March 28, 2015

Sweet 16 game report

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The Stanford press conference transcript,

The Notre Dame press conference transcript,

A gallery of photos by Sue Ogrocki (Associated Press),

A gallery of photos by Dave Cortesi.

March 27, 2015

And so it ends ...

... with a loss to Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen.

What a ride it's been! From peak to abyss and back again in what has been one of the most exciting seasons of Stanford Women's basketball ever.

Tara, who has spent 35 seasons perfecting a particular style of offense, did a 180 and taught a team of star-less players how to be winners. Did you ever dream that they:

Would catch the National Champion unawares and beat them in overtime,

Defeat the Pac-12 leader on its home court in its last home game of the season,

Play three win-in-the-last-minute games to take the Pac-12 Tournament championship,

Battle back from halftime deficits to victory in the first two rounds of the NCAAs.

They stepped up. They played with heart and spirit and grit — with love and respect for each other and for the game.

Being a Cardinal fan — THE BEST!

More pre-game stories

Although it wasn't published by The Oklahoman,Tara (with Lili, Amber and Bonnie) did hold a press conference yesterday. Here is the transcript.

Here are this morning's stories about tonight's game:

March 26, 2015

Report from Oklahoma City

It was a nice sunny day in Oklahoma City. A bit windy, but no sign of yesterday's storms.

The NCAA Women's Basketball Regional is not a Big Deal in Oklahoma City. The only banners around the Chesapeake Energy Arena are for the Thunder, the local NBA team.

However, there is quite a lot about the tournament in The Oklahoman today:

Tom FitzGerald from the San Francisco Chronicle is in town (he asked Muffet some questions at her press conference) and posted these two brief stories today: I don't know whether Elliott Almond of the Mercury News is here or not, but he posted the nicest story of the day:

All-Region honor for Amber

Amber has been named one of five Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Region VIII honorees and will now be placed into consideration for 2015 WBCA Division I Coaches’ All-America Team the organization announced Wednesday. Read more...

March 25, 2015

Oklahoma City Regional preview

Graham Hayes (espnW) had this to say yesterday about the Oklahoma City Regional:
It's the only region in which all four programs have been to a Final Four, although Iowa is sort of the odd one out there with its solitary trip back when C. Vivian Stringer was in Iowa City. The other three teams have been regular visitors to the Final Four over the past decade, but at least two of them are going to have to do without this year.

The game a lot of people will hope to see is Baylor and Notre Dame, a rematch of last season's regional final in South Bend, Indiana, in which Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was none too pleased about some of the calls (then again, that might be most games) and in which Notre Dame remained unbeaten but lost Natalie Achonwa for the remainder of the postseason. Any chance to see first-team All-Americans Jewell Loyd and Nina Davis on the same court would be a good thing. But don't discount Iowa, which could offer the potential for a first-to-90-wins game should it meet the Fighting Irish with NCAA triple-double leader Sam Logic playing in the building usually home to Russell Westbrook.

The wild card in the quartet is Stanford, which this month alone lost to Oregon, won the Pac-12 tournament, struggled at home in the first round against Cal State Northridge and scored 85 points in a second-round win against Oklahoma, its best production in regulation since beating hapless UC Santa Barbara nearly three months ago. And, of course, Stanford pulled its ultimate Jekyll (or would that be Hyde?) when it beat Connecticut early this season.

Hayes has an in-depth analysis of the region today: Oklahoma City breakdown

Here's more about the four contenders:

Breaking down the Oklahoma City regional by Kyle Frederickson (The Oklahoman)

Lady Bears would face seasoned Elite 8 opponents in Notre Dame, Stanford by Jason Orts (Waco Tribune)

Iowa women must contain Baylor's beasts on the boards by Ryan Murken (Des Moines Register)

Iowa women's basketball team ready for Baylor by Luke Meredith (Associated Press)

Hawkeyes feeling Sweet, but wanting more against Baylor by Steve Batterson (Muscatine Journal)

ND women gear up to take on tough Stanford team on Friday by Jim Johnston (WNDU, South Bend)

This is how the Oklahoma City Regional teams match up statistically:

Stanford Notre Dame Baylor Iowa
Points per game 69.5 81.1 79.8 79.9
Scoring margin +9.6 +21.8 +21.5 +7.5
Field goal % 0.438 0.499 0.481 0.458
3-pointers per game 6.7 4.9 3.3 8.1
3-point % 0.379 0.379 0.341 0.397
Free throw % 0.720 0.742 0.699 0.728
Rebounds per game 38.5 41.5 44.8 36.5
Rebounding margin +2.5 +8.9 +12.1 -4.4
Assists per game 10.3 18.3 20.9 18.2
Turnovers per game 12.4 15.1 13.8 13.6
Assist/turnover ratio 0.83 1.2 1.5 1.3
Steals per game 5.9 9.4 8.1 7.3
Blocks per game 4.6 5.0 5.9 4.4
Win-loss record 26-9 33-2 32-3 26-7
RPI 18 1 4 9
Schedule strength 14 3 11 12

FiveThirtyEight give Notre Dame an 86% chance of defeating Stanford and Baylor an 82% chance of defeating Iowa.

March 23, 2015

Cardinal stymies the Sooners

The Cardinal sent the Sooners home, but not to Oklahoma City, on the short end of 86-76.

Amber, Lili and Bri kept the game from getting out of hand in the first half against a determined Oklahoma team who seemed to make every shot they put up while Stanford's hit the rim or rolled out (it actually wasn't quite as lopsided as it seemed – Oklahoma made 47% to Stanford's 39%).

