Monday, January 31, 2011

How Did Duke Get to Be Number 3?

Hey, ESPN2 advertised a great women’s basketball game for Monday night preim time, number two UConn vs. number three Duke, both teams ranked higher than Stanford, even though Stanford beat one of them, go figure, Duke is the last undefeated team in the country, 20-0, and has the current “Streak”, Stanford beat UConn to end the streak….. So C and R tape it and settle in to watch, women’s basketball, 2 vs 3, a chance to root against UConn again (What’s that old saying, I root for Stanford and any team playing UConn…). Problem is, someone forgot to tell Duke to show up.

UConn jumps out to a 13-0 score before Duke even scored a point 5 minutes into the contest. Duke missed its first 12 shots, and then didn’t score again until they made one free throw by Karima Christmas (jiminy Christmas!). When it got to be 23-3 with about 9 minutes left, it was embarrassing for women’s basketball! Want more? Duke missed their first 20 shots and were 1 for 10 from three point land. When it got to be 40-9, the UConn students chanted, “overrated” at the Duke bench (See, other fans can be as witty as the Stanford band!). The only drama was could UConn hold Duke to fewer than 12 points in the half to set a Duke record in futility. Duke clawed back and got to 15, darn it, their lowest half of the season, and went into the locker room down 41-15, shooting 15% from the floor, and we can’t get Stanford on TV!?

And where was Duke’s D? How do you lose Maya Moore? They let her score at will, running the baseline and posting up, fast breaking, hitting threes. Maya would finish with 29. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer would never allow that, losing track of Moore. Or allow UConn to score so many points in transition. Or allow the kinds of shot selections Duke took that were way beyond the arc, hurried and just plain ugly. I mean C and R have never seen so many airballs in a game. R said she felt sorry for Duke, but also it looked like they did not do their preparation for this game, like a Tara VanDerveer does. How did Duke get to be number three in the country ahead of Stanford? You know we are biased and all, but Stanford would run circles around this Duke team we saw tonight.

We must admit the reffing was terrible, even worse than the PAC-10, so much contact left uncalled, but it looked like UConn was fouled the most and should have gotten to the line more.

Duke would come out in the second with a little more hustle and got it within 18-20 points, but than Maya Moore took over, hitting threes, quick-releasing her pretty jump shot and getting 29 points before letting what few bench players they have get some playing time (It was Maya’s 134th game in double figures and it tied Courtney Paris’ record). Even Tiffany Hayes got 20 points on a bum ankle, twisted early in the second half. UConn got the lead up to 36 points and coasted to an 87-51 victory.

Must admit the one time Maya took a breather before the end UConn looked unsure and lost without her. A telling quote Maya’s teammate Kelly Faris reported from SI:

"When you have an athlete like Maya, the second she steps off the floor, you are kind of waiting for her to come back in," said Faris. "It's fun being on the floor with her. I can speak for everybody that when she's on the floor, she kind of relaxes us all."

It was fun to hear ESPN2 analyst Kara Lawson’s comments. She was “speechless and perplexed” when the score was, what 40-9 or so, and couldn’t believe “Duke didn’t compete on prime time TV”. Called Duke “a colossal no show”… if only we could get her to watch a Stanford game.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stanford Undefeated in PAC-10 Play

Saw the Stanford Women’s basketball team beat Oregon State today. It’s hard to get excited if C and R don’t see the game live and in person or on TV. Needless to say we did neither for this game. Reading the news, C and R saw Kayla Pedersen had another step up in her game, scoring a season high 21 points and going three for three from three point land! Oregon is 0-8 in the PAC-10 coming into this contest and they gave Stanford a little game, going on a 9-2 run after Stanford jumped to a 12-0 start. Again, we wonder if Stanford let their guard down playing an uninspiring team. Of course, when the score got to be 14-9 Stanford, Jeanette Pohlen made four straight three pointers. Jeanette would finish with 15 points, all on three-point baskets. Stanford seems to be saying, we match how you play and then we do it better.

Noticed freshmen guard Toni Kokenis was kept out of the line up, although the news sites did not say why. She has been kept out of the previous two games because she got hit in the head in the UCLA game. Hope the headaches have stopped.

Speaking of the news, Tara was quoted as saying:
"Jeanette is having an All-American year," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Then our inside game with Chiney and (Nneka Ogwumike). Kayla Pedersen has just been our steady-rock player. Those four, and then whoever we put with them."

Ouch. R felt the comment minimized the hard work Lindy has put in to get the last starting position. It was funny, we looked up the minutes played per player and Lindy got the third most minutes this game, second to Kayla and Jeanette. Is there no one else who can play the off-guard position or is Lindy building trust with Tara?

Final score was 74-44, and Oregon State was only the second conference opponent to hold Stanford to fewer than 78 points, yet we blow out other, better teams by larger margins even when distracted by fancy floors with trees….

Next two games are out of town in Washington and not on TV again, boo hoo.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stanford Wins Away from Home, Too

So many other headlines to choose from:
Ogumikes Lead the Way
Kayla Pedersen Breaks Career Minutes Record
Oregon’s Shooting Percent Held to Zero First 10 Minutes
Most Expensive Basketball Court is Also the Ugliest

Sorry, Oregon, about that last one, but the tress and such painted on the court makes a light/dark nightmare that is as hideous as it is districting. And the half court line is transparent, apparently, made up of two very small white lines to form an outline of a half court line. Yuk. The line disappears from about 10 feet away.

