Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stanford Hangs on to Beat Colorado

So there was the Stanford’s Women’s Basketball Team, going on a 16-2 run to start the second half over Colorado, and all seemed right with the Pac-12 World. With 14:26 left in the entire game, Stanford had a 21-point lead, after being up by nine at the half. Business as usual. Then something un-Stanford happened. They let Colorado come back, and in the next five minutes it was only a nine point Stanford lead. Colorado had gone on a 12-0 run.

Toni Kokenis hits the three!
Stanford's Toni Kokenis gestures after sinking a 3-point basket and being fouled by a Colorado player. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Somewhere around the eight-minute mark, Stanford’s leading scorer and rebounder Chiney Ogwumike collided with Colorado’s best player, Chucky Jeffrey and Chiney had a sprained ankle. She attempted two free throws, but you could tell she could not put weight on the ankle and missed both FTs. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer took her out. Then Toni Kokenis hit a three with the shot clock expiring, and was fouled in the process. The ball went through the basket but the free throw did not, so the rare 4-point play did not happen. But Colorado could not keep their attack or keep Stanford from scoring, especially since Chiney got re-inserted right away and was hobbling, but still can score in the paint. The lead would stay in double digits and Stanford held on to win 69-56. 

It was a very physical game and the officiating was inconsistent at best and non-existent at worst. Maples favorite ref Melissa (Missy) was terrible and everyone voiced their displeasure whenever she made a call. Stanford also played sloppy for stretches and had some passes stolen. They would have 13 turnovers for the game. They also implemented that slow rotation offense, and that makes it hard to score points. Colorado also pressed at the 3-minute mark and gimpy Chiney either tried to dribble the ball up or pass. The ball or pass was stolen in those sequences. Finally Toni just dribbled up the court and that took care of that.

Last blog C and R talked about an inbound play under the Stanford basket with 3 seconds left. Normally they threw it in the air to Chiney Ogwumike. But last time, Chiney was on the bench so Joslyn Tinkle threw it to Mikaela Ruef, who caught and threw it back to  Tinkle without landing and Tinkle got the basket. Same thing this game, this time two seconds left, ball under Stanford’s basket, and Tinkle to Ruef to Tinkle for two. That play is now 2-2. Didn’t Colorado see the Utah footage?

Last blog C and R also said Coach Tara VanDerveer wanted others to step up besides Chiney and only Chiney and Tinkle scored in double figures against Utah. This game it was Chiney with 20, bad ankle and all, Tinkle with 16, and Toni with 15. Toni made some nice drives to the basket and some pull up jumpers, something point guard Amber Orrrrange usually does. Amber Orrrrange did not start this time, but did mange to contribute 10 points. So four players in double figures. That has to make Tara happy.

Three point specialist Bonnie Samuelson has been cold as of late from the three, and missed her first three shots in a row from behind the arc. If that is your specialty and you are missing, what do you do? Well, Bonnie then quickly hit two in a row for six total points. Okay, let’s hope she can build on that.

Cal beat Utah today, so Stanford is still tied for the lead in the Pac-12. Stanford takes their Pac-12 show on the road top Oregon and we won’t see them live and in person until February 8.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stanford Beats Utah, Stays in Pac-12 Tie for First

Just a quick bloggo about the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team annihilating Utah 65-44. Stanford is back to its usual self in the Pac-12, mowing through teams (although we will see if that holds true for a physical Colorado team on Sunday).

Stanford jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead early on in the game, and all seven points were scored by Stanford’s Joslyn Tinkle. That is very important, because this week, Stanford head Coach Tara VanDerveer made much ado about others needing to step up besides All-American Chiney Ogwumike, who is averaging about 22 points a game and 10 rebounds, a double-double. "We do want to look for her more when she's open," VanDerveer said. "But we're not going to run more things for her." Tara even took Chiney out for extended minutes in the first half, something she has not done this year. So how did Chiney do in the Utah game if they were not going to run plays for her? She was Stanford’s high scorer with 23 points and 13 rebounds, a double-double.

