The day dawned glorious before us: we had tickets to the exclusive, only-museum-in North-America hosting the post-impressionists from Paris (yes, we have other interests beside basketball, too), dinner in SF and a Stanford basketball game where head coach Tara VanDerveer was hoping to make history by wining number 800. What could be better?
It was only slightly misting when C and R made their way to the De Young Museum, and C especially enjoyed the Seurats, and that Van Gogh is some sort of crazy genius, both and separately, kinda like us. When it came time for dinner in the most cuisine friendly City by the Bay, we asked the trusted ol’ GPS and what did we pick? Mel’s Diner with burgers, fries and shakes. Walking back up the hill to USF, bloated, we see the Stanford bus and C waves like the bloomin’ idiot that she is, and that’s why you, dear reader, read us because we sure don’t get bogged down in things like facts or statistics of the Stanford games, now do we?
So C and R have finagled a press pass from USF, and if they are reading this post, I am sure they have morning-after regret. Plenty of back story on this game. Tara coaching against her two former and favorite players, USF head coach Jennifer Azzi, and assistant coach Katy Steding. Tara going for win number 800. Stanford dropping two on the road definitely need a “fix” of an easy win. The venue practically being a home game due to the proximity of Stanford. But we’re just happy to be here.
We get inside plenty early and chat with Tara VanDerveer’s mom, a delightful woman. She regaled us with stories, and said how happy she was to share this game with Tara.
We see Jennifer Azzi, still looking like she could play college ball, take a few minutes to address the young ladies and gentleman from Oakland Parks and Rec, who were here to see the game and get a taste of college life. She asked how many planned on attending college and just about all the young players raised their hands. Very cool.
R hits my shoulder, and good thing it was not the other way around as she is still nursing major surgery to hers, and says, “Chiney is wearing injured black.” We learn later in the post game press conference (yes, they let us in, hee hee) that Chiney turned it in practice and it is not major and should play the next game.
The starting line up is again juggled, with veterans Jeanette Pohlen, Necka Oqumike and Kayla Pedersen, Tinkle and Lindy. Tara alluded in the post game conference that this is the fifth starting line up she has experimented with and they need consistency and need to know what works down the road if they expect to compete.
Even though the house is not sold out, about 3,600 show up, a lot of it is Stanford faithful. We all expect a victory, and win number 800. So it is with dismay we see USF take the lead at the 14 minute mark, pulling ahead 11-10. Stanford looks ragged and slow on defense. The teams exchange leads several times, then something clicks. Stanford tightens up their D and they stop USF from scoring. Kayla looks like her old self before the head injury, and drives down the middle. We start hitting threes, including two by freshmen Sara James. USF gets stuck on 21, and go about 7 minutes without scoring until the half comes, and the half ends 21-48. Although, did you see the old inbounding-the-ball-off-the-opponents-backside-for-a-score-trick Tinkle did. Only a coach’s daughter could get away with that!
The second half opens and you can tell Nneka is feeling good. WE don’t let USF score until17-minute mark in the second half. A lot more of the second string get to play, for valuable experience, and perhaps not to embarrass her former player, Azzi. Sara James gets more playing time and she got the ball stolen a few times and showed she still can get rattled. Even with the bench players in, Stanford breaks 100 points and the final score ends up 100-45.
USF hands out Cardinal read signs that say “800” and “Congratulations Tara”. Jennifer gives Tara a warm hug, and some flowers and the game ball at center court. Tara returned the favor and spoke to the USF players after the game and told them to keep focusing on little things, which made Azzi happy because that’s what she tells her players every day.
At the post game conference, several reports asked Tara to reflect back on winnng 800, and she said, “I don’t even remember win number 700.” But that this was special and ironic to win it against Jennifer Azzi, the player that put Stanford on the map. She also appreciated winning it with “family” around to witness it, whether it be her sister and mother, or her extended family of former and current players and fans.
One thing Tara said to Kayla and Nneka as they were leaving the press area was, “See ya on Sunday.” Christmas day is Saturday. No rest for a team trying to find itself and resurrect a season in what is arguable their two toughest opponents in a two-day span.
And, oh, Azzi had to buy dinner for Tara.