So faithful readers of the C and R’s Stanford Women’s Basketball blog will know C and R often give advice to 2-time national championship and Olympic gold medallist coach Tara VanDerveer. Never mind that we have never won a gold medal or a college basketball game or well, anything: we just feel qualified to give advice to the coach that has won 799 college games (and holding).
So our advice the last few years has been to stop taking out a player when they commit a foul. The trend seemed to start with Jayne Appel in her freshmen year. If she fouled, she came out of the game. It is a negative reward, the stick instead of the carrot, if you will, to teach her not to foul. Since Jayne has graduated, Tara, if we may call her by her first name, has kept the traditional alive this year.
In the game Stanford lost to DePaul on Thursday night, Stanford fouled a lot (Sarah Boothe fouled out in 17 minutes, which has to be some sort of record) and with the constant subbing, they never found thier offensive rhythm. And C and R scream and yell and rant and write not to take the starters out and lo and behold, in Sunday’s game against Tennessee Tara listened. (Yes C and R flatter themselves into believing Tara VanDerveer even pays attention to this blog!)
So, back to Tennessee, Tara left her starting five in when they fouled to give them a chance at unity and cohesiveness and then it came back to bite her in the behind when two players fouled out in overtime (note to Tara, never listen to C and R!) In fact, three of the starting five players had four fouls in the final minutes of regulation, and one was at three fouls, so it was inevitable we were going to get in trouble.
Unfortunately, it was Jeannette Pohlen who fouled out first early in the overtime period and it sunk us. Stanford self destructed in OT (sticky post it note to Tara all over her office, never, ever listen to C and R and always take out players when they foul to save them for the end). To be fair to C and R, the refs were up to some home cookin’ by calling ticky-tacky fouls against Stanford then letting Tennessee knock us to the ground for non-calls. We thought the game was horribly called.
Rewinding a bit, Kayla Pedersen was back in the line up against Tennessee after suffering headaches from hitting her head taking a charge against Fresno State. They kept saying she didn’t have a concussion because she passed the concussion tests, yet had headaches for days afterward. Isn’t that the definition of a concussion? And Kayla is good at taking tests. Just what were those concussion tests? What day is it? Who’s the current president? Can you solve for X in the polynomial x2 − 4x + 7 using non-negative integer exponents? What’s 2X times 4 where X is your score? (Insider joke for Stanford fans who sit by the band).
C and R cheered when we saw she was back in the line up, the team needed her. But she responded by missing her first seven shots. She was ice cold. Rusty. She would shoot 3-16 from the field, definitely not Kayla-like. And the refs started on some home court advantage in calling fouls and we were down 10 points early in the game.
To Stanford’s credit, near the end of the second half, they started to claw their way back. They did it with the veterans Jeannette Pohlen, Kayla Pedersen and Nneka Ogwumike. They took the ball to the basket in transition before Tennessee was set in defense, and before Stanford would go into that stale half court offense where everyone stands in precise spots (Oops, we are giving free advice to Tara again and we all saw how that worked out). We felt lucky Stanford was only down 31-39 at half time.
Then Nneka showed up for the game (Hello Nneka, welcome to the Summit, now please score a basket) and we even took the lead with 9 minutes left on a Jeannette Pohlen three. She had another 20-some point game, too bad she fouled out. We even put some distance between us and Tennessee, going up by 6. Then Nneka disappeared, and when Stanford tried to make several passes to Nneka down low they were flat out stolen. And Stanford had some defensive lapses and their lead disappeared. After trading leads, Jeanette hit a three with one minute left to go up 70-67, but their freshmen countered and it was tied.
Then suddenly there are 5.1 seconds left in a tied-at-70 game and it is Stanford’s ball and they call time out. The first thing C and R say to each other is, did we set the Tivo to record overtime? Then the second thing we say is, remember that time against Xavier when there was 4.4 seconds left and Jeanette Pohlen raced the length of the floor and made the game wining lay up? But that would be too obvious. Then the third thing we say to each other is give it to freshman speedster Toni Kokenis, and since we know we have a direct ESP link to Tara, that’s exactly what Stanford does. Toni takes it up the court, dribbles behind her back to lose her defender but runs into two or three Tennessee players around the three point line and gets a weak shot off. She may be fast, but she is still a freshman and does not know how to finish like a Jeannette. (The ball hit the bottom of the net, and C and R instantly stood up and thought it had gone through the net, but it didn’t and we had to settle our hearts back down).
So now it is overtime and we have Boothe, Jeanette and Toni with 4 fouls and Nneka with three. Jeanette goes for a steal and fouls, is out of the game around the 4 miute mark and that sunk us. It’s funny, we thought we could play without any player but Kayla, but now we see we need Jeanette, too. Then Boothe loses the ball and fouls in frustration sixteen seconds later and we are just doomed. We lose 72-82 (the only points in OT came on Kayla’s free throws).
Tara will have to wait on win number 800 (and congratulations to Barbara Stevens, the DII coach of Bentley college who got her 800th win today and becomes the fifth college coach to join the 800 win club). If Tara does it Wednesday against USF and her favorite ex-player Jennifer Azzi, she will be the sixth coach.
See everyone up in SF.