Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stanford Flails Fresno State

Well, C and R, unable to make the road trip to Fresno, tried to enjoy the Stanford Women’s Basketball team beat up on Fresno State to the tune of 86-54 but it’s just not the same watching the game on a computer. A big shout out to the Mountain West network for carrying the game, although it was a little bit of a scramble to find the feed.

Stanford, feeling like all of us after Christmas, a little hung over from the excess everything, started out slow. They  gave Fresno State hope, letting them hang around for the first ten minutes with the score 22-18.  Then Stanford did want Stanford does best and boom, they had a 43-31 halftime lead. If you think that was impressive, listen to the second half stats. Stanford opened the second half with a 26-2 run in the first eight minutes, and the two points the bulldogs did score were from free throws.

Erica McCall
Stanford's Erica McCall wrestles the ball away from Fresno State (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
How did Stanford do it? Well, believe it or not, it was the three ball. Well, and a healthy douse of Chiney Ogwumike in the first half. Stanford hit a season-high 12 3-pointers, and Chiney scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half. And this time Chiney had scoring help, with three other Stanford players joining her in double figures.

Stanford guard Amber Orrrrange scored 12 of her 15 points in the first half. After halftime, she guarded Fresno State point guard Taylor Thompson, who had scored 11 points in the first half, and held her to just two points the rest of the game. Taylor Greenfield made her first start of the season Saturday and matched her career highs of 18 points and six rebounds. She also made a season-high four 3-pointers.

Chiney got into foul trouble late in the first half. Well, what we mean by foul trouble is getting in Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer dog house. Chiney went to the bench with two fouls in the first half, despite scoring 16 points. Also, Tara, wanting to give others a chance to play in the second, and sent her to the bench for good after opening the second half on that 26-2 run. Chiney scored her 20 points in just 23 minutes of action.

Doesn’t Tara know that in order to impress the Player of the Year voters back East Chiney needs to score 30 points a game? Heck, 20 points, while for most players is great, is below Chiney’s average. But Tara has never been about the records or milestones

Let’s list the records and milestones:

Chiney scored 20 and finished with 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.
Chiney’s 20 points giver her 2,079 for her career, moving her past Nicole Powell (2,062) and Val Whiting (2,077) into fifth place on Stanford’s all-time scoring list. And Chiney is now 46 points back of Jayne Appel (2,125) for fourth place. Chiney’s  10 boards gives her a career rebounding total of 1,257, moving to just six behind Jayne Appel (1,263) for second on Stanford’s all-time list. She is just nine behind Kayla Pedersen’s Pac-12 and Stanford record of 1,266 with half a season to go.

Amber Orrange scored 15 points (on 6-for-10 shooting) with six assists and three steals. Bonnie Samuelson came off the bench and scored 14 points in 16 minutes and set season highs in field goals (five), 3-pointers made (four) and rebounds (four). Mikaela Ruef set a career high with eight assists.

Greenfield and Samuelson each hit four triples while Orrange nailed three, and Mikaela Ruef added one as the Cardinal went 8-for-15 from behind the arc in the second half. During that stretch of 26-2, Stanford would hit six 3-pointers, three from Greenfield, to balloon a 12-point halftime edge into a 36-point lead at 69-33.

The lopsided score, and Chiney sitting, means bench players Bonnie Samuleson, Erica McCall, Jasmine Camp, and broken-nosed Kailee Johnnson all got in double digits in minutes. “It was good to have different people playing and in the game getting experience,” said Tara VanDerveer.

Next up for Stanford is Pac-12 play

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ogwumike, Stanford beat Tennessee

The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team gave their fans an awesome Christmas present, a 76-70 win over Tennessee. The majority of the game was not as close as the score suggests, with Stanford’s lead a comfortable nine to ten points for most of the game. It wasn’t until the last minute that Tennessee made it interesting.

At the start, Stanford wanted to put Tennessee on notice that they were no longer “The Nice Girls From Stanford.” Stanford proceeded to bloody Tennessee’s nose, literally. During a lose ball scramble on of the Tennessee players got inadvertently hit in the face and had to leave the game (didn’t get her name or number). Another fan said after the Tenn player came to the bench she passed out near the tunnel, so not sure what happened.

Well, okay, Stanford didn’t mean to be THAT tough. But there was a fire and a passion in starting freshmen guard Lili Thompson that told Tennessee that Stanford was not backing down. Lili fought hard and made some key steals and scores, elbowing one Tennessee player to the ground during the steal and the subsequent score. Hard to get back up with 6,000 intense fans and one very large Rose-Bowl Bound football team screaming in your face with delight.

