January 25, 2015

Cardinal's two good halves beat the Trojans

After the UCLA game, Tara said, "I wish we were more a first-half team sometimes." She got her wish today.

The Trojans scored first, but the Cardinal took the lead 1½ minutes into the game, increased it to 13 points on a 19-4 run and led by nine at the break.

They kept up the attack all through the second half, never letting the Trojans back into the game, and won 71-60.

Although the Trojans won the battle of the boards 41-32, Cardinal defense held them to an inadequate 36% shooting from the field.

Trojan defense held Cardinal three-point shooters in check — Bonnie sank only two treys and Lili, Bri and Amber each sank one. But the Cardinal were hot on the inside where they made 54%. They also got to the line where they hit a sizzling 20 of 24.

Lili was on fire tonight. Her strategy was "attack the rim", which she did with great success. When she didn't make the shot, she usually drew a foul and hit 12 of 14 free throws. She was the Cardinal's top scorer with 21 points, her most since the game in Hawai'i two months ago. She also dished two assists and grabbed four rebounds.

Bird was definitely seeing the basket tonight. She turned and shot and hit five times on five attempts. She also had six rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Kaylee scored on four of five attempts, two of them lovely back-door cuts with assists from Amber.

In other Pac-12 action today, the OSU Beavers made beating the ASU Sun Devils look easy and are now the only undefeated team in the conference. The Bears came back from a 12-point deficit in the first half to beat the Bruins 72-57 and hold on to fourth place in the conference.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

A video interview of Lili after her bounce-back game against USC

January 24, 2015

Cardinal out-hustles the Bruins

It was another tale of two halves, but this one had a happy 79-70 ending for the Cardinal.

In the first half of a fast-paced game, the Cardinal repeatedly fell behind the Bruins, once by as much as 13, but kept coming back. The Bruins' edge was almost entirely due to the play of junior guard Nirra Fields with 17 points in the half. The Bruins also shot well from beyond the arc, hitting more than half of those shots. The Cardinal was fortunate to be down by only three at the end of the half.

It all changed after the intermission as the Cardinal upped their energy and the tempo of the game. Bri sparked the comeback with a layup on the first possession. A few seconds later, Amber hit a three to tie the score at 42, then Bonnie passed up a shot and sent the ball to Amber for a second trey. After a defensive rebound by Kaylee, Bonnie hit a trey, giving the Cardinal three threes in three tries in less than two minutes, and forcing Cori Close to call a timeout.

The Cardinal continued their hot shooting and good defense. They had what seemed to be a comfortable 14-point lead with seven minutes to play, but the Bruins chipped away, bringing it to 73-67 with 1:36 to play. With one minute to play, the Bruins began fouling, having to make four intentional fouls before they reached seven and the chance of getting possession. However, the person they fouled on the fifth try was Bonnie, who made both shots. Seconds later, Amber stole the ball, was fouled, and made both of her free throws, giving the Cardinal a 10-point lead. Kaylee and Bonnie each had one more free throw before the clock ran out.

Bri got the start tonight and had the game of her life (so far) with a career-high 21 points on 53% shooting from the field and 43% from beyond the arc (3 of 7).

Bonnie sank four of ten from beyond the arc, stepped past her defenders for two short ones and hit five from the line for another 21 points. She added strong defense to her usual sparkling offense – seven rebounds, two steals and a block.

Amber showed again why she's in the running for point guard of the year – 20 points on 58% shooting from the field, five assists with one turnover, and four steals.

Rebounding improved considerably over last week's loss. The Cardinal out-rebounded the Bruins 33-26.

Kaylee led all rebounders with 17 and scored 10 points for the only double-double of the game (her fourth of the season). She was also the game-high shot blocker with four.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The press conference audio, with Tara, Bri and Bonnie,

A video interview of Bri after her career night vs UCLA

Note: There are no photos of the game from Stanford or UCLA or the Associated Press.

January 22, 2015

Stanford vs UCLA Previews

Here are previews of the upcoming game at UCLA:

From UCLA Athletics: UCLA Hosts No. 11/16 Stanford on Friday Night

From Stanford Athletics: What's Bruin?

January 21, 2015

Amber advances to Wooden Award Top 20


Congratulations, Amber!

Amber is one of the 20 student-athletes who are the front-runners for John R. Wooden Award at roughly the halfway point of the 2014-15 season.

Here is more information:

January 19, 2015

Cardinal drops a close one to the Sun Devils

Updated January 20: Added commentary by Michelle Smith

I wasn't able to either attend or view the game, so have no personal report.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The press conference audio, with Tara, Bri and Amber

January 17, 2015

Cardinal romps over Wildcats

Cardinal players feasted on a weak Arizona defense and tucked away the first (and possibly the only) really easy win of the Pac-12 season. The final score was 77-47, but the the game was pretty well in the bag midway through the first half when Stanford quadrupled UA's score at 16-4.

