Monday, March 26, 2012

Stanford Victory Over Duke Propels them Into Fifth Straight Final Four

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team is going to the Final Four for the Fifth time in five years. Stanford seniors have gone to four straight Final Fours. There was the net cutting and the trophy hugging, and lots of smiles all around at the regionals, especially for the Stanford Faithful who made the trek back to Fresno. But…

C and R hate to bring up what everyone is trying hard not to say. Stanford is 0-4 in Final Fours from the last four years. Their opponent they have to play to get to the championship game is the number one ranked team in the nation, Baylor. They feature an athletic, dunking 6’8 Brittney Griner. They are undefeated this year. All the bigs had their shot, Tenn, UConn, Notre Dame, and lost. But…

Stanford senior Nneka Ogwumike was gracious in her interview after her team easily dispatched Duke 81-69. She said she is excited to play Baylor, and she knows Brittney and thinks she is nice and Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey is a good coach, but she is looking forward to it (as opposed to C and R who are dreading it). But…

Yes, we know Baylor has other weapons besides Brittney, namely Odyssey Sims. But Baylor has not seen the likes of two Ogwumikes who play as one. This year they have been a perfect compliment to each other. Nneka has developed an outside scoring touch and Chiney gets any rebounds she misses and puts them back. If anyone can do it, bet on these sisters (and thank you Obama for betting against them, picking St. John’s to go to the Final Four. They didn’t even make it to the Elite Eight).

Stanford controlled this game from the first lob from freshmen Amber Orrrrange to Nneka. When Duke went to a zone early on to try to limit Nneka, Amber drove and good ball movement got to open players, who hit some threes. Amber would have 13 for the game.

After Stanford got out-rebounded in their last game against a shorter South Carolina team, they made it a priority to get the ball. Chiney, with bulky knee and brace got 17 of them all by herself. She chipped in 12 points. Nneka once again saved the day when Chiney went to the bench with three fouls and she herself had three fouls, she scored 29 timely points and grabbed 9 boards.

Memo to the rest of the team: When Nneka and Chiney each have three fouls and Duke knows it and drives into the lane right at the sisters, one of you not named Ogwumike have to step up and either stop the drive or take the foul to save them. Because as much as anyone attached to Stanford hates to admit it, without the sisters, Stanford is sunk. Although…

Stanford did hit some threes tonight as we mentioned, seven of them to be exact. Tinkle had three of them and finished with 13 points. Having four starters in double figures helps the Stanford cause a lot, and takes pressure off of the sisters.

As we mentioned, Baylor is also going to the Final Four. They beat Tennessee earlier this evening and a lot of chatter if this was Tennessee coach Pat Summit’s last game. There was a scuffle on the court near the end of the game, and three Baylor players left the bench to see what was going on. Trouble is, rules state if a player leaves the bench to enter the court, they are assessed a technical foul and ejected from the game. Both teams got the technical foul, so no shots, but one of the three Baylor players ejected was Brittney Griner. Then the twitter-sphere erupted as to would she and the others be suspended for the next game? The Final Four game with Stanford? Rules said since there was no fight and the bench players did not fight then there is no suspension. R said she would not want to beat Baylor that way, and we all know she has a point. Still…

Final Four game is set for April Fools Day on ESPN. If anyone can solve the Brittney puzzle, it’s Tara VanDerveer, who recruited a 6’8 inch guy to be her in their practices. I bet his phone is ringing off the hook right now with Stanford coaches trying to get him into practice for the next 6 days!

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stanford Gets Sweet Sixteen Win over South Carolina

Stanford prevailed in the Sweet Sixteen over South Carolina 76-60, but it was a hard fought contest. South Carolina was undersized, yet they wanted to minimize Stanford’s second chance points, so they won the rebounding game 38-36. They planned on being physical with Stanford sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, and they were, twice knocking Chiney to the ground in obvious pain on her already wobbly knee. They keyed on the inside players wanting to make the outside (read other players not named Ogwumiek) try to beat them. Two out of three ain’t bad.

South Carolina was physical and they keyed on the sisters, but they still could not stop Nneka. Nneka scored 39 and grabbed 10 rebounds, and stayed in the game with 3 fouls. Chiney, not her usual self on rebounds and put-backs due to her knee, had four blocked shots and contributed 11 points, and still managed to get 10 boards. In fact, the sisters scored Stanford’s first 14 points, and 50 of Stanford's 76.

A the start of the game, Chiney came out of the locker room wearing a huge knee brace, which had C and R speculate there might be a tear in there somewhere. After the game Chiney called the brace more cautionary then necessary, and Tara VanDerveer is paranoid to a fault about knee injuries to players, so we will see. Still, Chiney went down twice. The first time she was undercut as she went up for a rebound and fell hard. The second time she was knocked to the ground and hit the knee full on, which caused obvious pain on her face.

Luckily, the refs called a foul on that play, which was always in question as they let obvious brutal contact go and then would call strange non-fouls. In a word they were horrible. Bonnie Samuelson came in to take Chiney’s shots as she went to the bench with ice on her knee, and made both. Nneka had three fouls, and South Carolina was licking their chops thinking she was going to go to the bench for a long stretch but if there is anyone Tara can trust to not foul, it’s Nneka. She would make her coach look good.

C and R got to see a lot of the contact up close. We did make the pilgrimage to Fresno, and our original seats were up high and off to the side of the basket, behind all the action, so we went down behind the basket where apparently they didn’t sell any seats and had the section to ourselves (we did share with the Stanford band). Unfortunate for us, Tinkle’s wild throw for a three to end the half and make Stanford go into the locker room 36-30 was at the opposite end. BTW, that was Stanford’s only three of the night. We did see Chiney’s second fall and grimaces of pain and Nneka’s concerned handholding. Also saw Chiney get bandaged up twice and blood removed from her jersey as she had  actually claw marks on her arm. Guess what, no foul was called.

Then C got food poisoning (thanks Fresno) and barely survived the night.

