Friday, July 18, 2014

WNBA All-Star Sister Weekend

Back in April when Chiney Ogwumike was drafted number one by the Connecticut Sun, she and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike made history. They were the first pair of siblings in the WNBA to be drafted number one. Heck, let’s take that a step further to show how rare that is. The feat has only been accomplished one other time in any major sport, men’s or women’s, when Peyton and Eli Manning did it in football. And that is some great company!

So leave it to the intrepid Ogwumike sisters to make history again when they became the first pair of sisters to be chosen to participate in the WNBA All-Star game. Granted, both go in as reserves, but it is still a pretty cool feat. And not even Nneka can say she got the All-Star nod her rookie season, as Chiney has done. Nneka had to wait a year, when she went for the first time last year. This is her second nod.

The sisters also made personal history when they played against each other July 15th of this year. In the sisters' first WNBA meeting, Nneka scored 24 points and got the win, while Chiney contributed 18 points in the loss.
Nneka V Chiney Ogwumike

Why is that noteworthy, their first time playing against each other? The famous story around the Stanford campus is that the two did not play each other in practice. Well, they did in an early practice in Chiney’s freshmen year, when Nneka was the wise junior. Chiney elbowed Nneka, the story goes, and Nneka threatened revenge, so Chiney excused herself to stand by coach. And that’s when Stanford Women’s Basketball coach Tara VanDerveer said that’s it, you two will never be on opposite sides. And they weren’t. Whether on the court or off it. Each is the others biggest cheerleader.


So the all-star game, while sharing the pre-game stuff together, will mark the second time they have to play each other. The third time will be when Chiney’ Sun goes to LA in August.
While the All-Star game is fun to watch the best of the best, when the sisters play each other, it is so conflicting to C and R. Who to root for? Although we all know West side is the best side.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Looking Back at Stanford’s Season

Even though summer is just starting, C and R would be remiss if we did not have a recap of The Stanford Women’s Basketball 2013-14 season (more from the official Stanford site). And 2013 started out the year of “13.” Or say we say the year of Chiney Ogwumike. Chiney Ogwumike took the team on her back and propelled them to the Final Four, their sixth appearance in seven years. Unfortunately they had a date with UConn and lost in the semis, but it was a great ride.

Stanford’s overall record was 33-4. Notable wins included Tennessee (for the third straight season) and both times against Cal in a week. They won the Pac-12 regular-season title, for the 14th time in a row. They did lose in the semis of the Pac-12 tourney to eventual winner USC, thus earning them a number 2 seed in the NCAA tourney. You can read a year in review for the Pac-12.

Chiney Ogwumike had some help. A pleasant surprise was freshmen guard Lili Thompson. Her aggressiveness and confidence also rubbed off on junior guard Amber Orrrrange and she upped her game as well. Another pleasant surprise of the season was the return of fifth year veteran Mikalea Ruef. She has her best year and peaked during the NCAA regional finals, ultimately being named the MVP of the region over buddy Chiney.

And what can we say about Chiney? Well, a lot actually, so here goes:
She led Stanford to three Final Fours during four year career. Her senior season, she was unanimous All-American, named the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year, (the nation’s top academic honor and first from Stanford) was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Team for the second straight year  annnnnnnddddddd….was awarded the  John R. Wooden Award winner as the national player of the year,  She became the first Stanford and Pac-12 women’s basketball player to claim the John R. Wooden Award.

As for the Pac-12 conference Awards, she leaves as one of the most decorated players in the history of the Pac-12. She now holds the Pac-12 all-time scoring and rebounding record, while claiming eight single-season or career records including tying the scoring average record, a mark set in 1989. She scored 2,737 points, besting fellow alum Candice Wiggins and grabbed 1,567 rebounds, besting fellow alum Kayla Pedersen, in addition to setting the single-season conference record for points scored at 967, passing fellow alum and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike. She swept the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the second straight season, with the defensive honor being her third in a row. That makes her a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and four-time all-Conference. No one, man or woman has ever won the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive player of the year award, and she has done it twice! Lastly, she set a record for being named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the ninth time this season and the 18th time in her career.