With a comfortable 32-point lead heading into the fourth quarter Tara began substituting, and just about everyone got to play. The Stanford scoring slowed down as the bench players took over, except during the final 60 seconds during which Alex Green and then Brittany MacPhee got steals for breakaway layups.

A number of performances stood out during this cheerful rout. Especially notable was Erica McCall's first collegiate double-double: a career-high 16 rebounds and 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. She really seemed to know where the basket was for the first time this season. For the third time she came out wearing glasses instead of contacts. The glasses look as if they were styled for a World War One aviator, but if they are helping, style doesn't matter.

Bri Roberson brought the crowd to life with a number of athletic plays, including a sparkling assist on a bang-bang play, Amber to Bri to Kaylee. Bri matched her career high at 12 points.

The Samuelsons contributed a total of eight three-pointers, with Bonnie hitting 4-7 and Karlie, 4-5; plus, Bonnie had one layup.

Lili worked very hard to get 12 points, hitting the floor hard at both ends of the court on several offensive and defensive plays.

The team as a whole made 10 of 13 free throws, a welcome improvement.

In other Pac-12 action tonight, OSU squeezed past WSU in the last 24 seconds of the game to a 73-70 victory, and ASU routed Cal 67-53. ASU, OSU, Stanford remain in the top three spots in the Pac-12 standings; Cal has dropped to sixth place.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The press conference audio, with Tara, Bird and Karlie,

The postgame interview video of Bonnie and Karlie by Ros,

A gallery of photos by Norbert von der Groeben (Stanford Photo).

January 15, 2015

A driving force behind the team

By Judy Richter, FBC feature writer and interviewer:

When the Stanford women’s basketball team gets ready to leave on a road trip, the players can always count on having a safe ride from a warm, friendly driver.

Don Van Zandt has been a bus driver for his entire career. He started with school buses for 6 ½ years before going to Peninsula Charter Lines in 1973 and staying when that company was bought by Royal Coach Tours in 2004.

The San Mateo resident doesn’t exactly recall when he began driving the team, but he does know that Dottie McCrea was head coach (she served from 1976 to 1985) and that Jeanne Ruark Hoff, ’83, was a player. Dottie was succeeded by Tara VanDerveer in 1985.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said in a recent phone interview. He enjoys getting to know the players. “That’s part of the fun of it.”

“The camaraderie is another thing that I love,” he said.

Enjoys watching players mature

He also has the pleasure of watching these studious players grow up between their freshman and senior years. “They’re like high school girls when they come in and leave as mature women.” And “some are wise beyond their years when they first step foot on campus.”

One such player was Chiney Ogwumike,’14, who played alongside her older sister, Nneka, ’12, for two years.

“The first time I saw Chiney play, I said to Nneka, ‘I think she’s going to be the best player in the country.’ ” His opinion was validated when, like Nneka two years earlier, Chiney was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft.

Eileen calls Don “the absolute best”

Don has been driving the team for so long that “he’s like another member of our team,” said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations.

“He is the guy who’ll be there for us. He is the absolute best,” she said.

Not only does he get the team and staff safely to and from the airport or locations within driving distance (like Cal, Fresno, Davis and Sacramento), he loads their luggage and equipment. If they return to campus late at night, he’ll drive the players to their dorms, Eileen said.

On top of that, “he’s a loyal fan,” she said.

Wife joins him at home games

He and his wife attend all of the home games, sitting in Section 6 near the south baseline and the Stanford bench. They also attend the team’s annual spring banquet.

He used to go to the games alone, but when his mother-in-law moved in with them, she would join him. Finally, he convinced his wife to attend a game against Cal on Feb. 14, 2009.

As it turned out, it featured one of the most memorable plays in SWBB history. Guard Lindy La Rocque, ’12, dove under a Cal player to go after a loose ball and then – still on her stomach – pitched it to Jillian Harmon, ’09, who went to the basket for the easy layup. Stanford won that game 58-41.

“She’s been a fan ever since,” Don said. “I picked the perfect game to introduce her.”

They bring food, arrive early, watch the warmups and chat with other fans. SWBB alums attending a game stop by to say hello.

“Long after I’ve retired, I plan to keep sitting in those two seats,” Don said. He’s semi-retired at age 68. No more seven-day weeks, he said, but “I still love it.”

“I love the sportsmanship. It’s very fan-friendly.”

Don drives other teams, too

Besides the women’s basketball team, he has been driving the football team since 1976 and the baseball team since 1981. He has driven other Stanford teams from time to time. He even drove the Tennessee women’s basketball team when it visited Stanford under now-retired coach Pat Summitt.

On the pro level, he drives the Oakland Raiders and some visiting NFL teams.

What’s the mood on the bus after a bad loss? “Over the years, there haven’t been too many of these,” Don said. The players are usually upbeat, and “they’re actually grateful that we have such a fine program.”