Oregon came into the game averaging 83 points with a propensity to score every seven seconds by a fast break or pulling up and hitting a three. Stanford comes into the game always emulating their opponent, so guess which team put on a fast break clinic in the second half? Guess which team had two sisters combining for 34 points after 25 minutes of play and Oregon combining for 27? Whoops, guess we have that one away! Yes Stanford’s Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike had 34 points before being pulled for bench players, including the first 16 points to start the second half and put on a show scoring on fast breaks or just busting it inside and scoring or getting fouled. Chiney misses a shot, it’s okay, Nneka picked up the rebound and put it back in.

Stanford frustrated Oregon by getting two players back on D if they grabbed an offensive rebound, and with the rebounding margin 68-32 it wasn’t often. And Oregon did not score a basket from the floor for the first 10 minutes (now shooting zero precent). The lowly one point they did score was from a foul shot vs. Stanford’s 19. Stanford would have had even more rebounds and points but Nneka and Kayla were stuck on the bench with two fouls for much of the first half. Add in the fact Oregon was made only three three-point baskets out of 32 attempts and Oregon gets beat 91-56.

Chiney had 18 points to Nneka’s 16 and Jeanette Pohlen was sandwiched in there with 17. Jeanette scored by knocking down threes as well as posting up the smaller guard, Nia Jackson. Speaking of which, Jackson was the one bright spot for Oregon. She made some incredible drives to the basket and scored 21 points. Mel Murphy had a tough time guarding her (Why wasn’t defensive specialist Chiney on her?). At one point all five Stanford players tried to stop her drive and she scored anyway.

Kayla Pedersen chipped in 11 points and 14 rebounds and broke Virgina Sourlis’ 25-year old record of 4,148 minutes played. Kayla has played more minutes in a Stanford women’s basketball uniform than anyone, even third place Candice Wiggins. That means Tara VanDerveer must really trust her, having started her in every game she been healthy for since her first freshmen game (She only missed one game after 121 straight starts due to a head injury earlier this year, and Stanford lost to Depaul). Kayla is also trying to close in on Jayne Appel’s career rebounding record. Ahead of her are Appel, Val Whiting and Nicole Powell, and all three went on to play in the WNBA, according to our announcers. It was nice to have the game televised.

Toni Kokenis was still wearing the black sweat suit of injury. Toni had slight headaches after getting hit in the head in the UCLA game a week ago. She still has not been cleared to play. Get well soon.

Next up is last-in-the-PAC-10 Oregon State, which just got beat by Cal.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stanford Game Actually Televised, Starts at 6 PM

Oopsies, the Stanford-Oregon game Thursday starts at 6 PM on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, not 7 PM as we reported earlier. C and R regret any confusion this might have caused and the hours you had to spend reprogramming your tivo, if you are technology-challenged like us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kayla Pedersen Has Breakout Week

First Jeanette, then Nneka, now Kayla. Of course, C and R are talking about Stanford Women’s Basketball player Kayla Pedersen being named the PAC-10 player of the week for Jan 24th. Kayla helped Stanford destroy a ranked UCLA team and a good USC team. She averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds in those two games, and it was good to see the old Kayla back after a mini-scoring slump.

Noteworthy is her shot at breaking two Stanford records. She needs just eight minutes of playing time to beat Virginia Sourlis' (1982-86) 25-year old Stanford record of 4,148 minutes played. Harder yet, she is 141 rebounds away from Jayne Appel’s record of 1,263 career rebounds. Totally doable.

Oh, good news, the Stanford-Oregon game on Thursday is slated to be televised live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area at 7 PM. Yay! C and R can hold off paying the $14.95 to the internet All Access site one more week!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stanford Destroys USC at Home!

The funny thing is, USC appeared to play Stanford better than UCLA, and yet Stanford beat USC by 44! The final score was 95-51, and Stanford had its bench in for the last 10 minutes of the game vs. their starters.  USC coach Michael Cooper himself said Stanford is ready to claim a national championship.

So, you ask C and R, how can you claim USC played better than UCLA if UCLA “only” lost by 26? Well, Stanford was beating them by 35 for most of the second half before the bench came in and UCLA trimmed it to 26. How did USC play better? Well, for starters, USC can box out, which is a hard thing to do against our trees, and they did a good job in the first half. USC even had the lead twice early in the first half, by two and then by one 8-7, which is something UCLA couldn’t do once. But more importantly, it seemed USC did a better job of freeing up their shooters and knocked down some shots even when Stanford was in their face, at least in the first half. USC shot 38% from the field in the first. In the second half, only 18%, or more telling, they were 6-32. Yes, Stanford has a tenacious D, and USC stopped doing what was helping them in the first half in the second half.

In the first half, USC got players free by setting screens, in a variety of ways, which C and R haven’t seen a lot of teams try. They screened down low, which not a lot of teams do, as they tend to screen up near the three point line to free up a shooter. USC had double screens, two players together in a wall, which we have seen other teams do and they had staggered double screens, which were very effective which we will get to in a minute. They even had a taller player set a screen on Stanford’s shorter guards and when Stanford switched players, as they are wont to do in man to man, USC had the taller player roll to the basket and they actually hit them with the ball for a score. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer quickly counter with not switching players to knock that noise off. So USC did that afore-mentioned staggered screen, where the Stanford guard sees the screen and fights through instead of switching so they are a half step behind their player, and then they run into a second screen they were not expecting and now are fighting through again and are a full step off and then the shooter is free to shoot. Very effective when they did it. Inexplicably they stopped doing that in the second half.

