Friday, March 25, 2016

Stanford’s Sweet, Sweet Sixteen

So the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was playing Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen. No one, and I mean no one, thought they could win. In fact, for ESPN to fill the pre-game show they had to ask the analysts what Stanford could do to win the game and, well, the commentators, let’s just say, were all firmly in Notre Dame’s camp.

So, C and R asked each other what does Stanford need to do to win??

Stanford would have to take control early in the game and play lock down D and outscore ND. If we do that, we gonna win.

Have to hold ND’s Brianna Turner to zero points in the first half, then we gonna win.

Get high flying ND guard Lindsey Allan in foul trouble and send her to the bench and limit her to six points in the first half, then we gonna win.

Have Erica McCall get going early and score 19 by the half, we gonna win.

Be up by 11 at the half, we gonna win.

If Kaylee Johnson is scoring, we gonna win.

Get Kaylee Johnson involved in the offense, score early and have a double double, then we gonna win.

Have Erica McCall keep the scoring up and score a career-high 27 points and drain at least one 3-pointer and go 12-18 from the field…we gonna win.

Erica McCall
Erica McCall, whom coach Tara VanDerveer calls the most improved player in the nation, led all players with 27 points. Photo: Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports

Cut off ND’s screen to the elbow play. Do that, and we gonna win.
Shoot 59% from the floor, we gonna win.

Shoot 55% from the three point line, including one from Marta Sniezek, only her second made three of her young career… we gonna win.

Score 11 3-pointers, we gonna win.

Have Karlie Samuelson go 5-6 from behind the line, gonna win

Have freshie guard Marta Sniezek drive in for lay ups and get in double figures for a career high..gonna win.

Heck, if Stanford gets four players in double figures, we gonna win.

Keep a double digit lead for most of the game, we gonna win.

Hold off ND when they make a run, not once, not twice, but THRICE…then we gonna win.

Have Lili Thompson give out a career high in assists, we gonna win.

Have Kaylee Johnson score 17 and gran , say 12 boards, then we gonna win.

Score 90 points… we gonna win.

And if Karlie can score 20 points and make some key baskets just when Stanford needs them…we gonna win!

Have Karlie Samuelson heave, and I mean heave a throw WELL beyond the three point line with time expiring on the shot clock, with a minute and a half to play, and have it bank off the glass for three to make it 84-78 Stanford lead and stop a ND run……WE GONNA WIN!!

WE GONNA WIN!

So that, Ladies and Gentlemen, are all Stanford needs to do to win…..and they did. They beat Notre Dame 90-84, with four players in double figures, career highs in points for Erica and Marta and assists for Lili, a double double for Kaylee, 11 threes and whatever else we said above. Next up is a familiar Pac-12 foe, Washington, on Sunday (yes Easter Sunday) at 10 AM Stanford time. This will be the rubber match, and I don’t think Tara has been beaten by Washington twice in one season since the 80s. We gonna win!

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Stanford Sends South Dakota State Packing

March 22 Stanford Sends South Dakota State Packing

For a #12 seed playing an #4 seed, this was not a slam dunk. First of all, even though the #4 seed Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was playing on their home court, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits brought the loudest people in All the Dakotas. SDSU beat #5 seed Miami two days prior, feeding off of their crowd’s energy, and they nearly knocked off Stanford, too, with that same energy.
Stanford enjoyed a slight lead at the half, 33-27 yet their offense stalled when Erica McCall went to the bench with three fouls in the third. SDSU rode their standing, cheering crowd to a lead mid-way thought the third quarter. It also didn’t help that Stanford was 10-22 from the free throw line. Then, Stanford fans, who tend to be quiet observers instead of rabid cheerers, came to life, with about four minutes left. Stanford fed off that energy, stealing and flying bodies and all, and went on a 12-3 run in the final minutes.

(apologies, embed code for videos not working, please follow the links)
Then, with the clock running down, and Stanford needing a score….wait, why listen to us prattle on when you can see for yourself. Lili with the lay up and one with 8 seconds left! Nothing but net!

The Jackrabbits, who were well coached, advanced the ball to half court and dribbled to the key where they met…wait, just looky here: Yes, Erica McCall and looks like Kailee Johnson blocked that ball and all of SDSU’s hopes and dreams.