Monday’s Elite Eight is against Duke, the team the East Coast media at one point said should be seeded higher than Stanford. Duke’s outstanding guard Chelsea Gray is a sorta hometown girl and had 50 of her fans there Saturday. The announced crowd was 3,754, but it seemed like more, still off the type of crowds we see on the East Coast. We can’t go back to Fresno for Monday’s game, what with life and work getting in the way, however the game is televised, and starts at 6:00 PM Stanford time. Go Card, fifth final four and Nneka last are on the line!

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Stanford Roughs up West Virginia in Round Two

Stanford Women’s Basketball Coach Tara VanDerveer won this game against West Virginia the day before it was played. Tara is not one to toot her own horn or run to the media, so when she DOES talk to the media, Stanford fans notice. She did it a few weeks when she thought the Pac-12 was getting slighted, and she did it yesterday when she found out she was playing a defensive-minded team that liked to win, in their coaches words, “ugly.”

Tara implored the media that while she doesn’t mind a physical game, she hoped the refs would call it fairly. And no one likes wrestling matches on the floor, she continued, or when there is holding or bodies flying. She planted that subliminal seed in the ref’s head that they had to call contact. And who was one of the trio of refs? None other than Pac-12’s own Melissa Barlow.

Now, Stanford fans are chuckling at that, as we see her about every other game and we think she is horrible, making bad calls. But hey, everyone has pride in their work, so just maybe she was tired of hearing the East Coast trash the Pac-12, so maybe, just maybe, she had a little Pac-12 chip on her shoulder and some extra love for a team she sees about once a week. Coupled with the fact her crew has just been called out to call the game fairly, and boom, Stanford got some home-cooking calls 3,000 miles away from home. Just like Tara VanDerveer planned it.

Let’s looks at the highlights. Stanford came ready to play. They were fast and they were quick. Sweat was gleaning off their bodies at each time out. Announcer Mary Murphy said you can’t hit what you can’t catch, meaning it’s hard to be physical when Stanford is stealing the ball and making points in transient. Stanford would score 19 points off of West Virginia’s turnovers, as opposed to 2 points off of Stanford turnovers for WVU.

Tara also won this game by her advance scouting. She broke out that new offense C said she hated. You know, the one where the guard brings up the ball and the four other Stanford players are standing even with the foul line. No one is under the basket. And then Stanford did back door cuts to an unguarded basket the whole 1st half. West Virginia didn’t know what hit them.

WVU defense was playing out of position. Their posts were near the free throw line and no one to help them when their player did the back door cut. When you are scoring uncontested lay-ups, it just looked too easy. Stanford was up to a 22-point lead in the first, after rattling off a 17-0 run. And here’s where the other coach lost the game. He never adjusted his defense in the first half to counter Stanford’s back door play. Both teams went into the locker room with the score 38-17.

Surprisingly it wasn’t the sister act of Player of the Year contender Nneka Ogwumike and her sister Chiney scoring all the points. WVU had the game plan to try and contain them. They didn’t count on freshmen Amber Orrrrange. Amber sliced her way to the basket and when that was taken away, she hit some pull up leftie jumpers. She had 12 points in the first half and a career high 18 points for the game. Plus no turnovers against a “physical” defense. Nneka scored a quiet 16 and Chiney 13. Toni Kokenis added 10 and Tinkle had 9, with 2 three pointers, so the starting five all contributed. A good sign instead of the usual Nneka and Chiney show. Final score was 72-55.

West Virginia also tried to get the sisters in foul trouble. That worked in the second half, with Nneka going to the bench with 3 fouls with 16 minutes still left to play in the second. However, West Virginia couldn’t capitalize. Then Chiney got her third foul four minutes later and went to the bench. Nneka came in and got her fourth. Much was made about WVU players fouling out 13 times this season to none for Stanford, so Nneka had to play it cool to avoid getting tossed. But with a 20-point lead, it was not hard.

Speaking of Chiney, she was playing with a taped-up knee after falling hard in the first round game. At one point she had a great burst of energy to lead the fast break while West Virginia was lulled into compliancy on defense. Then she was limping. I hope she is able to rest it for the next 5 days until Stanford plays again in Fresno.

Stanford plays South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen in Fresno on Saturday. Let’s show those East Coasters we like women’s basketball and pack the house.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stanford Wins in First Round of NCAA Tournament

Well, now that the dust has cleared and the letter written about disrespect has been read (Hampton), they actually played the games starting Saturday. And Stanford, as befitting a number 1 seed, beat Hampton University 73-51.

Ya know, it’s tough for a #16 seed. Here you go and win your conference, scrape and scrap and suffer and sweat all season long, and your reward is to play a bigger, better team and lose and go home, which was about 10 miles from the gym in this case. So unfair to Stanford if you want to talk about disrespect, Hampton!

Anyhoo, the game started out close. Here Hampton got their hopes up by hitting a three-pointer to make it a one point game at the 7-minute mark in the first. And then, Nneka Ogwumike runs you over. She scored 28 points, 22 in the first, and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double, to overwhelm Hampton (and directed the mop up crew to clean the floor to boot).

Stanford fans have seen this phenomenon all season long. Sometimes it’s the one-two punch of Nneka and her sister Chiney. But not this time. Stanford had some drama of its own.

Early in the first half around the 17 minute-mark, Chiney knifed in for an offensive rebound. To C and R, it looked like the Hampton player fell on Chiney’s ankle, who then toppled into a second Hampton player. Chiney got called for the foul.  And stayed down. When she did get up, she was limping.

Stanford fans everywhere stopped breathing. She subbed out and went to the locker room. Social media was all abuzz, bruised knee was the official reading. Dad followed her into the locker room, so it seemed more serious then a bruised knee.

She came back out, rested, sat next to the coaches (See, good as new, put me in, coach), went back in, got burned on defense, came out a minute later, went back to locker room, came back out and rode a stationary bike for the rest of the half. Watched her sister Nneka hit a three-point shot with seconds left to lift Stanford to a 42-27 lead, and went into the locker room to listen to genius coach Tara VanDerveer give her famous half-time adjustments.. Then Chiney played the second half and ended up with 9 points. Whew, had us dizzy with worry and relief.