Speaking of Tara, watching her over the years we have come to see she is a master of adjusting to the other team. Sometimes at half time and sometimes, more impressively, on the fly. For example, Stanford went in to a half court 1-3-1 defensive trap, with long-armed Chiney Ogwumike at the point using her speed and aggressiveness to harass the ball carrier entering the half court. The theory is the point player and the line of three players around the foul line trap, steal, harass, force a turnover, or somehow prevent the ball from being thrown or shot before the foul line. The weakness is if the other team can see over the wave of defensive players and place two players on either side of the basket, and the ball handler can get a pass to at least one of them, Stanford only has one player back under the basket and either misses the steal or guards one player who quickly gives it to the other open player on the other side of the basket before Stanford can get back to help. (It takes a lot less time to do then we just explained!) Well, USC said yes, we can do that and they got it to a wide-open post player for an easy two and Stanford did not play that defense for the rest of the game. Not even, lucky try, can you do it again? Tara said okay they got that figured out, let’s go back to our smothering man to man.

Speaking of the staggered double screens, Jeanette Pohlen had the most set on her and in the second half she got picked hard (and illegally-moving or knee stuck out to trip) twice under the basket in the space of 10 seconds as USC was trying hard to free up their shooter near the baseline. Jeanette turned red and got even more determined. She shut her shooter down and used her anger on the other end to score 21 points and give out a career high 12 assists. Boy, she was determined. Don’t make her mad if playing cards or basketball!

Speaking of Micheal Cooper, and I don’t know, somewhere we were, we loved to hear him espouse about our Nneka. Quoting the Stanford website write-up of the game, “Nneka, there were a couple of plays I was in awe,” Cooper said. “You don’t usually see that in a the women’s game. You see that in the men’s game.” He of course would be referring to the alley oop. Jeanette threw an alley oop pass near the Stanford basket and Nneka leaped, caught and shot it in the air. She banked it off the glass and the angle was just a little bit off for the miss, but it must intimidate the hecka out of the other team. And then there were several offensive rebounds were she leaped high, caught and shot before landing. She made all of those, we think. Again, as a defender what do you do? She doesn’t even land so you can get a chance to foul her. And then there was sister Chiney’s steal and fast break all alone. We screamed “Dunk it!” but she laid it in and the replay showed her hand causally hitting the backboard as she laid it in.

Glad to see Kayla Pedersen continue her aggressiveness around the basket, scoring 16 points. We liked seeing her go to the basket. On one play, she drove to the basket, pulled up for a short jumper and missed. So the next play down she drove to the basket, all the way to the basket and jumped and laid it up and over the rim, about 8 inches from hand to basket, to make Sure she did not miss this time. R has said it before, Kayla is about perfection.

This game, she was much more effective at making her threes. She was 3-4 from downtown. The team as a whole made 50% of their threes in the first half, and it was great to see Lindy LaRoque bombing away and making two. Lindy was tentative to shoot in the first half of the season, and now she is taking much more shots. I guess Tara had to threaten to beat them if they didn’t shoot. No, wait, C and R made that up. Instead she threatened strangulation! Here is the quote from the Stanford website. "I really want to play a more open game. This year with people, keep shooting until I strangle you is my motto," VanDerveer joked. "We want to score more and run more." That Tara has a wicked sense of humor!! (Which is bad news for other teams if they want to run and score more!).

Freshmen guard Toni Kokenis was in the black sweat suit of injury, and the Stanford website revealed she got hit in her head when fouled and had a slight headache. The team was being cautionary and she should return the next game. Wow, we have never seen so many Stanford players sit with head injuries in one year. We think there is more awareness in general about head injuries and being cautious is the new treatment, which is great. Although, we are puzzled when they say the player has headaches after a head blow but a concussion is ruled out. Isn’t a headache one symptom of a concussion? Especially prolonged ones? Maybe a Stanford doctor can explain it to us!

Saturday’s game was a banner day for C and R. Our row won coupons to Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill! And they got the publicity at the game and now free publicity from the blog, double your advertising dollars (Hmm, hope the fix wasn’t in). And Nneka threw us a victory ball, which ended a long drought for C and R. Thanks Nneka! We will miss the team during the long lay off until the next home game Feb 10th.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stanford Dominates UCLA for PAC-10 Lead

“I thought you said UCLA was good!” said C and R’s good friend and basketball teammate, S. Well, you can’t blame her for the statement as it was half time of the Stanford-UCLA game and Stanford was winning 31-15. And that was before she saw the second half where Stanford lead most of the game 30 or more points before winning 64-38. Thirty plus points against number eight ranked UCLA! Wow, they blew them out!

Stanford was just dominating them with their defense, too. UCLA tried setting screens to free up their guards but Stanford was too quick and often switched players for seamlessly coverage and the taller player did not roll towards the basket. C and R were a little surprised at that as one of the Arizona teams analyzed Stanford’s tendency to switch on screens and when the smaller Stanford guard switched to a taller forward, they moved toward the basket and tried to work it inside over the guard. UCLA did not try to work the mismatch or throw it inside. In fact, UCLA had problems getting off a good shot and didn’t score until 5 minutes had gone by in the game and by then it was 8-2. UCLA’s leading scorer Jasmine Dixon did not score until 10 minutes into the contest.

