that’s what the Stanford women’s basketball team got with a 72-55 score over UCLA Jan. 24 in Maples Pavilion.

Even though UCLA had only eight healthy players, their coaching staff had prepared them well. Thus UCLA for the most part did a good job of not only trying to keep senior forward Chiney Ogwumike in check but also limiting the Cardinal’s usually strong 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 game was a seesaw battle throughout the first half, which ended 36-35 in Stanford’s favor, and during the first five or so minutes of the second. The score was 47-41 at the 15:39 mark, and the Cardinal gradually widened the lead thereafter. For the game, the lead changed 14 times, and the score was tied twice.

Chiney leads the way; teammates pitch in

Chiney was on the bench for about two minutes in the second half after collecting her fourth foul, but she returned to finish the game with a team-high 21 points and 15 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season. She also had one assist, two blocks and a steal in her 37 minutes.

It’s not unusual for Chiney to score 30 or more points in a game, but several of her teammates picked up the slack.

Playing 36 minutes, freshman guard Lili Thompson had 15 points for her seventh double-figure game of the season and her third in a row. She also chalked up two rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block.

Another freshman, forward Erica “Bird” McCall, was right behind her with a season-high 12 points to go with eight rebounds, one assist and one block in 17 minutes.

Also scoring in double figures was senior guard Sara James with 11 points. Playing 16 minutes, she had five rebounds and two assists. Nine of Sara’s points came from perfect 3-point shooting, 3-for-3. Lili had the team’s other two treys.

For the game, the team had 45 rebounds to UCLA’s 30. The Cardinal also had the edge in assists, 20-13, while the Bruins had five blocks to Stanford’s four and six steals to Stanford’s three.

Stanford has 16 turnovers

UCLA did better in the turnover department, amassing only six to Stanford’s 16.
The Bruins had 16 fouls, while Stanford had 13. The Bruins were four-for-four on free throws for 100 percent, while Stanford was five-for-seven for 71.4 percent.

The officiating crew ended plays with a whistle 29 times. Some of those whistles, as well as the lack thereof, elicited prolonged booing from the Maples crowd of 4,434.

A woman seated a few rows up from the Stanford bench apparently was so upset with the officiating that she came up with some foul language that could be heard across the court and into the upper level where I sit. At the request of a referee, a Stanford staff member fetched a sheriff’s deputy, who ejected her with 7:20 to go in the second half.

Overall, the crowd was loud, encouraging the team and cheering for baskets and other well-executed plays. A full student contingent of the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree was there to cheer, too.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer sent only nine of the available 14 players into the game. The 15th, freshman forward Kailee Johnson, was in street clothes.

Stanford Taiko entertains at halftime

Halftime entertainment was by Stanford Taiko. Its 10 students treated fans to a display of exciting traditional Japanese drumming and precise choreography.

Also at halftime, the women’s tennis and track & field teams were honored as representatives of the 53 national championships amassed by Stanford’s women’s teams over the years. Their appearance followed the ninth annual Women in Sports Reception at the Arrillaga Alumni Center before the game.

Yet another honoree at halftime was senior Julia Landauer, a championship race car driver who has appeared on TV’s “Survivor” series.

The Cardinal’s next game is at home on Jan. 27, when USC visits. The Trojans, fresh from their 77-70 upset over Cal on Jan. 24, will undoubtedly try to repeat that feat against Stanford.

USC’s 7-1 Pac-12 record is second only to Stanford’s 7-0. For the season, Stanford is 18-1, while USC is 14-6.

January 7, 2014

Chiney gets lots of help from her friends

Once again senior forward Chiney Ogwumike led the way as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated visiting Oregon State 89-67 on Jan. 5.

In a performance that helped her earn her fifth Pac-12 Player of the Week honor this season, Chiney scored 31 points and recorded 13 rebounds, a team-high and career-high six assists, two blocks and three steals in 33 minutes.

Because OSU has a 6’6” center, Chiney sometimes moved out from her customary position under the basket and made several mid-range jumpers, some of them just inches from the 3-point line.

A basket that came with just over 11 minutes to go in the first half pushed Chiney’s career point total to fourth on Stanford’s all-time list, bypassing Jayne Appel, ’10, who had 2,125. Chiney now has a total of 2,143.

Lili makes big contributions

However, it wasn’t all the Chiney show. Another stellar performance came from freshman guard Lili Thompson, who poured in a career-high 19 points and matched her career high of five rebounds and five assists. Thanks to her hustle and pesky defense, she also had two steals.

