Well, it was another Hecka Nneka night, as Nneka Ogwumike had her way with Arizona State. Arizona State actually played good defense, by trying to deny the entry pass to our wings and pushing the ball handler out away from the basket and three point line. Then we would just give it to Nneka and she would take an explosive first step to the basket and drive the lane for two easy points. C and R were shocked Arizona did not play help defense. No one came over to fill the lane, as everyone was busy doing their assigned job of pushing the Stanford players away from the basket. It was obvious Arizona State’s coach, Charli Turner Thorne, a former Stanford player herself, had done her homework against Stanford, but you just can’t defend against a driving Nneka. And little sister Chiney was a chip off the block also driving when we were being pushed back.
Arizona State looked uncharacteristically nervous and were rushing their shots early on. It took them seven minutes before they even make their first basket. Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer, also a coach who has done her homework, had figured out early that ASU has no three point shot. Many times in the first half when Stanford was playing man-to-man defense, they would sag away from the ball handler standing at the three point line just daring them to take a shot. They elected not too, hence no score for seven minutes. The few times they did shoot, they were just jacking them up and some sailed over the glass, not touching the rim, or airballed out of bounds. R leaned over to C and said, “This is embarrassing”. The normally animated ASU coach, Charli TT, is usually all over the court in her pointy high heels, working the refs, cheering on her team and putting forth a lot of energy. She seemed subdued and her team echoed her and also was flat.
Stanford, on the other hand, was playing with so much confidence. They went to a 1-3-1 half court defensive trap to let Chiney play the point and run around and use up her energy so she wouldn’t foul anybody, and Stanford was just picking their pocket and scoring fast break after fast break. Jeanette Pohlen looked like Andrew Luck on one play delivering an overhand strike 7/8’s of the length of the floor to Kayla who show-timed it back the other way to a driving Nneka who leaped for the score. It was obvious early on ASU stopped trying to stop the fast break and looked like they had given up.
The half ended 42-14.
The second half Tara played all of her bench, taking all the starters out for good when we had around 59 points and they had 22. Our bench still outscored them, with the final score 82-35.
Couple of funny plays. To start the second half, Stanford was feeling so good Kayla Pedersen tried an alley-oop pass ion the air to a leaping Nneka. She just missed the pass and it sailed out of bounds, but you don’t get permission from Tara to try those kinds of shots unless she is happy and confident in her team, and you have to be happy to hold a team, any team, to 14 first half points. Freshmen Toni Kokenis was playing so hard, she played right out of her shoe! She gave herself a flat tire running down the court and her shoe came off. She had the presence of mind to pick it up and hurl it at the Stanford bench. Then she stayed with her man and went slipping and sliding all over the court, eventually sliding into her player and committing a foul. The Stanford bench was pretty animated about that, cracking up, and during the stop in play Kayla threw her shoe back at her. Then the freshmen had the added pressure of getting her high-top shoe on and tying it with 4,630 fans watching.
Special shout out to our friend, P, who came along for the ride and got to enjoy the game. However, she had to endure Stanford’s ticket window before the game. I am sorry, Stanford, but you need some help in that department. It took waaaay too long to get one ticket. And C and R have been trying to get tickets to the first and second rounds of the NCAA play-offs being held at Stanford for weeks now and the ticket office cannot seem to figure out how to sell them to us. They keep telling us to just go online and buy them. Really? Another fan wrote in telling us the trouble they had getting handicapped seating at the UConn game. You know, the game that was announced as sold out where they had tickets at the box office. It’s not rocket science, Stanford, although we know you are good at rocket science. Now if you could just figure out how to sell tickets more efficiently.
Because their shooting styles are so similar, sometimes on the court when Chiney makes a basket C and R say way to go Nneka or vice versa until we check the number or hear the announcer give us the correct name. Stanford’s website did the same mix up, saying Nneka was perfect from the field. Nneka was 7-11 for 16 points and sister Chiney was the one who went 4-4 from the field and ended up with 10 points. Glad to see we aren’t the only ones to get them confused.
Nice tribute to coach Tara VanDerveer to honor her 800th win after the game. Lots of great pictures on the scoreboard while listing her accomplishments. They had a few talking heads on the video and the one Stanford player they picked to honor Tara was current freshmen…. Chiney Ogwumike. She just has so much energy and personality! She said where was she when Tara won her first 100 games…she wasn’t yet alive! Cute.
Stanford next travels north to take on the Washington schools, so there will be no box-office battles for a while.