AS C and R have been saying for the last two years, Stanford rises to their opponent’s intensity level, so Stanford should really thank UCLA for the fast start. UCLA did come out fired up and tried some full court press. Coach Nikki Caldwell said they were doing a full court press after UCLA scored, but if you don’t score, then you can’t press. Hmm., good point and maybe you might want to rethink that one, coach!

Speaking of Nikki Caldwell, did you see those shoes? I mean C and R have seen coaches wear some high heels on Maples floor (Hello Kim Mulkey), but I think she needed a ladder just to get in them! (Speaking of Kim Mulkey, special shout out to our Cal friends who are Kim fans and who drove down from Sacto to see the game. They are impressive in all the women’s basketball knowledge they have. C and R have tunnel vision on Stanford and it was great to get the 411 on other teams for a change—although they lost street cred for leaving early when the Stanford lead hit 30!).

It was great to see Kayla Pedersen have a break out game offensively. She scored 18 points and had 10 boards. It was also great to see how she scored. When Stanford was in their half court game, she was calling for the ball, working hard inside, posting up, and cutting back door. C and R haven’t seen her work so hard for the ball in a long time. And then there was the second half Show Time fast break game. Where did that come from? Stanford had 18 fast break points, and Kayla was leading a lot of them. Not their usual way of scoring, and UCLA is fast.

Mel Murphy played in her first game sense off-season surgery and she had a steal and a fast break lay up at the other end, although she was fouled when shooting and it wasn’t called.

In fact, the officiating was just horrible. The game was rough and they simply missed making calls, or when they did blow the whistle the call was late or two plays ago. Poor Nneka Ogwumike got beat up. She was hit in the nose when shooting and fell down and no call. She set a screen and the UCLA player did not see her and totally bowled her over and they both went crashing to the floor and no call. Players often were knocked to the floor when shooting and NO CALL! Sarah Boothe got called for an intentional foul and the replay did not show that at all. Then a few plays later a UCLA player went to stop a fast break basket and it was intentional as she just hit the other player’s hands and body and was not going for the ball. Where is the “intentional” call on that one? To make matters worse, there would be an obvious foul, such as a player knocked to the floor and ignored, and then the next contact made by the team that made the previous foul would draw a whistle, never mind the contact was minimal at best. Yes, make up calls. Which means the officials were aware they “blew” one and were making it up. It happened very obviously three separate times. We have heard from other teams that PCA-10 officials are the worst, but that game was especially called poorly. Does anyone review the officials’ work?

We mentioned UCLA player Jasmine Dixon, and she continues to impress as when we saw her last year in the PAC-10 tournament in LA. She “only’ scored 12, below her average, but lead all UCLA scorers. She is impressive in her ability to create her own shots near the basket. She has as quick as we have ever seen explosive first step to the basket and then can elongate her stride to beat her player to the basket, as well as squeeze out of the double team Stanford put on her. Someone to keep our eye on.

Off to see Stanford take on USC Saturday!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PAC-10 POW and Mail Call

Congratulations to Stanford Women’s Basketball player Nneka Ogwumike for being the PAC-10 Player of the Week (POW) for the week of January 17th. She helped Stanford take down the Washington Schools and averaged 18 points per game. And sorry we missed Jeanette’s PAC-10 POW honor January 3rd. (She helped take down UConn that week with a 31 point outpouring in said game).

Mail Call
This just in, C and R have a scouting report for UCLA from superfan TG. He reports:
“Watched UCLA dismember Oregon Saturday on Fox Sports. Very surprised at their offensive discipline to go with their tenacious defense. Last year they were a lot more chaotic and seemed to score mostly on turnovers and offensive put-backs.  Saturday they were patient in the half court, used the extra pass to find the open player, and knocked down a high percentage of mid-range shots.  Very impressive - we will have a tough with them if we give up 23 offensive boards...”

Gulp. Hope Stanford isn’t taking this game lightly.

TH writes in, and no is not UConn’s Tiffany Hayes in disguise writing to C and R, TH asks why Stanford Women’s Basketball is not on TV! Well, how much time you got, Big T? She also asked if the UCLA game was being filmed. A short answer is yes, for the jumbotron and for Tara to study the film afterward, and also I think college basketball service either buys the film or shoots their own and then sells it to any interested party or they have a deal with colleges to provide game film on other teams or something like that, C and R might have it wrong, but the film is not for general consumption. So the bigger question remains why number four Stanford who is playing number eight UCLA at home in an important PAC-10 game is not on any TV channel? (Although you can pay $14.95 a month for the website “ALL Access and see some games).

The long answer is the networks think there is not a big enough following for much of women’s basketball, and certainly not for a West Coast team. The few women’s basketball games the networks deem “Acceptable” are back East and have “name brand recognition, such as UConn, Tennessee, any team with Michigan or North Carolina in their title, any SEC team or any team East of the Mississippi in general. (Okay, at first I threw those last two in as a joke, before we actually DID check to see what’s on TV, and here’s what we found).