Stanford survives 66-65!  Sweet Sixteen Bound!

Hear the Tara VanDerveer interview, and what Lili Thompson: had to say about the close game:

C and R will float on this game until March 25th, when Stanford meets #1 seed Notre Dame.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stanford (Lovingly) Beats USF

What to say about the Stanford Women’s Basketball team’s 29th time in the NCAA tournament? Fans all said what a shame we had to play USF, coached by the beloved Stanford alum who started it all, Jennifer Azzi. Well, you can say head coach Tara VanDerveer likes to win. Heck, Tara said it herself after her team handed Jennifer’s team their worst loss of the season (85-58): “I love Jennifer but I love winning more.”

Tara VanDerveer and Jennifer Azzi
Tara VanDerveer and Jennifer Azzi share a lot of history
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP.

First some context. Before the game, Jennifer Azzi sat alone on the opposing team’s bench at Maples, a very different view than one she was used to, in a place where she has so many memories. In her line of sight was a list of two National Champions. The team she led in 1990 when she was a senior was listed first. Winning a national championship must hold special memories for a player. To build a program from 12 fans and no NCAA appearances, in Jennifer’s freshmen year, to a national championship with sold out crowds in her senior year, well, let’s just say not many players can claim that sort of impact. And here she sat getting ready to face the woman who got here there, perhaps the biggest influence in her life, the woman who thought so much of her that she asked her to be her emotional captain on the 1996 Olympic team that won Gold in Atlanta.

How weird was it for Azzi, coaching her first NCAA game? She said she was unsettled that her parents were at this game, not in their usual Stanford gear, but in yellow USF shirts. She and Tara shared a long and sincere hug at midcourt during player introductions. Don’t think Tara would hug Geno for that long…or at all. Afterwards, Tara’s mom, Rita, was crying for Jennifer. Even Tara had enough of the sentimentality, scolding her mom, “But I’m blood!”

About the game, Jennifer said they were not used to that level of physicality, and the rest of the NCAA field might have politely snickered, as Stanford is usually known as “the Good Girls.” Do keep in mind this is Jennifer’s first NCAA game, so if she keeps up the success and comes back, she will need to know her players will face this level of physical play, or more, in subsequent years.
And they don’t call them Trees for nothing. When USF’s 6-3 center went to the bench with foul trouble, they didn’t have anyone on the floor over 6 feet. Stanford had Erica McCall, Kailee Johnson and Alanna Smith, all 6’3. At one point Stanford had more rebounds (43) than USF had points. The rebounding total was doubled in Stanford’s favor, 49-24.

Stanford accolades:
Lili Thompson scored 17 points, Erica McCall had 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, plus a three-pointer for the big! Karlee Samuelson had 11, on 2-4 shooting beyond the arc, her specialty. Starter Kaylee Johnson was more aggressive going to the rim and scored 13. Add in her 9 boards and she almost got herself a double-double. Stanford will need her to score in double digits every night to advance in the tournament. It was good to see bench players Marta Sniezek and Aussie Alana Smith score as well, eight and nine points respectively. Marta had a game, giving out nine assists and hitting her first collegiate three! She’s only a freshman! Throw in Brittany McPhee’s eight and you have everyone contributing.

Speaking of our Aussie player, we thought we were hot stuff having our first international recruit from down under. Well, here Jennifer has beaten her former coach. She has seven players on her roster representing five different foreign countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and Sweden.


See all the pretty Stanford assists!

Next game for Stanford is Monday night at 6PM, against the upstart #12 seed South Dakota State’s Jack Rabbits. They beat #5 Miami 74-71. C and R only caught the last 5 minutes of the game, but from what we saw, Miami played listless and with no energy, compared to SDS intensity. It didn’t hurt that they had a whole section of fans right next to the court action and were very rabid. C and R are worried those fans will be louder than the polite Stanford fans. So please get off work and come on out!

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stanford Closes Out Season with Wins

The Stanford women’s Basketball Team closed out their regular season with two Pac-12 wins. The first one was an emphatic win over #7 Oregon State. And it wasn’t just a win, it was a spanking. Once Stanford took the lead just before the end of the first quarter, they kept it and beat them by 22, the final score being 76-54. At one point Stanford lead by 30!