So, while Chiney’s drama was all going on and Hampton got within one at the 7-minute mark, Nneka took over. Stanford went on a 20-6 run since the one point difference, scoring 14 straight unanswered points after Hampton’s three. Hampton just had the 6 points after the 7-minute mark, and that was with the Pac-12 defensive player of the year riding a bike.

And that three-pointer with 7 seconds left, it was as if Nneka was saying, here, take that into the locker room and chew on that. And, as most teams have found out, there is no answer to Nneka. Stanford went on to win 73-51.

Jos Tinkle scored 16, adding points that Chiney usually provides. It helped that she hit 4 three-pointers. In fact, she was 4-4 from behind the line, we think a career high for made three pointers for her. That certainly helps open things up for Nneka to work inside. Guards Toni Kokenis also added 9 and Amber Orrrrange added 7, with a career high 11 assists. Well, when you are throwing it to Nneka, who can score at will, it helps a lot.

Next up is a very tough defensive team in West Virginia. They are long and tall. Hope Chiney’s knee is up for the challenge. Should be on ESPN2 at 4 PM Stanford time.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stanford Wins Inaugural Pac-12 Basketball Title Over Cal

Now Stanford can say it for reals, they are Pac-12 Champions. They won the Pac-12 regular seasons by going undefeated and earned a number 1 seed in the post-season tournament. Then they had to play the games. And they almost lost to a defense-minded ASU in the semis. And the finals were against the only team to take them to overtime this season, Cal. But it didn’t really matter. Stanford won all of them, and got to cut down the nets.

Again, this was a physical game with inconsistent refereeing. Cal keyed on the inside duo of sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike. Stanford perimeter players responded by going 1-8 from three-point land in the first. Cal, on the other hand, which is not known for its outside shooting, made 5-9 three pointers in the first, enabling them to keep the score close at the break, 37-31. Cal had been in the hole by as much as 13 points earlier in the half.

But both teams knew the three point shooting were both anomalies. Cal would go 0-3 on threes in the second, and Stanford would be 4-8 from behind the line. And the biggest surprise of them all was newly minted three-point shooter post player Nneka Ogwumike. She made not 1, not 2, but 3 threes. She missed a 4th attempt somewhere, C and R don’t remember amidst the yelling and the screaming and the cats-running for cover over at SC’s place. The twitter-sphere went crazy. Nneka had not made a three all season! She previous had made 2 threes in her career! It was out of this world!

And also timely. Sister Chiney went out of the game with 4 fouls with 9:37 to play and Stanford with a 10-point lead. Nneka herself had 3 personal fouls. And that’s when she hit it, her first three, for a 13-point lead and it wouldn’t get any closer. The game ended with the score 77-62, Stanford.

So just what got into Nneka to start bombing threes? Apparently, she makes the all the time in practice.  Sister Chiney counseled her earlier saying she’s got a great outside shot, but as soon as she steps over that line, she physiologically psyches herself out (Or something like that, Chiney tells the story better). Chiney told Nneka to stop placing such importance on the line and just shoot, especially if the shot clock is winding down. And she did! Three times, and it was a dagger in Cal’s heart.

Let’s look at the records:
Nneka Ogwumike became the all-time scorer in Pac-12 Tournament history. Nneka also equaled Pac-12 Tournament record for most points in a tournament (71). Chiney Ogwumike broke the Pac-12 Tournament record for most rebounds in a tournament with 36. Stanford set a school record with its 28th consecutive victory and extending its win streak over Pac-12 foes to 78 games.

Then let’s look at stats:
Both sisters had a double-double. Nneka had 29 points, and 12 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots and 3 threes! Sister Chiney had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and one flagrant elbow call (Brittany Boyd missed both shots, so there was some justice in the air). The sisters combined for 46 points and 25 rebounds. Freshmen guard Amber Orrrrange added 13 and 3 assists. Nneka averaged 23.7 points 10.3 rebounds during the tourney.

Let’s look at the awards:
Nneka earned the Pac-12 tournament MVP. Nneka and Chiney were named to the all-conference tournament team. Stanford took home a shiny trophy and Nneka wore the net around her neck on the flight home.

Things we learned from twitter:
Mikaela Ruef did not make the trip down to LA. She had surgery on her foot the day before. She plans to make the NCAA tournament, although it is not clear she will play, although that does seem doubtful.

Things we learned from fans that were courtside, of which there were few, (announced attendance was 1,845):
Bonnie Samuelson was hurt. She was seen limping and crying when she left the floor. The thought is Nneka might have landed on her leg. Having the MVP land on you is a small price to pay for a Pac-12 Championship.

Next up:
Selection Monday, where the 64-team field will be set and Stanford will find out how may thousands of miles they will have to travel. It will be on ESPN at 4 PM Stanford time.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Stanford has UN-Stanford Game, Yet Stanford Results, A Win over ASU

Well the good news was this game was televised. The bad news was maybe it shouldn’t have been. Stanford shot a season-low 29.4 % for the game and held off a uncharacteristic late charge to survive and win 52-43 over Arizona State University. (And 8 of those Stanford points came off of 4 straight intentional fouls within the last minute).

Coming into this Pac-12 tournament semi-final game, ASU only gave up an average of 52.5 points per game. Stanford likes to score. Something had to give there, but let’s also not forget Stanford plays great defense and they only give up 55 or so points a game. And ASU is the team that has 6’5 Kali Bennett, who blocked Stanford Superstar Nneka Ogwumike not once but twice in one possession the last time these two teams met in the regular season, something you don’t see every day.

Kali’s defense and scoring single handedly kept her team in it when they last met. And then she got hurt, a bloody nose I think. She came back I quickly but she wasn’t the same. And then Stanford’s post players, Nneka and sister Chiney went to town. Bennett then fell and hurt her back and was out of the game for good. Stanford cruised to a victory.