She finished the season as the only player to rank in the national top 10 in scoring (26.1 ppg - fourth), rebounding (12.1 rpg - ninth), field-goal percentage (60.1 - fourth), and double-doubles (27 - third).
After being named to every major award’s preseason watch list as well as to every preseason All-America Team, Ogwumike went on to a season in which she averaged 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game while shooting 60.1 percent from the field. Those numbers helped Ogwumike earn her second straight selections to the ESPN, USBWA, John R. Wooden Award, and Associated Press First Teams, with the AP nod being her third overall after being named to the second team in 2012.  Additionally, Ogwumike was honored at the Final Four in Nashville by being named to the WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team for the third straight season, joining Candice Wiggins (2005-08), Nneka Ogwumike (2010-12) and Nicole Powell (2002-04) as Stanford’s only three-time WBCA All-Americans. She was honored by the Stanford Alumni Association as one of two graduating seniors to receive the 2014 J.E. Wallace Sterling Award for outstanding service to Stanford.

She also had wrote the lyrics to this song:


Coach Tara Vanderveer got her 900th career victory this season, and in her understated style, no one got to see it, which was fine by her. The win came at the Puerto Vallarta gave tourney that clearly was not ready for prime time. No televised games, or even videotaped for later. Official score keepers and statistician  had to be borrowed from the teams. She now stands alongside legends Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt in the exclusive 900 club.

The pinnacle of the season was Stanford clinching their trip to the final four at Maples Pavilion and getting to see their inspiring win in person. C and R are still smiling. What will next year hold?

Season tickets are now on sale!

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Look Back at Stanford Draft Day


Hey hey, two Stanford, basketball players, or should we say former players were drafted by the WNBA. It was not surprise that Chiney Ogwumike was drafted number one by the, dare we say it, Connecticut Sun. She and sister Nneka join Peyton and Eli Manning as the only two siblings in pro sports to be drafted #1. Cool. Hope Chiney does as well as Nneka, who won rookie of the year her first year. Although it will be the first time they have ever played on opposing teams.

Chiney Ogwumike, Mikaela Ruef
Chiney Ogwumike, front right, hugs forward Mikaela Ruef after Stanford defeated Nortth Carolina in a regional final of the NCAA's (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The other former Stanford player drafted was Mikaela Ruef. The fifth year senior wasn’t even sure she was coming back or if there would be a scholarship for her, but there was and she grew as the season went on. He career was capped with getting nabbed as the most outstanding player in the regional NCAA’s. Everyone assumes it would be all everything Chiney Ogwumike. That helped her stock and Ruefie as drafted 31st by the Seattle Storm. Good news for her, she is reunited with bestie and former Stanford alum Joslyn Tinkle (remember tinkle bells?) Going to a team with a friendly face was a good thing because she has a million questions about how to be a pro.

To quote the Stanford official site: Ruef is the 23rd Stanford player to be selected in the WNBA Draft (Chiney was 22nd). Ruef’s and Ogwumike’s selections give Stanford multiple picks in a single WNBA Draft for the seventh time (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2014), and the first since Kayla Pedersen (seventh, Tulsa Shock) and Jeanette Pohlen (ninth, Indiana Fever) both went in the 2011 first round.

Looking forward to following the summer!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stanford Gets the Same Results Against UConn

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With Stanford going to the Final Four six times in seven years and coming up empty handed, you could call head coach Tara Vanderveer Insane… or insane like a fox. (I don’t know, I am mixing my metaphors.) So when Stanford played #1 UConn in November and “only” lost by 19, Tara also expected a different result when she met them again in the Final Four in April. It was the same 19-point margin of victory. Just insane.

