January 8, 2019

Short-handed Stanford still handles UCLA

Alyssa, DiJonai, Alanna and Kiana celebrate during the game.

No Nadia, no Maya, no Marta, no Alexa. No problem, right? Wrong.

The Stanford women’s basketball team managed to defeat visiting UCLA 86-80 on Jan. 6, but the outcome wasn’t decided until the last minute or so.

Almost all of the credit goes to the starting five: senior forward Alanna Smith, sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome, freshman forward Lacie Hull, junior guard DiJonai Carrington and sophomore guard Kiana Williams.

Playing all or the majority of the game, they were the only Cardinal players to score. Four players came off the bench, but made minimal contributions.

Junior guard Mikaela Brewer high-fives Marta (left), Nadia and Maya after a teammate's trey.
Cardinal ranks were thinned because junior forward Nadia Fingall is out for the rest of the season because of a torn ACL suffered in the USC game two days earlier. She was wearing a brace on her left leg.

Sophomore forward Maya Dodson was wearing a boot on her left foot because of an injury. She’s expected back, but there’s no timetable.

Senior guard Marta Sniezek has been out all season because of a hand injury. Senior guard Alexa Romano “is not playing on our team due to personal reasons,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game. She is no longer listed on the roster posted by Stanford Athletics.

Lexie drives against a Bruin in her welcome return.
Lexie returns to action

On the other hand, freshman forward Lexie Hull saw her first action after missing nine games with a foot injury. The medical staff allowed her to play a maximum 10 minutes, Tara said. She was in for eight minutes and had three rebounds.

With 30 points, DiJonai was the game’s high scorer. She came close to a double-double with nine rebounds.

Alanna did have a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Kiana also had a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists.

With winter quarter classes starting Jan. 7, the team got extra student support from the band, Tree and cheerleaders. The crowd totaled 3,231 and became quite loud in its support, too.

The first half saw the Cardinal lagging 23-24 after the first quarter and 38-45 after the second.

Second half better than first

The second half was a different story with the Farm team leading 64-57 after the third quarter and then winning 86-80.

Success beyond the arc helped with a total of 12 three’s. Alanna, DiJonai and Kiana each had three, Alyssa two and Lacie one. Free-throw shooting also was a big factor. The team made 14 of 17, or 82.4 percent.

UCLA, not necessarily known as a three-point machine, made 11 treys, but was only seven of 15, or 46.7 percent, at the free-throw line. The Bruins had 21 fouls, the Cardinal 10.
Stanford also excelled in assists, 21-10, and in steals, 10-six.

The Bruins edged the Cardinal in rebounds, 38-37, and had fewer turnovers than the Cardinal, 13-15.

UCLA’s largest lead was 12 points, Stanford’s 11. The score was tied three times, and the lead changed seven times.

Team, fans see tribute to two backers

At the Behind the Bench after the game, the entire team joined fans in watching video tributes to two beloved members of the Stanford family. Marian Cortesi, 88, a longtime fan, managed the Fast Break Club website for 12 years before her death from cancer Dec. 2.

DeeDee Zawaydeh-Johnson was the women’s basketball administrative assistant 30 years and welcomed fans to the annual spring banquet. She died of cancer at age 69 in May.

Tara then excused most of the team and said, “UCLA has a terrific team. … It was an awesome win for our team.”

Coach praises players

She praised Alyssa for replacing Nadia in the starting lineup and making some crucial three’s.

“I like it when Di scores 30,” she said, and praised Alanna for coming on strong in the second half after a less than stellar first half. “She kept playing hard,” Tara said.

“We knew we had to play hard,” Alanna said, noting the team’s improved defense.

“We played with such heavy hearts knowing that Nadia would be out,” DiJonai said.

Tara acknowledged several family members of players at the game as well as highly regarded recruit Haley Jones, who will be with the team next season. “We’re very excited about the incoming freshmen,” Tara said.

The 12-1 team takes to the road to face Arizona State at 6 p.m. PST Jan. 11 and Arizona at 11 a.m. PST Jan. 13.

Then it’s back home to host the Washington schools the following weekend. Pac 12 Networks will televise all four games.

Photos by Don Feria/ISIPhotos.com

January 5, 2019

Team opens conference season with victory

Kiana shoots over a USC player on her way to a 22-point game.
USC didn’t make things easy when it visited the Stanford women’s basketball team Jan. 4, but the home team prevailed at the final buzzer, 72-64, to begin Pac 12 play.

Thus AP’s No. 6-ranked Stanford extended its record to 11-1 while dropping USC to 10-3.

Aside from the ups and downs in this seesaw battle, the game marked player gains and losses for Stanford. On the plus side, both freshman forward Lexie Hull and junior guard Anna Wilson were back in uniform after missing some games. Anna played for five minutes, but her stat line was empty.

On the minus side, sophomore forward Maya Dodson was in street clothes for the first time this season because of a foot problem. Senior guard Marta Sniezek remained out of action with the thumb injury that has kept her out all season.

Moreover, junior forward Nadia Fingall had to retire to the locker room after reportedly hyperextending a knee early in the third quarter. She returned to applause several minutes later. She got back into action in the fourth quarter only to apparently hurt a knee in a collision with a USC player.

That’s when she went back to the locker room for good. She had played a total of 18 minutes, scoring two points, snaring four rebounds, dishing out two assists and blocking one shot.

Changes in score lead to nail-biting

In a reflection of the game’s inducement of nail-biting, the lead changed 13 times and the score was tied seven times. Stanford trailed by two points after both the first and second quarters but finished the third with a seven-point lead before polishing things off with the eight-point victory.

Playing all 40 minutes, sophomore guard Kiana Williams poured in a game-leading 22 points.

Alanna fights her way through the USC defense.
Senior forward Alanna Smith contributed 19 points (to go with 11 rebounds) in 39 minutes. Junior guard DiJonai Carrington also was in double figures with 14.

Favoring Stanford were free throws, 10 vs. 7, and three’s, 8-5, along with rebounds, 46-40; blocks, 7-5; and assists, 12-10. It had fewer fouls, 11-18. On the other hand, it had more turnovers, 15-13, and fewer steals, 3-8.

Kiana had four three’s, Alanna three and freshman forward Lacie Hull one.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer stuck with the same starters as in previous games with Alanna, Nadia, Lacie, DiJonai and Kiana.

Each team used only nine players.

Crowd loud in support of home team

Even though the usual student contingents like the band, Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders were still on the holiday break, the game drew 2,557 fans. The pro-Stanford crowd was loud in supporting the team and sometimes vocal in disagreeing with the officials in this very physical game.

Among the fans were girls from Torch Basketball Academy, who scrimmaged at halftime. Their families were there, too, including my next-door neighbors.

Stanford alum Melanie Murphy, ’11, is Torch’s founder and CEO. She was there coaching one red squad.

Ros returns to her alma mater to annouce the game.
Another alum on hand was Mel’s teammate and fellow New Yorker, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10. Ros was an announcer for the Pac 12 Network’s TV coverage.

UCLA, Arizona teams are next

The Cardinal will return to Maples at 1 p.m. Jan. 6, when UCLA comes calling after knocking off Cal 84-79 in overtime on Jan. 4. The game will be covered by Pac 12 TV.

A Behind the Bench will follow the game.

The team is off to the desert the following weekend to face Arizona State at 6 p.m. PST Jan. 11 and Arizona at 11 a.m. PST Jan. 13. Pac 12 TV will show both.

Photos by John P. Lozano, isiphotos.com