December 31, 2017

Great way to start Pac-12 play

Leading from the opening tipoff 'til the final buzzer, the Stanford women’s basketball team upset visiting UCLA 76-65 to start the conference season on Dec. 29.

Senior guard Brittany McPhee, returning for only her second game after missing nine with an injury, made the first basket and went on to lead the way with a game-high 26 points. She also had seven rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes.

Junior forward Alanna Smith had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds to go with three blocks in 36 minutes. Sophomore forward Nadia Fingall chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in 25 minutes.

DiJonai contributes in return

The team was at full strength with sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington back after an injury. She was another spark plug with seven points, five rebounds and one assist in only 10 minutes.

Marta takes the ball upcourt to start a new offensive set..
In all, 11 players saw action, and nearly all contributed. Chief among them was junior guard Marta Sniezek. Although she scored only four points, all on free throws, she was the floor general, playing for all but the very last minute while dishing out five assists and snatching six rebounds.

Starters were Brit, Alanna, Marta, freshman forward Maya Dodson and freshman guard Kiana Williams. After Kiana, a San Antonio resident, had made four free throws to help ice the game, the band played “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

Along with the Tree, the band had just returned from San Antonio, where it played for the football team’s 39-37 loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl the day before.

Stanford prevails in rebounds, assists, shooting percentage

Stanford outplayed No. 11 UCLA in several categories, including rebounds, 48-33; assists, 16-11; and shooting, 51.9-31.1 percent.

On the negative side, the Cardinal had 20 turnovers to UCLA’s nine. Many of the turnovers came from UCLA’s proclivity to steal, 11 in all.

It wasn’t an easy game. It seemed that every time Stanford opened a fairly comfortable lead, UCLA would come back, but never enough to go ahead or win.

Bird dances during her visit.
Bird returns to cheer, dance

Among the crowd of 3,102 was Erica “Bird” McCall, ’17, showing her smooth moves during the Dance Cam in the third quarter. Now a member of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and playing professionally in Hungary during the off-season, she joined the team in the locker room after the game.

Also on hand for part of the game was Brian Agler, coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, apparently scouting the talent on both teams.

Provost Persis Drell congratulates head coach Tara VanDerveer after the win.
Stanford Provost Persis Drell sat on the bench with the team and was an enthusiastic supporter.

The victory marked Stanford’s first over a ranked team after five losses to teams in the top 10 during the nonconference season. It also marked what is hoped to be a return to the rankings after dropping out in the latest poll following losses to Tennessee and unranked Western Illinois.

Another test awaits the Cardinal when the team hosts USC at 1 p.m. Dec. 31.

(Photos by Richard Ersted/

December 23, 2017

Silver lining in Stanford loss

Despite losing 71-83 to the visiting Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Dec. 21, the Stanford women’s basketball team and its fans have reasons to hope.

One is that the team stayed relatively close to the Lady Vols, who came to Maples with an undefeated record and a No. 7 national ranking.

Another is that senior guard Brittany McPhee returned from an injury to play for the first time since early in the season. She proved to be a spark plug and led the team with 27 points.

Some of those points came on drives to the basket, the kind of drives that should earn her the nickname of “Fearless” McPhee.

Fans cheer for Brit

Shortly before the team took to the floor for its final warmups, she came out to gather balls for the entrance. As soon as fans saw her, they started clapping and cheering. She responded with a shy smile.

However, no one besides Brit was in double figures. Junior guard Marta Sniezek had 9 points, while sophomore forward Nadia Fingall and freshman forward Maya Dodson had 8 each.

Rebounding was noteworthy, with Stanford pulling down 48 to Tennessee’s 35. Senior forward Kaylee Johnson, junior forward Alanna Smith and Nadia had seven each.

Stanford also had more assists, 13 to nine, and more blocks, seven to five. Marta had nine of the assists, and Alanna had five of the blocks.

Stanford outscores Tennessee in second half

The Cardinal ended the first half with a 16-point deficit, 30-46, but actually outscored the visitors by 4 points in the second. For the game, Stanford had more points in the paint, 44-30.

Free throws were a continuing problem, with only 11 of 22, while Tennessee made 31 of 36, or 86.1 percent.

The visitors had 19 fouls, while the hosts had 25. Some perspective is that several of those fouls came late in the fourth quarter when Stanford came within 6 points and deliberately fouled to try to get the ball.

It seemed that freshman guard Estella Moschkau was inserted for that reason with about a minute to go. She had three fouls, but she also made a basket.