Tinkle, who started the game so hot and as a woman on a mission, cooled, and although she made the only three-pointer for Stanford in the first half and extended her made threes to eight in a row over 3 games, she disappeared for most of the middle of the game. Granted, she was the second high scorer for Stanford with 16. No other Stanford player would break double digits. Stanford also shot 3-11 from the three-point line.
Chiney Ogwumike
Tinkle for Three! Photo By Don Feria

After the game, Tara VanDerveer said: "I'm just glad Chiney and Jos came to the game tonight. Otherwise it would have been tough. We're trying to get more people involved but we really struggled on the perimeter. It was the Chiney-Jos show and they really got it done." Is that woman never happy? Well, she did manage to get one player to step up her game. Now let’s see if others can follow.

Three unique moment of the Game:
So Stanford has the ball out of bounds under their basket with three seconds left. Dear readers will remember C and R talking about this situation in their blog about the first Cal game. Last year, Stanford would do the “Nneka play”, and lob it up to Senior Nneka Ogwumike and she would catch and release. Not many women can do that, except her sister Chiney. In the Cal game, Tinkle was at the half court line instead of under the basket and lobbed it TO the backboard. Chiney caught it and put it back up and got fouled. Cal seemed defeated and the Game turned on that play. C and R call it the Nneka/Chiney play.

Flash forward to the Utah game, three seconds, Stanford ball out of bounds under the basket. And Tinkle lobs it up for…Chiney, who has a 6’4 Utah player and a 6’3 Utah player plus some Utah shorty on her, and although she catches it and lands, her shot is short. Utah was on to the Chiney play. Fast, Fast Forward to the same Utah game, same half, three seconds, Stanford ball out of bounds under the basket. Different play. So Stanford is going to do the Nneka/Chiney play. Except Chiney is on the bench and Nneka is in the WNBA. What to do?

C and R are wondering have they ever practiced the Nneka/Chiney play with anyone else? Tinkle grabs the ball and Mikalea Ruef is giving signs like she is a third base coach or a practicing Catholic, and Tinkle lobs it to her, she jumps in the air and PASSES it back without landing to a now in-bounds Tinkle. Tinkle is wide open and drains the long two. Well, that answers that question. Stanford, always thinking.

Unique moment number three was when the refs called time out and everyone stood around not knowing what to do. Finally the ref points back to the Utah basket and one of their players is down. One trainer was attending to her and Stanford’s Tinkle went over and helped her up and supported her weight while she walked until someone from Utah finally ran down and took over at half court. Great gesture from Tinkle. That Stanford always thinking.

Unfortunately for Utah, that was their second leading scorer on the team, and boy did they miss her. Their star player Michelle Plouffe, who plays on the Canadian National Team, did her best to help Utah, scoring 24, but no one else from Utah could do anything else, shooting 25% as a team for the game and 2-15 from the three-point line.

Let’s hope Stanford can keep on rolling against Colorado.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stanford Survives USC

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team has been a Jekyll and Hyde team all season long. First they beat Baylor (Baylor!) and a ranked Tennessee team on their home court. Then lose (And lose big time) to UConn on their home court. They bounce back to beat Cal at their place to keep them from throwing victory balls to their home crowd, then lose to Cal less then a week later at Maples, depriving C and R a chance to catch a Stanford victory ball.

Then they beat UCLA and look like the Stanford of Old, and then they do a Jekyll and Hyde in ONE GAME. Stanford goes up by 19 points in the second against USC even though they were shooting poorly in the first half, then let USC come back to within 5…all in the same game. Oh, wait, we said that.

To start, it was good to see Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange step up where she left off against UCLA. She drove to the basket and most of the time she made it all the way for some great layups against a taller USC team. She would score 13 points for the game.

