Well, start throwing the red victory balls. We ONLY lost by 12 to top ranked UConn. Stanford actually had the lead going into half time. A victory for us, considering how they came out after halftime and used their incredible athleticism to out rebound and out shoot us, especially the three, and run the lay up drill.
In the first half it was Nneka Ogwumike in the first 10 minutes or so, and Kayla Pederson in the second ten minutes or so. I love that Stanford Women's Basketball Head Coach Tara VanDerveer broke out of her rigid offensive scheme, probably knowing UConn had scouted and ran film on that “hand-off” offense, and gave Stanford the green-light to create. Since when does Nneka grab a rebound, dribble up the floor, and go coast to coast for the lay-up? I don’t even remember a non-guard doing that for Stanford with the game on the line. Nneka was at her best when she would dribble penetrate. Until she stopped driving in and hit some long range jumpers. We, and UConn, had never seen her do that, either! And that made it so much harder to watch her disappear in the second half.
To beat UConn, instead of shutting them down, you have to match their scoring and practically outlast them. At least that’s what we did the last time we, or anybody, beat them in the Final Four game almost 2 years ago. Kayla was able to keep us in it in the first half of this game and also disappeared in the second. Jayne Appel couldn’t get going in either half and that was hard for Stanford to recover from. She looked uncomfortable and flat, possibly still bothered by injuries and not being in top shape. And Tina Charles did come alive in the second half. Although to be fair to Jayne, we thought she was fouled repeatedly on her shots in the second half and did not get the calls, coupled with some calls on us we thought were non-existent. But we might be a little biased!
What killed us the most in the second half is we watched UConn shoot and then get the rebound and score. How many points did they get off a second chance? And if they got the second chance, it was going in. We seemed to lose our intensity and focus on boxing out and going aggressively for the ball. We also lost track of Tina Charles and let her get a lot of those rebounds and put backs.
And the UConn players were incredibly accurate shooters. The final stats said they hit 14 threes! Maya Moore got into early foul trouble (We sure did hoot when she got her first foul in the opening seconds of the game!) but was able to adjust and stay in the game. And once we let them pressure us in thesecond half and get a steal and a strong-to-the-basket lay-up, it seemed like it opened the flood gate for 2 or 8 more. And you just can't do that against UConn.
Tara also agreed that she could learn a lot from the loss so it is really a winning situation and that is fair. What galled us the most was right after the game ended, ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, former UConn player, asked UConn coach Geno Auriemma about the differences in the two halves and Geno said his team was “holding back” in the first half, making sure to save energy for the second, and in the second he let them go. We don’t know, but it sounds a little revisionist in theory. Unfortunately, the ESPN analyst crew repeated that right after the game as if it was fact. Grrr. They “let” Stanford have all those points and be leading at half time…
It was nice to see both teams put in their subs and let them get experience in front of a sell-out 16,000 plus crowd. Mikaela Ruef (Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on fire…) made a nice reverse lay-up and drew the foul. We think Michelle Harrison scored a basket, too. Hope Tara was kind to them going into the Christmas Break, and by the way, Happy Holidays to you, too.
Wonder what Pat Summit thought about the game?