C and R checked ESPN3, which is the website name for ESPN and has some coverage broadcast on the web. There IS a women’s basketball game televised the day of Stanford – UCLA. Wanna know who it is? Georgia vs Alabama. Two SEC teams! And Alabama isn’t in the top 25, although Georgia squeaks by in one poll at number 23 and doesn’t appear in the top 25 of the coaches poll.…

So wait, according to Women’s Basketball Online, here is what is being televised on the major networks, not just ESPN. (Comments in parenthesis belongs to C and R, and we didn’t even peek when we said what teams have name brand recognition).
THURSDAY, JANUARY 20th, 2011
Michigan State at Indiana..........5:30..........Big Ten Network (See, Michigan!)
VCU at Old Dominion..........6:00..........WSKY/Comcast SportsNet MA+ (Two teams East of the Mississippi!)
Tennessee at South Carolina..........6:00..........Fox Sports Net (SEC!!)
Ole Miss at LSU..........7:00..........Cox Sports (SEC again, and one school has Mississippi in the title)
Wisconsin at Minnesota..........7:30..........Big Ten Network (wait, are they east or west of the mighty Mississippi? Ulp, one is east and one is west, so at least they both touch the Mississippi)
Georgia at Alabama..........8:00..........CSS (See, SEC and not ranked and the only game on the internet site as we noted).

What can you do about it? Well, surprisingly, you can do something, and that is to contact ESPN and let them know your thoughts. Let them know you support women’s basketball in general and Stanford Women’ Basketball in particular. ESPN columnist Mechelle Voepel says they listen to the feedback and adjust accordingly and the emails really help. So get writing, Stanford Women’s Basketball fans!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stanford Really Beats up on Washington State

Streak, what streak? Didn’t Stanford end “The Streak” by defeating UConn earlier this season? Well, yes, but Stanford has other streaks to contend with, such as their home winning streak, which C and R believe to be 54 and will be tested by UCLA on Thursday, and the fact Washington State has never beaten them, home or away, for a streak of 51 games. The last game, played Sunday, had the Stanford Women’s Basketball team beating Washington State 94-50, not that we saw any of it because the number four team in the country doesn’t get any air time, go figure. In this contest, Stanford used their tremendous size advantage and out-rebounded them 49-38 and outscored them 48-16 in the paint while holding Washington State to 25% shooting.

Nneka Ogwumike got 20 points and once again 5 Stanford players scored in double figures. Even scarier, sister Chiney Ogwumike scored 14 points and didn’t miss from the floor, going 5 for 5. Even scarier still, big sis Nneka thinks she’s gotten better from the start of the season. The SF Chronicle quotes, "Not everyone gets to play with their sister," Nneka said. "Just playing with her is fun because I have watched her grow. From the first game to now, she is so much better."

Not to put a damper on this party, but what’s up with Kayla Pedersen? She was 0 for 3 from the floor; two of those misses from three-point land. Has she even gone a game where she did not score a point from the floor? She did get herself to the line (good) where she was 4-7 (bad). Using our high powers of calculations, that is shooting 57.14285 % from the charity stripe. (Wonder if Tara makes them run laps the next day in practice for their misses like C’s old high school basketball coach?) We know Stanford depends on Kayla’s intangibles, and we certainly are not advocating lessening her playing time, but if you do go to the line, you should shoot better than 60%. Jeanette Pohlen, Toni Kokenis, Sarah Boothe, and Joslyn Tinkle all went 2-2 for 100% accuracy from the free throw line. Chiney was 4-6 from the line, but that makes for a 66.66% accuracy rate.

Let’s hope Kayla snaps out of it for the UCLA game.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stanford Beats up on Washington

Stanford beat PAC-10 opponent Washington 80-51. It was another game not televised, although C and R scoured that ESPN3 site so many Stanford fans had told us about but still could not find it. We finally resorted to Gametracker, the line by line play by play with moving chess pieces that is very unsatisfying. In fact, since we knew how unsatisfying it is, we didn’t turn it on until 8 minutes were left in the contest. Stanford was ONLY wining by 20 at that point. Noticed Washington was fouling a lot and the Stanford players were all tied with about 12 points each. All in all, as we have hammered home last year and this, Stanford seems to play to the level of intensity of their opponent and it looked like a slow and plodding Washington team, turning us slow and plodding.

Yes, yes, the final score had Stanford wining by 29, nothing to sneeze at and Tara VanDerveer should be proud that her starters had such a balanced attack and do not depend on one person to lead the team (Maya Moore). The starters all scored in double figures, and few teams can even claim that. It broke down to Chiney with 10, Kayla with 14, Jeanette 15, Nneka lead all with16 and Tinkle had 10 from the bench). Interesting to note, Kayla Pedersen, who has been down this year in scoring was 2-6 from the field, with 2 missed three pointers, yet got herself to the line and converted 10 of 12 free throws. With Kayla, her importance is not in total points, but all the little things the team needs that night to win, and last night it was to get Washington into foul trouble.

However…
Stanford made 18 turnovers, tying a season high, something they will need to trim against stronger teams, and let Washington battle back to within 6 after taking an 11-point lead. Stanford needs to develop a killer instinct, especially playing on the road.

Next up is Washington State, which just beat Cal, before Stanford travels back home to face U-C-L-A.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Basketball Things of Note

Coupla basketball things happened this weekend we wanted to note, sorry it took C and R awhile to get around to it, it was mostly because C was sore for two days after going to a friend’s birthday party at the Sky High Trampoline place (Ever play dodge ball on a trampoline? It’s harder than it sounds).

So thing number one, Notre Dame almost, almost beat UConn! The score was 79-76. Ever since that Stanford loss (hee hee), UConn has lost that air of invincibility and teams now believe they can beat UConn. Last year, UConn had so many weapons that could score that most teams went in mentally with a defeatist attitude and the game was decided before it was played. Now teams are requesting the Stanford-UConn tape and going over it with a fine tooth comb.

Thing number two is sadder. Diana Taurasi’s second sample was tested and confirmed to have the banned stimulant modafinil.

