Friday, February 5, 2010

Extra Extra! Jayne Appel Thrown Out of Game for First Time Ever!

So C and R were sitting there watching a perfectly normal Stanford women’s basketball game vs UCLA when the abnormal happened. Jayne Appel got ejected from the game in the second half! Jayne? Our Jayne? Out mild-mannered, everyone loves Jayne, Jayne? The Jayne who had a foot infection and wasn’t even supposed to play tonight Jayne?

When C and R saw Jayne run to the locker room we looked at each other. We have never seen Jayne thrown out of a game in her four years here. We looked away and then back at each other and then said we can’t remember a Stanford player EVER getting thrown out of a game in all the years R has been going (She has had season tickets longer than she has known C). Head Coach Tara VanDerveer said the same thing he next day, that in her 24 years of coaching, she’s never had a player thrown out.

And it did seem like a normal PAC-10 game. UCLA came out scrappy and hustling, and in a man-to-man press. We took an early lead, let them come back and take the lead, then we had a slight lead at half, then came back and pounded them in the second half to win 74-53. You know, typical game for us against a PAC-10 foe, as it has happened three times in a row now.

What was abnormal was that Jayne was having a game from last year. Even coach Tara VanDerveer was quoted as saying, “She was the old Jayne.” Jayne was taking them one-on-one and had 23 points and 13 rebounds before she was tossed with 7:41 left in the game (Think if she played the whole game). By contrast, Kayla had 4 points at that juncture.

Also abnormal was we discovered Stanford’s 6’2” Nneka Ogwumike can dribble. Yes, really. She even dribbled between her legs in the opening minutes. When Stanford is pressed, as they were last night by UCLA, a tall person will inbound it to the guard and the guard, feeling pressure, will pass it back to the person who threw it in, as she is not guarded. The other team rarely expects them to throw it backwards. We have been lucky in that usually it is Kayla Pedersen back there, who is a great ball handler for someone so big. But tonight it was Nneka inbounding the ball, and she kept winding up with the ball in her hands and she took it up court in the point guard position. In past games, when we have seen her dribble, it is high and not so deft. She did a credible job last night but let’s not have this be standard operating procedure, Stanford.

UCLA is coached by Nikki Caldwell, a former Tennessee player and assistant coach under Pat Summit. You could see Pat Summit’s fingerprints all over this team. They were disciplined and in shape. They ran and they hustled constantly. They did the fundamentals extremely well. (They boxed out Jayne so hard one time they made her bend over backwards and got called for a foul). They even had a little speedy but teeny point guard ala Shannon Bobbit to push the ball up court.

So here’s something funny we noticed about UCLA. The faster they pushed the ball, the better STANFORD responded. UCLA came out of the gate in the opening seconds pushing the ball up court quickly, and playing an up tempo game. We responded by scoring 11 points to their 2 in the first five minutes! Then they slowed down. And we slowed down all of a sudden it’s 16-10, Stanford, with 10 minutes gone. We said in a previous post we seem to respond or mirror the team we are playing. Play us up tempo and we come out firing. Play us slow with a set half court offense and defense and we are sluggish and lose our scoring ability. Hmmmm, hope other teams don’t catch on to this.

As UCLA and Stanford slow down, we let them take the lead with about 6 minutes in the half and then hang on to a 36-32 lead at half time. The game is getting rough, as UCLA is scrappy and the refs are allowing it, emboldening UCLA to get even more scrappy, which will come in to play in the second half and Jayne’s ejection. (Yes, finally, we got to the ejection! You were just about to go to another site to satisfy your curiosity, weren’t you?)

So here’s what happened. Jayne grabbed a rebound…did you know going in to the game she was just 17 away from the all-time Stanford record? And last night she moved past Val Whiting and into second place on Stanford's career rebounding list with 1,140? She is three away from tying Nicole Powell’s school record. (Arrgh, R just pinched me to get on with it).

