Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stanford Struggles with UConn

Groan. It’s not that C and R can’t take a loss, it’s the way that the Stanford Women’s Basketball team lost to archrival UConn. They were embarrassed.

Here’s the thing, this is how C and R thought this season would go. Not that we want to be Negative Nellie’s but let’s look at last year. Pull up any box score from the 2011-2012 season and you’ll see Nneka Ogwumike high scorer and Chiney second-high scorer, and the sisters will have combined for half or more of Stanford’s total points. If the team were lucky, maybe a third person would break double figures or get to 10. And Chiney scored most by rebounding Nneka’s misses, or if they doubled Nneka, Chiney could knife inside, and make the other team pay. Take Nneka out of that equation, since she graduated, and you have one prolific scorer and not a whole lot of help. C and R predicted that all opponents would have to do is double Chiney and no one would step up.

And that is exactly what UConn did. Credit to them, they had a definite and exacting game plan and stuck to it, because frankly, Stanford could not or did not adjust. More on that later.

Chiney Ogwumike gets doubled teamed
Chiney Ogwumike is doubled-teamed by UConn - Sean Harvey / SF Chron
So what did UConn do? First, they took away Chiney. Big tall Stephanie Dolson, who is a true 6’5, guarded her. Then when Chiney touched the ball one or two more people came over on her. The result was she was off balanced and pushed out away for the basket more than normal.

But here’s the rub. When two and then three people are double teaming you, there should be other people open. But for Stanford, no one cut to the basket or got in a passing lane to give an option to Chiney. The other offensive players were just standing around, used to Chiney scoring. And when she did miss, and three defenders have effectively walled Chiney off from the rebound, no one else from Stanford rebounded. Although we did note Stanford’s two guards would back pedal on defense to limit UConn’s fast break chances, so they were just following orders. But where were the forwards? Joslyn Tinkle, who celebrated her birthday on game day, had just two points for the game. It was not good basketball.

So Stanford went to plan B. Amber Orrrrange, playing point, would drive down the middle, to meet Stephanie Dolson. Amber could not get a good shot off, sometimes eating the ball and looking to pass it back outside. She scored zero points for the game.

Rinse and repeat those two scenarios. To the tune of 13 first half points for Stanford and 31 for UConn. What was really frustrating was Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer, who is the master of the adjustment at the half, did not seem to adjust enough to try something different.

The third thing UConn did was press in the backcourt. Stanford is notorious for not being able to handle the press, but this was ridiculous. Either the ball would get stolen, and it was mostly Amber that was the victim of those steals or now the shot clock was eaten up and Stanford had to rush their shot selection. Stanford had 14 turnovers for the game that resulted in 15 points for UConn. And UConn is not the kind of team you want to fall behind.

But the worst thing is Stanford did not play smart. TVD said her team was doing things “out of character”. Some of it was little things, such as when Toni Kokenis’ defensive player fell down, she passed to a guarded player instead of taking a wide open shot. And some of it was big. In the second half, Stanford did adjust and figure out how to break the full court press. The guard bringing the ball up would throw to an open player at the half court line. And here is where all of Maples was flummoxed. That player would turn to the basket and there would be three white shirts against two navy shirts and instead of attacking the basket and taking advantage of the numbers, they would wait and hold the ball, letting UConn get all five players back on D and then start their rotation, shot clock ticking down. And this happened a lot. The Maples crowd at first exhorted their team to press it forward. Then the crowd booed. I have never, ever heard the Stanford fans boo their own team.

So Dolson is limiting Chiney and Stanford can’t go down the middle when she is in there. So when Dolson does go to the bench for long stretches, Stanford….stops attacking the middle and does not get it to Chiney? What? Instead they stuck to this very exacting rotation of players, who move one at a time. No cuts or quick movements without the ball. And when a Stanford player did catch the ball, they stood flatfooted, not in a triple threat or looking to shoot over their defender. Their body language said "I am waiting for the next rotation to pass and will not drive or shoot on you". That makes for easy defending.

