Okay, first things first. Yes, number one seed Stanford beat number 16 seed UC Davis 86-59, no surprise there, because no number one women’s seed has ever lost to a number 16 seed before… oh wait, yes one team did, Stanford lost to Harvard on Maples floor but that is not the point I am trying to make. Yes, it was a forgone conclusion who would win this game, but I hope everyone who is following the women’s basketball tournament attended or saw this game on TV (Yes I know the network cut in late) to see what women’s basketball is all about.
When C and R have been checking out the other first round games on TV, the stands have been empty, and we mean emp-tay. It is embarrassing. We didn’t see the Tennessee game, and UConn’s first round game has the stands about half full, but the other regions have looked terrible.
The Stanford-UC Davis game had an official attendance of 6,515, which is close to a sell out due to the small size of Maples. It helped that Stanford’s opponent was two hours away and a lot of vocal fans make the trip to pack the stadium. The place was rockin’! Both teams got applause for good plays, and the audience adrenaline added to the excitement and vitality of the game. Wish every arena could be like that.
So, with all the cheering going on, UC Davis helped out Stanford to know what it will be like to play in hostile environments when the UC Davis fans cheered every bad Stanford play, of which there were quite a few. Stanford shot an air ball. Stanford made a bad pass. Stanford threw the ball away. Stanford got the ball stolen. Stanford pulled their guards and replaced them one at a time. UC Davis fans went nuts.
So, C and R pondered, which comes first, chicken or the egg. Did Stanford play sloppy and not take care of the ball on offense? Or did UC Davis have a great game plan and pressure Stanford into uncharacteristic turnovers? Let’s take a deeper look, shall we?
When the game opened, UC Davis went into the classic UCLA defense. By that, C and R mean they used the defense UCLA developed just one week ago against Stanford in the PAC-10 championship game. They doubled up Nneka Ogwumike and tried to shut down the inside game. The only problem for UC Davis was this time Stanford made their threes from the outside. Then the defense spread out to stop the three and although Nneka was not “open” under the basket, Stanford was able to get her the ball and she could turn and create in the paint, her specialty. So, UC Davis went to plan C. They pressured the ball handler as they crossed the half court line, sending two frenetic players in their faces. If you can’t get the ball to the wing to shoot a three, or throw the ball to Nneka, then you don’t score points, and that’s what UC Davis was counting on. They knocked the ball away, forced bad passes, and outright stole the ball. Lindy LaRocque looked nervous in the first few minutes and made mistakes with the ball. Ditt o point guard Jeanette Pohlen and when Mel Murphy was inserted for her ball handling skills, she also lost the ball. The UC Davis fans cheered every Stanford miscue/UC Davis hustle play. So in answer to did Stanford not take care of the ball or did UC Davis play great D, the answer is a little of both. We are sure Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer will use this as a wake up call to her team.
In the second half, Stanford adjusted and executed, crisp, sharp passes around the perimeter, often reversing the ball flow and freed up their three point shooters, and shoot they did. Lindy matched her career high with 14 points, four of them three pointers. Freshmen Toni Kokenis, who did not start because coach VanDerveer says she gives the team a spark off the bench, sparked indeed, coming in early and knocking down shots. She had three three-pointers and 11 points. Seniors Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette each had three three-pointers, tying the team high 13 made three-pointers.
One interesting note: When Stanford had the ball out of bounds under their basket, we saw the four players line up in a traditional stack, all in a line about five feet away from the ball. C and R don’t ever remember seeing this out of bounds formation. The defense is huddled around the stack, and the UC Davis player closest to the ball has her back turned to the ball, trying to hold the front Stanford player from going in front of her to get the ball. You guessed it, Stanford’s Mikaela Ruef inbounds the ball off of the defenders butt, steps in bounds and picks up the ball and shoots a lay up before anyone on the team has a chance to react, including the poor defender who just got hit in the bottom. Unbelievably, Ruef missed the lay up! But this is twice now we have seen this play. Tinkle did it earlier in the year, and we just thought it was a fluke, a high school play. So what C and R want to know is, does Tara VanDerveer have this play in the Stanford hand book? If player has her back to you, hit her butt? Enquiring minds want to know!
In the closing minutes, the UC Davis fans started chanting, “Thank You Sandy!” It was in reference to UC Davis coach Sandy Simpson who is retiring after fourteen years as their coach. They also chanted, “We’ll be back!” Astonishingly, UC Davis has only been a Division I school for four years. Simpson guided the team to back to back 20 win seasons, and their first conference championship win and NCAA appearance this year. Then Coach Simpson pulled his seniors so the crowd could acknowledge them and the fans chanted “thank you” by name. It was very touching and emotional. When the game ended, the UC Davis team as a unified group, head up, waved to the fans behind the bench, in the band section, and opposite their bench. They didn’t want to leave, because they knew as soon as they stepped foot off the court, their season, their time together, was over.
C and R caught the Texas Tech – St. John’s game, and to be blunt, neither team looked sharp. In fact, UC Davis could have probably beaten both those teams. C and R are sorry, but when Texas Tech was down with 5 minutes to play, they had no sense of urgency, that their season was on the line. St. Johns, missed lay ups and easy put backs, and foul shots! With two minutes left, Texas Tech stayed in a zone and let St. Johns use the full shot clock to bring the ball up and pass. They didn’t go into man to man or try to pressure the ball/foul to stop the clock. They both looked lethargic. Stanford should have no problem Monday night.