December 30, 2009

Cardinal prevails against dogged defense

In a preview of the Stanford/Fresno State game, Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said, "Fresno State's only chance is to dictate the pace, pounce on Stanford's one glaring weakness – 15.5-turnover average – and to stay hot from 3-point range.

The Bulldogs managed two out of three – not enough to keep the Cardinal from winning 68-46.

Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said, "Our challenge will be to get them out of their rhythm," and the Bulldogs did exactly that most of the game. They forced a very fast-paced game, defended with great energy, pressed relentlessly – and caused 14 turnovers. They closed the lead to one point early in the second half, but Stanford came back strong with a 30-2 run.

The first four minutes of the game looked more like a weird event in a track meet than a basketball game. The teams tore up and down the court, taking turns clanking the ball off the rim. Stanford missed six shots and Fresno State missed seven. Ros finally broke the impasse at 15:55 with a three-pointer, and the Stanford fans sat down. 32 seconds later Emma Andrews hit a layup, and the 3800 Fresno State fans sat down.

The Bulldogs were not able to stay hot from three-point range. Stanford's defense shut off the perimeter. The Bulldogs attempted 19 three-point shots and made just three of them – well below their 9.6-of-27.7 season average.

Fresno State double- and triple-teamed Jayne, especially in the first half. But she prevailed in the second half and ended with a 20-18 double-double. She also had three assists and three blocks.

Kayla played her usual strong game in spite of the tough defense. She too had a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds – and four assists, three blocks and two steals.

Nneka had 11 rebounds and eight points (none of them 17-footers tonight).

Joslyn had her best game since returning from her injury. She made four of six field goals, including one three-pointer, in 14 minutes of play.

Here are the game reports:

The box score and play-by-play,

And photos:

Kayla goes up for a layup Jayne grabs a rebound Kayla goes after a rebound Bulldogs impede Lindy's dive for the ball Jaleesa Ross tries to prevent Kayla's pass

Bulldogs have tall task vs. Stanford

Jeff Davis, sports writer for the Fresno Bee, previews today's game against Stanford at the Save Mart Center:
On paper, this is Adrian Wiggins' best women's basketball team at Fresno State. On the court, can it pull off enough miracles to upset No. 2 Stanford?

Improbable perhaps, but not impossible ...

Gonzaga's coach Kelly Graves, whose team was defeated by Stanford 105-74 earlier this seasons, says, "Stanford is beatable by a midmajor school, but it will take a near-perfect game ... and that's probably asking too much."


December 28, 2009

Next up: Fresno State

The Fresno State Bulldogs won the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) regular season and tournament championships last season. They lost to Cal in the first round of the NCAAs.

This season, they are currently second in the WAC (behind Boise State) with an 8-4 record. One loss was to West Virginia, which was ranked #23. The other games were against unranked teams. They have won all four of their home games.

However, the Bulldogs are more of a threat than their record suggests. They are very strong three-point shooters. As a team, they make 34.6% of their three point attempts and average 9.6 of them a game – that's fourth-best in the nation. (For comparison, Stanford averages 7.3 at a rate of 36.1%.)

Their best three point shooter and best all-around player is 5'8" junior guard Jaleesa Ross. She averages 3.6 three's per game – the sixth-best individual record in the nation. She is Fresno's top scorer (17.8 points per game). She is also their best rebounder (6.0 per game) and has the most blocks (0.75 per game).

You can tell from Ross's latter two statistics that Fresno is not strong on defense. As a team, they average 37.4 rebounds per game, the same as their opponents.

They are a fairly short team. Their only "big" is 6'3" freshman center Jeanna Furst, who plays about ten minutes a game. (6'2" junior center Veronica Wilson is a transfer from Boston College and will not play this season.)

Besides Ross, the starters will probably be:

  • 5'8" senior guard LaShay Fears averages 7.8 points and 2.9 assists per game. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.13.
  • 6'0" freshman guard Rosie Moult averages 5.8 points, 1.6 three's, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.71 – the best on the team. She is one of four Australians on the team.
  • 6'1" junior forward Hayley Munro, also from Australia, averages 10.9 points, 1.6 three's and 4.5 rebounds per game.
  • 6'0" senior forward Joh-Teena Filipe averages 8.5 points, 1.2 three's and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Stanford and Fresno State have played each other 23 times. Stanford leads the series 17-6. Their most recent game was just about a year ago at Maples. Stanford won 100-62. The Bulldogs are no doubt eager to do better at home this season.