The Sooners led throughout the first half for all but a couple of minutes, but Lili began a Cardinal swing with her second 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and the Cardinal went into the locker room down by just four, 36-32.

The score was tied 38-38 at the 15-minute media timeout, after which the Cardinal forged ahead to a 10-point lead four minutes later.

The Sooners were unable to recover and began fouling at the two-minute mark – the Cardinal's last 13 points were all free throws.

The Cardinal's quick guards were the stars today. Amber, Lili and Bri combined for 56 of the Cardinal's 86 points.

Amber led with 24 (two short of her career high), as she repeatedly tore through the Sooner's tough zone defense and attacked the basket. She added seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

Lili found success outside the zone. She went three-for-three from beyond the arc. She drew fouls on her drives to the basket and made six of eleven free throws for a total of 19 points, her best performance since late January. And she grabbed six rebounds and dished four assists.

Bri's tenacious defense made life miserable for Oklahoma's quick guards. Most of Bri's 13 points came at the free throw line, where she sank eight of nine, six of them in that perilous first half. She also had four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Bonnie was shut out for a long time, but she found her shots in the last twelve minutes of the game as the Cardinal took control — three 3-pointers, a layup and a perfect eight at the line for a total of 19 points.

Bird had a strong game in her battle with the Sooners' big front court – eleven rebounds, seven points and two blocks – and she stayed out of foul trouble.

The Sooners kept up their productive shooting the entire game and out-scored the Cardinal from the field by six points. But their aggressive play – 28 fouls – cost them dearly. The Cardinal made 79% of their free throws – 30 of 38.

Up next: Notre Dame in Oklahoma City on Friday. Tickets can be ordered now (Monday evening) from Stanford Athletics online.

In Tempe this afternoon, third-seeded ASU found a surprisingly tough opponent in 11th-seed Arkansas-Little Rock and almost became another Pac-12 casualty in the tournament. In the first half they shot under 20% and went 0-6 on 3-point attempts. The Sun Devils trailed almost the whole game, in the second half by as much as 16 points, before starting a late come-back.

With 2:09 to play, Elisha Davis banked in a 3-point shot as the shot clock expired, making the ASU deficit only 3. With less than a minute to play they took their first lead since the first seconds of the game at 52-51, on a Sophie Brunner layup. From that point ASU made key defensive rebounds and sank enough of their free throws to close the game out at 57-54 and advance to play Florida State in Greensboro, NC.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The press conference audio with Tara, Amber, Lili and Bonnie,

A gallery of photos by Nhat V. Meyer (Bay Area News Group),

A gallery of photos from Stanford Photo,

The game highlights video,

A video interview of Amber.

Pre-Round 2

Press conferences: From the student newspapers: Game Notes: Videos: From the Bay Area media:

March 21, 2015

Cardinal wins 1st round over Matadors

Tara won her 800th Stanford game and the Cardinal won their 500th game at Maples as they defeated Cal State Northridge 73-60 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Stanford started well, quickly taking a 13-point lead, in part due to three quick 3-pointers by Bonnie.

Then came one of the scoring droughts that have featured in several losses this year. After Bri made a jumper midway through the first half, the Cardinal did not score for nearly eight minutes, while the Matadors crept back into the game and took a 22-25 lead at the 2:23 mark. At this point Lili and Taylor both began to score, but the half ended with the Matadors up by 1 at 28-29.

Northridge came out of the break hot and were up by six points before scores from Taylor, Lili and Bird brought Stanford back even. A rapid series of ties and lead changes followed through the third quarter.

At that point Northridge had its own drought and Stanford began to take control of the game. This interval was highlighted by a gritty loose-ball chase by Amber leading to a breakaway bucket by Lili.

As the gap widened, the Matadors turned to a pressure defense hoping for turnovers, but they only succeeded in forcing one. As a result, almost all of Stanford's scoring in the last seven minutes was on free throws: five by Taylor, five by Bonnie, four by Lili, and two each by Kaylee and Amber. All told, Stanford made 19 of 25 free throws, for 76%.

Taylor continued her most-outstanding tournament play. Her threes weren't falling today, but she attacked the basket 11 times and scored on seven of the attempts. She drew fouls and free throws on the other four attempts and led the Cardinal scoring with 19 points.

Lili got hot in the second half and sparked the Cardinal's comeback with a 3-pointer and then a jumper. She finished with 17 points and four assists.

The Matadors kept Bonnie well-guarded on the perimeter, but she managed to get away for three 3-pointers. Those plus four-of-five free throws gave her a total of 14 points. On defense, she grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot.

Bird was the Cardinal's fourth double-digit scorer with ten points. On defense, she grabbed three rebounds and blocked three shots.

Kaylee led all rebounders with ten. She also tallied four points, a block and two steals.

In the other game at Maples today, Oklahoma dominated Quinnipiac from start to finish. The Sooners came out blazing with a 16-3 run before the Bobcats pulled themselves together. Actually the teams played pretty even for most of the rest of the game, but the Bobcats weren't able to seriously reduce the deficit. They cut the lead down to eleven briefly seven minutes into the second half, but the game ended with a 111-84 victory for Oklahoma.

In other Pac-12 action this weekend, OSU (74-62 over South Dakota State), ASU (74-55 over Ohio) and Cal (78-66 over Wichita State) also advanced to the second round of the NCAAs; Washington lost to Miami (FL) 68-60. UCLA advanced to the second round of the WNIT (70-64 over CSU Bakersfield) and WSU lost to Eastern Washington 67-75.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

A gallery of photos by Nhat V. Meyer (Bay Area News Group),

A gallery of photos from Stanford Photo,

The game highlights video,

The press conference audio with Tara, Taylor and Lili.