ESPN’s Mechelle Voepelgives a good analysis of how these things work:
-Deny taking the drug
-Wait for the B sample to be tested
-If second sample comes back positive, claim the lab is bad
-Then the Athlete denies taking anything on purpose
-Then a hearing and a penalty

However, if Taurasi is banned for more than 6 months, then she may not attend the 2012 Olympics. Bummer.

Getting back to the lab being “bad”, Taurasi and her lawyer do have a case. According to Mechelle, the "Turkish lab that tested Taurasi's samples was suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for a two-month period in 2009 before being accredited again." And ESPN also reports two of Taurasi's teammates on her Turkish team Fenerbahce "have resisted doping tests in Turkey because they also do not trust the lab that tests the samples. Australian player Penny Taylor and Czech teammate Hana Horakova provided samples only after the Turkish federation agreed to send them to Germany for testing at a lab in Cologne."

Diana Taurasi’s contract has now been voided by her Turkish team.

I don't think the girl has gone more than two days without playing basketball since grade school. The irony is she was complaining just last year that she has been playing year around in the WNBA, then overseas where she gets more money and Olympic qualifying games, and that she was tired might need time off… hecka a way to do it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stanford Embarrasses Arizona State

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.

Stanford vs. Arizona

Hello, C here, and just a quick note about the Stanford Women’s Basketball-Arizona game before C and R head off to the Arizona State game today. It’s too bad we werent’t wearing the “Hecka Nneka” shirt, as she was all that. When Stanford needed a score, she was there. It was interesting how she did score. Nneka Ogwumike would drive to the basket and when she was stopped, she would elevate and bank a one-hander off the glass. It wasn’t a pure, two handed shot mind you, it was a push, as she was up pretty high anyway, and what looked like a crazy angle, the kind that makes you say that was a lucky throw, except she was lucky to the tune of 24 points. And, and… when C and R saw little sis throw the same crazy one-handed bank shot and IT went in, well, you just know it’s going to be Stanford’s year. (And BTW, C and R are glad Nneka recovered from her shoulder and head injury she received at Cal to play the next game)

Speaking of little sis Chiney Ogwumike, who knew when she was recruited that she would become a defense specialist? Well, maybe Tara, but we think not. Chiney has drawn the tough assignments against taller players in the Xavier game, UConn game (Hello Maya Moore) and against Arizona’s top player and she has done a great job. Plus, she usually plays deny defense in FRONT of the player and either recovers to get the back door pass that is coming or her teammates, usually Kayla Pedersen, are smart enough to come over and help.

And speaking of defense, interesting chess match in the first half regarding Arizona using screens to free their guards and how Stanford defended them. At first, Stanford just switched players, as they always do. Then the Arizona bench started yelling, “Mismatch!” They wanted Stanford to switch, because then the Stanford guard was on the taller Arizona player who started the screen, and she would roll to the basket and Arizona was supposed to throw it inside. So then Tara told her team not to switch, to fight around the screen, so the Arizona guards were trying to go around the screen and pull up and shoot threes in the confusion. Both teams kept experimenting, including Arizona using a DOUBLE screen and Stanford had to decide to switch or stay. It was fun to watch.

Well, Stanford is nothing if not consistent in the way we match intensity with teams. Arizona started out with a lot of intensity, so we did, too, going up by 11 early in the half, then they got down, so we did, too, except they scored and got within 3. Then we came out in the second half and crushed them. We read Tara yelled at them a little, and called out her captains, Kayla, Jeanette Pedersen and Nneka, and boy did they respond. Final score was 87-54. Kayla is still a little off, going 4-13 from the floor, but her 11 rebounds were very timely, including all the little things she does on the floor to keep Stanford moving forward.
Well, off to Arizona State and let’s hope they come out with a lot of intensity, so we can too!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Who's Number One?

The Women’s Basketball Rankings came out for this week and frankly, C and R are surprised. One, the powers that be (TPB) dropped UConn to number two after their loss to Stanford. Everyone (well, all our friends) thought TPB would still keep UConn number one, and are still arguably the number one team in basketball and the one to beat in the  NCAA tournament. So who is number one, you ask? Baylor!
Baylor over UConn? Wait, didn’t UConn beat Baylor? C and R don’t understand that one. Duke is number three, and everyone is going to be looking at the match up of UConn and Duke at the end of January. Number four on both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN Coaches poll is Stanford. Actually, both polls agreed on numbers 1-4 and differ with Tennessee being number five on AP and Texas A and M five and Tennessee’s sixth on the coaches poll. So wait, didn’t Tennessee beat Stanford? C has to give a special shout out to R because she predicted Stanford would be 3 or 4 but above Tennessee and C was all, no, Tennessee beat Stanford, Stanford can’t be placed above Tennessee! But R had teh faith. Well, it’s good to know that TPB are looking at how the teams are playing that week and not the strict record.

TH writes in to ask how we think Stanford would match up with Baylor as they might meet in the NCAA tourney. We think you have to beat Baylor with lots and lots of threes and getting Baylor’s Brittney Griner in foul trouble. She can’t hurt you from the bench! Stanford could easily follow UConn’s game plan from last year’s NCAA tourney win over Baylor, which involved having their center, Tina Charles, drive inside and up and in against Brittney so she would collide with Brittney in the air and although BG might get the block, she would get the foul. Plus I think Maya Moore made was dead-on from outside. We think Kayla Pedersen could be the Stanford player to try and get Brittney in the air and foul with her body. Stanford also has a good supporting cast and if hot can hit outside, too, as well as provide stifling defense. Lastly, if Jeanette Pohlen is still red hot and firing up threes and driving in to the lane with Brittney on the bench, we think Stanford could pull it out.