In fact, USC was playing Stanford pretty much straight up one on one and when you do that to All-America Chiney Ogwumike, what did we say last time? She makes you pay. Chiney’s Hyde (bad) was shooting only six shoots and only making two, plus two free throws in the first half. Her Dr Jekyll (good) was scoring 26 points in the second half for a combined 29 points and 16 rebounds for the game, and a second straight double-double.
Chiney Ogwumike
Stanford's Sara James drives to the basket. George Nikitin - AP Photo
Sara James also took over where she left off. She got her second straight start and hustled hard. She had a great stretch in the first half where she ran ahead on two fast breaks and scored. The first was a thing of beauty, though. It started when Chiney blocked a pass, grabbed it and ran to the basket. Her way was impeded by a USC player but she spied Sara streaking by on her right she threw down a long bounce pass, leading Sara to the basket. Sara caught it in stride and finished at the basket. A great play by all. Sara would end up with 13 points as well, and made a three. 

Although Sara went to the bench a few times, but she definitely got more minutes than against UCLA. This time we noticed she was matched up with a taller player on defense, and since Stanford was playing man to man all night, she had to come out of the game. C and R realize that happened against UCLA and even though she provided a spark, she came out because of that mismatch. She played many minutes in the second half and she played defender on a similar-sized player.

When Stanford got up by 19 with 12 minutes left in the second half  (they were up 33-20 at the half, thanks to Joslyn Tinkle’s three in the final seconds), it was due to great ball movement to free up players for some key threes. And thanks to Tinkle for her two three pointers in a row in the second. Tinkle scored 15, and was 3-3 from the three-point line. It was good to see her points come earlier than last time when they were needed more. She also was 3-3 from three-point land last game, so she is technically 6-6 between the two games. Wonder what the record is for consecutive threes in multiple games? When USC got within five points with 2:42 left, it was because Stanford went into that slow rotation offense and USC pressed started to work again.

It was weird, and again, Jekyll and Hyde with this press. USC rolls out the press, Chiney the post player is dribbling the ball up court for Stanford (bad), and they are breaking it and getting baskets fairly regularly off of it (Good). But USC kept with it and then they started to get some turnovers (Stanford had 14 for the game-bad). And then Stanford’s vaulted man-to man defense broke down and they let USC’s #14 drive right to the hoop...four times. Number 14 is Ariya Crook and she single handedly willed USC back into this game, and ended up with 18 points. And after watching her drive to the basket two or three times, why didn’t anyone wearing a Stanford jersey stop ball? Chiney got some key baskets when things got close (good), and Stanford prevailed 75-66 (double good).

So for those of you keeping score at home, that was four, count ‘em four Stanford players in double figures. And all four are starters (good). However no bench players scored any points (bad). Stanford is now in a two-way tie with Cal for the PAC-12 lead (good) (but they should not have lost to Cal (bad))!!

Next up, Utah and Colorado come to town this weekend. Lets hope for some good wins.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Unbeaten UCLA Beaten by Stanford

Just a quick note on the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team beating UCLA, and avoiding a third loss at home, something that hasn’t happen in, like, forever.

Stanford came out of the gates in a different offensive set, much to everyone’s relief. Although the old slow radiation reared it’s ugly head a few times, complete with the post player gesturing to somebody, anybody to move.

What was different was the guards driving in and attacking the basket. Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange drove and when she couldn’t get to the basket, she hit some pull up jumpers, to the tune of 15 points. Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike scored 25 points and got 13 rebounds, getting her double-double groove back on track. For most of the game, UCLA played straight up man-to-man, 1V1 defense, with no help. And if you let Chiney have the ball in the low post and dribble towards the basket with no help, she will make you pay every time. And she did. Didn’t UCLA watch the tapes of the UConn and Cal games?

