January 22, 2015

A tale of two halves

Despite a valiant effort to come back from a 17-point halftime deficit, the Stanford women’s basketball team came up just short, losing to Arizona State 60-57 at home on Jan. 19.

The loss came just as the Cardinal had moved up from No. 13 to No. 11 in AP rankings, while ASU had advanced from No. 14 to No. 13. The loss also meant that ASU and Oregon State have the only undefeated records in the Pac-12 conference.

With all 15 Stanford players available, only 10 saw action, but four were in the game for at least 30 minutes.

The starting lineup was the same as in recent games with senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guards Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson.

Rebounding greatly favors ASU

Stanford was down 39-22 at the half, in large part because of the discrepancy in rebounding, a trend that continued into the second half, ending with a 44-22 advantage for ASU.

Cold shooting also hurt, with Stanford at 29.2 percent compared with ASU at 51.5 percent in the first half. Those numbers came close to reversing in the second half with Stanford at 56 percent versus ASU at 26.1 percent. Stanford held a slight edge for the game, 42.9 percent versus 41.1 percent.

After the team came from the locker room for the second half, head coach Tara VanDerveer altered the starting lineup. The Samuelsons, Stanford’s sharp-shooters for 3’s, were replaced by sophomore guard Brianna Roberson and sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Stanford proceeded to outscore ASU 35-21 in the second half. Stanford had a chance to tie the game and send it into overtime with a 3 with 2.6 seconds left. However, that wasn’t enough time to propel the ball from under ASU’s basket to make the score. Amber heaved a shot while still on ASU’s side of the court, but it fell short.

ASU defense limits 3-pointers

ASU’s reputation for limiting 3-point shooting proved to be true with the Cardinal making only three of 13, or 23.1 percent, of its shots beyond the arc. Bonnie, Lili and Bri each had one.

ASU made five 3’s. It made nine of 15 free throws, 60 percent; while Stanford made 12 of 15, 80 percent.

On the other hand, Stanford had only 10 turnovers compared with ASU’s 20 and had the edge in both blocks, 6-1, and steals, 6-5. Stanford had more fouls, 16-11, but several of them came in the final seconds in an effort to stop the clock and perhaps get the ball back.

Three players – Lili, Amber and senior forward Taylor Greenfield – led the team with 12 points each.

Amber plays 39 minutes

Amber logged the most time, 39 minutes, followed by Lili with 38, and Bri and Bird with 30 each.

The crowd of 3,546 started to get loud as the Cardinal cut its deficit to 13 points about two minutes into the second half. Things just got louder after that as the gap continued to narrow. It was down to 1 point, 47-46, with about five minutes to go, but ASU wouldn’t go away.

A look at the team’s record in close games to date might provide some perspective into the ASU loss:

Vs. UConn at home Nov. 17 Stanford won 88-86 in overtime.
Vs. Texas at home Nov. 20, Stanford lost 87-81 in overtime.
Vs. New Mexico there Nov. 24, Stanford won 70-65.
Vs. Washington there Jan. 9, Stanford won 60-56.
Vs. Washington State there Jan. 11, Stanford won 86-76 in overtime.

That’s a 4-1 record in close games before the ASU loss.

Before the game started, Tara, well known as a dog lover, stopped to chat with a sheriff’s officer and his tail-wagging black Lab K-9 partner before walking to the bench.

Tess featured on video board

Junior forward/center Tess Picknell was the game’s featured player, with factoids about her shown on the video board. One is that she plays the violin. The film and media studies major said she hopes to get into film production after graduation.

The game’s trivia question asked how many points Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, scored to set the Stanford career record. The choices were 2,642, 2,737 and 2,821. The answer was 2,737. It eclipsed the previous record of 2,629 set by Candice Wiggins, ’08.

Here’s some more trivia: The Cardinal had previously beaten ASU 16 consecutive times. ASU hadn’t won at Maples since head coach Charlie Turner Thorne, ’88, was a Cardinal herself.

Next for the Cardinal is a trip to Southern California for contests against UCLA at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 and against USC at 5 p.m. Jan. 25. Both will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

January 18, 2015

Bird joins flock of double-digit scorers

Balance was the name of the game Jan. 16 when the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated visiting Arizona 77-47 to stretch its Pac-12 conference record to 5-0 and its season record to 13-4.

Led by senior forward Bonnie Samuelson with 14 points, five Cardinal were in double figures. She was followed by sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 13 and by sophomore guards Lili Thompson, Karlie Samuelson and Briana Roberson with 12 each.

Combined with her career-high 16 rebounds, Bird had the first double-double of her Stanford career, plus three blocks in 25 minutes.