Stanford did have a mini run when Bonnie Samuelson got two threes and Geno got T’ed up for hassling the refs. (If you call going from down 23 to down 15 a mini run). And guess what? Dolson was on the bench for that run. She came back in, scored a basket and that put the lid on anything, because, Stanford had still not altered their game plan.

The one time in the second half when Stanford pushed the ball against UConn’s press, Mikaela Ruef took the ball to the basket hard. Big Stephanie Dolson stepped up to defend and Ruef jumped up, and forward into Dolson. Their bodies met and although Ruef took a hard spill on the floor, Dolson was called with her third foul, as the refs will favor the offense in a meeting of the bodies. Smart. So, does Stanford even try that again? No. Do that one more time and Dolson has four fouls and would go to the bench and you can have some breathing room. But no, no one tries that. Chiney again catches the ball and jumps up and backwards to try to get away from Dolson’s arms and the result is another missed shot and another rebound scooped up by UConn. Not smart.

How ugly was this? Let’s quote some statistics. Well, the final score was 61-35. At one point in the first half, the score was 22-7. Stanford was 5-22 in the first half for a 15% completion rate, and a little better in the second, going 6-24 for 25%. That makes 19% for the game. That was Stanford’s lowest single-game shooting effort and fewest field goals made. Stanford was also uncharacteristically ineffective at the line, going 11-20. Ruef was 0-4, and scored zero points for the game .Oh, silver lining, it wasn’t Stanford’s worst home loss, that was a 1983 96-51 loss to Long Beach State before Tara’s time. And Chiney did score 18 points in this game. It just seemed like she missed all her shots. No one else for Stanford reached double figures.

UConn had a balanced offensive attack, with four players in double figures. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 19, and three players had ten, with an additional bench player with nine. How balanced is that?

As bad as Stanford was, why hasn’t the rest of this season’s games gone this way? Why did other Stanford players step up in those games and not here? How did Stanford get to be 11-0 before this game if a team can so easily exploit their weaknesses? The rest of the season will be interesting to watch.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stanford Women Beats Tennessee 73-60.

Congrats to the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team beating #10 Tennessee, at home, in a hostile orange-clad arena. Granted Tenn. was without Legendary Coach Pat Summit at the helm for the first time in, oh, 30 years or so, but still, it is hard to get a win there. I think this was their second win since 1996. C and R are starting to think they deserve this here number one ranking!

Another top 10 victory for Stanford, another game NOT shown Nationally. It is baffling. Usually number 1 vs. number 10, at a sold out arena in Tennessee, the Stanford vs. Tennessee rivalry, how is Tennessee doing in it’s first year without Pat Summit, so many story lines, this game is usually shown. Why the snub? We will never know, but I am guessing the answer is…because they’re women. Sigh.

Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike is high scorer over Tennessee - Wade Payne / AP Photo
Stanford never trailed this one, (yes they were tied 8-8 early in the first half), but Stanford made the first 4 points and never let up. But that’s the thing, though; C and R have no idea if it was great Stanford defense or bad Tennessee shooting. Tennessee at one point was shooting 23% from the field and 0-13 on threes way into the second half. It is so hard to get a sense of the game from the radio (Although bless KZSU for trying, and actually broadcasting something, are you listening ESPN and all your affiliate stations?).

And kudos to Tennessee for not giving up. They came back from double-digit deficits twice to pull with 8 or 9. But really, when you are in double-digit deficits, you are not really in the game.

Chiney Ogwumike grabbed a career high 19 rebounds and pounded in 21 points. She also had a career high 4 assists, so kudos for knowing when to pass and when to shoot. According to the Tennessee website, Chiney’s rebounds are the most by an opponent ever at Thompson-Boling Arena (with Pat Summit’s name on the hardwood floor). It’s Chiney’s eighth double-double of the season, we believe. She had her double-double just 14 minutes into the first half.