Playing a team-high 37 minutes, she made three of four of her 3-point shots, included a 3 that opened Stanford’s scoring. Her performance led to a post-game TV interview by commentator and Stanford basketball alum Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10.

Also in double figures was junior forward Taylor Greenfield, who came off the bench for 23 minutes to score 13 points, making two of her three 3-point shots. Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef added 10 points and had six rebounds in her 35 minutes.

All told, the team made seven, or 70 percent, of its 10 3-point attempts. Besides Lili and Taylor, those hitting 3’s were senior guard Sara James and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson with one each.

The score was 50-30 at the half, but the scrappy Beavers made adjustments and stayed within striking distance. They scored 37 points to Stanford’s 39 in the second half, but their efforts – even with 10 3-pointers for the game – weren’t enough to overcome the first half deficit.

Stanford dominated in several statistical lines, including assists – 22-6; turnovers, 6-16; and steals, 9-3. OSU had four blocks to Stanford’s two, both by Chiney.

No official attendance figures were released, but I estimate the crowd at about 3,000. The 49er wild card playoff game in frigid Green Bay, Wis., no doubt cut into the attendance. Some fans kept track of that game, which ended in a 49er victory about an hour after the women’s game was over.

The dogs have their day

Fans who opted for live basketball over televised football were treated not only to another Stanford win but also to the annual Dog Lovers Day. This event was highlighted by the annual exhibition by dogs of several breeds and sizes from Ace Dog Sports.

Humorous dog videos were shown during breaks in the action, probably drawing attention from the Dollies, Tree and band. Although it was difficult to choose, my favorite video featured a skateboarding bulldog.

During the post-game Behind the Bench session, associate head coach Amy Tucker brought out freshman guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson to greet the fans. Because they were hesitant to introduce and talk about themselves, Amy let them skip that part and go right to questions from the audience.

“It’s great,” Karlie said about playing with elder sister Bonnie again. “I’ve forgotten what it was like playing with Bonnie. She’s my mentor.”

Because an injury had kept Briana on the bench during several games, she could hear and learn from what the coaches and players were saying. “When I get out there, I’ve tried to execute what we preach,” she said.

Bri’s parents, brother and an aunt were at the game, as was the Samuelsons’ mother. There’s one more Samuelson sister at home. “We’re hoping that she comes here, but she hasn’t decided,” Karlie said to an inquiring fan.

Tara heaps praise on team

Next to address the fans was head coach Tara VanDerveer. “This is a great weekend for us to come out of the gate,” she said, referring to the lopsided wins over Oregon and Oregon State to open Pac-12 competition. In addition, “we really took care of the ball."

“We got a lot of positives this weekend,” she said, praising players like Lili, who “had a great game today. … Lili is a baller.”

She had more praise for several other players, including Mikaela, Taylor and redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green. As for Chiney, she’s “the best player hands down in the country. … She can do it all.”

Tara also was pleased with the weekend’s scouting done by assistant coaches Kate Paye and Tempie Brown. “We study tendencies of players” in scouting, then try to keep them from doing what they do best.

“We’ve got a really, really good team” and players who support one another, Tara said.
“We’ve got really, really, really competitive practices. We’re having a great season.”

Next up for the team are two consecutive road trips to Utah on Jan. 10 and Colorado on Jan. 12, followed by the Arizona schools Jan. 17 and 20.

January 5, 2014

Standing O’s for C.O.

Fans awarded senior forward Chiney Ogwumike two standing ovations during the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 96-66 victory over the University of Oregon on Jan. 3.

The first came with 12:20 to go in the home contest. That’s when she snared the 1,267th rebound of her collegiate career to move into first place on Stanford’s and the Pac-12’s all-time rebounding lists.

In so doing, she eclipsed former teammate Kayla Pedersen, ’11. Earlier in the game, she passed another Cardinal great, Jayne Appel, ’10. In a previous game she passed her older sister, Nneka, ’12.

Since the totals for the other three players came in their last games for Stanford, it seems possible that it will be a long, long time before anyone will equal or surpass Chiney’s eventual record.

The second standing ovation from the Maples crowd of 3,495 came with 5:34 to go, when she returned to the bench to cheer her teammates for the rest of the game.

Playing 33 minutes, she finished with a total of 33 points, the fifth time this season that she has scored 30 points or more, plus 14 rebounds to register her ninth double-double of the season. For her career, she has 2,112 points, 13 points behind Jayne’s 2,125 total, which is fourth-best for Stanford.