Another difference was Stanford was more aggressive and played smart double teams when needed. Sara James got the start and her energy was definitely, definitely inspiring, diving for loose balls and trying to box out a much bigger player she was assigned to guard. She would contribute seven points. C and R thought she did well, so it was puzzling when Stanford head coach took Sara out for long stretches.
Sara James
Stanford guard Sara James (21) controls a loose ball in the first half of the UCLA game. Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Stanford’s Toni Kokenis, who has missed games with “an illness” also started and played well. It was a little disconcerting to see her emerge from the locker room with a knee brace on, though. She already has a taped up thumb. Then she knocked not one, but two people down on one play en route to the basket. She selflessly dished off to someone else for the score, but she should have kept going, maybe she would have taken out a third!

The lead kept see-sawing back and forth in the first half, and then halfway through, Stanford opened up a Stanford-like 10-0 run, and they never looked back. The half time score was 36-24. UCLA went to a full court press in the last 5 minutes of the second half, so maybe they DID see the UConn tapes. Stanford had guard Amber Orrrrange on the bench with four fouls, so they relied on Chiney to take the ball up. Isn’t Chiney a tall post player? You mean there is no one else Stanford trusts bringing up the ball when breaking a press? At least when she passed over the half court line, Stanford attacked the basket to get easy buckets in transition (unlike the UConn game).

The final score was 75-49. Chiney scored 26, Amber had 15, but no one else was stepping up big time. Senior Joslyn Tinkle had 7 points and in garbage time popped a three to get in double digits, ulp, then got another three... and another (Hello, UCLA). She would end up with 16 points for the game, making 4-4 three-point tries, but if not for her last second barrage, only two Stanford players would be in double figures and they need a few more, including Tinkle to step up early and often with points and boards (No one else got in double figures rebounds except Chiney). Side note, Stanford did go 6-7 on threes for the night.

UCLA’s red-shirt senior Jasmine Dixon, who has been a Stanford killer in past years, had a heavy brace on her knee and was not her usual self. She ruptured her Achilles tendon last season. Always sad to see a player suffer a devastating injury.

All in all, a very satisfying win against a very tall, big and physical UCLA team (with some bad officiating). Technically, there should be a four-way tie for the Pac-12 lead, with Stanny, Cal, UCLA, and USC, but Stanford has one more regular season than everyone else, so they are atop of the leader board. Sunday’s game between those four mentioned teams will clarify things greatly.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Battle of the Bay Part II

So for the first five minutes of the Cal vs. Stanford Women’s Basketball game, Stanford played with intensity and purpose. They were getting the rebounds, especially on defense and keeping Cal from getting second chance points. Cal tried to press and they broke it easily. Then the refs turned against us.

So, this was actually a very interesting game to view. Usually when Pac-12 foes meet, some time has passed between the games. A team at the beginning of a season is definitely different then they are at mid point, or at the end of a season. But in this case, the teams played with just six days between games. So both coaches have a chance to look at relevant game film. C and R were looking forward to seeing how both teams would respond or adjust (or not, in Stanford’s case, more on that later).
So Cal came out in their full court press right off the bat (And C and R like to be delusional and think Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb listened to us saying that Cal had abandoned it too quickly when they last met --smiley face emoticon-). And Stanford easily broke it. They broke it two or three times, getting easy baskets in transition. And out the door went the press and Maples never saw it again. Kudos for Gottlieb to know something is not working and have the guts to call it off.

So those first five minutes, Cal’s press is not working, Stanford is controlling the boards, and not letting Cal get second chances on their misses, Stanford is boxing out and being physical, and Stanford’s Amber Orrrrange starting the scoring with a three, so Stanford was not going to go 0-for from the arc in this game. Even the refs are calling things Stanford’s way, punishing Cal for being so physical. Cal actually got on the board first with one free throw. At the first timeout at 15:47 in the first half, Stanford led 8-1. To paraphrase the Stanford Band, well all right now…