Turnovers were another weak point, 15 to Tennessee’s 10.

Unlike past games, 3-point shooting was off –- only two of 15. They came from Brit and junior guard Alexa Romano.

DiJonai still out of action

The starting lineup featured Brit, Alanna, Kaylee, Maya and freshman guard Kiana Williams. By the end of the game, everyone had played. Sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington was still in street clothes.

Although the band, Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders were still absent because of the holiday break, the crowd of 3,084 supplied lots of noise.  

When the lights dimmed for introduction of Stanford’s starters, fans waved the red glow sticks supplied by the Stanford Federal Credit Union.

The team has a 6-6 record at this juncture, but five of the losses were to teams in AP’s top 25. Stanford’s most recent ranking is 18. Four other Pac-12 teams are ranked.

The players have some time off before returning for the Pac-12 season, which starts by hosting No. 11 UCLA at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 29 and USC at 1 p.m. Dec. 31.

December 20, 2017

Loss at the line

Perhaps one fan expressed it best: “I’m shocked,” she said.

She was reacting to the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 71-64 home loss to Western Illinois of Macomb on Dec. 18.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, it was only the 11th home loss in the past 11 years.

One of the most glaring differences between the two teams came at the free-throw line. While the Leathernecks made 20 of 26, or 76.9 percent, of their free throws, the Cardinal connected on only eight of 19, or 42.1 percent. That’s a loss of 11 potential points, while the visitors’ margin of victory was 7 points.

Another telling stat: The Cardinal had 19 turnovers, the visitors 13. The Cardinal also missed a number of what looked to be easy layups.

Guards contribute eight 3’s

On a more positive note, the hosts made eight 3-pointers, the visitors five. Sophomore guard Anna Wilson and freshman guard Kiana Williams chipped in three each, while junior guard Alexa Romano had two.

One day after losing, the entire team -- including Mikaela Brewer and Shannon Coffee--
 turned to giving by helping at St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room. (Stanford Athletics) 
Stanford also outrebounded WI, 57-45 with the lion’s share coming from senior forward Kaylee Johnson with 18 and junior forward Alanna Smith with 15.

Kaylee, Alanna, Kiana, Anna and junior center Shannon Coffee started the game, and 10 of the 12 available players saw action. Sharpshooting senior guard Brittany McPhee and sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington were still out while recovering from injuries.

Three Cardinal players were in double figures: Alanna with 18, Kiana with 17 and Anna with 13.

Alanna, Kaylee battle under the basket

Alanna played the most minutes, 35, and they weren’t easy. Along with Kaylee, she often had to battle a swarm of Leathernecks under the basket.

The first quarter ended with Stanford lagging 14-21. Head coach Tara VanDerveer sent in a smaller lineup of three guards and two forwards to start the second quarter. Thus they held their opponents to just 3 points and finished the half with a 33-24 advantage. 

The team was still ahead 47-45 at the end of the third quarter, but then the wheels came off with WI outscoring Stanford 26-17 to end with the 71-64 win.

Therefore, there were no victory balls. Instead, the players gathered in a circle at center court while Kaylee apparently gave them a pep talk.

They’ll need all the pep they can get when they host unbeaten Tennessee at 6 p.m. Dec. 21.

December 16, 2017

Easy win over UNLV

With finals in the rear-view mirror, the Stanford women’s basketball team drove to a 74-33 victory over visiting UNLV on Dec. 16.

Despite missing the fire power of senior guard Brittany McPhee again and of sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington for the first time, both for undisclosed reasons, the Cardinal boasted balanced scoring.

All 12 available players got at least six minutes of playing time, and all scored. The most anyone played was 23 minutes by junior forward Alanna Smith.

Kiana gives an interview after her 14-point performance. (Stanford Athletics)
Kiana leads with 14 points

Playing 18 minutes, freshman guard Kiana Williams led the team with 14 points. Also in double figures were Alanna and freshman forward Maya Dodson with 11 points each. 

Senior forward Kaylee Johnson led the team in rebounding with 10.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer rejiggered the starting lineup. Alanna and Kaylee have been regulars, but this time they were joined by three first-timers: Kiana, who played the point, along with junior center Shannon Coffee and sophomore guard Anna Wilson.

Tough defense figured into the win as the Cardinal held the visitors scoreless for about the first six minutes of the first quarter, which ended 17-10. The second quarter was even tougher. UNLV  scored only 3 points while Stanford added 18 to end with a 35-13 advantage.

With attendance at 2,763 and most students on vacation, the game was missing the usual 
contingent of Tree, band, cheerleaders and Dollies.

