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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