C and R were in doubt before the game, having just found out that leading scorer Lili Thompson would miss the game to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Brittany McPhee got the start and made the most of it, scoring in double digits. She had 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, adding four rebounds and a career-high four assists.

More importantly, she played lock down defense on OSU’s Jamie Weisner. Jamie was held to just four total points and one made field goal. She usually averages 17 points a game. The Stanford team held OSU below their season average, too.

Shout out to Erica McCall. Not only did she score a career-high 25 points, she hit three 3-pointers. Yes, from behind the arc. Before this game she had attempted one 3-pointer, when the shot clock was going to expire. This game she attempted FIVE, and made three! Couple that with Stanford’s three point specialist, Karlie Samuelson leading all players in REBOUNDS with 12, the world definitely has gone topsy-turvy. Karlie scored 13 points to go with her career-high 12 rebounds. She also made three of four 3-pointers. Annnd, her first double-double of her career! What an entertaining game that was. And where has this energy been all season?

Special game? Yes, as it was, as the Cardinal got their 1000th win in its 40-plus year history, moving the program into an elite group of seven schools that have reached the 1,000-victory mark. Current Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is responsible for 824 of them.

The Stanford Team
Stanford Wins 1,000th
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

Speaking of Coach TVD, she knew OSU had a tall, 6’-6 center in Ruth Hamblin. Having Bird (Erica) stay out on the three point line and take threes meant several things. Their center was not used to coming out to guard someone that far away for the basket, so left her open and two, drew the tall rebounder away from the basket. Genius.

Oregon Game:

Speaking of Genius, let’s rinse and repeat for Oregon, says TVD. We were without Lili again, however Oregon was sadly playing without their lead scorer and rebounder, Jillian Alleyne, who tore her ACL in practice this week. It was hard for the Ducks to recover from that blow.
Oregon also has a tall center just like OSU, and Erica stayed out around the three point line, first gaining confidence hitting long twos, and then a three. She would end up with her 15th double-double of the season (by halftime!) and finish with 25 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Bri Roberson added 10 and Alanna Smith had nine points. Stanford would beat Oregon 69-42.

This game was senior night and it was great to see walk-on Kiran Lakhian get some quality minutes. She made several very nice passes for baskets and scored five.  Seniors Alex Green and Tess Picknell also got in the game and Alex scored a basket, too. It was great to see the whole bench rooting for them.

Lovely ceremony after the game, too. Also great decision years ago to do this after the game, as it gets so emotional. Tears did flow. We learned Kiran plans to go to medical school like her mother and Tess was almost bitten by a rattle snake, and her mother said they shot, cooked and ate the snake. Not sure if she was kidding or not.

With these two wins Stanford is the number four seed going in to the Pac-12 Tournament, which means a first round bye and then playing the winner of Washington/Colorado on Friday. As for the regular season standings, well, C and R are a little confused about where everyone ended up. UCLA upset ASU, so Oregon State and Arizona State tied for first, and Stanford and UCLA tied as well. So are we tied for third, then? Or tied for second if ASU and OSU are co-winners. So confusing.
Well, tune into the Pac-12 tourney next week. Remember last year, when Stanford did not win the regular season but won the tournament? That was awesome! Anything can happen in this year’s deep Pac-12.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Stanford-Cal Battle of the Bay

It’s the middle of the Pac-12 season, so you know what that means, dear readers. The annual Battle of the Bay for the Stanford Women’s Basketball team with arch rival Cal.

Stanford rode Erica McCall’s 11 points (plus 13 boards for her 13 th double double) and Karlie Samuleson’s three-pointers to beat Cal 53-46. Karlie was 4-5 from three-point land.

Stanford hats off to Lili Thompson. She had tape on her shooting hand, holding her fingers together, and it was clear it affected her shooting touch. When her three wasn’t falling, she moved inside to jumpers, when that didn’t work, she started going in for lay ups. And they were not easy shots. She kept herself in the game and found a way to contribute to her team. And although she was 3-15, she chipped in 11 points.

