Okay, we must admit, when the announcer said, “Welcome to the first game of Stanford’s season”, we got goose bumps! Even though it was an exhibition game, even though it was a low turn out of a crowd, we were so excited to be back at Maples.
Yes, yes, Stanford opened its season with an exhibition game Sunday and we are sorry we didn’t write earlier. But we got side tracked with a gorgeous trip to the beach. But I bet you are glad we are taking that count down scoreboard thingie down, now that basketball is here!
So, we walked into Maples Sunday and were disappointed by the low turn out in the stands. To be fair, the Stanford women’s soccer team was playing right outside on another gorgeous California Fall Day. Make that the unbeaten, number one team in the country Stanford women’s soccer team playing right out side and maybe that drew some of the fans. Although by the time Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Nekka to us now) lined up for the jump ball, it was an okay crowd (sorry we don’t have the numbers).
We like to get there early to watch warm ups. We aren’t the only ones, as the jumbotron scoreboard started to show last years highlights, the Stanford women looked up to watch. It’s easy to forget these young ladies are only in their late teens and early twenties and it’s nice to see they are not jaded about watching all the great things they accomplished last year.
We get to see the new freshmen, Mikela Ruef (as in “the Roof is one fire”), from Beavercreek Ohio, near C’s old hometown of Dayton, and Jocelyn Tinkle. To keep C from being childishly immature about her last name, R might have to buy her a small bell so she can tinkle it when Tinkle grabs a rebound or scores a point.
And wow, Sarah Boothe has lost a lot of weight. So much that she has resculpted her body. And she has a stress fracture in her foot. If she can still find away to exercise and lose weight, then there is hope for C and R! The staff is still unsure of she is going to red-shirt and give up this season.
C and R scope out our opponents. Vanguard University. C sure hopes we beat them because Vanguard is the one that lost nearly half her money in her 401(k)! No? She is confusing the Vanguard Company with little Vanguard University? She does that every year we play them. C and R have to use R’s fancy phone to look them up and remind themselves that Vanguard University is a small Christian school near LA. There must be a connection to Stanford and Vanguard, a former Cardinal on the athletic staff perhaps? We will have to work on that one and get back to you.
Anyhoo, Vanguard is small, with only two players over 6 feet tall. So small that when Nekka jumps for the ball to start the game, their center does not even jump and the rest of the team falls back on defense, conceding the ball.
C and R hate to say this, but Stanford doesn’t look all that sharp to start the game. C says they look ragged. R says they look nervous. They seem to miss many open players. Both teams make turnovers. Neither team scores until 2:20 into the contest, when Nekka gets a lay up.
Dependable Jeanette Pohlen starts hustling and dropping shots. Nekka is so athletic, and can really sky when she jumps. She even steals a pass out of the air meant for center Jayne Appel, and makes the basket. Speaking of Jayne, she still does not look 100% with her injured knee and we hope she can rehabilitate it in time for the opening game.
Stanford finds a rhythm and it is 25-7 when the subs come in. We get to see a lot of Tinkle. She blocks a shot and then gets a rebound on the other end and she looks almost identical to Jayne. Same build, same moves, wow, she is going to be effective off the bench early on!
After a half time of expensive hot dogs, the game starts up again and we notice two things. Stanford is almost predictable in its offensive movement and the out of bounds play takes 4 and-a-half seconds to develop. IN the out of bounds play under the basket, the ref hands the ball off and starts counting and by the time the guard comes around the horn from Africa, the count has reached 4.5 and at 5 seconds they lose the ball. It is pretty close. Maybe this is one time you don’t want to have all those reads and options and instead just throw it in.
So on offense, it could be this is the only offense they have had time to practice, or want to show this early on, but even C and R knew where the players are going to stand and when they would cut. The one bright spot is when Nekka gets the ball and can’t find anyone open, she is athletic enough to create her own path to the basket. If I were a coach, I might want to clear out everyone and hand the ball to Nekka and say, “Go score!” Maybe they could do it every third rotation or something.
At one point, a Vanguard player gets tangled with Kayla Pederson and they both go down but only Kayla gets back up. The Vanguard player stays down and the refs call time out. Finally, one of the Vanguard trainers comes out to her, and another follows. They appear to only have the two trainers. They eventfully help the player up and after the required polite crowd applause, the smaller trainer tries to put her arm around her shorter shoulders and support her weight. Stanford player JJ Hones, out for the game so the subs can play, taps the trainer on the shoulder and offers to take her place to help support the Vanguard player and proceeds to help take her to the visiting locker room. JJ has torn her ACL, twice, so she knows a thing or two about hobbling off the court. Still, C and R thought that was pretty classy.
As the game continues, it is hard to nitpick on a team that is closing in one 100 points. Lindy LaRocque hits another three and Cinnamon (Ashley Cimino) gets us to 100 points. R makes the observation that Melanie Murphy looks really good. She has great ball handling skills, is good at spotting the open players underneath the basket and is not afraid to pull the trigger on passes. She even hits a couple of outside shots. Very impressive.
The game ends 107-49. The Stanford players slap hands and all wait their turn to shake hands with the fallen Vanguard player, now out of the locker room on crutches with a big bag of ice strapped to her knee. Again, very classy. They return to the Stanford bench and ask where are the red balls to fire into the crowd after a victory? Even a preseason victory is a victory. They look just as disappointed as C when the media relations women shakes her head and tells them, “no red balls to throw”. Darn.
Still we get to exit out into the warm California sunshine. Same time next week.