Which brings us to another point. Chiney was scoring early, but not much help from the starters or bench. Point Guard Amber Orrrrange did some nice drives to the hoop, but called twice for charges and had to sit in the second with 4 personal fouls. Bonnie Samuelson, coming off the bench, got two quick threes right before the end of the first half, with the KZSU announcer stating no one from Tennessee was even getting a hand in her face. Amber would finish with 14, Bonnie Stanford guard Toni Kokenis each had 11 apiece. Starter and big presence Jos Tinkle was notably absent for most of the game. She did managed to score 10, eight near the end of the second half. When Tennessee did start one of their comebacks early in the second half, Chiney had only one free throw point. It is hard to get a team win when the team goes as Chiney goes. If you look at the box score on the win against Baylor, everyone contributed big points.

Yes, five players were in double figures for Stanford by the end of the game, but three are on the low end, and Taylor Greenfield played just 8 minutes and missed one shot for 0 points. She took a hard fall on her chin a few games ago, so C and R wonder how she is doing. So, next game UConn, with a Stanford home-court streak on the line, and oh, wouldn’t UConn like to play streak-killer like Stanford has done to them in the past. Every player from Stanford will need to step up and score 15 or more if they want to out-score and out-last UConn.

Hope the Stanford Women’s Basketball players and coaches enjoy their time off with their families for the holidays. They deserve it.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stanford Survives South Carolina

The box score will say Stanford beat South Carolina 53-49, but the story of the game was turnovers. Stanford had 18, to SC’s seven. What the box score doesn’t show is how many were unforced. Couple that stat with six team assists, and you can see why Stanford did not score much. South Carolina must have seen that tape of Stanford beating Pacific, and the team passing it inside to Chiney Ogwumike, who went on to score 31 points. Although she score 21 tonight and got her eighth double-double (15 rebounds), she had to earn those points by herself. The passing game wasn’t working.

Chiney Ogwumike
It's all up to Chiney - Rainier Ehrhardt / AP Photo
The second biggest story of the game was Stanford’s bench scoring just two points, It didn’t help that Stanford also was 0-4 from three point-land. The long ball is the specialty of Bonnie Samuelson and Taylor Greenfield, and the bench mates were 0-3. Contrast that with the Baylor game where Greenfield went 4-6 from behind the arc and added 16 points to the total. Low, or no, bench production makes for a low score. And it was strange to see senior Joslyn Tinkle score zero points as well, although she did have a career high seven blocks. Five in the first five minutes or so. Chiney, her twin, added 4 blocks to make 11 for the game. 

How does no bench scoring and a starter not scoring affect you as a team? The score at the half was 24-17, still close, and Stanford’s lowest point total at half for the season. Another starter, Mikaela Ruef would only add four total points, but she got her first basket of the second half with 54 seconds left and the game dead-locked at 45. It would keep Stanford ahead for good as Toni Kokenis provided six foul shots in the final 23 seconds to hold off a late desperation three-pointer and foul shot from South Carolina.

So another Stanford win, and another Stanford game NOT shown on TV in the Bay Area. This is getting ridiculous. Are you listening PAC-12 Channel? So we can’t be sure if South Carolina had a great defensive game or Stanford shot themselves in the foot, as when point guard Amber Orrrrange passed the ball to Chiney’s foot.

It was equally frustrating to listen to the game on KZSU and have the game cut out with technical problems. Did it have to happen right around the 2:34 mark when South Carolina took a two-point lead? Thank Goodness for Twitter providing updates, as the game was tied twice more in that short time period, and Toni icing it for Stanford. She would score 15, and Amber nine, the only starters in double digits besides Chiney.

Next up is a bus trip to the Mountain Top; I mean Rocky Top, and Tennessee. Have to shoot better in that one.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stanford Women's Basketball Team Wipes Out Pacific

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team finally got to see some court action after a long lay off for those pesky finals, which C and R are sure those Stanford kids blew away. Their latest victim was Pacific, and they blew them out 78-43.