In this game, Kali played well but got her third foul with 2 seconds left in the half. She then couldn’t be so aggressive on defense in the second. Stanford is known to play smart and you have to play smarter to beat them, and that was not a smart play. Nneka had head-faked Kali at the three point line and drove past her. When Nneka pulled up, Kali was trying to get back to her and fouled her. Nneka made both shots and took a 29-15 lead in to the locker room. Yes that’s right, that’s not one of C’s infamous typos. ASU only scored a season-low 15 points in the first. We told you Stanford could play some D, too. The sisters combined for 18 at the half, BTW.

Still, ASU held Stanford scoreless for long stretches of time. Most notable was the 8 minutes in the second half where Stanford went without a field goal. Stanford was also 0-10 for threes, and shot a season-low 29.4 % for the game.  Even worse, Stanford’s second half statistics were 15.4% made field goals on 4-26 shooting, and 0 points from the bench. Ye Gods! (Nate the Great from Swish Appeal would have a field day with stats like that!). And that kind of play, Ladies and Gentlemen, will bounce you out of the NCAA tourney quicker than my fat cat eats her kibble.

The announcers hit the nail on the head and said if you hold Stanford, the #2 team in the country to 4-26 shooting, and 8 minutes without scoring in the second, and don’t score points yourself, you are wasting a HUGE opportunity. And ASU did. ASU shot about 29 % from the field, too.

Some highlights. Nneka scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds for a double-double. Sister Chiney had 12 points and 13 rebounds, also a double-double. Coach VanDerveer said after the game she knew Nneka and Chiney would not let this slip through Stanford’s fingers. Yes, but what happened to their supporting cast that had made such strides the last few weeks?

Why was it so bad?  C and R theorize that one, good ASU defense and and two, playing two games in a row took a toll on both teams. ASU did not let Stanford run or get baskets in transition. Nneka and Chiney were pushed around a lot inside, coupled with really bad refs not calling obvious contact down low and that made for a lot of missed shots.

Stanford has not played back-to-back games all year without a night’s rest, and now they have to play 3 games in a row without a night’s rest? What’s up with that Pac-12? Didn’t they get at least one day’s rest in the old format? (And please move the tourney to Vegas, where the men are thinking of going).

After the game, Tara V said sometimes you got to win ugly and that was ugly, but you learn from it. When teams are that aggressive we have to pass, screen and move and go hard, cutting quicker.. Oh here, listen for yourself.

Tomorrow is the Championship at 11:30 AM Stanford time, on TV again. Stanford’s opponent? Cal

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Stanford vs Washington

Pac-12 Tourney, Stanford vs Washington: this game was frustrating. Frustrating for the Cardinal, who couldn’t have their customary way with their inside game, and frustrating for C and  R, who couldn’t get the stupid YouTube feed to buffer.

On the Twittersphere, someone who shall remain nameless tweeted, oh thank you thank you @Pac-12 for this ingenious way to show the women’s game! To which C and R say, no thank you, the men’s games were shown on TV, why not the women’s games? To which the person said, hey, just be glad we got this on a video feed. C hates that argument, that women should be grateful for whatever scrap or crumb that gets thrown their way, meanwhile the men’s side is feasting away. Isn’t this the same argument sports programs used before Title IX said it was illegal?

When C and R were at the Pac-10 tourney in LA a few years ago, one higher-up shared the reason they moved the women’ s tourney down here was it was cheaper, all the camera equipment was already here and set up in LA for the mens’ game. If you are not going to even use the camera equipment on the women, then let it rotate from site to site. We loved when it was in San Jose. Or better yet, have the men’s and women’s tournament together and rotate from site to site, at a neutral place in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Stanford. Maybe then the Pac-12 could get some more interest from the crowd, too. SF Chron reported the fans for the Stanford game at about 200 people. This is the number 2 team in the country, people! Bring it back to San Jose! Tara VanDerveer agrees with us!

Sorry for the rant, the day belongs to Stanford, so let’s get back to them.

The game started slowly for Stanford. At first they had no answer for Washington’s Regina Rodgers, the hefty center (The SF Chron reports her weight at 300 pounds). And she took Pac-12 Player of the Year Nneka Ogwumike out of her comfort zone, literally, by giving her a bloody nose. Nneka said in a post game interview it was incidental contact. She is as gracious as she is tall. And she said being pushed around down low is what they needed to get ready for the next level (read NCAA tourney), against more physical teams. Plus Stanford was 0 for 100+ shots from the three point line. Well, maybe not that bad, but they were 1-8. And that won’t do at the next level. It didn’t’ help matters that Washington was out –rebounding them in the first half, and had 8 offensive boards, whereas Stanford had 2, as evidenced by Tara intensely reminding the team at half time. Hey, check out this video, which does give a rare glimpse into what goes on in the Stanford locker room at half time:

But this team is coached by Tara VanDerveer, and she is the queen of game adjustments, as you saw in the video. She had Nneka cut more to the basket and play the ol’ high-low game. It worked. Nneka scored 18 and Chiney had a double-double with 16 and 11 rebounds. Bonnie Samuelson did hit some threes in the second half, and ended up with 11 points and three made threes. Jos Tinkle contributed 8, although we don’t like her playing time reduced now that Taylor Greenfield and Sarah Boothe are healthy. You dance with the one that brought you there, or some sort of idiom or saying.

Concentrating on Nneka and Chiney’s numbers (and whoever else had a good game) hides the fact Stanford plays great defense. They held the Pac-12 freshmen of the year, Jazmine Davis to just 2-18 shooting and 8 points, after starting the game so promising. Ditto for Regina Rodgers, and although she got some good looks early on, she ended up with just 12 points, 6 in garbage time when Nneka was on the bench for good. Announcer Ros Gold Onwude, who used to play at Stanford so might have a wee bit of bias, said Washington looked like they were giving up in the second half when Stanford got ahead by as many as 27 points. Final score was 76-57.