Then, right at the 15-minute point, as I mentioned, the refs turned on Stanford and punished them for being too physical. Stanford was whistled for two quick fouls within a minute of each other. Intense Erica Payne for Stanford comes in and is whistled for a foul. Three-point specialist Bonnie Samuelson comes in, commits a foul. The last one was really puzzling, because Cal had just made a basket and the ball was out of bounds waiting to be inbounded by Stanford and boom, Cal is standing under their basket again with the ball. We never did figure out what the foul call was all about. Bonnie gets instantly subbed out for Intense Erica again and she fouls again10 seconds later. Get the picture. Two minutes later and it is a small 12-10 Stanford lead at the 11:52 mark. That stretch seemed to take the fight out of Stanford on the boards, their scoring dried up and here comes Cal and their rebounding post players.
Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike gets tripled-teamed (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Hats off to Cal, the post players were more athletic, and, we hate to say this, more hungry and just seemed to want the ball more. That and they did double team Stanford’s lead rebounder Chiney Ogwumike and no one else seemed to step up on the offensive glass. Surprisingly, looking at the rebound totals for the game, Cal won with a slight margin of 43-39. It just seemed like the got more rebounds.

So back to what did each coach learn, change, adjust, and leave in place. Cal tried the press early, didn’t work, they adjusted during the game and took it out. Stanford kept up their tough defense and held Cal to 29.7% shooting. Stanford also kept up their game plan of letting certain players hold the ball on the three point line and back way off to pack the paint. It was especially embarrassing for Cal’s Eliza Pierre, to stand there all alone and still unable to do anything, shoot or pass to an open player because it’s now five Stanford players on the other four Cal players. Pierre scored two points for the game on a drive and pull up jumper, so that battle went to Stanford. However, that strategy backfired on a little used Cal player Mikayla Lyles. She had one of two Cal three-pointers last game. She averages around eight points a game this year. This time, unguarded she hit her first three at the 9 and a half-minute mark. Okay, Stanford can live with that, that one. Then she hit another at the 6, a two-point jumper at the 5, then two three-pointers at the 3, and 2-minute marks. She scored 11 points in the final six minutes to put Cal up 39-31 at the half and they never looked back.

(Side not, Lyles had the flop of the game when Chiney Ogwumike stole a pass and barreled to the basket for a lay up. Lyles, who gives up about 12 inches of height to Chiney, was back on D, decided her best course of action was to fall before Chiney got anywhere near her, trying to draw a charge. For once, the refs were on Stanford’s side and gave the correct non-call).

Which brings us to…Stanford’s offense. It is the same one they played in the first game at Cal. And for the full 40 minutes at home against Cal. Now, you know Cal was studying the heck out of the game, which Gottlieb admitted post game, why not try something different? Especially since it did not work very well the first time and obviously was failing in this game. The ball mostly goes in the middle to the post at the top of the circle. She has her back to the basket and waits, slowly waits, for the guard to come around. Sometimes they have to gesture for someone to come around. Only one player appears to be moving at a time. It is so slow and Cal knew it was coming. Cal forced four, count ‘em, four shot clock violations, and when have you ever seen that in a Stanford game? Couple that with Cal driving in and pulling up and hitting their jump shots, like Cal’s Layshia Clarendon and Brittany Boyd did, and Cal had the upper hand on offense.

The times Stanford did try to swing the ball to the outside, Cal was ready, perhaps knowing the play, and did not let Stanford get too many good looks for a three. Stanford was 2-12 from the three line. Specialist Bonnie was never able to even get a shot off and scored zero points. Cal also pushed Stanford scoring machine Chiney off the blocks and outside the paint and made it hard for her to score inside, although she wound up with 18 points for the game, she missed a lot. Perhaps Cal also watched and learned from some of the UConn tape as well. And once again, like the UConn game, no one seemed to step up and get open when Chiney was double teamed.

Besides Stanford guards Toni Kokenis and Amber Orrrrange driving in and pulling up for jumpers (12 and nine points respectively), nobody else from Stanford scored much. Jos Tinkle had four points and six boards, and when Chiney is double teamed or double boxed out, she disappears and that has hurt Stanford, too.