And once again, C and R couldn’t be there due to their little girls having a game at the same time, and believe me, we know how Pacific feels ('nuf said). So we missed Chiney Ogwumike getting a career high 31 points and 13 boards (glad it wasn’t 12 and 12 and 12 assists or some other Mayan nonsense). Oh, she only played 28 minutes, so she averaged more than a point a minute she was on the floor.
Pacific even double teamed Chiney, and she would not be open on the first or even second pass, but maybe on the third or fourth pass, and she credits teammates for still looking for her deep into the shot clock. It’s hard to double-team a perpetual motion machine for most of 30 seconds. Even Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer stressed how Chiney had to keep re-posting and demanding the ball. Let that be a lesson to you young folk.

Chiney Ogwumike
Even tripled-teamed, Chiney Ogwumike scores vs Pacific. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

While Chiney is scoring the points, Mikaela Ruef continues to be a force that does the little things to ensure the victory. She added a career high 13 rebounds and dished out five assists. Joslyn Jingle Tinkle added 10 points. The only low point was when Taylor Greenfield fell on her chin and trainers evaluated her neck. She walked to the locker room under her own power, but no word yet on how she is doing.

Stanford won their 82nd consecutive home game at Maples, the longest active streak in the nation. The next two games are on the road (south Carolina and Tennessee), so the steak won’t be tested until December 29 when they play…UConn. To which we say, bring it on!

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stanford Women’s Basketball Capsule

C and R apologize for the dearth of reporting on the Stanford’s Women’s Basketball team. One was on us, we couldn’t make the Long Beach State home game, as we had our little girl’s scrimmage. The others, well, they were away and not in any kinda TV, and although I think all of them were live streamed, it is just not the same. The low quality, herky-jerky motion makes it hard to watch let alone analyze the team. So with no fanfare, here is a capsule of the games since Stanford won the Rainbow Wahine Tournament  and upset Baylor in the process (that also wasn’t televised and nobody saw).

Long Beach State:
Stanford, playing there first game since being declared number 1 in the country, beat Long Beach State 77-41. Chiney Ogwumike had a double-double, but most notable, Joslyn Tinkle out scored her, 18 points to 16. Guard Amber Orrrrange added 13, and Taylor Greenfield came off the bench and scored 11, and it was great to see Chiney get offensive help from others.

UC Davis:
Most notable was the score, 87-38. That’s some good team defense. Chiney had a career high-tying 27 points and 13 points for another double-double. I think the only drama in this one was could Chiney single handedly outscored the UC Davis team in the first half? It was a tie, 19-19.

Again, not televised in our area. This one featured Stanford senior Joslyn Tinkle playing against her baby sister Elle, a Gonzaga freshmen. The last time these two were on a court together, there were on the same team. Jos was a senior in high school and Elle a freshmen and they won the Montana State Championship. Cool. Stanford fans have enjoyed the last two years witnessing the special relationship between the Ogwumike sisters, but it is hard to see family members go against each other. A few years back Stanford’s Hannah Donaghe played against her older sister, Haylee, who was on UC Davis’ team. That also resulted in a Stanford win. Against Gonzaga, Stanford prevailed 69-41.

Thanks to Wayne Tinkle for the Family Photo

In that game, Chiney had 21 points and 11 rebounds, another double-double. But the highlight was Taylor Greenfields’ career-high 18 points, hitting six, count ‘em, six three-pointers. She attempted eight three-point shots, giving her an out –of-this-world average of 75%. Gonzaga did not attempt a free throw in the first half, so either they were really bad at driving to the basket and getting contact, or Stanford played really disciplined defense. By the way, Jos added 16, and baby sis had just two, for those of you keeping score at home.

Now it’s time for finals and the next home game is against Pacific on December 15.

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