Stanford D also held Cal’s outstanding freshmen, Kristine Anigwe (who reminds C and R an AWFUL lot of an Ogwumike), to 17 points. She usually scores around 20. She had nine in the first quarter, until Stanford stifled her for only eight points over the next three quarters.
Couple that with only seven active players for Cal (injuries, people leaving the program) and it was hard for Cal to bounce back.

So Stanford won the first one, and it was weird, Stanford players did not seem happy with the win, perhaps they knew they did not play well. Their demeanor as they left the court was not one of a jubilant team. They did have 15 turnovers. However, Cal had it worst, only shooting 28% for the game, with 2-11 from three-point land. Would that hold for game two?

The Stanford Team
Lili Thompson looks intense in the Battle of the Bay.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.
Part II
In this one, Stanford players got the green light to drive and go 1 on 1, be selfish and create their own shot, a little different from other games where they pass and pass until they find an open player. Or maybe head coach Tara VanDerveer said only the Johnsons are allowed to score in the first half?

At one point Kaylee Johnson put the ball on the floor and got a layup. Even the Pac-12 announcers noticed, saying she was not shying away from contact around the basket. Then Kailee Johnson got in to the act, and when she put the ball on the floor, Cal was so surprised no one stopped her and she got a layup.

C and R are sorry to report that Lili was cold again. And yes, her fingers were taped again, which affects her shooting touch. Karlie Samuelson got in to foul trouble, picking up three before the first half ended and sat. The most disturbing fact of the first was that Lili and KSam had zero points in the first.

Luckily for the Johnson and Johnson show in the first, with them scoring 10 and 9 points respectively. You have to figure out which is which. However Stanford found themselves down seven, 27-34. Cal kept themselves in the game by out rebounding Stanford, especially on the O boards.

Another interesting tidbit, walk on Kiran Lakhian got in to the game for four minutes in the first. She usually does not play or only goes in the final seconds. With such a deep bench, we wonder why Tara called her number?

Then, the start of the second and everything went sideways for Cal. Stanford, possible fired up from a pep talk/scolding in the locker room went on an 11-0 run. Annnnd, held Cal to four points in the third quarter while scoring 15. Stanford got the lead for the first time and did not let go.

In the fourth, Stanford had 5 players in double figures. Erica McCall had another double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Brittany McPhee had 12 points, and a lot of hustle plays that won’t show up in the stat line. Kaylee Johnson had 11, and Kailee Johnson and Lili Thompson each had 10: Lili’s were all in the second.

Still, Stanford uncharacteristically made many mental mistakes in the last minute to keep Cal around, and it was a frantic finish. Cal’s Courtney Range hit a three with 26 seconds left to make it an exciting 56-53 Stanford lead. However Cal had to foul and Stanford hung on to win 60-55.
Stanford gets its 22nd regular-season sweep of Cal and keeps chugging to get back into the Pac-12 hunt.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stanford Whips the Washingtons

After a four game road trip, the Washington Schools came to town and the Stanford Women’s Basketball team enjoyed playing on their home floor. Lili Thompson, in particular, likes playing at Maples.

After scoring 27 to help Stanford beat Washington 69-53, two days later she scored a career-high 30 points to beat Washington State 69-52. Don’t get C and R wrong, though, these games were very different, and the WSU game was much closer than the score indicates.

Lili Thompson
Lili Thompson scored 57 points in two games.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

However, C and R would be remiss if we did not point out Stanford’s defense in the first game. Washington had the leading score in the country, Kelsey Plum, and Stanford limited her to seven first half points. Granted, she got loose in the second and man, can she create her own shots, ala Steph Curry, and she had 23 for the game. However, Stanford held her four points under her average. In that game, Stanford got hot early, thanks to Lili and enjoyed a double-digit lead from the first quarter on.

Contrast that to the Washington State game. Stanford was down by two at the half, 27-25. A little birdie told us WSU was filled with international players and they definitely did not back down. They certainly were not afraid of Stanford and never gave up hustling. WSU was very aggressive, especially in the defense. Stanford had to earn every basket. Curious, WSU used full court pressure in the fourth to rattle Stanford, yet inexplicably backed off of it. Stanford traditionally is not good with full court pressure.