And then Lili was all up in their grill and jacked a three early on to put Stanford ahead 13-4! (Okay R just told me to stop trying to be “hip” using young person language). But man, that SWAGGER and that STARE she gave after that three said everything. Lili would make three 3-pointers in Tennessee’s face and had a season high 14 points.

While Lili had the swagger, the scoring and rebounding belonged to Stanford’s all-everything Chiney Ogwumike. After spotting Tennessee the first four points, Chiney singled handedly scored Stanford’s first ten points, and Lili’s afore-mentioned three gave Stanford 13 unanswered points in the first five minutes. Chiney would have a double-double by half time, 18 points and 11 boards. She would finish the game with 32 points and a season high 20 rebounds (credit big Sis Nneka Ogwumike with an assist, as she gave Chiney a long distance pep talk).

Although at times it looked like Stanford’s only play was to lob it into Chiney (And some uncharacteristic missed lobs by the passers), Chiney got some scoring help from Lili and bench player Taylor Greenfield. Taylor also connected with three 3-pointeres, one right before the half to give Stanford a  37-29 lead  going into the locker room. The  few times Tenn pushed Chiney off the low block, ala UConn, Chiney’s angle was wrong to the backboard and she would miss. Luckily Tenn didn’t do that very much and she could have her way around the glass.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said before the game whoever controls the boards wins the game (I don’t know, we might be paraphrasing, but you get the idea). And Tennessee wasn’t ranked #3 and undefeated going into this game for nothing. They could rebound, too. When Tenn did get an offensive rebound, it was usually a score. Tennessee was ahead in rebounds (I think) in the first half, yet Stanford clamped down better in the second half and outrebounded them 46-40 for the game, Chiney accounting for nearly half of those.
Stanford and Tennessee come together in sisterhood after the game. Photo courtesy of C and R 's shaky smart phone
Hats off to Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons, a senior, who tried her hardest in the second half to will Tenn back to life. She drove hard and quick to the basket to convert or get the foul. She ended up with 15 points, and if she could have sustained that intensity the whole game, who knows. Although not much of a team play to take the ball and shoot every time the ball is in your hands, whether you are open or not. Maybe that is why she was on the bench when Tenn made their run with about three minutes left in the game.

Tennessee came within two with a 1:03 on the clock. Time to cue Amber Orrrrange. The quiet point guard drove the lane, was fouled yet still banked it off the glass. She made the extra point to put Stanford up by five, Mikaela Ruef got a key rebound after that, was fouled, and sank her two as well. Amber Orrange had nine points and five assist and Ruef had a solid eight points and eight boards for the game.

Speaking of free throws, Stanford was 13-21 from the line. You can’t leave eight easy points on the table when you are playing top-ranked teams. C and R know what Stanford will need to practice in their week break before they next play…

Still great win for Stanford; POY candidate Chiney Ogwumike lookin’ good, yet glad to see some others are finding ways to score. Looks like Tara VanDerveer might be set on her 8-9 player rotation for the year.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Stanford Beats New Mexico, Ogwumike Joins Elite Club

Well that was a fun night. The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team got a little work out against New Mexico before they play #3 Tennessee on Saturday.

Chiney Ogwumike
Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike (Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)
The game opened with senior Chiney Ogwumike getting the ball one-on-one in the low post and scoring. And what do we say to teams that leave her one-on-one in the low post? Chiney all day. Rinse and repeat to the tune of her scoring Stanford’s first 10 points and 23 of Stanford’s 25 before head coach Tara VanDerveer took pity on New Mexico and took her out with 9:52 left in the first. She went back in briefly and ended up with 24 points to 21 for New Mexico at the half. Stanford as a team had 40.

With her fifth point, Chiney became the fifth member of Stanford's 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound club, which includes older sister Nneka Ogwumike, Jayne Appel, Nicole Powell and Val Whiting.Great company indeed. Chiney also had seven rebounds for the game to pass her sister Nneka for third place on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 1,227. Jayne Appel is second with 1,263 and Kayla Pedersen is first with 1,266, also the Pac-12 record.

Chiney only played 23 minutes and finished with 32 points, four shy of her career-high set earlier this season, and the third time she’s scored 30 or more this season. She sat the final 10:30. Stanford overwhelmed New Mexico to the tune of 75-41.

Notables bench players were Erica (Bird) McCall with a season-high eight rebounds and six points. Taylor Greenfield scored a season-high eight points (and made two 3-pointers) and Bonnie Samuelson also made a three and had eight points.

The team also recorded a season high 12 blocks (Chiney had four of them), and held New Mexico to 41 points, a new season low for opponents. Stanford’s defense has now held three opponents to less than 50 points this year.