Bird credits glasses for helping her

In a press conference after the game, she said that wearing glasses for the second consecutive game improved her court vision. “They give me a sense of confidence knowing I can see better,” she is quoted as saying. She hadn’t worn glasses during previous games this season, and contacts don’t work for her.

In what may be a nod to Stanford’s priding itself on being Nerd Nation, the glasses are horn-rimmed. All that’s missing is adhesive tape over the bridge.

When Bird scored her 11th point during the second half, junior forward/center Tess Picknell could be seen at the bench flapping her arms.

The victory followed two road wins the previous weekend, when Washington fell 60-56 on Jan. 9, and Washington State fell 86-76 in overtime on Jan. 11.

There were no changes in the starting lineup as Bonnie, Lili and Karlie were joined by freshman forward Kaylee Johnson and senior guard Amber Orrange.

Samuelson sisters contribute four 3’s each

Twenty-seven points came from making 9 of 19, 47.4 percent, of the team’s 3-point attempts. Bonnie and Karlie contributed four each, while Amber added the other one.

Fourteen players were available, and all 14 got into the game, with nine scoring. The only player in street clothes was redshirt junior guard Jasmine Camp.

Although Arizona has won no Pac-12 games this season, its 11 available players did their best to thwart the Cardinal with an often-pressing defense and energetic play. Still, the Cardinal’s overall strength and balance were too much to overcome.

Stanford had the edge in rebounds, 37-30; blocks, 6-3; steals, 9-6; and assists, 20-9. The Cardinal had 14 turnovers to Arizona’s 18, and nine fouls to the opponent’s 14. Free-throw shooting percentage also favored Stanford, 76.9 to 33.31. Both Lili and Briana were a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe.

Crowd enjoys entertainment

With an official attendance of 3,419, the crowd was entertained by the band, Tree, cheerleaders and Dollies. Just before the game began, the Dollies formed the letter ‘S’ with their silver pompons.

Bonnie was the featured player as the video board periodically relayed facts about the human biology major.

With Stanford ahead 41-24, halftime entertainment featured a return visit (after last season) by the WJM Band, three Bay Area sixth-graders named William, Jeremy and Max (no last names given).

With two on guitar and one on drums, they played a loudly amplified rock set that had the Stanford band bouncing along at its part of the bleachers. Prudently wearing earplugs, the boys reportedly donate their profits to charity.

How many undefeated conference seasons?

The game’s trivia question asked how many undefeated conference seasons – five, seven or 12 – Stanford has enjoyed since formation of the Pac-10 conference in 1986. The answer was seven.

The seasons were 1988-89, 1995-96, 1996-97, 2001-02, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. As a footnote, Marianne Stanley and associate head coach Amy Tucker were in charge during the 1995-96 season when head coach Tara VanDerveer was coaching the USA women’s basketball team to an Olympic gold medal.

Later in the second half, two women competed against each other to be the first to identify blurred three photos of players – Amber, Bird and Kaylee – before they came into full focus.

Next on the schedule is a home game against Arizona State at 3 p.m. Jan. 19. Stanford, ASU and Oregon State sit atop the Pac-12 conference with 5-0 records.

P.S. In my recent story about the team’s bus driver, Don Van Zandt, I should have named his wife, who joins him at home games. She’s Margot Van Zandt.

January 7, 2015

Utah falls to Stanford

Completing the opening round of Pac-12 competition, the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Utah 55-44 on Jan. 5 in Maples Pavilion.

With a 5 p.m. start time on a Monday, the crowd numbered only 2,782, but the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree were on hand to lend their support.

All 15 players were available, and 13 played.

Cold shooting in first half

The game started slowly with the first half ending 20-14 in Stanford’s favor. Utah shot 20.7 percent, while Stanford was only slightly better at 26.7 percent.

However, Stanford upped its shooting to 50 percent in the second half while holding Utah to 35.7 percent. For the game, Stanford averaged 36 percent, Utah 28.1 percent.

Several times during the first half Stanford fans registered their disapproval when they thought fouls should have been called on Utah. However, the officiating got tighter in the second half. Stanford finished the game with 12 fouls compared with Utah’s 20.

The starting lineup was familiar with senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guards Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson.

Amber, Lili help lead team to victory

Amber led the team with 17 points plus seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. Lili was next with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Also recording seven rebounds were Kaylee and Bonnie.

Kaylee had one of her better scoring outings with 7 points to go with her rebounds plus a team-high four blocks along with one assist and one steal.

When it came to blocking, freshman guard Brittany McPhee was right behind Kaylee with three in only 10 minutes. She added 2 points, one rebound and one steal.

As a team, the Cardinal had eight blocks, while Utah had six. The Cardinal had a 4-2 advantage in steals.