Not very many people thought Stanford would even make it to the Final Four this year. They lost in the Sweet Sixteen last year with much of the same cast, and didn’t even get the number one seed in their region. Just getting to the Final Four this year, with the parties, the red carpets, the autograph signing sessions and the line dancing, was a huge victory for Stanford. Too bad they had to meet #1 UConn in the Final Four.

Yes, yes Tara was playing to win. She is the master of scouting other teams and finding an exploiting their weaknesses, and figuring out who is the worst shooter and then not guard her. Turns out, UConn doesn’t have many weaknesses to exploit.

Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike dives for a loose ball over Stephaine Dolson. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

And hats off to UConn. Their defense won this game for them. They started out cold, offensively. Stanford had the lead for 12 and a half minutes in the first half, the longest time any opponent had the lead all year against UConn. But UConn’s defense took away All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike. Stanford thought they had an answer for that, in their outside shooting. Turns out UConn knows how to scout, too. UConn took away Stanford’s three ball. They guarded the perimeter so Stanford three-point specialist Bonnie Samuelson, with the quick release, could not get a good shot off. Coupled with the fact Stanford cold not penetrate on the drive and it was game over.

Right around the last few minutes if the first half, UConn went on a 12-0 run and took the lead back for good. At the half it was 24-28. The good news was UConn’s shooter, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had zero points at the half. The bad news is Chiney Ogwumike only had four.

UConn would go on a 20-5 run spanning both halves. UConn came out in the second and before you could blink it Huskies led 44-27. The lone three points in that period was inside player Chiney Ogwumike hitting a outside three. And that is not a good game plan. UConn took away what Chiney does best, inside points and rebounds. And Stanford’s outside shooters went 6-25 from three-point territory. Add 13 Stanford turnovers and it was not a pretty game for Stanford.

Chiney did not try much inside in the first half, and consequently, Stanford did not shoot any free throws in the first. Stanford drove more in the second half and did pick up some fouls, but it was too little, too late. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored all of her 15 points in the second half. The truth of the matter was Stanford could not get stops and did not trade baskets.

Although Chiney would score 15 points and 10 rebounds for her 27th double-double of the year, eight of those 15 points came after UConn had already established a solid double-digit lead. POY Breanna Stewart helped hold Stanford's All-American to just 5-of-12 shooting.

More Box Score:
-Amber Orrange had16 points to lead three Stanford players in double figures.
-Lili Thompson chipped in with 12 points for Stanford, although ten were in the first half.

Still, congratulations to Stanford on a great, great season. So much effort and intensity and emotion. And no, C and R don’t think Tara VanDerveer is insane. We think she is genius. To go to six Final Fours in seven years means you are consistently doing something right.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stanford Beats North Carolina, Back in the Final Four

There is a cheer the Stanford band does. Two X plus 4, where X is your score. It is a brainiac cheer. It would be chanted, for example, when one team has 9 points and the other team has 22 points. Two times 9 is 18, add four and you get 22. It is pointing out that the team with 22 has more than doubled your score, and it rhymes. The band has used it against many, many Stanford opponents over the years. C and R have never, ever seen it used against Stanford. Cue a dark and stormy night at Maples.

The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was playing North Carolina in the Elite Eight with the winner going on to the Final Four. As C and R mentioned, it was raining outside, and raining threes inside Maples. Just it was North Carolina making it rain. They popped 5 of 6 threes early in the first half, Stanford had four straight turnovers, and before you could dry off, it was 9 to 22 with 12:46 left in the first half (Two X plus four indeed!).

To Stanford’s credit, they did not panic. UNC did their job and was taking All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike out of the game. They were double and triple teaming her in the paint and not letting her get an offensive rebound. She was not touching the ball.

Stanford responded by hitting some threes of their own. By the end of the half, both teams combined for 15 made threes. Seven for UNC, eight for Stanford. Stanford was lucky to be down only 30-36. And they were hoping and praying UNC could not keep making those threes, or else head coach Tara Vanderveer told her team to guard the 3-point line. Either way, UNC only made two more 3-pointers in the second half.