Plus, when Stanford was down in the second half, they still dribbled the ball up, and started that slow rotation offense. They played with no sense of urgency, especially as the clock was winding down, seven minutes, three minutes… in double figures debt. Stanford only scored eight points in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Stanford resorted to intentionally fouling Cal with three minutes left in the game, but when the deficit is double figures, shouldn’t they try to hustle, and aggressively go for the ball and hope they get the steal and hope don’t get called for the foul, maybe do a little press of their own? Or bring the ball up and attack the basket instead of go back to the slow rotation offense? (Cal would shoot 31 free throws to Stanford's 19).

The final score was 55-67, and Cal snaps Stanford 81 straight conference wins and hands them their second straight home loss. The last time Stanford lost back-to-back home games was in 2001. Stanford has not lost three in a row at Maples since Tara VanDerveer’s second year on the Farm, way back in 1986-87. Oh, UCLA is coming in to town next, and they always give us a good game.

R joked with me that I know oh so much more than Hall of Fame Coach Tara VanDerveer, but even I would have tried a different offense. At one point, Chiney herself waited for the one person to swing around to come get the ball and said the heck with this, and drive it in herself. I know others need to step up and help her score, but maybe a different offense would help them do that.

Injury note, Stanford's Sara James was having a good game until she went out around the 13-minute mark in the first with a sprained ankle. She came back in a little later only to go back out. It would be nice to see her get more playing time if her ankle can withstand it.

UCLA is 13-2, and 4-0 in Pac-12 play. They are now number one in the Pac-12, due to Stanford and Cal trading home losses.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Battle of the Bay Part I

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team traveled across the Bay Tuesday to Haas Pavilion to take on Cal. By a quirk of the schedule, Cal will return the favor at Maples on Sunday. Both coaches will be studying this game to get ready for the next. Let’s look at what the teams did, and did not, do well.

Things Stanford did well:
When Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike was double teamed, people cut to the basket and made themselves available for a pass. A memorable play was Toni Kokenis cutting weakside and was wide open and Chiney got her the ball where she could score.

Things Stanford did not do well:
When Chiney was double teamed, people stood around and did not cut to the basket. In one replay (and thanks to the Pac-12 Channel for televising) four, count ‘em four white-jerseyed players were on Chiney and not one black jersey cut to the basket or got in a passing lane to help her. She Shot off balance and missed. Stanford did this against UConn with disastrous results.

Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike gets quadrupled-teamed (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Things Cal did not do well:
Shoot the three. They were 2-21, or 9% completion rate. So they were good at taking the three, it was the making part they had trouble with. 

Things Stanford did not do well:
Shoot the three. They were 0-8. Guess they stopped trying after missing so many. Stanford’s completion rate was 0%, and you don’t have to be Stanford grad to know 9% is better than none.

Things Cal did well:

Thing Stanford did not do well:

Cal won the rebounding battle 45-31, and was 21-5 on the offensive end. Cal scored 22 points off of second (and third) chances. Yikes.

Things Cal did well:
They drove to the basket to try to score or draw contact and a foul. And if they missed, they seemed to always get the rebound (see rebounds, above). They were very good at these two things, the driving in and the rebounding. They were very good for 3 /4 of the game, and then they stopped driving in. They weren’t making threes, so they stopped driving in and therefore could not get a rebound on an un-taken shot. C and R are sure Cal Coach Lindsey Gottleib is going to look at the game film and not make that mistake twice when they meet less than a week later on Sunday.

Things Cal should have done well:
So Cal breaks out their new and improved vaulted press. They get a steal and a basket, and then don’t try it again for 10 whole minutes (Not sure how many minutes between, but why not press every time?) Well, when they did press again, Stanford easily passed to the half court line, and unlike the UConn game, they took the ball straight to the basket without waiting for the defense to catch up. The result an easy lay up. Now Cal is 1-1 on the press. But they stop trying it until the final minute. C and R are still scratching their heads about that decision. And will Gottleib rethink that for Sunday?