Reason #2 you should be in LA at the Pac-12 Tourney.
Copious Free T-shirts and Whales. Jeanette Pohlen’s Mom got a whale, and so did Ros Gold Onwude, who was announcing at the time. She announced she caught the whale flung her way. Now C and R are really bummed they couldn’t make the trip.

Reason #3 you should be in LA at the Pac-12 Tourney.
Just heard from new friends S and C, who were there and said the many empty seats gave them the opportunity to sit right behind Ann Meyers, Lisa Leslie and their favorite rising star color analyst, Ros Gold Onwude. You guessed it, they also got a whale. (S reports: It didn't seem likely that any of the cheerleaders could heave a whale past the third row, so we knew it was only a matter of time before we snagged one). But they are better people than C and R as S and C gave the whale to a 2-year-old boy and just about made his life. C would have selfishly kept hers at a high level from any and all children.

Next game at noon (darn work interfering with basketball again), against Arizona State, and this time it’s on TV. However, being at work… Will have to tape it and watch in the evening. So nobody twitter about it or report any scores or nohtin’, ‘k?

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Battle of the Bay is One-Sided, Stanford Beats Cal by 25

Cal did its best to try and intimidate the “Nice Girls from Stanford.”  The Stanford women’s Basketball team, on the other hand, would have none of it. They showed up in the enemy territory of Haas Pavilion in their black uniforms and gave as good as they got.

Well, Cal did intimidate a little in the first few minutes. They did have a loud crowd and scored the first four points. All four came courtesy of Cal’s Brittany Boyd. The media (okay, C and R and Cal Golden Blogs) played up the freshmen match up of guards, Cal’s Boyd and Stanford’s Amber Orrrrange. They did indeed match up across from each other and Boyd was fired up. She hit two free throws to open the game and then got a steal and just took it down Stanford’s throat for a lay up. Amber took her shots, too, and they were good looks, but nothing fell. It looked like it was going to be a long night for the Cardinal.

To make mattes longer, er harder, Cal opens with a full court press, and Stanford can get easily rattled. Stanford would turn it over seven times in the first half alone.

But then Stanford gave Cal notice that they had a different weapon then their inside game, namely the outside game. Jos Tinkle hit a three, all 6’3 of her. Then they went inside to all-everything Nneka Ogwumike, who got Cal’s centers into foul trouble. A couple of free throws later and Stanford is up 8-6 with 14 minutes to play. Then Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer unleashed the big guns, and subs in freshmen three-point specialist Bonnie Samuelson. She quickly hits a three. Toni Kokenis follows shortly after, then Bonnie again and in the space of 3 minutes Stanford is up 24-13. Stanford already had more made threes at this point (3 of them) then made all game the first time these two teams played.

A word about Bonnie’s threes. They ain’t pretty. They have no arch and she releases more from the shoulder with a little hop than a pure straight-up jump and shot from the shoulder. C and R are always worried it would be easy to block, but here’s the thing: she releases so darn quickly no one can block her. And Cal did keep leaving her open, much to Cal head Coach Lindsey Gottleib’s dismay.

Then Cal couldn’t stop Toni. At one point her defender played off of her and begged her to shoot the three. She did and she made it. She also had some nice drives to the basket and some nice pull-ups. She kept Cal off balance, and had 11 points at the half.

The half time score was 43-24. Granted, Cal’s post players went to the bench and let Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike get some baskets. However, Cal did not play team ball. When they got a defensive rebound, which they got a lot of, hats off to them for keeping Chiney Ogwumike off the O boards, Cal would put their head down and go coast to coast. Trouble is 2 or 3 black uniforms were back there waiting, forcing bad shoots instead of an easy lay up. Cal really dug themselves a big hole. Cal would shoot 9-32 in the first half. And Brittany Boyd, who scored the first four points for Cal, held scoreless the rest of the half.

Okay, we have heard of the three-point play (foul, made basket, made free throw) and a four-point play (fouled on a three point shot, made the three, made the one foul shot), but a five-point play?  In the first, Toni made a two point shot and Cal got called for throwing Nneka around, so Stanford got the basket and the ball out of bounds under their basket. Nneka fought off her man and caught the inbound pass at the block and put it back for two more points, and was fouled. She made the free throw. Five total points.

Also in the first, Nneka blocked a Brittany Boyd lay up so hard the ball flew off the court and down the exit aisle, heading for the door, along with Cal’s hopes of winning this game. No soup for you! Now that’s intimidation! The announcers said the first time these two teams played at Maples, Nneka had the flu and had been in bed for four days before the game, no practice. She played and only scored 12 points and didn’t look like “Nneka.” Tonight, they concluded, she looked like Nneka.

Speaking of blocks, Stanford had 10 total. Jos Tinkle had five, two coming on one play, although how did the Cal player get the ball so many times.

Being down by 19 is hard to come back from, and Cal did a better job in the second half with their centers taking it to the Ogwumikes on offense and getting them in foul trouble. But it was too little, too late. Brittany Boyd did not score in the second half. Cal also stuck with the full court press, and this time Stanford solved it with long passes down court. Stanford then had three-on-one type numbers and easy lay ups.  Stanford would limit their turnovers this half to five. The final score would be 86-61.

Nneka would finish the game with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assist and 2 blocks. For once, she is not Stanford’s high scorer, and no, the high scorer was not also named Ogwumike, which is often the case. High scorer was guard Toni Kokenis, with 23. As we mentioned, she had a wide variety of moves to go to, including three from behind the line. (Stanford would make 8-14 of their threes for the night. Cal by contrast would make 1 on 9 attempts.). Toni might have scored more, but had to leave the game with a few minutes left due to collision with a Cal player’s shoulder and subsequent bloody nose. Chiney would square out at 12 points and 12 rebounds, for her 14th double-double of the season. Jos Tinkle rounded out the quartet of Stanford players in double figures with 16 points. And Bonnie? She made 3 threes for 9 total points.

