Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stanford Seniors Get Win Over Utah

Stanford Women’s Basketball celebrated Senior Night in style, with a win and sending this group of seniors out without ever losing on their home court. Well, small technicality, Seattle University comes in here Wednesday, but everyone is already looking past them to the Pac-12 tournament. And there is that away game vs. a surging Cal, currently number 2 in the Pac-12 Stanford will have to contend with. But for now, the night belonged to the seniors.

Some senior stats: 127-11 overall record. Never lost at Maples. Went to 3 Final Fours (and counting). Have achieved 3 conference championships (and counting) and 3 conference tournament championships (and counting). Pretty impressive.

Back to Saturday’s game, Stanford sure can play some D, as Utah learned. Utah’s first 2 possessions resulted in a game shot violation. They were so harassed by Stanford’s man-to-man that they didn’t even realize that time was running out. The third time down the Stanford band helpfully chanted the clock seconds off to them, starting at 30. They missed that basket, too. In fact, Utah first scored 5 minutes into the contest and had just 6 points at the 10-minute mark. Fifteen minutes into the contest, they were still at 6 points. Now that is some stifling defense. Stanford had 27 at the same juncture.

Utah did a little better the last 5 minutes, and went into the locker room down 36-14. What does a coach say when down by 22? To the Utah coach’s credit, he did get a technical at 2:22 seconds left in the first for arguing with the refs, perhaps to try and fire his team up. All it did was have Stanford’s Jos Tinkle knock both of the shots.

Stanford was still auditioning its new offense. And although there was more movement away from the ball, it still didn’t look smooth. C and R did like freshmen starting guard Amber Orrrrange driving and attacking the basket. She would finish with 12 points. And hey, this was the first time in a long time where Stanford had 4, count ‘em, 4 players in double figures. The talented Ogwumike sisters of Nneka and Chiney had 15 and 16 points, respectively. Chiney had 12 rebounds to make it a double-double night for her.  Jos Tinke would round out the quartet, also adding 12 points and a rebound away from a double-double. And all four are starters, so yay, hopefully this trend will continue. Final score was Stanford 69, Utah 42.

C and R will say one thing about Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, she wants to win games and she is not sentimental, hence her 700th Stanford win tonight. Even though she has 4 seniors on the team, she only started one, Nneka. Sarah Boothe was hurt, to be sure, and Grace Mashore is not utilized much, but Lindy Larocque comes off the bench, she could have gotten a start. Still, with the game well in hand and a 25 point lead and one and a half minutes left, Tara but in all 4 seniors to play with each other. Then she took out superstar Nneka for a standing ovation.

The crowd loves Nneka, not just because she carries the team on her back game after game with her scoring and is a serious contender for player of the year, but also because she is just so warm and wonderful to talk to. So when there was a high loose ball and Nneka leaped up far for it and got side swiped and crashed to the floor, all of Maples had their hearts in their throats, because if Nneka goes, there goes Stanford’s season. Luckily she got up, though in obvious pain. Another time in the second half she made a steal and as the ball was going out of bounds, she dove after it and crashed into the press table. Again, Nneka, we implore you, please save yourself for the tourney!

After the game, the seniors go to walk with their family members and get a bouquet and a hug from Tara (and was Tara crying when she hugged Nneka?). Then the crowd gathered across the way to hear stories told on the seniors. A family member got to speak and then an underclassman got to reminiscence about the player.

We learned Grace Mashore was “not so nice” in preschool. We learned Lindy was a true coaches daughter, and at age 10 questioned why her Dad didn’t have his best player take the last shot in a tie game after the play broke down (She will always be linked to the “Lindy Slide” play that broke Cal’s back). We learned Boothe is “Mama Boothe” and looks after all the other players.

With Nneka, we learned she was full of energy and learned to roll when she was 4 months old. Hey, a girl has to get around somehow. And she was a fun and fun-loving big sister to 3 younger siblings, one who currently plays for Stanford with her and two more that Tara V hopes will follow in their footsteps. Nneka’s Mom told the story of going to the store one day and coming home to a hole on the wall. The explanation dutifully stuck to was the sisters were vacuuming and “accidentally” put the hole there. It wasn’t until years later they fessed up told Mom they had sledded down the stairs and right into the wall. Tara was sure it was Chiney’s idea, the resident class clown, but she assured us it was Nneka, the somewhat rebellious one back then.

Little sister Chiney told of Nneka’s energy and rambunctiousness that got them “sent to private school.” Their mother was constantly looking for activities to keep them busy, such as gymnastics, and then one day sent them to basketball practice. The sisters had never played nor watched a game and when asked to do the simple “weave” drill, they were dumbfounded. Nneka had to try “and looked like a fool” remembered sister Chiney, and came up with a solution of her own, which was to hide out in the bathroom for an hour. But she said Nneka persevered and showed her the way and brought them both to a sport they love and excel in. It was a touching tribute to a wonderful day.

Senior Video Tribute:

Come on out for Wednesday’s game and the REAL last home game of the senior’s career!

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