Hey, there have been some good Pac-12 basketball games as of late, wouldn’t you say? First USC beat Cal in overtime on Saturday and then UCLA gave Stanford a good game on Sunday.
From the opening whistle, UCLA came to play. They had intensity and drive, and played a very physical game. They even kept up with Stanford for a half. But no matter how Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer tries to hide it, this is predominantly a two-person team, and those Ogwumike sisters of Nneka and Chiney took over in the second.
First, back to the first half. We all know the story if Chiney fouls, she sits the bench. Maybe it is to teach her discipline, and maybe it is to preserve her fouls so she can be around for a long time in the second half. Either way, Stanford misses her rebounding prowess when she is out, this game no exception.
This time Chiney was disciplined enough to save her first foul until the 14-minute mark with Stanford holding a 4 point lead. She didn’t go out right away and C and R were hopeful Tara had changed her tune, but 2 minutes later, out she went. But Tara could only sit her for so long, and brought her back in 4 minutes later with the score 19-15, Stanford holding on to a 5 point lead. A minute and 15 seconds later, Chiney fouled again. So much for being disciplined. Out she went for the whole 9:44 left in the first half, and the Cardinal struggled.
With Chiney out, Stanford tried to force it inside to Nneka Ogwumike. Trouble is, UCLA knew it too and stole the pass, harassed and pushed her if she did get the ball, and made her miss shots she normally makes. And when she did miss, no one was weak side to get the offensive rebound and put it back up as Chiney does. And and and, no one else for Stanford was scoring. Stanford’s outside game was 2-8 from three-point land for the half. Stanford went stagnate and UCLA took the lead. Then Jos Tinkle, playing in front of her father, got some nice looks and some baskets. Nneka got mad from being pushed around and scored most of her 13 points in the half after UCLA took that lead. The half time score was 35-30, Stanford.
The second half opened with Chiney and Nneka, and three other bodies on the court. No, that was mean; it was the starting five with Tinkle, Toni Kokenis and Amber Orrrrange. But Nneka and Chiney only had eyes for each other. The half started and Nneka found Chiney, Chiney assist to Nneka, and so it went. The sisters scored 13 straight points for Stanford and built a 10 point lead before Tinkle scored to make it a 12 point lead, 48-36 with 14:40 left.
During that run, Chiney connected with Nneka, once, twice, and on the third time, C and R knew she was looking for Nneka, everyone in the audience knew she was looking for Nneka, and even UCLA knew she was looking for Nneka. Then Nneka gets open UNDER THE BASKET for an easy lay up and another assist for Chiney. She had 4 assists for the game and Nneka had 3, and we are sure it was to each other. It is such a joy to watch them play. Nneka would end up with 25 points and 8 rebounds and Chiney would have 19 points but only 2 rebounds due to sitting on the bench. Final score 82-59.
Yes, to be fair, in the second half Toni Kokenis and Jos Tinkle contributed. Toni finished with 12 points and Jos had 10. But it was disheartening to see Chiney go to the bench in the first and have Stanford stagnate like that, becoming one-dimensional and only looking for one inside player. We are worried when Stanford gets deep into the NCAA tournament, teams will eat us alive. And with Notre Dame going down to Virginia today, any team can rise up and bite you.
Big shout out to Wayne Tinkle, Joslyn Tinkle’s dad. He coaches the Montana Men’s basketball team and has won 8 straight and are 14 of the last 15. We chatted with him at half time. (And good luck with the rest of your season!).
Stanford flies away to Oregon for the next 2 games before coming home for their final 3. Get your tickets for Senior Night!
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