Give an assist to older sister Nneka Ogwumike giving Chiney a pep talk at the half, too. Also keeping Stanford in the game was Mikaela Ruef, the fifth year senior who did not want to remember last year’s loss in the Sweet Sixteen. She hit three 3-pointers, a career high. She has never hit more than one in a game before. Before this game, her career total for threes was seven for all five years. She scored a career high 17 and grabbed nine rebounds.

With Stanford hitting threes, UNC came out on the perimeter and left Chiney Ogwumike alone one-on-one in the paint. And what, Stanford fans, do C and R say when they leave Chiney alone one-on-one in the paint? Chin-nay all day. That was the turning point. Chiney Ogwumike scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, and added 10 rebounds for her 26th double-double of the year. Mikaela Ruef does the things not noticed in the box score. Someone must have noticed, though because she was awarded the regional MVP. A shocker it was not Chiney, but we are sure Chiney does not mind Ruefie picking up some hardware.

Mikaela Ruef
Mikaela Ruef, regional MVP
(Photo: Don Feria/isiphotos.com )

Stanford had five players in double figures, and when has that happened? Never? Amber Orrange scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half to help Stanford stay close. Bonnie Samuelson made three 3-pointers for 13 points off the bench. Freshman  Lili Thompson, who doesn’t play like a freshman, scored ten points.

Lili only scored ten because she had her hands full guarding UNC’s shining freshmen Diamond Deshields (get it, shining). Diamond was limited to 13 points (she averages about 19) and only made one three pointer. To be fair, she was injured with a sprained ankle, knee and wrist and you could tell she was bothered. She said her ankle was hurting in warm-ups but like a warrior, did not want to miss this game. She has a very accurate pull up jumper, but clearly the ankle was affecting her. We have not seen the last of that Freshman.

The lead see-sawed back and forth and it was a one-point game with 1:48 left and a three-point lead for Stanford with 22 seconds left when Bonnie (Miss Automatic) was fouled. She made both of them and Chiney added two free throws and Amber a lay up and Stanford would hold on to win 74-65. The score was not indicative of how close this game was.

Don’t know if we have ever seen Stanford come back from so far down. All those Pac-12 blowouts didn’t help them prepare. But we have Chiney Ogwumike (and Mikalea Ruef), and a supporting cast that did their role jobs well. Stanford going to the Final Four. Let’s just enjoy this before we look to see whom Stanford is playing (Hint: It’s UConn).

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stanford in the Elite Eight

By now, everyone has heard the story of the Penn state coaches hanging out with Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer in the offseason to pick her brain on the triangle offense. Guess Tara forgot to show them the back door option.

Stanford played their best ball in a long, long time. Perhaps the long season wore on them, but the last quarter of the Pac-12 season was a little lackluster. Not today. And not when playing in Maples.

Penn State and the Stanford Women’s Basketball team were playing in the Sweet Sixteen, held on Stanford’s home court. Much has been written about having neutral sites, but the truth is fans don’t come out if their home team is not playing, the site loses a lot of money, and a lot of empty seats happen. So while this is an inelegant solution, the powers that be are still scratching their heads on how to make this better.

Penn State came out powerful and athletic, and kept it close for about half of the first half. Then Stanford got hot, All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike got going, and Stanford played shutdown defense. Stanford outscored Penn State 25-7 to end the half and held Penn State without a field goal for nearly six and a half minutes.

Bonnie Samuelson, Mikaela Ruef, Lili Thompson
Bonnie Samuelson, Mikaela Ruef and Lili Thompson play good D on Lucas (Photo Courtesy of Kelley L Cox )
Stanford’s Lili Thompson got the assignment to guard Penn State’s great scorer, Maggie Lucus. She averages about 21 points a game. Lili held her to 6 points in the fist half. And for the game? Six points. That’s right they shut her down in the second half. Lucas was scoreless. Tied her career low, too. She was 3-for-14 from the floor, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers. Her last points were nine and a half minutes left in the first. Wowsa! 

