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.

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