Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stanford Survives Colorado, in Pac-12 Finals against UCLA

Wow, that was a close call. With the air in KeyArena still heavy with upset vibes from UCLA smacking Cal out of the pac-12 tournament, Stanford looked like they might suffer a similar fate in the semi-final round against Colorado. Although to be fair, Cal only scored 14 at the half and was down by as much as 22 points. Stanford was never down more than four, and went on a 9-0 run in the second with 14 minutes left in the game to get some breathing room and keep the lead for good.

Chiney Ogwumike scores 29 and grabs 19 rebounds
Chiney Ogwumike struggled, yet still scored 25 and had 19 rebounds (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Colorado played a physical game, and the refs all tournament long have been “letting them play.” Colorado tried to take advantage of that by pushing on All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike. She missed shots, she was blocked (never seen so many blocks on her), she was knocked to the ground, she was harassed. She was held scoreless for the first 11 minutes of the game, and that has to be some kind of record. 

Usually, Stanford will respond to Chiney getting double and tripled-teamed with others stepping up to score, maybe some three-point shots to open things up for her, but not this time. Stanford made one three-pointer ALL game. Senior starter Joslyn was quiet (six total points). Sara James, who had five three-pointers last night, made only one this game and had five total points. She was held scoreless in the first half, and that’s never good.

Thank goodness for guard Amber Orrrrange. She might not get a lot of assists per game, but her specialty is driving in and hitting pull up jumpers. And that she did. She would score 13 points for the game, and kept Stanford in it when Colorado would go up by a bucket or two. Then, you can only keep an Ogwumike down for so long, especially after she loses a contact.

After Chiney got her first points of the game at the 11:04 mark in the first, she would go on to score 14 points and grab 10 rebounds, another double-double at half time. Stanford as a team was shooting just 28 percent in that half. Colorado had a slight one-point lead going into the locker room, where Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer could yell at her team for not playing good defense. That was only the fourth time all season Stanford was not leading at half. The last time was in January. Against Cal. And Stanford lost. And Cal had just lost. Hate to admit it, but C and R were a little nervous.

However, Colorado had their physical strategy back fire. They got seven fouls within 10 minutes in the first and Stanford shot bonus all night long. Stanford was 22-29 from the line for the game. Colorado, by contrast, did not get to the line much, and was only 3-4 from free-throw land.

In the second, Amber Orrrrange got a three-point play at the 15:51 mark to put Stanford ahead by three, for their first lead since the first half. Colorado’s Chucky Jeffrey, who had an outstanding game with 19 points but no supporting cast, kinda like Chiney sometimes, hit a three to tie it up for the tenth time in the game shortly after. Then Stanford went on that 9-0 run, clamped down on defense, and never looked back. The final score was 61-47.

Stanford’s Mikaela Ruef was a big part of that 9-0 run and had strong play in the final minutes. With Colorado keying on Chiney, she could drive to the basket before someone would pick her up and she finished some tough shots. She finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and a team-high four assists.
Chiney would end up with 25 points and 19 boards, just short of a 20-20 game again. Although looking closer at the stats, she was 9-24 from the floor. That’s a lot of misses, especially for her, who shoots something like 60% from the floor. She made her shots in the second, but Colorado did not make it any easier on her. She earned every shot. Several times we saw her miss on the blocks, sometimes twice in a row. That was a rare sight indeed.

Three Stanford players in double figures, yay. Now, Stanford will meet a tough, physical UCLA team on ESPN2, where the rest of the nation can see them play. And what’s a Pac-10 or 12 final without a Stanford in it? Because they have been in every single time. Let’s hope for another positive outcome and that Stanford is well rested.

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