Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stanford Beats UCLA

Well, we finally got a close one. UCLA almost beat #4 Stanford, and funny how the Twitterverse was rooting for the upset to make things interesting in the Pac-12. Heck, Cal had already lost that night to USC, giving them two strikes in the Pac-12 loss column. The Stanford Women’s basketball team’s 72-55 win over UCLA was their closest margin of victory in the Pac-12 so far this season. It also gives them a so far perfect 7-0 start in conference play.

This one was close due to UCLA’s physicality. The weird thing was the refs called it super tight in the first half. They whistled every little hand check, and UCLA was getting most of the fouls going against them. Then the refs took the second half off. Nothing, and I mean nothin’ was getting called. Bodies went flying, players knocked to the ground and lots o’ contact being called jump balls (Poor Karlie Samuelson was the recipient of a particular severe take down).
Chiney Ogwumike Chiney Ogwumike reaches for a rebound against UCLA (Marcio Jose Sanchez - AP Photo)

UCLA’s physicalness limited Stanford’s All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike. For the game, Chiney posted her 14th double-double of the season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. That would be a great night for 99% of the women’s college basketball players out there. But Chiney is in that top 1%. She was averaging 27 points per game and was second in the nation in field goal percentage. She had uncharacteristic misfires, missing five of her first six shots and going 10-18 from the field. (Of course she was pushed and hit a lot when she shot and did not get the usual foul calls to go to the line). But you can’t keep an Ogwumike down for long, and she made nine of her final 12 shots to help Stanford put some distance between themselves and UCLA.

UCLA coach Cori Close said she’d "never been so thrilled to hold someone to 21 points." Now that’s a quote!

Speaking of coaches, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said her team will have to play much better when they meet USC in ESPN’s Big Monday match up. Stanford committed 16 turnovers and gave up too many offensive rebounds for VanDerveer's liking.  "I was upset with how casual people were with the ball," VanDerveer said.

Shout out to Taylor Greenfield who held UCLA’s scorer Atonye Nyingifa in check.. Although Nyingifa would lead her team in scoring with 18 points, she did not score in the final 10 minutes of the game with Taylor on her. That’s a shut down.

Here’s where Stanford’s Hall of Fame coach earns her big bucks (well we hope she gets big bucks). Your best defender is Chiney Ogwumike. With her long arms to cut off passing lanes and leaping ability to block shots, she can shut down just about anyone. So whom does Tara VanDerveer have Chiney guard? The worst player on the floor.  While Stanford was in a man to man formation, with Taylor Greenfield fronting Nyingifa, Chiney was playing zone, standing under the basket, an arms length away from Nyingifa,to keep from any back door passing happening. Heck, Chiney was ignoring her player. The few times her player did get the ball far out on the wing, Chiney didn’t even move, and let her shoot a long jumper. Guess what, she missed a lot. So Tara has her two best defenders taking care of UCLA’s best shooter and their worst player shooting long jumpers that have a low chance of going in. Brilliant!

This game was also strange in that usually when Chiney is well defended inside, Stanford bombs the three. This time Stanford was only 5-11, and although my phone calculator says that is 45%, five made threes are behind Stanford’s average. And the true bombers, The Samuelson sisters, KSam and BSam, plus Taylor Greenfield did not make one of them.  Freshie guard Lili Thompson had two of them and Sara James had three of them, going 3 for 3 from behind the line.

Of course, Sara’s threes came at an opportune time. With the game tied at 39 early in the second half, she hit consecutive 3-pointers to ignite a Cardinal run that eventually led to a 66-51 advantage heading into the final five minutes.

C and R wanted to point out another Stanford contributor, Freshie Erica McCAll. Erica had a great game, and the difference was hustle. She looked really hungry and went after the ball despite UCLA’s tall bodies and arms. She scored a season-high 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting and matched her season best with eight rebounds.

Four Cardinal players scoried in double figures. Besides Chiney and Erica, Lili Thompson had 15 points and Sara James had 11, and were the only two to make 3-pointers. Point guard Amber Orrange passed out eight of Stanford's 20 assists against just one turnover.

Next up for Stanford is ESPN’s Big Monday, a game against USC. As we said, USC upset Cal this weekend, so hopefully it will be a good game. As long as it is not too close. And Stanford wins. And Chiney scores 30. To impress the voters for Player of the Year. On the big stage. On National TV. Because no one sees Pac-12 play.

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