The announcers said Stanford looked like a #2 team, and that they came out and owned this game, they took control and they never let it out of their grasp. Pretty intimidating.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cal Golden Bears vs C and R's Stanford Women's Bball Blog

Today's Blog is brought to you courtesy of  Nate the Great at Swish Appeal. He posed questions to Cal Golden Blogs and C and R. Results are below. In fact, this is really his article we copied and pasted from Swish Appeal. Enjoy!

Cal Golden Bears vs Stanford Cardinal: Battle Of The Bay Q&A With California Golden Blogs and C and R
by Nate Parham on Mar 3, 2012 6:00 PM EST in NCAA: Pac-12

Although rivalries are certainly born under the pressure of high stakes competition, the UC Berkeley - Stanford women's basketball rivalry should hold a special place in women's basketball history: it was the first college rivalry game in women's basketball history by virtue of being the first intercollegiate women's basketball game 116 years ago. (In which Stanford won 2-1--C and R).

Yet the not-so-subtle underlying theme of Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer's point that Cal should have been ranked during 2011-12 season is that either people don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the Pac-12.

There are obviously perfectly good reasons for this problem, but with the Battle of the Bay coming up tomorrow (6 p.m. PST on FSN), I figured I'd enlist the help norcalnick of SB Nation's California Golden Blogs and C and R of the Stanford Women's Basketball Blog to help shed some light on their teams before jumping into a more detailed preview.

1. Swish Appeal: Although these two teams are already locked in at #1 and #2 in the conference at this point, every Big Game is a big game because it's a rivalry game with bragging rights on the line. But with Cal arguably the closest it has been to Stanford in years, where does your anticipation for this particular game rate in the larger context of this ongoing rivalry?

C and R: This game has huuuuge implications. The thinking goes if Stanford loses to Cal, they lose the number 4 seed in the NCAA tourney. If Cal loses, they get seeded 8th and will meet a team like Baylor in the early round, yet a win would give them a more favorable draw throughout the tourney (we just learned that from norcalnick). This is going to be a nail-biter.

norcalnick: It's difficult to precisely place this game, in part because there have been bigger Cal/Stanford games in terms of conference standings, rankings, etc. But I think it's a chance for Cal to send a HUGE message not just for this season, but for next season. With a win, Cal can claim that they have perhaps caught up with Stanford. The Cardinal losing Nneka Ogwumike and Cal doesn't have a single senior. A win on Sunday night would be a statement that the conference race next year is going to be a battle.

2. SA: For people who haven't seen these two teams often, what is something that is really important to know about your team that doesn't show up in the box score?

C and R: Stanford sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike really enjoy playing the game with each other. Really, they are a joy to watch as they rack up 7/8ths of Stanford's points. Although a huge box score statistic in this game will be rebounding. The sisters are used to jumping over everyone, and Chiney makes her living on weak side rebounds and easy put backs for points. Cal prides itself on its rebounding and is one of the top teams in the nation statically, or something like that. Something's gotta give. Norcalnick pointed out that if Stanford freshman guard Amber Orrrrange goes against Cal freshman guard Brittany Boyd, there's going to be contact, good or bad. Also, he predicts BB will harass Stanford's playmaker.

(This just kills us, posting a video where Cal's Brittany Boyd talks about swagger. But Cal Golden Blogs posted the “Got Bounce Video, so turn-about’s-fair-play-- C and R.)

norcalnick: I think Cal has a certain level of versatility to their style of play. Like most teams, they want to beat you in a certain way, and for Cal that means pushing the tempo, getting out in transition, occasional pressure defense and clobbering teams on the boards. But they have the depth and versatility to win games when they can't play their preferred style. The addition of Brittany Boyd, improvements from Eliza Pierre, a deeper post rotation - all of these things have allowed Cal to be more successful in the half court set and the personnel flexibility to match up well with most teams. They don't want to get bogged down in a slow down game with Utah or Oregon State, but they'll still pull out the win.

Also: I suppose this is reflected in the box scores, but Cal took Rutgers, Ohio St., Texas and Stanford down to the final possession. Allow me to be a homer and humbly suggest that the Bears are the best unranked team in the country.

3. SA: When Cal beat Stanford on January 18, 2009, it was at Haas but required a rather epic game from Alexis Gray-Lawson. Who might be that player who steps up big to pull off the upset this time?

C and R: Sorry, we haven’t seen much of Cal this season (no offense meant, really), but we have been super impressed with Brittany Boyd. She certainly didn’t back down at Maples. C and R will definitely have their eye on her. Also Cal’s Layshia Claredon. And, this is between you, me, and the tree, but the media has said Stanford’s Taylor Greenfield and Sarah Boothe are going to be reinserted into the lineup. Both have been out with injures. However in their absence, Jos Tinkel has stepped up. C and R would almost hate for coach Tara to mess with a good thing, ya know?

norcalnick: That's hard to answer in part because Cal's attack is deep and balanced. But it will probably be a guard, which means it would probably be Layshia Clarendon. She's Cal's best shooter, she's Cal's most consistent penetrator, and she's our tough, grizzled veteran. Layshia brought Cal back when they trailed Stanford late in regulation at Maples, and she's been playing her best basketball late in the season. The Ogwumike sisters make it hard to earn a win with post play, and that means Layshia and the rest of the guards have to step up.

4. SA: As hard as it is to neutralize the Ogwumike sisters on the boards (a combined 27 rebounds in their overtime win on January 28 this season), is it possible for Cal to win this game if they don't win the rebounding battle?

norcalnick: Yes, and I say that mostly because Stanford won the rebounding battle earlier in the season and Cal still almost won. But they won it by a slim margin, and Cal stands a much, much greater chance if they do out-rebound Stanford. like they do most teams.

If Cal can't out-rebound Stanford then they need the Cardinal to have an unusually poor shooting game and/or the Bears need to shoot particularly well. Both of those things happened earlier in the year, which is why Cal kept it close despite getting out-rebounded. I wouldn't expect Stanford to shoot 3-20 from three again, so Cal probably needs to do better on the glass. But it's college basketball. Weird things happen!

C and R: In a word, no.