Things Stanford did well:
Their defense held Cal to zero baskets in 9 minutes, really 11 minutes (think Cal got one point off of a free throw in there). This started around the 13-minute mark until the 2 and a half minute mark, and broke the game open. Stanford won 62-51. The game was a seesaw, back and forth affair before that Cal drought. Was it Cal not sticking to their game plan or Stanford’s really tough defense? Maybe a little of both.

Things Stanford did not do well:
Run their offense. We still don’t understand their very static and predictable offense, where one person seems to move at a time. And when there was a shot, not many rebounders, or even no one at all to rebound (see rebounds, above).

Things Stanford did well:
Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange driving in and pulling up for jumpers was very timely. She did that extremely well to the tune of 15 points. Guard Toni Kokenis, back after an unspecified illness, also did this to a lesser degree and contributed seven points. Chiney scored 26 points on 11-16 shooting, but for the second game in a row, did not rebound well, getting six. Could it be teams are more hyper-focused in her and vehemently boxing her out, and boxing her out well? Probably. Tinkle scored eight with only four rebounds, and she needs to step up both if other teams are going to be keying on Chiney and if Stanford wants to be successful in the long run.

Okay, when putting pen to paper (or computer to…bytes?) most writers will try to think, was there one play that broke open the game? And sometimes you can’t really point to one definite moment that turned the game. And sometimes you can. For this game, the pivotal moment came when Stanford had the ball out of bounds at the half court line and two seconds on the shot clock.

Now, last year, whenever the shot clock was three seconds or under and the ball was out of bounds under their basket, Stanford had this standing play where Nneka Ogwumike would shuffle around the key looking like she was lost and as soon as the ball was handed to the out of bounds person, she would whip her body around and the ball would be lobbed in the air to her position and she would jump, catch, and shot all in one motion without touching the ground. There only about one other player in women’s college ball who can do that, and her name is Chiney Ogwumike.

So what do you do when Nneka’s not available or say, graduates? Why, you go to Chiney. Except, the ball was not out of bounds under the basket. It was 40 feet away from the basket. So Jos Tinkle grabs the ball and HEAVES it towards the Stanford basket. It probably was supposed to be a lob to Chiney but it hits the backboard. It banks off the backboard hard to a waiting Chiney. Three Cal players are surrounding her but are so stunned they barely get their hands up a when she catches it and takes it to the basket. The lay up goes in AND she gets the foul call (Although she missed the free throw, and mark that down under things Stanford did not do well as a team, going 10-18 from the free throw line). Still. That quirky, risky play broke Cal’s spirit. Plus, Cal had just missed an easy lap up in transition. So, yeah, that was the turning point. That probably won’t happen on Sunday… or ever. Stanford head coach Tara Van Derveer confirmed that when after the game she said, “that one was a lucky play” and “let’s be honest, we didn’t diagram that one.”

Stanford extended their Pac-12 streak to 81 games. Can they make it 82? It will be a rare opportunity to see how each coach responds to the game just played when the two teams meet on Sunday.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stanford Out-Battles Utah

One streak was lost and another extended, and all-and-all, it’s the W that counts. Stanford Women’s Basketball extended their 80 game streak of consecutive Pac-10 slash 12 conference wins by beating Utah 70-56. Oh, the streak that ended? Chiney Ogwumike’s double-double streak stopped at 10.

So, the game was much closer than the score indicated. The fact Chiney only got six rebounds for the game (just one in the first half) should tell you something. Utah won the rebounding battle 35-33, something that has not happened since the season's first game vs. Fresno State. Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer said Utah did “a great job being fundamentally sound ” and “boxing out”, something Stanford is usually praised for.

Curiously, there was no foul call on Utah in the first half, and when's the last time you ever saw that in a game? Apparently, Stanford’s reffing buddy Melissa Barlow was the one who swallowed her whistle, although she did “T” up Utah’s coach near the end of the game.