First Stanford has to get past the Arizona schools this weekend.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stanford Rebounds to Beat Cal

C and R have a plan. Our plan is to drive almost to the Berkeley campus, where the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team is playing Cal, and park on the street. R has gotten the inside dope from a friend who is a Cal fan that the meters don’t require feeding on Sunday. Yes, that is the focus of C and R’s worry on Sunday, and yes, R has another friend and can you believe she is a Cal fan? Stanford, on the other hand, became everyone’s friend by knocking off UConn and has to worry about a big post game let down since they had their biggest victory in years and make sure they don’t overlook a young up and coming team in Cal.

Speaking of feeding the meter, tip off is right around lunchtime so C and R need to feed their faces so they also have a plan surrounding that. Their favorite Greek cafĂ© is right on the way to Cal’s Gym and they stop and order falafels (only in Berkeley) but we want our food to go so they make falafel burritos, double only in Berkley.

So the third thing we have to accomplish is tickets and as of Sunday morning we don’t have a plan, we were just going to show up and get tickets at the box office, but late Sunday morning R’s other two friends named D & C, who, gasp, are also Cal fans call and offer her two free tickets. So C and R are set.

With the car successfully parked on the street for free, falafel burritos in hand, we find our Cal friends with their friend J on the steps of Haas Pavilion and skip the long long lines at the ticket booth. The attendance is 5,198 and quite a few are Stanford fans. The Cal fans give us their tickets for free, and that is a class act right there, and inform us we won’t be sitting by them. C suspects they thought we would be insufferable after the UConn win and banished us to Siberia. R ferrets out that they bought the tickets at a later date for their parents who decided at the last minute not to make the trip so their was no ulterior motive for giving us tickets away from them We promise to meet up with them after the game and go celebrate either way. And the seats were NOT in Siberia, they were fantastic, right behind the Stanford bench. We saw the Ogwumike family and JJ Hones again. Once we get situated in our great seats we dive into the falafel burrito; they are good. C likes hers so much she bites into the foil. Twice.

Oh yeah, there was a game, wasn’t there?

Cal introduces its player NBA style with spotlights and smoke and everything. It is fun to see, especially because C and R know straight-laced Stanford would never do that. Eventually the game starts…

Cal comes out with a lot of energy and very aggressive and makes the first basket. C and R worry. Stanford responds like a brick wall returning a tennis ball, that is they match their energy and take it inside with much success. Jeannette Pohlen drives inside, posts up, and in short is continuing her game from Xavier and UConn. What has gotten into her and how can we spread it to the rest of the team?

Once again Stanford coach Tar VanDerveer has a tailored game plan for Cal. Kayla Pedersen, who is 6-3, is on Cal’s 5-8 guard Eliza Pierre. Eliza is super fast and likes to slash and drive to the basket. We are worried she will totally blow by Kayla. We watch as Kayla often leaves Pierre to help double team and lays off her on the three point line, daring her to shoot. Pierre is reluctant to shoot the three and misses the only one she attempts. The gamble works. She does not burn Kayla driving inside, nor does she burn them with threes. Once again, what do C and R know?

Cal goes flat and Stanford curiously does too, almost like an echo effect. We are slow and plodding against slow teams and try to out-energize the energetic teams. We also stop taking the ball inside in this game and do not compensate with threes.

We pick it back up again, mostly thanks to Nneka Ogwumike and at the half it is Stanford 38-17, and we meet up with D & C & J. They also noticed how flat Stanford was in the middle of the first half and it was too bad Cal couldn’t take advantage of them. Well observed. We need Cal to get back up so Stanford can get back up!

Early into the start of the second half, around the 17:52 mark, Nneka hits the ground hard after a foul while shooting. R saw her head bounce. She stays down and clearly is in pain. Little sis Chiney checks in on her on the floor as they are helping her up. After she gets helped up and moved to the bench, the way she is moving so gingerly, C and R are worried she has a concussion. She did not return to the game. The internet would say she hurt her shoulder, and has a headache.

Tinkle comes in and is holding her head up high ever since that UConn game. She makes a steal around the foul line and instantly looked down court, but because Stanford was on D, no one is down there so she takes off down court for a fast break, and no, she decides, no fast break and slows up for everyone and then sees Jeannette Pohlen pull ahead so finally decides, yes let’s run and does and passes to JP for the lay up and that has to have been the slowest fast break C and R have ever witnessed!

Tara does a good job emptying their bench. Cal matched up size-wise with Stanford having two players as tall as Kayla an Sarah Boothe, but Stanford won the rebounding battle 49-26. Cal is sorely missing a “go to” player who can take charge and ultimately score. The team is mostly made up of frosh and sophs, so expect Joanne Boyle to bring them along every year. The final score is 78-45. Our Cal friends invite us out for salty snacks at a yummy taco bar that had the most impressive salsa bar! They actually watch a lot of different women’s basketball games, not just Cal and Stanford and it is great to get the inside scoop from them. Hopefully they will travel to Stanford when Cal comes to town!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cal Q and A, Part I

Happy New Year to you (And it is indeed a happy one, as we are still basking in the glow of Stanford beating UConn). The folks over at California Golden Blogs sent us some Stanford Women’s basketball questions in honor of Stanford traveling to Cal to start PAC-10 play. Here are their questions and our long and rambling answers. At the end are our questions back to them, which we will post in part II.