Here are their 2009-10 statistics and their roster.

December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!

by Dana Stewart

As Christmas approached
Santa's on the Card wagon
But the Elves were all doing
A bit too much braggin'.

"We smushed Blue Demons and Devils
And that team coached by Pat!
And we took down the Huskies,
At least for a Half!"

While Santa thought much
Of the December run
He had to put an end
To all the Elves' fun.

"I said it last year
And I'll say it again.
The middle doesn't count!
It's how the season ends!"

"So it's not from a loss
Or the wins that they earn.
It's what they do with it
And how much they learn!"

The Elves thought for a moment
And sipped some egg nog
And suddenly came out
Of the pre-season fog.

"Of course, you're right, Santa!
They will get even better!
Tara, Amy, Bobbie and Kate
Will teach down to the letter!

Jayne patrolling the paint
With Nneka and Jos,
And lock-down defense
By Jeanette and Ros,

And timely shot making
By Kayla, JJ and Mel
And with the bench play
Of Lindy, Ash and Michelle,

Not to mention contributions
from Mikaela and Grace,
And cheering from Sarah and Hannah!
This is a team to embrace!"

At this, Santa smiled
At the thought about when
The Cardinal starts play
Throughout the PAC-10.

His toy making over
He'd be ready to cheer
And get ready for March Madness--
His real favorite time of year!

So he packed up his sleigh
And headed into the night
To make children's Christmas
All shiny and bright.

The reindeer took flight
To Santa's "Ho-Ho-Ho!"
Followed quickly by cheering
Of "Go Stanford! Go!"

December 23, 2009

Cardinal gets the little "w" this time

Stanford had a great first half, offensively and defensively. They outrebounded UConn, outshot them 57% to 50% and out-three'd them 43% to 8%. The Huskies went to the locker room down by two points, for the first time in a zillion or so games.

But the Huskies returned from the locker room on fire and took over the game, to a final score of 80-68.

There are probably enough lessons to be learned from this little "w" to last until the next meeting in San Antonio.

It was a great effort in spite of the disappointing ending.

Nneka's contribution was especially notable. She scored the team-high 20 points and showed a new weapon in her arsenal – a jumper from out near the 3-pt line. She made three of them tonight.

A small ray of sunshine at the end was Joslyn, Michelle, Ashley, Lindy and Mikaela playing the last 2-1/2 minutes and reducing the Huskies' lead by four points.

Here are some game reports:

The box score and play-by-play,

A transcript of postgame quotes by Tara, Nneka and Jayne,

A photo gallery from US Presswire

And more photos:

Nneka pulls in a rebound Kalana Greene defends Jeanette Tina Charles drives past Jayne Nneka defends Tiffany Hayes Kayla defends Maya Moore

Jeanette gets the point

Mechelle Voepel tells the nation some things about Jeanette that all good Cardinal fans know well:
  • Viewers aren't necessarily going to exclaim about any of the plays she makes. Yet Pohlen has been a "bolt" keeping things together for Stanford more than she probably gets credit for doing.
  • Jeanette as a freshman played the 4, the 3, and the 2, and in the middle of the year last year Tara decided that she needed to be the 1
  • She's really athletic, she is fast. When people talk about what players bring, she is tough, she goes hard, she pushes the ball in transition, and she is really learning the position.
  • She is averaging 11.7 points and leads the team with 41 assists through nine games.
  • She really makes our team go," Tara said, "She'll play the 1 or the 2, but her speed, her motor -- it goes and goes and goes.

December 22, 2009

Kayla embraces her inner geek

Kayla's outstanding play is drawing national attention, as well as Pac-10 awards. Here is a great story about her by Graham Hays (ESPN).

The next great rivalry?

If you think too much about the Cardinal is not quite enough, you'll enjoy this feast of hyperbole and speculations about the upcoming Stanford vs Connecticut game.

Graham Hays (ESPN) writes, in part:

While winters no longer include the formerly familiar annual clash between Tennessee and Connecticut, the two best teams in the country are ready to continue what fortune and the NCAA tournament have turned into a regular tradition across five meetings in the past six seasons.

The involved parties will say all the right things about a game that settles nothing.

For the rest of us, the fun of it is in settling nothing. And for at least the current contract spanning this season and next, it's a rivalry that will only help the sport get better. Read more...