Team cuts down on turnovers

After having 16 turnovers in the win over Colorado on Jan. 3, the Cardinal handled the ball more carefully, making 10. Utah had only eight.

The team made four of its eight 3-point attempts, with two by Lili and one each by Amber and Karlie. Utah was 4-for-21 beyond the arc.

Free-throw shooting improved to 75 percent after 57.1 percent against Colorado.

Redshirt junior guard Alex Green was the game’s featured player. When she first answered questions on the video board, she whispered her answers to Bonnie, who spoke for her shy teammate. Later Alex spoke for herself.

Trivia question on single-game scoring record

Another video board feature was a trivia question about who holds the SWBB record for most points in a single game. The choices were Candice Wiggins, ’08; Kate Starbird, ’97; and Jayne Appel, ’10.

The answer was Jayne. She scored 46 points in the Elite Eight game against Iowa State in the Cal regional on March 30, 2009, helping the Cardinal to a 74-53 victory and a trip to the Final Four in St. Louis.

Candice and Kate held the previous record of 44 points each. Kate set the mark against USC on Jan. 13, 1996. Candice matched it against UTEP on March 24, 2008.

Tara wears brace on left wrist

Fans may have noticed head coach Tara VanDerveer wearing a black brace on her left wrist during the Colorado and Utah games.

She told the Associated Press after the Utah game that she broke a bone in her left arm just above the wrist during practice on New Year’s Eve. “She stepped in front of 6-foot-5 [junior forward] Tess Picknell and fell backward, landing on the hand,” AP reported.

“ ‘I knew right away something was wrong,’ she said. ‘I’m so mad at myself, and I feel so embarrassed. I’m competitive is what it is,’ ” AP reported.

AP quoted her as saying she won’t need surgery or a pin. She also said that Tess apologized, but the 61-year-old coach blamed only herself.

Now that the team has started the month with a 2-0 Pac-12 record, it faces what could be tougher tests during a northern road trip.

It plays Washington at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in Seattle and Washington State at 1 p.m. Jan. 11 in Pullman. Both games will be shown on the Pac-12 Network and aired by KZSU radio.

January 4, 2015

Amber, Lili assure victory over Colorado

Thanks to starting guards Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson, the Stanford women’s basketball team managed a 62-55 win over Colorado at Maples to open Pac-12 play on Jan. 3.

Senior Amber scored a career-high 26 points, while sophomore Lili added 17. Their combined total of 43 points accounted for 69.3 percent of the final score.

They were the only two Cardinal players in double figures. Senior forward Bonnie Samuelson and sophomore guard Briana Roberson were the next-highest scorers with 7 each.

Game marred by 16 turnovers

The team had a total of 16 turnovers, 11 of them in the second half, while Colorado had a total of 13. In just over 7 minutes ending at the 11:06 mark of the second half, the team had a succession of eight TO’s. That’s just about when Amber took over, scoring 9 points in the final 7 minutes.

All 15 players were available, and 12 played. The starters were Amber, Lili, Bonnie, sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson.

Of those five, Kaylee played the least – 19 minutes – after getting into foul trouble and fouling out with less than a minute left. Bonnie played a team-high 34 minutes, closely followed by Amber with 33 minutes despite four fouls during the final minutes of the game.

Free-throw accuracy only 57.1 percent

In total, the team had 17 fouls, compared with 23 by Colorado. However, the Cardinal made only 12 of 21, or 57.1 percent, of its free throws. Colorado made 14 of 19, or 73.7 percent.

The Cardinal had only a slight edge in rebounding, 37-35, led by Kaylee and Lili with five each. Stanford had six blocks, with two each by sophomore forwards Erica “Bird” McCall and Kailee Johnson, while Colorado had only one.

Likewise, Stanford led in steals with four – two by Lili – compared with one by Colorado.

Post play was a concern, with only 4 points – 2 each by Bird and Kailee.

At the half, Stanford led 32-25, but each team scored 30 in the second half, keeping the crowd of 3,507 fans in doubt about the final outcome until Amber took over.

Chiney, Sara cheer from stands

Among those fans were 2014 SWBB grads Chiney Ogwumike and Sara James, sitting in the front row of the family section. Chiney, Stanford’s all-time leading scorer, is playing professionally overseas and in the WNBA, while Sara is in Columbia University’s graduate school of nursing in New York City.

Chiney talked with fans and signed autographs after the game.

Redshirt junior guard Jasmine Camp was the game’s featured player, with Did You Know’s posted on the video board.

The game was broadcast by the Pac-12 Network with Anne Marie Anderson and SWBB grad Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10, on the call. Ros interviewed Amber after the game.

Stanford returns to action at home against Utah at 5 p.m. Jan. 5.