Penn State set screens, and even double screens, to try to free up their outside shooter Lucas, but nobody prepares for a game like Tara Vanderveer. Stanford knew the screens were coming and either got over them or switched personal on her so she never got an open look.

Shout out to Mikeala Ruef. Ruefie helped on a lot of those switches on Lucas and played intense defense. She also contributed 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She was one of two Stanford players that got a double-double. The other was that beast Chiney Ogwumike. She had 29 points and 15 rebounds. That marked her 25th double-double of the season, and 83 for her career. Double Wowsa! Amber Orrrrange was second in scoring for Stanford with 18 points.  Lili Thompson and Mikaela Ruef both finished the game with 11 points. That’s four, count-em, four in double figures. Stanford will need that kind of effort from everyone from now on.

Shout out to former Stanford alums Nneka Ogwumike, Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen, Lindy Larocque and Sarah Boothe in the house. Noticed Toni Kokenis was sitting in the stands with them. Wonder if it was a NCAA rule she couldn’t be on the bench?

Come back to Maples Tuesday night at 6PM Stanford time when they take on North Carolina (Oh yeah, number one seed South Carolina didn’t even make it to the elite eight, go figure).


Monday, March 24, 2014

Stanford in Sweet Sixteen

Give credit to Florida State University. They had a definite game plan on defense that gave Stanford trouble. But credit Hall of Fame and Olympic coach Tara VanDerveer with a better defensive game plan, even if her assistants all thought she was crazy.

To recap, the Stanford Women’s Basketball team was playing Florida State for the right to advance to the Sweet Sixteen that just happens top be held at Maples in PA CA (Palo Alto, California) and is Stanford’s home court.

A very athletic Florida State came out in what is called a pressure half zone. Around the three-point perimeter. Stanford couldn’t get the ball inside to all-everything Chiney Ogwumike and Stanford certainly couldn’t get open for a three. And oh, they were committing turnovers left and right that were resulting in easy scores for FSU. Soon Stanford was down 14-6.

Then Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said, let’s go to a standard 2-3 zone even though we have lived on playing man-to-man all year long. Well, we don’t know what she said exactly, but the Associated Pres reported that her assistants wanted to say in man and Tara insisted on the little used zone. Guess what, she outranked them.

Chiney Ogwumike
Stanford traps a Cheetah
(Photo: Associated Press )

Then Stanford went on 26-2 run to end the half 32-16. Really, it was a 30-2 run if you count the start of the second. FSU was held scoreless for nine and a half minutes in the first. Still not impressed? FSU only scored ONE basket in the final 12 and a half minutes. FSU was 7-28 in the first, missing 20 of 22 shots to end the period. Chalk that up to good Stanford defense and a coach who knows to stick to her guns when she is right.

Stanford’s unsung hero of the season, Mikaela Ruef, was matched up with FSU high scoring post player, Natasha Howard, even when in the zone. She was held scoreless in the first and scored her first basket of the game with 17 minutes left in the second. Howard ended up with nine points for the game, usually averaging 21.

Speaking of Ruef, she banged her head last game and was held out as a precaution. This game, she wanted it. She was diving after balls, taking charges and hitting the deck often and with abandon. She scored eight and grabbed seven tough boards.

Stanford’s leading scorer, Chiney Ogwumike, did not disappoint when she was left one on one, or alone under FSU’s basket. She had 21 points and nine rebounds. She also got help from her supporting cast. Freshman guard Lili Thompson added 14 points and Bonnie Samuelson had 11 with three 3-pointers (she even made a rare two). Team-wise, Stanford had 17 assists on 22 field goals. Now that’s good teamwork.

See everyone back at Maples on Sunday and Tuesday, rain or shine.

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