1. Jeanette Pohen has always been a good player, but after averaging about 10 points per game over the last two years, she's suddenly averaging over 15 per game and shooting around 45% from 3. Is this just an isolated hot streak, or has her game taken a big step forward?

That is a good question. A great question. My what a handsome question… Any questions? Next question.
No, we were modeling a cartoon TV show’s smarmy politician to avoid answering that question because… we don’t know either. After the UConn game, you can say the new and improved Jeanette Pohlen is here to stay, with her career 31 points and her determined game face. She wants a championship, and has improved her game. But can she sustain it? Only time will tell. However, stats don’t lie (although you CAN manipulate the heck out of them) and she is averaging 17 points a game, which does show some consistency. C and R hope if it is a hot streak., it lasts until the championship game.

2. Chiney Ogwumike: talk about her strengths and weaknesses 11 games into her career.

C and R, in particular C, had such high, high hopes riding on Chiney. She thought for sure she would lead the world in scoring by now! In retrospect, perhaps they were unrealistic. Her sister did not have a break out year until her sophomore year, and Chiney is about where Nneka was her freshmen year. It is a big adjustment to the college game. We saw her play in the SF summer league before she got any Tara tutelage, and she was still playing as a high school player, the best athlete on the floor which could let her gamble on defense and usually recover quickly. In man-to-man coverage in the games we saw, she often left her man and went for the steal. She would often miss, probably a new experience, and the other players with college experience found her wide-open man. We thought that was a weakness and coach Tara VanDerveer would “beat it out of her”. Lo and behold, to our surprise, Tara took Chiney’s weakness and turned it into a strength and unveiled a new 1-3-1 defense, with Chiney on the point. Her job was to run around like crazy chasing the ball and use her long arms and leaping ability and go for a steal. If she missed, then there were 4 Stanford veterans behind her to make sure it did not result in a basket. Did we mention we think Tara is a genius? Weaknesses, how many games has Chiney fouled out of? UConn was no exception. She has to corral that instinct to reach out and touch someone. We think her biggest contribution to a disciplined Stanford team though, is her ability to create her own shot. Once Tara gave her sister Nneka the green light her sophomore year, even moving out established senior post Jayne Appel to give her room to create, she flourished. We believe next year Tara will do the same for Chiney and she will be incredible on offense.

PS sometimes big sis Nneka looks for Chiney and forces the ball to her inside where it is stolen, just trying to be all nice and sisterly and everything.

3. A 20 point loss to DePaul was shocking to see, particularly that Stanford allowed DePaul to go for 91 points. But they bounced back by routing Xavier. Was DePaul a fluke? How much did missing Kayla Pedersen impact things?

Geez, you ask good questions! If you strictly compare the DePaul game to Xavier and UConn, you can easily vote fluke. But in context, having one player go down, in this case Kayla Pedersen being out of the DePaul game and not 100% for Tennessee, Stafnord is just not the same team emotionally. She is their security blanket because she can rebound on both ends of the floor, make a big defensive stop, create a shot or handle the ball. Last year when teams pressed us because our guards were suspect on ball handling and were running for their lives in the back court, if they got a pass into Kayla’s hands, no matter where Stanford was on the court, you could see them visibly relax. Oh good, Kayla has the ball, we’re okay. That is a huge dependency to take away. And we didn’t count on the team feeling the same way about Jeanette this year. When she fouled out of the Tennessee game early in overtime, the team just deflated. So we rely on one or two people, much like UConn relies on Maya Moore. If you can stop or limit a team, any team’s “security” you have a shot in beating them (Witness the UConn victory).

4. How has Stanford been coping with the losses of Jayne Appel and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, particularly from a defensive perspective?

Well, we were going to say it’s hard to replace PAC-10 defender of the year in losing Ros Gold-Onwude, but after the Uconn game, our defense is juuuuuuust fine. What that says is Tara has great defensive schemes, teaches the fundamentals well, and can tailor a game plan to any individual team like no body’s business. And smaller Nneka was on tall tall Xavier’s post players, and gave up about 3-6 inches, yet her quickness allowed her to play deny defense and her leaping ability took away the back door pass. Tinkle (Jayne Appel’s doppelganger) also looked really good in her defense at the UConn game.

5. Predictions for Sunday?

Oh, let’s not spoil our friendship with a little thing like picking sides, now shall we?
However, a different question would be who will win the rebounding battle? We are picking the Stanford Trees.

C and R’s Questions for California Golden Blogs

1. How much does this team miss Alexis Gray Lawson? Who has stepped up to fill her scoring shoes?

2. How do the incoming freshmen look? And why did Joanne Boyle only recruit guards?

3. Cal beat Illinois for their first road win. Why is it hard for this team to win on the road?

4. Compare and contrast centers DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell. Which one will give Stanford fits more?

5 One of Stanford’s new interns this year is Cal’s Lauren Greif, who was a senior on the basketball team last year.
Do you think:
A: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew freely and easily?
B: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew only after being tortured by being shown those Stanford Women’s Basketball videos wherein they had supernatural powers of no use on continuous loop?
C: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew but made them all up. (And for their out of bounds play, they like to inbound it off the backside of the opposing player… and oh, in man to man coverage, they plan to have all five players guard Lindy, even if she is sitting on the bench, because, you know, she can really bomb some threes!)

6. Predictions for the amount of available parking spots in Berkeley on Sunday?