Referee cleans up

Still, the crowd made plenty of noise. For example, during the third quarter, the ball girls started mopping the floor after a collision. Not satisfied, a referee took a mop herself and finished the job. The crowd applauded, and she bowed.

In the Connect with Coach video feature, Tara was asked several questions, one of which was her pet peeve. Her response, “Rude drivers,” got another round of applause.

With only 1.6 seconds left in the game, junior guard Alexa Romano grabbed a defensive rebound. Rather than dribbling it, though, she lobbed it to sophomore guard Mikaela Brewer, who made an easy layup for her only score.

Besides tight defense (Alexa was especially persistent), the game was noteworthy for nine 3-pointers. Kiana had three, while Anna and sophomore forward Nadia Fingall had two each. Alexa and freshman forward Estella Moschkau each had one.

Team tallies 18 assists

Also on the plus side, the team had 18 assists, led by junior guard Marta Sniezek with four. The team also had eight blocks, six steals and only seven fouls. The first foul wasn’t called until early in the third quarter. On the other hand, both teams had 19 turnovers, many of them on traveling calls.

Since the band wasn’t there, a recording of “All Right Now” followed the final buzzer. Perhaps it should have been “Ode to Joy” to mark Beethoven’s 247th birthday.

Before it can go off for a quick holiday, the team hosts two more games: Western Illinois at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 and Tennessee at 6 p.m. Dec. 21.

December 1, 2017

Stanford overcomes sluggish start to defeat Dons

When the Stanford women’s basketball team last visited the University of San Francisco on Dec. 22, 2010, head coach Tara VanDerveer notched her 800th career victory.

Now, nearly seven years later, the Cardinal again visited USF and gave Tara her 1,017th career win.

That earlier game was filled with hoopla as a busload of Stanford fans was at the ready with signs celebrating the expected milestone, which came with a 100-45 score. Assistant coach Lindy La Rocque was on that team.

Upon Stanford’s return Nov. 29, the score wasn’t quite so lopsided at 86-66, nor was the game quite so easy, especially in the early going.

Stanford trails in first quarter

The Dons gave the Cardinal fits during the first quarter, which ended 19-12 in the home team’s favor. Stanford outscored the Dons 12-9 in the second quarter but still lagged 28-24.

The tide really turned in the third quarter, when the Cardinal came out of the locker room with what seemed to be new determination. That quarter ended 56-49 for the Cardinal, which then outscored the Dons 30-17 in the final quarter, leading to the winning score of 86-66.

Much of the second-half resurgence was fueled by three-pointers. According to Stanford Athletics, “Stanford made 11 of its 21 attempts (.524) from behind the arc after intermission, a school record for 3-pointers in a half. The Cardinal made 15 in the game, tied for the third-most in program history and its highest total since 15 against Missouri State on Nov. 27, 2015.”

Kiana leads parade of treys

For the game, freshman guard Kiana Williams led the team with five 3’s, followed by junior forward Alanna Smith, junior guard Alexa Romano and sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington with three each. Sophomore guard Anna Wilson chipped in the other one.

Senior guard Brittany McPhee was in street clothes again because of what Stanford Athletics terms a right foot injury. This time, however, she wasn’t wearing a boot.

The starters were Alanna, DiJonai, Alexa, senior forward Kaylee Johnson and junior guard Marta Sniezek. By the time the final horn sounded, all 13 available players had seen action.

Alanna and DiJonai were the high scorers with 19 points each. Alanna also had 11 rebounds for a double-double. Thanks mostly to her 3’s, Kiana scored 17, while Alexa had 13.

Kaylee “pulled down 14 rebounds …, her highest total since Feb. 2, 2016 against Cal (16). She is now three shy of entering the school's all-time top 10 in that category,” Stanford Athletics reports. Kaylee also had 6 points, three assists and two of the team’s five blocks.

USF band no match for Stanford’s

Official attendance was only 775, with a good contingent of students. The USF band was in the balcony, but it was fewer in number and much lower in enthusiasm than the Stanford band.

Several dozen Cardinal fans were there. One of them was Brooke Smith Easter, ’07, who chatted with basketball administrator Amy Tucker at halftime.

Stanford greats, past and present: Amy, Jennifer, Molly, Tara, Kate 
Two other noteworthy alums were former Dons coach Jennifer Azzi, ’90, and the current coach, Molly Goodenbour, ’93.

The team takes its 5-3 record on the road again to play Baylor at 11 a.m. Dec. 3.