In more words, rebounding, smebounding, you have to stop Nneka and Chiney from SCORING if you want to win this game.

SA: What development (positive or negative) since the first game between these two teams might have the biggest impact on this second game?

C and R: Hmm, I think the emergence of Amber Orrrranges and Jos Tinkle’s confidence and playing time is a positive. Negative is Stanford’s other guard Toni Kokenis is hurt. Will she be full strength on Sunday? Also, Cal has gone 13-2 in the last 15 games and their coach seems to have solved some of the chemistry issues they had last year. She also has them believing they can win, whether it’s true or not, it’s the mark of a good coach. Also, Cal is giving away free tickets to employees and selling others for $1 to pack the house and intimidate the "Nice girls from Stanford". That doesn’t’ seem fair! LOL!

norcalnick: I think the biggest change for Cal might just be the psychological knowledge that they can play right with Stanford. Since Cal's last win in 2009, the Bears have lost to Stanford seven straight times, and until this year none of them were especially close - the smallest margin of victory was 15. When Alexis Gray-Lawson graduated there wasn't a player left who had beaten Stanford.

The Cardinal may very well make it eight in a row, but I don't think they have that psychological advantage that they do over most teams where when they run on the court you know the game is already over. The Bears believe they can beat Stanford, and taking them to overtime at Maples is one of the reasons.

SA: This game is televised, which is great (especially after how amazing the first game was). But what excites you most about next season's new Pac-12 television network as a women's basketball fan?

C and R: Being able to see all the Pac-12 women’s basketball games, of course. Although… we were reading a Pac-12 release recently and it proudly boasted that the new Pac-12 channel would show over 40 women’s basketball games. Uh, wait a minute. Didn’t they promise they would show EVERY single Pac-12 woman’s basketball game? C and R are a little math-challenged, but we think that’s more than 40. Hope they are not "revising" their promise. And then again, the start of every new women’s basketball season excites us.

Thanks for your questions and taking the time to listen. Love the work you do on Swish Appeal (Shameless plug fro Nate!)

norcalnick: From a writer's perspective, it will be so much easier and so much more fun. It gets very frustrating and repetitive to try to draw insights from a radio broadcast or a box score. And as a fan of basketball in general, it means I can watch a game between Utah and Arizona St. if I so desire (and I do!) I also think that the Pac-12 has always lagged ever so slightly behind other conferences in women's basketball, and this kind of exposure could be a huge step forward for recruiting and marketing.

But mostly, I get to watch every game my team plays! It's what being a fan is all about!

For far more on this game, visit California Golden Blogs for their questions of C and R and the Stanford Women's Basketball Blog for their questions of norcalnick.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Q and A with Cal Golden Blogs, Part II

NorCalNick, from Cal Golden Blogs, steps up to the plate and answer's C and R's hard hitting questions for the annual Battle of The Bay (and proves he is one witty guy!)

1. Cal is 13-2 in the last 15 games, and won their last 4 in a row. They are definitely surging. What explains said surge?

Well, like Carolyn Peck would say, there aren't any teams out in the Pac-12 that present any kind of challenge, right?

Nah, it's mostly a matter of the Bears playing consistently to their own potential. Last year's struggles obscured the talent that the team has, and the infusion of a few more highly rated freshmen provided some missing pieces. Now those four freshmen have been integrated into the lineup and the whole is starting to become greater than the sum of the parts.

Also, those two losses were both in overtime - Cal hasn't lost in regulation since they visited L.A. on New Years weekend!

2. Cal has been projected as a number 7 seed for the NCAA tournament (Yay!) and if they win their first game would meet Tennessee (Boo!).  What does Cal need to do to have a deep run in the tourney? 

A good draw, probably. As both a Cal fan and a Pac-12 fan, I'm always wary of getting screwed. This year that would be getting an 8 seed across from Baylor or Notre Dame. That's part of the reason why we want to beat Stanford (even more) badly - it would presumably clinch at least a 7 seed, if not higher.

If Cal could get matched up against a few teams that have trouble rebounding, or lack depth inside, they could pull off a few upsets. We'll have to do it on the road, since only one regional is east of Texas. It's rare that east-coast bias is so geographically obvious!

3. Now that Stanford freshmen Amber Orrrrange (no really, it’s not typo, it’s spelled with 4 “r”s, just like you pronounce it), has been inserted into the Stanford lineup. Do you anticipate Amber going up against Cal’s freshmen guard Brittany Boyd? And if so, what will the outcome be? 

Probably lots of fouls. Brittany has the ability to both draw and get called for many of them, and if Ms. Orrrrange's intent is to stop her from getting into the lane the result will be lots of contact from both teams.

I'll be interested to see if Amber can maintain her 2:1 assist to turnover ratio against one of the best thiefs in the conference. If she can, Cal is in a world of trouble. But if Brittany can pick her pocket a few times and score going the other way the Bears should be able to hang right with Stanford.

4. Tara VanDerveer has publicly stated she thinks Cal should be a top-25 team after the Overtime victory over Cal, and went to the media to blast the Pac-12 against detractors. Why didn’t Coach Gottleib chime in on the record to defend the Pac-12 honor and call out the haters?

I would imagine that Coach G agrees whole-heartedly with Tara - Cal should be a Top 25 team!

I do appreciate and agree with Tara's statements, even though they are pretty clearly self-motivated. Lucky for her, Stanford has been so successful for so long that they have earned the benefit of the doubt, at least from the selection committee. And lucky for Cal, they'll have the chance to prove they belong in March.

5. For senior day, Cal has no seniors. First of all, why? And second, Coach Gottleib has said she will enjoy giving Nneka a big bouquet of flowers. What are the chances she will offer, say an Ipad or a car to convince Nneka to fake a sore throat and sit? 

Cal brought in two freshmen in the recruiting class that would have graduated this year, but both players elected to transfer (one, interestingly, went to UC Santa Barbara, where Coach Gottlieb had left for the head coaching position at the time). Their transfers led to the need for a seven player recruiting class (since reduced to four players available to play due to transfers and heart conditions). It's been a somewhat difficult roster to manage, and this is really the first year in which there's been any kind of reasonable class balance since 2009.

