Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stanford Gets the Same Results Against UConn

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With Stanford going to the Final Four six times in seven years and coming up empty handed, you could call head coach Tara Vanderveer Insane… or insane like a fox. (I don’t know, I am mixing my metaphors.) So when Stanford played #1 UConn in November and “only” lost by 19, Tara also expected a different result when she met them again in the Final Four in April. It was the same 19-point margin of victory. Just insane.

Not very many people thought Stanford would even make it to the Final Four this year. They lost in the Sweet Sixteen last year with much of the same cast, and didn’t even get the number one seed in their region. Just getting to the Final Four this year, with the parties, the red carpets, the autograph signing sessions and the line dancing, was a huge victory for Stanford. Too bad they had to meet #1 UConn in the Final Four.

Yes, yes Tara was playing to win. She is the master of scouting other teams and finding an exploiting their weaknesses, and figuring out who is the worst shooter and then not guard her. Turns out, UConn doesn’t have many weaknesses to exploit.

Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike dives for a loose ball over Stephaine Dolson. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

And hats off to UConn. Their defense won this game for them. They started out cold, offensively. Stanford had the lead for 12 and a half minutes in the first half, the longest time any opponent had the lead all year against UConn. But UConn’s defense took away All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike. Stanford thought they had an answer for that, in their outside shooting. Turns out UConn knows how to scout, too. UConn took away Stanford’s three ball. They guarded the perimeter so Stanford three-point specialist Bonnie Samuelson, with the quick release, could not get a good shot off. Coupled with the fact Stanford cold not penetrate on the drive and it was game over.

Right around the last few minutes if the first half, UConn went on a 12-0 run and took the lead back for good. At the half it was 24-28. The good news was UConn’s shooter, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had zero points at the half. The bad news is Chiney Ogwumike only had four.

UConn would go on a 20-5 run spanning both halves. UConn came out in the second and before you could blink it Huskies led 44-27. The lone three points in that period was inside player Chiney Ogwumike hitting a outside three. And that is not a good game plan. UConn took away what Chiney does best, inside points and rebounds. And Stanford’s outside shooters went 6-25 from three-point territory. Add 13 Stanford turnovers and it was not a pretty game for Stanford.

Chiney did not try much inside in the first half, and consequently, Stanford did not shoot any free throws in the first. Stanford drove more in the second half and did pick up some fouls, but it was too little, too late. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored all of her 15 points in the second half. The truth of the matter was Stanford could not get stops and did not trade baskets.

Although Chiney would score 15 points and 10 rebounds for her 27th double-double of the year, eight of those 15 points came after UConn had already established a solid double-digit lead. POY Breanna Stewart helped hold Stanford's All-American to just 5-of-12 shooting.

More Box Score:
-Amber Orrange had16 points to lead three Stanford players in double figures.
-Lili Thompson chipped in with 12 points for Stanford, although ten were in the first half.

Still, congratulations to Stanford on a great, great season. So much effort and intensity and emotion. And no, C and R don’t think Tara VanDerveer is insane. We think she is genius. To go to six Final Fours in seven years means you are consistently doing something right.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stanford Beats North Carolina, Back in the Final Four

There is a cheer the Stanford band does. Two X plus 4, where X is your score. It is a brainiac cheer. It would be chanted, for example, when one team has 9 points and the other team has 22 points. Two times 9 is 18, add four and you get 22. It is pointing out that the team with 22 has more than doubled your score, and it rhymes. The band has used it against many, many Stanford opponents over the years. C and R have never, ever seen it used against Stanford. Cue a dark and stormy night at Maples.

The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was playing North Carolina in the Elite Eight with the winner going on to the Final Four. As C and R mentioned, it was raining outside, and raining threes inside Maples. Just it was North Carolina making it rain. They popped 5 of 6 threes early in the first half, Stanford had four straight turnovers, and before you could dry off, it was 9 to 22 with 12:46 left in the first half (Two X plus four indeed!).

To Stanford’s credit, they did not panic. UNC did their job and was taking All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike out of the game. They were double and triple teaming her in the paint and not letting her get an offensive rebound. She was not touching the ball.

Stanford responded by hitting some threes of their own. By the end of the half, both teams combined for 15 made threes. Seven for UNC, eight for Stanford. Stanford was lucky to be down only 30-36. And they were hoping and praying UNC could not keep making those threes, or else head coach Tara Vanderveer told her team to guard the 3-point line. Either way, UNC only made two more 3-pointers in the second half.

Give an assist to older sister Nneka Ogwumike giving Chiney a pep talk at the half, too. Also keeping Stanford in the game was Mikaela Ruef, the fifth year senior who did not want to remember last year’s loss in the Sweet Sixteen. She hit three 3-pointers, a career high. She has never hit more than one in a game before. Before this game, her career total for threes was seven for all five years. She scored a career high 17 and grabbed nine rebounds.

With Stanford hitting threes, UNC came out on the perimeter and left Chiney Ogwumike alone one-on-one in the paint. And what, Stanford fans, do C and R say when they leave Chiney alone one-on-one in the paint? Chin-nay all day. That was the turning point. Chiney Ogwumike scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, and added 10 rebounds for her 26th double-double of the year. Mikaela Ruef does the things not noticed in the box score. Someone must have noticed, though because she was awarded the regional MVP. A shocker it was not Chiney, but we are sure Chiney does not mind Ruefie picking up some hardware.

Mikaela Ruef
Mikaela Ruef, regional MVP
(Photo: Don Feria/ )

Stanford had five players in double figures, and when has that happened? Never? Amber Orrange scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half to help Stanford stay close. Bonnie Samuelson made three 3-pointers for 13 points off the bench. Freshman  Lili Thompson, who doesn’t play like a freshman, scored ten points.

Lili only scored ten because she had her hands full guarding UNC’s shining freshmen Diamond Deshields (get it, shining). Diamond was limited to 13 points (she averages about 19) and only made one three pointer. To be fair, she was injured with a sprained ankle, knee and wrist and you could tell she was bothered. She said her ankle was hurting in warm-ups but like a warrior, did not want to miss this game. She has a very accurate pull up jumper, but clearly the ankle was affecting her. We have not seen the last of that Freshman.

The lead see-sawed back and forth and it was a one-point game with 1:48 left and a three-point lead for Stanford with 22 seconds left when Bonnie (Miss Automatic) was fouled. She made both of them and Chiney added two free throws and Amber a lay up and Stanford would hold on to win 74-65. The score was not indicative of how close this game was.

Don’t know if we have ever seen Stanford come back from so far down. All those Pac-12 blowouts didn’t help them prepare. But we have Chiney Ogwumike (and Mikalea Ruef), and a supporting cast that did their role jobs well. Stanford going to the Final Four. Let’s just enjoy this before we look to see whom Stanford is playing (Hint: It’s UConn).

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