Monday, March 15, 2010

Stanford vs. UCLA-- PAC-10 Championship Game

We run into some UCLA fans in the bar (hey, it was the only place near the arena open for lunch). They say they heard UCLA’s Jasmine Dixon was hurt. That she got hurt in the semi-final game against USC. C and R look at each other. Maybe they are trying to give us false hope.

All C and R can say is if she was hurt, we would hate to see her at full strength. The Stanford Women’s Basketball team led the game against UCLA wire to wire, but it was Jasmine Dixon that impressed. She was everywhere on the court. She would drive in to the basket and try to draw a foul and when Stanford would play off her to prevent her drive, she would pull up for a jumper and make it. She also was everywhere on the defensive side of the court.

The only way we could stop her was when she went to the bench. Luckily for us, she did early and often in the first half. What was UCLA Head and PAC-10 Coach of the Year Nikki Caldwell thinking?

C and R were sitting with a mixed crowd (meaning we were near Stanford and UCLA fans) and our section had fun theorizing why Dixon was not in more. Was she really injured? Was it her foul trouble? (She would eventually foul out of the game in the second half) Was it to give us a false sense of confidence?

One of our faithful readers had a great theory that Jasmine was tired from yesterday’s game and they were resting her a lot in the first half so she would still be fresh for a second half charge. Boy, that was a good theory.

Speaking of the half, we were leading 36-19 after 20 minutes. Can you say “Defensive Battle”? Can you say, "Stanford make your lay-ups for crying out loud?" Good. UCLA kept us on our toes by a half court trap and occasionally a full court press. In breaking the half court trap, as long as we did not panic and remembered we can dribble out of two people guarding us, we did fine.

As for UCLA’s full court press, we could break it but it would take us 15 seconds of the 30-second shot clock. Stanford fans, let’s flash back to 2008’s National Title game when Stanford played against Tennessee (you know, the one that was Candice Wiggins’ last game-- Oh, we just like remembering her!). No, really, we have a point.

At that time, Nikki Caldwell was an assistant coach for Tennessee. She noticed that the strength of Stanford’s offensive was their passing and going through set “reads”. If you are open, you shoot; otherwise you pass to the next player. Pass to the wing, pass to the three point shooter, pass to the high post, wait for the guard to come around the horn of Africa and hand off, back to teh wing… you get the idea. Stanford would be very patient and disciplined and pass until they wore down the defensive and would find a shooter open and shoot. This would take 20-25 seconds of the 30-second shot clock. If you covered that shooter the next time down, Stanford would have another option waiting. It was hard to defend.

So Nikki said, “Let’s take away their strength”, which is using the clock. So Tennessee pressed us and harassed us in the backcourt. Even if we broke the press and got the ball across the half court line, we had used 15 seconds of clock. As we went to our passes and “reads,” we would run out of time and would have to take a hurried shot. We looked disjointed on offensive, never found our rhythm and lost the game.

Well, flash forward to the second half of this game and UCLA comes out in a full court press. We don’t panic as much as we used to and get the ball across half court, right at the 15-second mark. Except this time we have our secret weapon, Nneka Ogwumike. We can just pass it to her down low and she can create and score within 5 seconds. Or else Kayla Pedersen can get the ball and pull up for a three or drive in, all within 5 seconds. Ha, we are not so one-dimensional anymore, are we?

Oh, with UCLA pressing, Tara decided to insert guard Melanie Murphy into the game for her ball handling skills and she did great, and contributed 10 points. Hopefully her knee is up to the challenge of more minutes.
So when we saw UCLA open teh second half with the full court press and Jasmine Dixon playing hard, we thought the prophecy that UCLA was saving Dixon to make an energetic charge was going to come to fruition. But we broke it and scored easily. When Dixon got her fourth foul and went to the bench, no one from UCLA really stepped up scoring-wise, and when she fouled out, that’s all she wrote. (Except for us, we keep writing). The outcome was never in doubt and the final score was 70-46.

One thing we did admire is that UCLA did not give up on their aggressiveness in the closing minutes. They went hard after the Stanford players, and if we got a defensive rebound, they attacked us, a few times slamming down hard on the ball to knock it away. So much so that Stanford Coach Tara Van Derveer said UCLA “took rebounds out of our hands”. She feels we still need some work, to put it mildly.
Nikki Caldwell said she liked when her team was “aggressive and disruptive”, but they did not keep it up for 40 full minutes. C and R are sure in she will correct that in a year or two.

We do want to mention that we thought we had better refs for this game at least more fouls were (rightfully) called. UCLA had two players foul out in the second half, and Jayne Appel was in danger with 4 and Nneka had 3. The UCLA players, in their defense, were playing very aggressively when they fouled.

Now on to the accolades. First of all, we are the first women’s PAC-10 team to go undefeated in PAC-10 play (18-0) and undefeated in the PAC-10 tournament. We were 21-0 during that stretch. Nneka Ogwumike scored 59 total tournament points and was named the tournament MVP. She was the fifth player to be named league MVP and tournament MVP. Kalya Pedersen and Jayne Appel were named to the PAC-10 tournament team.

Incidentally, Swish Appeal has been reviewing women’s basketball teams in preview of the NCAA tournament. Here is one quote about Stanford’s trio of trees.

“Most schools would kill to have one post player as good as any of Stanford's. The fact that Stanford is sitting on three of them is mind-boggling… In case that wasn't enough, they have the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10 in senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.”

She forgot to mention Chiney Ogwumike coming in next year… hee hee.

Anyway, Congratulations to Stanford! Enjoy your Monday and look for the women’s bracket!

More Stanford Stuff at the original C and R's Stanford Women's Basketball Blog

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