March 31, 2014

Team wins to play another day

Penn State was no match for the Stanford women’s basketball team, which defeated Penn State 82-57 and sent the Nittany Lions home on March 30.

A near-capacity crowd, some in nerd glasses, had Maples Pavilion roaring from start to finish as the Cardinal turned in one of its best performances of the season.

It’s no surprise that senior Chiney Ogwumike led all players with 29 points and 15 rebounds for her 25th double-double of the season. She added three assists, two steals and one block to her stat line in 35 minutes.

She had lots of help, starting with junior point guard Amber Orrange, who pitched in with 18 points, three rebounds and one assist in 39 minutes.

Freshman guard Lili Thompson and redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef had 11 points each. Mikaela had her own double-double with 13 rebounds plus five assists and two steals and a lot of little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

Lili added had three assists and a steal. Perhaps her greatest contribution was her tenacious defense, which limited Penn State’s best player, Maggie Lucas, to a mere 6 points.

Maples takes on a new look

Even though this Sweet Sixteen matchup was essentially a home game for Stanford, it had some new wrinkles, such as a brand new playing floor featuring a large NCAA logo in the center plus a Stanford ‘S’ on either side of the center court line.

The bands for the two teams sat in opposite upper corners. The table on the east side of the court was expanded to the length of the court to accommodate the usual TV people plus NCAA officials, scouting coaches and others.

Videos came from the NCAA rather than Stanford, but the announcer was Stanford stalwart Betty Ann Boeving.

Bags and purses were checked before fans could enter Maples. Bottled water was confiscated.

Lili scores first

Lili scored the game’s first basket on a back-door cut, and the team was off and running. Except for a brief 4-point lead by Penn State about halfway through the first half, Stanford stayed on top, leading 44-30 at the half and expanding that margin to 28 points near the end of the second half.

The Cardinal had a 41-33 edge in rebounds and a 14-6 advantage in assists. The team had fewer turnovers, nine to Penn State’s 15, but Penn State had four blocks to Stanford’s one.

For the game, the Cardinal shot 46.9 percent to Penn State’s 36.2. Stanford led in free-throw percentage, 81 to 68.8. Penn State had four 3-pointers to Stanford’s five: two by junior forward Bonnie Samuelson and one each by Lili, Amber and junior forward Taylor Greenfield.

WBB grads cheer for Cardinal

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. Medically retired senior guard Toni Kokenis 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.

When redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp came out to get the balls for the team’s entrance onto the floor, she saw them in the stands and gave them a happy greeting.

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.

Nneka, Kayla and Jayne all play in the WNBA and played overseas during the league’s off-season. Kayla plays for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, which has the first pick in the April 14 draft. Therefore, it’s possible that she and Chiney will become teammates again. Chiney is widely predicted to be the top pick in the draft.

Lindy has been a graduate assistant with University of Oklahoma the women’s basketball program. She’ll remain there for another year while completing her master’s in intercollegiate athletic administration in hopes of becoming a coach, she said.

Sarah recently returned to her Chicago area home after playing professionally in Poland. After dealing with foot problems during some of her time at Stanford, she said she was fully healthy and was able do well in Poland. She’s looking into graduate schools such as De Paul.

At various times they were joined by Ros Gold-Onwude, ’10; and Melanie Murphy, ’11. Seated elsewhere were Vanessa Nygaard and Heather Owen, ’98; and Brooke Smith, ’07.

Many stay for battle of the Carolinas

Although some fans left after the game, many stayed for the second game to see whether No. 1 seed South Carolina or No. 4 seed North Carolina would be the No. 2 seed Cardinal’s next opponent. North Carolina won that assignment, topping the Gamecocks 65-58.

While all four Stanford coaches stayed to scout the game, the players watched only part of it before leaving at halftime.

The game itself was interesting, and so were the teams’ mascots. South Carolina’s, the puffed out Cocky Gamecock, was the more amusing.

North Carolina’s Rameses, which looks something like a bighorn sheep, was the more puzzling since the team is known as the Tar Heels. According to Wikipedia, Rameses represents the live Horned Dorset Sheep that’s the latest in a line of such sheep that have served as the UNC mascot for some 90 years.

Stanford fans will get another look at Rameses and the UNC team in an Elite Eight matchup at 6 p.m. April 1.

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