As C and R are driving the day after Thanksgiving to Stanford’s game against Utah, we wonder if this game will be a bust, attendance wise. Everyone traveling to Grandma’s house and such. However, we see a good size crowd coming into Maples Pavilion, maybe it is something for the Bay Area to do the day after Thanksgiving instead of shopping. After all, it is good, clean, wholesome entertainment you can take the whole family to, even Grandma.
In fact, C and R are wondering if all the players will be here. Well, we know they will be, but does having this game the day after Thanksgiving mean the players don’t get to go home to their families? Stanford’s own website reports that the Stanford women's basketball team will be on campus for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2005. Jayne Appel is from here, Pleasant Hill, so she probably had Thanksgiving with her family. We wonder if she brought any players who live out of state home for turkey? Or did any of their families come out West to join them?
When we get inside, we are surprised to see that the band is here. I guess none of them went home for Thanksgiving, either. Or maybe these are all locals? Is Stanford a commuter college?
We love getting there early to watch the team warm up, and oh no, Melanie Murphy is on crutches! She is wearing the “Black Sweat Suit of Injury” with Hannah Donaghe, Sarah Boothe and Joslyn Tinkle and the boot. Now what happened? We hope it is not a knee.
The video screen shows highlights of last season in categories. On shooting, on passing, on hitting the floor. As soon as we see that last one we know they are going to show “The Slide”. Yep, sure enough there is the slide of Lindy La Rocque sliding across Stanford’s key, knocking down Alexis Gray Lawson of Cal, grabbing the ball and with her belly still on the floor, heaving it to Jill Harmon under the basket for two. The crowd cheers that great effort.
The announcer announces that every time Stanford makes a three pointer, T-shirts will fly. We haven’t seen a single T-shirt fly all year long. We think we will write to the media person and let them know we miss the free T-shirts.
Utah (the Utes) is also decked out in red and white so C hopes she does not get confused. They don’t look very tall. Nneka Ogwumike jumps and wins. She is undefeated at jump balls this year. We are undefeated in games. Hmmm.
Utah leaves Jayne alone at the high post so Jayne dribbles. We notice she dribbles much lower to the floor this time! Utah boxes us out on offense on the first play. Our defense forces a shot clock violation soon after. This could be a defensive affair.
It’s funny how a play develops. That’s why we love watching the game live and not on that stupid game tracker. On offense, Kayla Pederson passes to Jayne. Kayla cuts to the basket and Jayne passes it back to her, but the ball is a little behind her, which is unusual for Jayne. It tips off Kayla’s fingers right into a Utah player’s hands. She grabs it and streaks down the floor. Jeannette Pohlen, who is back for defense, knows exactly where she is going and cuts her angle to the basket. She heaves it anyway and it banks off the glass. Most of the other two teams are trailing. Pohlen grabs the rebound and pushes the ball up court. Most of the two teams try to stop themselves and turn around, but Nneka is the first to recover and go the opposite way. Pohlen makes an incredible pass to a streaking Nneka, hits her on the fly and she is fouled as she goes high to the rim. She makes both foul shots. Those points started when Jayne missed a pass to Kayla.
Jayne makes a foul early on and Tara takes her out. This is head coach Tara VanDerveer’s way to teach her “bigs” not to foul. C and R wonder at the downside of this. At least JJ Hones comes in her place. We are not able to get the ball inside much so we need her threes. The game is stalled at 7-6, Stanford.
A timeout for rest and we notice only four of the Stanford Dollies, the dancers. Maybe one of them went home for Thanksgiving.
With Jayne out, and she is gone for almost four minutes, Kayla is working hard to get open in the middle but we are not passing to her. Utah has done their homework and has a hand in our faces at the three-point line. We are just not scoring. When Pohlen finally makes a three, no one comes and throws the T-Shirts as advertised. We must get to the bottom of this!
Finally we get Nneka involved in the offense and she takes it inside and is fouled. She makes one and misses one. C and R burn. You can’t miss free throws! This ain’t high school! Then Nneka commits an offensive foul and C and R wonder if Tara is…yes, Tara pulls her. Well, at least she puts in Jayne, but we hate to see Nneka sacrificed for Jayne. We believe they should be in together. Nneka stays out for 3 and a half minutes.
Jayne takes their center one on one and makes the basket. We believe Jayne can beat anybody one on one.
Oh, we think the Stanford Band should get an assist! Or get a technical for cheating. Either one. Here’s what they did. As the opposing team’s shot clock is winding down, they start chanting the time a few seconds off to panic Utah into shooting early. The second time they start chanting 10, 9, 8 when there is 25 seconds left on Utah’s shoot clock. As a basketball player, you would think the players would have an internal clock inside their heads and know there is still plenty of time left. When the band chants 3, 2, 1 there is actually 15 seconds left. The Utah player shoots the ball at the count of 1 and produces an air ball. Stanford grabs the ball and says thank you very much.
Jayne goes down on the floor to grab the ball and knocks it out to Pohlen. Both Kayla and Nneka wear red kneepads but not Jayne. It is rare to see her dive on the floor, so we appreciate her effort. The next time down the floor we notice she looks tired. She doesn’t go for a rebound on offense.
Now the band starts counting backwards or should we say upwards for Utah….