So Jayne grabbed the defensive rebound and three UCLA players surrounded her. Usually one UCLA player would harass the rebounder, but they were getting a little desperate with the score being 60-42, trying to force turnovers. Jayne did as she was taught, which was to move the ball quickly back and forth in her arms to not let them grab it, and if they reached in, would probably foul her as she is moving her arms quickly. When the three UCLA players did not back off from her movements, and were reaching in on her, she moved the ball quicker and higher, and her elbow caught Jasmine Dixon in the face, and she dropped to the floor and the whistle blew.

Now, you know C and R are huge Stanford fans. Heck, it says it all over our website. But we are also honest and fair to a fault. And in our opinion, it was not a dirty play on Jayne’s part at all. She was not slinging her elbows maliciously or far away from her body. She was not using her elbows as a weapon. She was moving aggressively within the context of protecting the ball and the UCLA players were not giving her any space, in fact were moving in closer on her. At first we thought UCLA should be given the foul and when we found out it was Jayne, we booed with the rest of the crowd. Then when it was apparent UCLA was shooting a two shot technical, we were livid and booed harder. It was not flagrant, in our opinion, as we said. Give Jayne the foul, but not a technical. Then when we saw Jayne run to the locker room and was ejected, we were really, really mad. It was not done deliberately or maliciously; there was no reason to kick her out of the game. And would she be suspended for the next game, too?

When play resumed to a chorus of boos, the refs are calling any little contact (Two UCLA payers would eventually foul out of the game). After a minute and a half of whistles, Stanford steals the ball and gets it to Ros Gold-Onwude. She is running uncontested for a lay up and we see the UCLA player speed up from behind. Now, C and R are thinking, if the UCLA is smart, she will let this play go, she can’t stop the lay-up, and in light of a player just getting kicked out and seeing the refs are whistle happy, should not risk a foul here. Instead the UCLA player grabs Ros’ arm as she is jumping up. Okay, if you aren’t going for the ball on a lay up, if you grab a jersey or an arm to stop a lay up, that is usually a technical foul. If a player touches the body or hand trying to stop the shot, then that is a regular foul. The technical foul designation is used to stop a player from coming up from behind and stopping the player at all costs, by saying grabbing a fistful of jersey, or hair or her arm. Do they call a technical? Noooooo. The crowd is even more incensed. (Someone grabbed my ponytail once to stop me on a fast break and got a technical, hee hee, but it sure did hurt).

Back to Jayne’s technical and ejection. This morning, Jayne said her action was unintentional, and Dixon and UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell backed her.

"Appel was just trying to get the rebound and clear the board," Dixon said. "I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Said Appel, "I was in no way intentionally trying to be flagrant or trying to hit her, just playing basketball."

While neither VanDerveer nor Caldwell saw the entire play, both defended Appel. Caldwell recruited Appel while working at Tennessee.

"I saw a lot of arms and people around and Jayne trying to square up," VanDerveer said. "She's got like three people all over her. People are swiping at her. She was trying to hold onto the ball and be aggressive with the ball. She's not a dirty player."

Said Caldwell, "I don't think she's that type of kid who would intentionally try to hurt anybody."

Gracious of UCLA’s coach Caldwell and Jasmine Dixon, and we appreciate their candidness. We hope the PAC-10 review committee that is deciding if Jayne can play in the next game is listening.

OMG, almost forgot to report THE most exciting part of the game. As the Stanford women’s team was throwing their red victory balls, Joslyn Tinkle ran over to our section and C was vigorously shaking her tinkle bell. She looked right at us and threw the ball to R! So we want to give a big thank you shout out to Joslyn Tinkle and say how great you look on the court!! Hee hee. R said she bets her mom made her find us and throw us a ball! So thanks Mrs. Tinkle. C and R didn’t have time to meet Mrs. Tinkle when she was here, but the coach of our little girls’ team, who is from Montana, did. Mrs. Tinkle probably told Jos to throw those women a ball; they are so nice to you!

See you on Superbowl Sunday, with or without Jayne.

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