February 16, 2014

Back on the winning track

After a disappointing 87-82 loss at Washington the previous weekend, the Stanford women’s basketball team returned home to rout Arizona State 61-35 on Feb. 14.

The loss to unranked Washington 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.

Therefore, the team ratcheted up its defense against No. 15 ASU, holding the opponent to a mere 1 point from a free throw until 11:51 in the first half. That’s when the first Sun Devil shot went in, making the score 14-3. By the end of the first half, Stanford led 32-12 and never looked back.

The home team had its largest lead, 55-23 -- 32 points -- at 8:32 in the second half. By then the Cardinal were represented mainly by bench players. Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike was already done for the night after leading the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds to go with one assist, one block and two steals in 27 minutes. It was her 19th double-double this season.

No success with 3-pointers

At the Washington game, the Cardinal attempted 41 3-pointers but made only nine, or 22 percent. This time, the team shot only four times from beyond the arc with zero success. The last time it made no 3’s was in its 62-53 victory at Cal on Jan. 8, 2013. ASU was only 1 for 12 on 3’s.

This time the emphasis seemed to be twofold. One was to get the ball to Chiney, who shot 10 for 12, or to the other posts, leading to 38 total points in the paint. The other was to drive to the basket to score or draw a foul.

Junior point guard Amber Orrange was the leader in that regard, scoring a total of 14 points to go with three rebounds, three assists and five steals in her team-high 30 minutes. The five steals matched her career high and led to some nifty fast-break scores

Freshman guard Lili Thompson also found her way to the basket, scoring 8 points plus two rebounds and one assist in 28 minutes. Ever-reliable redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef contributed 5 points along with seven rebounds, three assists and one steal in 22 minutes.

As was the case in Washington, head coach Tara VanDerveer altered the starting lineup, inserting junior forward Taylor Greenfield in place of senior guard Sara James. Sara didn’t play at Washington and logged four minutes against ASU.

Stat lines mostly favor Stanford

Stanford outrebounded ASU 41-35; had more assists, 10-3; more steals, 9-5; and more blocks, 1-0. ASU made four of its 13 free throws for 30.8 percent, while Stanford made five of 10 for a mediocre 50 percent. Turnovers were somewhat problematic, too, with 17 by Stanford and 15 by ASU.

Perhaps because it was Valentine’s Day, attendance was a bit low at 3,450. The Tree marked the occasion with red trim on its black top hat.

Instead of a singer for the national anthem, Estelina Kovacs, who is hearing impaired, interpreted the words in sign language while an instrumental recording played.

At the half, fans were treated to two dances by the San Juan Sensations, a competitive dance team of 8- to 12-year-old girls from San Juan Dance in Los Altos. The first dance, which was by four of the older girls, was a combination of ballet and modern with some impressively limber and graceful movements. Five younger girls were featured in a less challenging, more hip routine.

University strives to be the best in recycling

Before and during the game, fans were told about Stanford’s participation in RecycleMania, a national contest involving several hundred colleges and universities vying to produce the least waste by recycling, reusing and composting.

Several timeout activities featured trivia questions about recycling. The cheerleaders tossed recycling T-shirts into the stands during one break. Sponsored by Sustainable Stanford, new recycling bins were evident throughout Maples Pavilion.

Next on the schedule is a home game against Arizona on Feb. 16. A win in that game or a loss by Oregon State will clinch a first-round bye for Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament in March.

At this point, Stanford appears to be close to the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a 12-1 conference record. ASU, Cal and USC are tied for second with 9-4 records. The top four teams get a bye.

After playing a home game against Arizona on Feb. 16, the Cardinal visit the SoCal schools next weekend before returning home the following weekend to host the Washington schools and complete the regular season.

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