Sara James Saves the Day vs Utah
Sara James Saves the Day vs Utah (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
However, the bigger story line is, who stepped up for Stanford besides All-American Chiney and her 20 points? Bench player Sara James. Sara’s career high 18 points included three 3-pointers. And more importantly, whenever Utah had a big basket to cut into the lead, Sara answered with one of her own. Starting Stanford guard Toni Kokenis was held out of this game because of an illness, and although Taylor Greenfield started in her place (and C and R are glad to see the re-emergence of Taylor in the lineup), Sara came off the bench in her spot and made the most of it. 

So Sara had 18 points and Chiney had 20. You can couple that with Sara’s four assists and Chiney’s five, and it is good to see players, especially Chiney get others involved in the offense. This assisting was totally lacking against UConn. Amber Orrrrange poured in 16 points, with a lot of drives to the basket and Joslyn Tinkle contributes again with 12. Four Stanford players, three of them starters, in double figures?! That is music to Tara VanDerveer’s ears.

Next game, and the next game after that? Cal. Yes, as in Battle of the Bay squared. The quirk of the Pac-12 schedule has them playing away and home (or home and away, if your from Cal, and we hope you are not), starting Tuesday and ending Sunday. C and R hope you make it to at least one of them!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Stanford Bounces Back and Beats Colorado

Basketball team opening at (previously) undefeated Colorado. Would Stanford rebound from the embarrassing home loss to UConn. Or will Colorado try a similar UConn game plan to expose the Cardinal weaknesses?

Well, there is a reason UConn is #1 and beat Stanford so soundly. They are very talented and athletic, and not everyone can deploy their type of game plan. Or, Colorado sure couldn’t. They did not pressure the point guard in the back court or employ a full court press to try and force turnovers until the final three minutes when desperation set in and the game was already lost. They let Stanford get up the court easily and run their plays unhindered for most of the night. The result was a 25-12 Stanford lead at half.

And, there is a reason Stanford has been a perennial top 25 team for so many years: they play great defense. I mean, they DID hold high-scoring UConn to 61 points. And they held Colorado to just two points in the first ten minutes of the game.

Chiney Ogwumike and Joslyn Tinkle block a shot
Twin Towers Chiney Ogwumike and Jos Tinkle block a shot by Colorado (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Plus Stanford is tall. They had 37 team rebounds to Colorado’s 23. Chiney Ogwumike had 11 by her little old self. Mikaela Ruef, not the biggest scorer, contributed eight boards. Stanford also blocked eight shots, three by Chiney and three by her twin in spirit, Joslyn Tinkle. 

Joslyn Tinkle sure learned something from the UConn loss. She hit a wild three to open the game and Stanford never trailed. Tinkle would have 13 points for the game, and her offense was sorely missed vs. UConn. Chiney is Chiney, and got her 11th double-double for the season, 10 th straight. She had 20 points and 11 rebounds after sitting most of the middle of the second half. Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange also got involved offensively, scoring 13. It was good to see three Stanford players in double figures.

Anyone a little bothered by the so predictable Stanford offense that Colorado knew when the pass was coming and was able to step in front of the offensive players and get steals? Another troubling stat was the threes. Stanford was 2-10 from behind the arc. Bonnie Samuelson, the three-point specialist was 0-4. Then there the 18 Stanford turn-overs, tying a season high. Troubling indeed.

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer wanted to rest her players due to high altitude, reported Stanford alum and current Pac-12 announcer Ros Gold-Onwude. But with most of the starters on the bench Colorado went 10-4 run, and cut Stanford’s lead to 12 with 3:12 to play. Chiney was quickly inserted and she got a basket and a steal and lay up despite Colorado’s sudden intensity and pressure and Stanford easily won 57-40.

One streak is still intact: Stanford had won 78 straight games against Pac 10/12 conference teams. Mark that still alive at 79. Next up Utah on Sunday.

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