As fun as it was to watch Chiney score, and so many by half time, the other four starters had zero points at the half. Yes, not a typo, zero. At the end of regulation, starter Chiney had the 32, guard Amber Orrrrange had six and Mikaela Ruef had two points. That won’t cut it with Tennessee (although Ruefie grabbed 10 rebounds).

Coach Tara VanDerveer says she wants to trim the line-up to about eight players. We will see who she plays against Tennessee (which Stanford has beat twice in a row now).

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stanford Beats Gonzaga, Honors Coach

Sorry this blog posting is so late, but C and R had an “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party” to attend last night after the Stanford vs. Gonzaga game. And boy, it’s harder to find an ugly Christmas sweater than you think. C and R spent all of Friday night in stores searching until we saw a red reindeer fleece bathrobe. C reasoned even though not a sweater, she would get to attend a party in her bathrobe and how many times can you do that? But when she found some Homer Simpson Christmas pants, with Homer saying “D’oh-ho-ho” the die was cast…or set, or whatever. Pajamas it is. And it was a good thing they were fleece as C and R spent most of the night outside in the bocce ball court. C was winning until R got all four balls next to the white one for a four point sweep to win the game, set and match (speaking of which, sorry to hear Stanford Women’s Volleyball lost to #1 Penn State in the Elite Eight).

Anyway, back to basketball. As C and R were shopping for the afore mentioned sweaters Friday, we were worried Gonzaga, ranked 23 rd would give #4 or 6 Stanford Women’s Basketball team (gotta get those keywords in there) a good game. We needn’t have. Stanford won handily, 73-45. (Oops, spoiler alert).

Let’s go back to the action. First of all, Stanford great Nicole Powell was in the house! Except she was coaching for Gonzaga. Stanford made a classy move by acknowledging her right before introducing the players and showed a video with her highlights from her days playing at Stanford, listing her accomplishments (Did you know she owns four of Stanford’s six triple double?).

Amazingly, her own players didn’t really know her back-story. Gonzaga forward Sunny Greinacher said. "I didn't know all her success. I knew she was a great player in the WNBA and overseas. To watch what she did at Stanford was amazing." *Sigh* Youth, wasted on the young.

The game started out like a typical Stanford game. Throw the ball to Chiney Ogwumike in the low post, and no one can stop her. She scored the first six points in a minute and a half. Oh yeah, C and R nodded at each other, what were we worried about?
But Gonzaga is a good team, and clamped down on her. And here is the rub on Stanford; can someone else step up when Chiney is stopped? Chiney had two long stretches without scoring. The answer, it wasn’t one person, but a lot of people chipping away. Eleven of the 13 Stanford players that played scored. Stanford went on a 12-0 run early on to go from a small 9-8 lead to a big 21-8 lead, extending that to a 33-19 halftime lead and never looked back.

Freshie Kailee Johnson scored the last five in that run of 12. KJ set season highs with 11 points and eight rebounds, including two 3-pointers in the game. Jasmine Camp scored a season-high six points and hit two 3-pointers. Guard Amber Orrrrange added 10 points for Stanford.

Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne played for the first time this season, each returning from injury. Although Epayne, with her fluffy hair all bundled up on top of her head making her almost unrecognizable, only played 2 minutes and was one of the players who did not score. Tess Picknell was the other player not to score, but she also saw limited minutes (four), and has a mind-set to set picks to help others to score instead of her.

Stanford can play some pretty good defense themselves, so while Chiney was struggling, The Zags missed all nine of their first-half 3-point tries and all 14 overall and shot 34 percent for the game. The last time Stanford held an opponent without a 3-point field goal was on Jan. 18, 2013 against UCLA. The Bruins went 0-for-2 from the 3-point line in that contest. Gonzaga’s total of 45 points is the lowest by a Stanford opponent this season. The previous low was 48 by UC Davis on Nov. 17.

Back to Chiney, her career rebounding total is 1,220, six behind older sister Nneka Ogwumike's third-place figure of 1,226. Chiney is also 46 behind Kayla Pedersen's Pac-12 and Stanford record of 1,266. AND, Chiney is also five points away from becoming the fifth member of Stanford’s 2,000-Point1,000 Rebound Club. Whew, makes me tired just thinking about it.

Tara and Chiney celebrate 900
Tara VanDerveer and Chiney Ogwumike celebrate #900. (Photo The Associated Press)
After the game, Stanford honored their Hall of Fame Coach Tara VanDerveer for winning 900 career games while at a tourney in Mexico. (With the Gonzaga win today, she is at 902). The school gave her a jersey with the number 900 on it. 

"It's a little hard for me to wrap my head around 900," VanDerveer said to the crowd that stayed. "This is the only way I could get a Stanford jersey, as a coach. ... Let's get some more!" Chiney Ogwumike also spoke for the team and said, “Here’s to another 900!”

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