One thing that saved Stanford in this game was the rebounding, Stanford had 46 boards to their 26. Kaylee Johnson regained her rebounding mojo by pulling in 19, with Erica McCall hot on her heels with 14. Erica added 11 points for another double-double, her 12th of the season. Karlie Samuelson added 10 points, including two three-pointers. However, it was Lili who helped Stanford build a second half lead with her 30 points in 33 minutes, 24 of them in the second half. She was 5-11 from the three-point line.

Kaylee Johnson
Kaylee Johnson had 19 rebounds vs WSU.
Photo courtesy of Stanford Official site.

Again, the defense came through, limited WSU’s leading scorer Borislava Hristova to nine points, half her season average. Lili Thompson drew that assignment and it was just the third time the Bulgarian native has failed to score in double figures this season.

Next game…Cal at home and away!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stanford Glad to be Or-e-Gone

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team (ranked #11) split two in the state of Oregon. First they played unranked Oregon, were trailing the whole game, and barely won 64-62. Then they played #12 Oregon State, built up a huge lead, and then couldn’t score in the fourth to lose 58-50. Two very contrasting games.

Oregon
Stanford was without their tall tree Erica McCall, who was “not feeling well.” However they held Oregon’s lead scorer Jillian Alleyne to only three points in the first half and five total points. Stanford’s defense is often overlooked.

Kaylee Johnson got the start and made the most of it, and scored in double figures, finishing with 16 points. In fact, Kaylee looked like a different woman out there, hustling, yes, but so sure and confident, really going up strong when she got the ball, or an offensive rebound. We have not seen the type of swagger in her one and a half years on the farm.

What happened in the game, quite simply, Oregon was beating Stanford with threes. They connected on 12-21. Hats off to Karlie Samuelson for making a few herself (4-5) to keep it close. The fourth quarter started with Stanford only down by four.

In the fourth, after trailing the whole game, sometimes as much as nine points, Stanford got it within one with four minutes left, trailing 61-60. That score stuck around until Oregon’s Jillian made a free throw with 53 seconds left.

Lili Thompson
Lili Thompson wanted it!
Samuel Marshall/Emerald)
Cue the music, cue lights, cue our hero, Lili Thompson. Lili drove to her left and made a very tough lay up over two defenders with 35 seconds left to tie the game. And she was fouled! And she missed the free throw. Then rinse and repeat. Lili goes left, makes a tough lay up to go up by two with 2.2 seconds left, is fouled, and misses the free throw. A timeout advances the ball for Oregon and they even got a shot off, but it missed. Stanford hangs on to win 64-62.

Kaylee Johnson with 16, Lili with 16, and Karlie Samuelson with 18.

Oregon State
Which is harder for a fan to watch, trailing all game and heart attack with 2.2 seconds left for the win, or building up a huge lead, feeling good and munching popcorn, only to watch your team slowly starve to death for points and finally lose 58-50? C and R will answer for you. The second one.

This game was not without some Stanford highlights. It was good to see Kailee Johnson (no relation to Kaylee Johnson) have a break out game, take the ball up strong against a taller post and score 14, I believe a career high. Erica McCall was back in the lineup and scored 12. Alas, Lili’s magic from last game could not save them, and she ended up with nine points, and Karlie Samuelson had seven and fouled out of the game.

Tale of Two Halves
After trailing early in the first quarter, Stanford built up a nice lead against the Beavers in the second and even held them to nine points in the second quarter with a 17-6 run. The half time score was 30-21.

Then, Stanford held the Beavs (no relation to Justin Bieber) to nine points again in the third, but only scored ten points themselves, leading 40-30 to start the fourth. Then two things happened, Oregon State went to a zone and Stanford stayed in their same offense, which was not working, and Oregon’s Jamie Weisner got untracked. Wesiner only scored four points in the first half, and ended the game with 18. Also, Devan Hunter made 5-7 threes to end the game with 19. She had only made seven all season long.

How bad was it? Oregon State went on a 22-4 run to win 58-50. Wait, our math must be wrong. Oregon State outscored Stanford 28-10 in the fourth. Yowzza. Here’s more math. This win for Oregon was the first time in 15 years, snapping a29-game losing streak. The last time they won was 2001.