Hot-handed Bonnie shoots 66.6 percent from beyond the arc

Junior forward Bonnie Samuelson came off the bench for 17 minutes to score 21 points, a career high and the second-most points for her team. Most of her points came from 6 of 9 shooting from behind the arc. She also was fouled while making a layup and made the free throw for her other 3 points. She and Chiney were the only Stanford players in double figures.

Bonnie led the team’s rain of 12 3’s. Also contributing were 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. Bonnie made one of her 3’s off an assist from younger sister Karlie.

All 15 players were available for action for only the second time this season. All 15 got into the game, and 12 scored. Bench players accounted for 47 of the team’s points, balancing 49 from the starters – Chiney, Lili, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef, senior guard Sara James and junior point guard Amber Orrange.

Stanford defense holds Ducks to a season low

Oregon had come into the game with the nation’s best scoring average of 105.3 points per game. The Ducks left with their lowest total of the season.

Stanford dominated the Ducks in other statistics with a 28-10 advantage in assists, led by Amber’s eight, and a 49-42 advantage in rebounds. Other stats were closer. Stanford had 15 turnovers to Oregon’s 16, while blocks (four each) and steals (11 each) were even. The Ducks had the edge in fouls – 18 to Stanford’s 21.

Stanford had a slight edge in free throw shooting percentage – 53.3 percent to Oregon’s 52.2 percent. However, Oregon made more free throws -- 12 of 23 compared with Stanford’s 8 of 15.

With its run-and-gun offense, Oregon had kept the game fairly close in the early minutes, but Chiney and company kept pulling ahead, making the score 51-34 at halftime, By then the Cardinal already had nine 3’s.

After this conference-opening victory, the team returns Jan. 5 to host Oregon State. The new academic term starts the next day.

January 1, 2014

2013 ends on winning note

The Stanford women’s basketball team rounded out its pre-conference season with an 86-54 win at Fresno State on Dec. 28. The victory upped the Cardinal record to 11-1 and allowed the team to rank No. 4 nationally for the second straight week.

It was difficult to estimate how many Stanford fans were part of the reported attendance of 4,833 because the Save Mart Center is so vast and because red is Fresno’s color, too. Nevertheless, it seemed as if Cardinal fans numbered in the low hundreds. A few of them had gathered at a nearby taco place for snacks or dinner before the game.

The game was scheduled for 6 p.m., just two hours after the start of a Fresno men’s game. Therefore, the women were given only 30 minutes to warm up after the end of the men’s game, pushing the game’s start to about 6:15 p.m.

While fans waited for tipoff, a small Carl’s Jr. blimp floated overhead, dispensing coupons.

Taylor joins starting lineup

The starting lineup was different from several previous games because senior guard Sara James was not in uniform (nor was freshman guard Karlie Samuelson). Therefore, junior forward Taylor Greenfield started in Sara’s place. She played 25 minutes and scored 18 points to go with six rebounds.

Starting senior forward Chiney Ogwumike played only 23 minutes yet scored 20 points and had 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 Appel, ’10, for second and nine behind the Pac-12 and Stanford record of 1,266 set by Kayla Pedersen, ’11.

Also in the starting lineup were redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef (5 points, seven rebounds in 27 minutes), freshman guard Lili Thompson (5 points, two rebounds in 22 minutes) and junior point guard Amber Orrange (15 points, one rebound in 25 minutes). Mikaela led the team in assists with a career high of eight, followed by Amber with six.

The Bulldogs kept the game close for the first 10 minutes or so, but then the Cardinal pulled ahead, ending the first half with a 43-31 margin.

The margin widened in the second half, allowing head coach Tara VanDerveer to rest the starters and give everyone else a chance to play. All but two scored.

Briana scores first collegiate point

With 8:46 to go and the score at 76-48, freshman guard Briana Roberson got off the exercise bike where she was warming up and checked in for the first time since she had played three minutes late 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. Briana has been limited by an injury.

One major highlight of the game was the Cardinal’s season-high 12 3-pointers. Taylor and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson had four each, while Amber had three and Mikaela had one.

Although Stanford shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc and 48.5 percent overall, free throws remained a problem. Stanford had 16 fouls, while Fresno State had 17, yet Stanford made only 10 of 18 free throws, or 55.6 percent. By comparison, Fresno State hit 13 of 16, or 81.3 percent, of its free throws. These numbers could be significant in a close game.

The rebounding margin was narrowly in Stanford’s favor, 45-40. On the other hand, Stanford had wide edges in assists, 26-4; blocks, 7-0; and steals, 7-4. Fresno had 14 turnovers to Stanford’s eight.

With the calendar turning to 2014, Pac-12 competition begins, starting with the Oregon schools at home Jan. 3 and 5.