I think the bouquet of flowers will be sufficient for Nneka, but perhaps the car can be offered to Chiney . . . would that count as an illegal benefit? Somebody get the NCAA on line 2!

6. A train leaves Palo Alto at 6:00 PM traveling East at 80 MPH. A second train leaves Berkeley 3 hours later at 100 mph heading West on the same track. How big will the explosion have to be to get the East Coast Media to recognize we play basketball out here in California?

There are other factors to be taken into account. Will the explosion be aired on ESPN2 or CSNBA? Will Baylor be in the middle of another 30 point win at the same time? Does Geno Auriemma have an opinion on the explosion? And, if possible, can Rebecca Lobo be brought in to ensure that Geno offers his take?
Okay, that last answer was gooooood!
Now all they have to do is play the game! See ya Sunday!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Q and A with Cal Golden Blogs, Part I

NorCalNick, from Cal Golden Blogs, once again asks the hard questions for our 1289th annual Battle of The Bay question-a-thon. Here are his Q’s and C and R’s answers. Questions to CGB are below, answers tomorrow.

1. Stanford is the #2 team in the country and in the RPI. They're basically a stone-cold lock for the #1 seed in the Fresno region of the NCAA tournament. Since there's nothing on the line, wouldn't it be nice to do us Cal fans a favor and maybe rest up an Ogwumike or two on Sunday in preparation for the tourney?

C and R: Sure, I can guarantee two of the Ogwumikes will rest and won’t play the Cal game. They are Erica and Olivia, the younger high school sisters! No, we think Tara wants to make a statement, every game, so the college Ogwumikes will play. She’s been especially testy after the whole East Coast-West Coast Bias thing. And according to ESPN’s Carolyn Peck, Stanford is not necessarily a lock for the number one seed in the west.

2. At Maples, Stanford's defensive strategy seemed to be to pack the paint and hope that Brittany Boyd and Layshia Clarendon wouldn't make jump shots. Do you expect Tara to employ a similar strategy, or shake things up?

C and R: Well, Tara VanDerveer is a basketball genius and likes to deploy different defenses at various times. Look for what C and R call man-to-man help. The defense is a straight up man-to-man, and if your player blows by you, you yell for help from Nneka or Chiney Ogwumike! Anyone can play D when Nneka has your back.

3. Stanford has been followed all season by ESPNW, who has given the team the 'all-access' treatment. Has the harsh glare of the camera lens transformed the players into divas too distracted to focus on the court yet? If not, it's going to happen soon, right?

C and R: Divas!! Chiney Ogwumike was born with a microphone in her hand. Her tribute to her older sister after the game on senior night had everyone rolling on the floor
(apparently Nneka’s exuberant energy landed them in private school). If ESPN wasn’t following Stanford around, Tara would have to invent some ways for Chiney to “express” herself. Oh, wait, Stanford has, with these Real Ladies of Maples Videos, and occasional music videos. Got Bounce was last year and this year’s musical selection is being edited and is tentatively titled “Revenge of the Nerds.

4. Since winning in OT over Cal, Stanford has won every single game by at least 13 points. Did those blowouts tell you anything new about your team?

C and R: It’s weird, and this may sound like spoiled fans, but the blowouts really weren’t. Most of  the games were always close at the half, and until Nneka and Chiney took over in the second, the game was in doubt. However, we are happy to say the last few games Jos Tinkle has stepped up and provided some much needed scoring, along with great guard play from Toni Kokenis and freshman Amber Orrrrange. Double however we are unhappy to say this new offensive look we have seen in the last few games looks weird and causes the Cardinal to have a slow start.

5. How worried are you about losing Nneka for 2013? On one hand, Stanford loses great players more or less yearly without skipping a beat. On the other hand, the Cardinal seem just a bit more reliant on Nneka than some of the other stars of the past.

C and R: We are sooooo worried. See question 4. Nneka really has, at times, carried the team this year. Chiney is a great weak side rebounded and scorer, but she needs someone to take good shots, which she gets in Nneka. Plus there is some sort of sister ESP-thing going on that allows Chiney to be in just the right spot at the right time and know exactly where the ball is going to go on a rebound when Nneka shoots. She won’t have that comfort next year. It’s been a bit of a relief to see others step up in scoring, and hope that continues to next season.

6. Any predictions (about the game or otherwise?)

C and R: Well we think the Ground Hog saw his shadow so we predict six more weeks of winter. We also predict Nneka and Chiney will rise to the occasion and pull out the win! Sorry CGB.
Questions for Cal Golden Blogs:

1. Cal is 13-2 in the last 15 games, and won their last 4 in a row. They are definitely surging. What explains said surge?

2. Cal has been projected as a number 7 seed for the NCAA tournament (Yay!) and if they win their first game would meet Tennessee (Boo!).  What does Cal need to do to have a deep run in the tourney?

3. Now that Stanford freshmen Amber Orrrrange (no really, it’s not typo, it’s spelled with 4 “r”s, just like you pronounce it), has been inserted into the Stanford lineup, do you anticipate Amber going up against Cal’s freshmen guard Brittany Boyd? And if so, what will the outcome be?

4. Tara VanDerveer has publicly stated she thinks Cal should be a top-25 team after the Overtime victory over Cal, and went to the media to blast the Pac-12 against detractors. Why didn’t Coach Gottleib chime in on the record to defend the Pac-12 honor and call out the haters?

5. For senior day, Cal has no seniors. First of all, why? And second, Coach Gottleib has said she will enjoy giving Nneka a big bouquet of flowers. What are the chances she will offer, say an Ipad or a car to convince Nneka to fake a sore throat and sit?

6. A train leaves Palo Alto at 6:00 PM traveling East at 80 mph. A second train leaves Berkeley 3 hours later at 100 mph heading West on the same track. How big will the explosion have to be to get the East Coast Media to recognize we play basketball out here in California?

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