At one point, Jayne gets the ball at the top of the three point line and faces the basket. The whole Utah team knows she is not about to shoot a three and guard everyone else. All nine players are smashed in the middle of the key. There is a good 7 feet between Jayne and another player. The crowd screams for Jayne to shoot. But she waits until someone wings out and passes the ball. I guess there goes Tara’s grand experiment to get Jayne to take more three pointers. She is just not comfortable with them.
As if watching a live action chess match, Tara immediately puts in three-point specialist Lindy La Rocque. She figures if Utah is going to leave the three point line so unguarded, let’s make them pay. Lindy gets the ball on the three-point line and C and R scream for Lindy to shoot it. She does and just coming off the bench, she makes an airball. Sorry Lindy!
Jayne fouls again and gets taken out. While we do not like that she gets taken out when she fouls, she does look very tired. We hear from a reliable source that Jayne is sick and they gave her two pints of fluid intravenously before the game. Probably the flu. Wow, and she is out there running up and down the floor.
Consequently, with having Jayne sick, Nneka on the bench and our three not working for us, it is a low scoring game, only 19-8 with 5 minutes left. While we should be happy we have held the opponent to only 8 points, the lack of scoring on Stanford’s part is troubling.
Then we notice something really interesting. Kayla has been playing heads up ball; doing the fundamentals well and making little plays away from the ball that are really smart. Then Kayla commits a foul. We hold our breath. Will Tara take her out? She doesn’t? It could be that Jayne is sick. It could be that Nneka is not scoring. It could be Stanford needs her smarts. Whatever it is, C and R like to think that Tara has so much confidence in Kayla that when she fouls, they trust she is smart enough not to do it again. We wish she would extend that trust to Jayne and Nneka.
There are 7 seconds left in the half. C says she would give it to Kayla to shoot the three. She has been the anchor all night. Kayla is inbounding the ball. Pohlen stands at the opposing free throw line. Kayla sees the other team is not contesting the throw in and the clock will start when Pohlen touches it. She motions for Pohlen to move closer to the half court line and gives her a leading pass so she touches it at the half court line when the clock starts. Again, a really small thing that will not show up in the stats column, but so court-smart and aware. They pass it to Kayla and she shoots the three, just like C imagined. Unfortunately, she misses in real life. It is 24-11 at the half.
C and R walk to get popcorn and see Nneka walking towards us. Wait, she is in street clothes…oh my, it is not Nneka but Nneka’s little sister, Chiney. You know the one, the one that is the number one women’s basketball recruit in the country and gave her commitment to Stanford for nest year. She is walking and talking to her friend and C is standing there grinning like an idiot so she finally looks at her. C says we are glad you are coming to Stanford next year. She gives a big smile and says thank you. It was a really neat moment, for C and R, anyway! Later we hear she is sitting in the stands with their mother. I guess that answers the question what Nneka did for Thanksgiving. Everyone flew from Texas to see her!
We are surprised to see Jayne back in. She looks like she is hurting. Kayla makes a steal and goes coast to coast for the lay up Good thing the ref didn’t see she double dribbled near our foul line. Maybe some home cookin’? Utah is making the moves on our bigs, especially Jayne. Jayne is missing her usual quickness and would have blocked a few of those points. Utah gets it within 7 points, the score 31-24.
Okay we need to score some points. Tara has Lindy, JJ Hones and Pohlen plus the two bigs of Kayla and Nneka. This is a good line up. Nneka starts taking it to the basket and drawing the foul. So does Pohlen, something we don’t see that much of. Than Kayla takes it in. We love this aggressiveness to the basket, creating instead of waiting on the play to develop. We are also getting them in foul trouble.
This is probably how the bigs are used to operating in high school. Their team gives them the ball and they just go at it and because they are usually taller, or in Nneka’s case, can jump higher, and they can score at will. They look comfortable in this role and it is working.
Then Tara does something strange. She takes Nneka out. Nneka is currently the high scorer with 15 or so points. Jayne is sick. Why take Nneka out? Thank goodness for Kayla. Now Kayla hits a three over a smaller defender.
With Stanford finally scoring inside, it is 56-35. Utah puts in their scrubs with three minutes left. Blessedly, Jayne goes out, too and Ashley Cimono (Cinnamon!) comes in. We finally put in our remaining subs with about 2 minutes left. Freshman Mikaela Ruef (Roof) makes it in the game. Roof shoots a three. Roof misses the three. Freshman! Well, we do like that she is not afraid to shoot the three and feels comfortable out there on the perimeter. We need to mold her like Kayla, a big that can rebound and hit the three. Roof makes a nice back door lob to Cinnamon for a lay up.
We win 60-41, a low output for us. Kayla leads all scorers with 18 points and had 12 boards, another double double. Nneka was close behind with 17 points and 8 boards. Jayne was limited to 2 total points and 6 boards. We know that is the sickness talking. Get better, Jayne, for Sunday and Gonzaga.
This just in… Mel Murphy hurt her knee in Wednesday’s practice and is out until she gets it examined to see if she needs arthroscopic surgery. Joslyn Tinkle is still out for the next few games with a stress reaction in her foot. (Boy, we knew the pressure at Stanford was rough, but to stress out your foot?)