Great regional performances

As might be expected, some of the best times on the bus have come after stirring victories. One that he cited came March 29, 2010, against Xavier in the second game of the NCAA regional in Sacramento.

With the score tied 53-53 and just a few seconds left, a Xavier player missed two easy layups. Kayla Pedersen, ’11, rebounded the second one and immediately called a time out. In the huddle, the coaches called what turned out to be the perfect play.

With only 4.4 seconds left, Kayla inbounded the ball to classmate Jeanette Pohlen under the Xavier basket. Jeanette streaked down the court and made the winning basket just in time. Clinching a 55-53 victory, Stanford was on its way to its third consecutive Final Four, this one in San Antonio.

Yet another performance that he cited came a year earlier, on March 30, 2009. Jayne Appel, ’10, scored a Stanford record 46 points against Iowa State in the Cal regional, leading the Cardinal to a 74-53 victory and a trip to the Final Four in St. Louis. 

Schedule on travel days

The team tries to get to the airport – either San Francisco or San Jose – about 90 minutes before its flight. Don arrives about a half-hour before it’s time to go to the airport. He mostly loads the bus per company policy, but “they often help me out.”

There’s a traditional order of seating, with the coaches and staff in front, seniors and back, and the others in between. The freshmen carry the equipment, but “nobody grumbles,” he said.

If he drives the team to an out-of-town tournament, he takes the players back to their hotel after the game. If it was the early game, he later returns to the arena to pick up Tara and other coaches who have stayed behind to scout the teams playing next.

Royal Coach Tours “knows that he’s our No. 1 guy,” Eileen said.

“All the kids know him. They all like him. .. He’s just so pleasant. We look forward to seeing him,” she said.

As for Don, “I’m one of the luckiest blue collar people in the country,” he said.

January 12, 2015

Recognition of Bonnie and Lili

Kristin Bassi (The Stanford Daily) recognizes Bonnie's contribution to victory in her review of last weekend's games in Washington: Samuelson’s sharp shooting pushes Stanford over Washington schools

Luke Morris, blogger for the Dallas Morning News, recognizes Lili as the Lonestar Pipeline Player of the Week: Lili Thompson’s consistency Stanford’s best friend

(The arcane LPPOW is awarded by Morris for top college basketball performances from former Dallas-area high school standouts. It comes with no prize, thus avoiding any NCAA eligibility issues and cost out of Morris' pocket.)

January 11, 2015

Cardinal keeps Cougars from making history

The Cardinal kept the streak going, with great effort against a team fiercely determined to get its first win ever in a Stanford/WSU game. That matchup now stands at Stanford 58, WSU 0. Today's game: Stanford 86, WSU 76.

The Cougars were in command for much of the afternoon, and it looked like they were going to pull off the upset. They took the lead about midway through the first half, and increased it to as much as eleven points.

The Cougars matched every attempt the Cardinal made to close the gap until the Cardinal finally gained a one-point lead with two minutes left to play on a three-pointer and two free throws by Bonnie.

The Cougars got the lead back a minute later after a series of fouls and free throws by both teams.

Then, with eleven seconds left, Bonnie sank another three-pointer. Game over? No! Lia Galdeira wasn't finished yet. She got the inbound and scored a fast break layup to take the game into overtime.

But the streak-breaking attack was effectively over. Only Lia managed to score for the Cougars in overtime, while the Cardinal got contributions from Amber, Lili and Kaylee and especially Bri, who iced the win with six-of-six free throws.

The victory was a great team effort by the Cardinal, with six players scoring in double digits.

Amber led the way with 19 points – and a lot more. She fought hard for this win with repeated drives to the basket, putting the ball up 20 times – the most since her 24 attempts in Stanford's Sweet 16 game against Georgia in 2013. Besides scoring, she had five assists, four rebounds and a steal.

Bonnie repeatedly challenged the Cougar lead from beyond the arc and at the free throw line. She scored 18 points on five-of-seven three-pointers and three-of-four free throws.

Kaylee shone on both defense and offense. She tallied her third career double-double with 15 rebounds and a career-high 13 points. She made 83% of her attempted field goals (5-6).

Lili was held scoreless in the first half, but ended with 13 points, including two three-pointers and three-of-three free throws. She also tallied three assists and three steals.

Taylor matched her career-high score with eleven points, including a three-pointer and four-of-four free throws.

Bri played with her usual energy and determination – and controlled it well this afternoon. The Cardinal committed 15 turnovers, but Bri played for 21 minutes and didn't commit any. She scored ten points on a jumper and eight-of-eight free throws.

All in all, the Cardinal made 78% of their free throws (21-27). Let's hope that's a trend, not an exception.

In other Pac-12 action today, Washington beat Cal by two points.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The postgame interview video of Bonnie

The WSU press conference video, with June Daugherty, Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira

(There was no Associated Press photographer in Pullman.)