John Altavilla (Hartford Courant), "While some wonder whether Tennessee and UConn will ever resolve their issues and resume their series, the Huskies and Stanford appear close to a long-term relationship that might someday rival it." He reports that Geno and Tara are both in favor of extending the home-and-home series beyond 2010. Read more...

Jim Fuller (Register Citizen) reports that the players are getting fired up about the game. They leave the big picture talk, the speculation of how the result of the game will impact the national landscape to those more inclined to ponder such things.

Maya said, "I don’t know how to label stuff as rivalries, we just go out and play against who we are [scheduled] to play against. Stanford is a great team and it is going to be fun."

Nneka said, “They are good competition, I am really excited to play against them ... [it] will only make us better. You learn things when you win or lose." Read more...

Roger Cleaveland (Republican American), " ... finding meaningful comparisons that might lead you to believe the opposition could play the Huskies competitively has proved hopeless in the past 14 months. Such is not the case regarding Wednesday’s game against No. 2 Stanford due to one “big” reason: post presence."

"While UConn may have the best center in the country in 6-foot-4 senior All-American Tina Charles, the Cardinal arguably have the best overall post presence in 6-4 senior center Jayne Appel, 6-2 sophomore power forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike and 6-4 small forward Kayla Pedersen."

He suggests that the Huskies’ can neutralize some of Stanford’s size and low post presence by making the Cardinal run up and down the court. (My opinion, "I don't think that's going to work.") Read more...

Jim Fuller (New Haven Register) writes, "Now comes the fun part ... the UConn faithful finally get to see their Huskies get tested." His UConn/Stanford breakdown includes a mid-November scouting report from Charli Turner Thorne. Read more...

Jake Curtis, "Is this Tara VanDerveer’s best Stanford team ever?" He proposes that the game against UConn may determine the answer. If the Cardinal loses, but makes a game of it, the question will continue to be asked. If the Cardinal wins, it will be considered Tara's best team ever — until it loses, that is. Read more...

Scott Ostler (SF Chronicle), "Best Stanford team ever? We'll know more Wednesday after the Cardinal play No. 1 Connecticut, on UConn's court. We already know this might be VanDerveer's gutsiest team, starting with the coach."

He continues with a discussion of Tara's scheduling this tough stretch of games in preparation for, "The East Coast and Southern bullies that Stanford will have to face in the NCAAs." Read more...

December 21, 2009

Kayla is Pac-10 Player of the Week

Kayla earned her second Pac-10 Player of the Week award for helping the Cardinal to impressive wins over Duke and Tennessee.

Kayla was the Cardinal's top scorer in both games, as she was in four previous games this season. She averages 19.1 points per game, which is second-best in the Pac-10 (she and Nneka are taking turns at the top spot).

There's far more to Kayla than her shooting skill. After the Tennessee game, Pat Summit said, "She makes a big difference. She can play off the bounce; she can get to the paint; she's got good passing skills; she's a scorer — she's just a great utility player, 'cause she's just got so much."

Kayla played all but four minutes of those two games. After the Tennessee game, Tara said, "I'm not taking her out unless she comes over and asks me to ... and then I'll probably argue with her."

Congratulations, Kayla ... and Thanks!!

Next up: UConn

All that I'm going to tell you about the Connecticut Huskies is where to find their 2009-10 statistics and their roster. I doubt there's anything I could say about them that hasn't been said a hundred times already.

A couple of weeks ago, Geno Auriemma said that the upcoming Stanford vs UConn game was, "... a no-win situation. If we beat them it's because they were worn out by playing three really good teams before us. If they beat us, it's because we were poorly prepared by our schedule."

Last week, Tara said, "Playing Tennessee is always a win whether its a big 'W' or a little 'w'. It's a win because you understand what you have to do to get better. They always let you know what you need to be doing – what you need to work on."

I think she would say the same of UConn. The upcoming game ...

Will be a win – big or little – for both teams!

Will be a win for basketball fans who get to see the two best teams in the country trying their hardest to get the Big W!

Is already a win for you – you're a Cardinal fan!

Looks like a win all around!!

December 20, 2009

More sweet game reports

Here are several more fairly redundant reports of yesterday's sweet game: Have you noticed today's RPI (statistical team rankings)? For several weeks the top three have been:
1 Connecticut
2 Tennessee
3 Stanford

Today it's:

1 Stanford
2 Connecticut
3 Tennessee

December 19, 2009

Orange crushed

67-52! So-o-o-o-o Sweet!!

One of the nicest things of the day happened as the Lady Vols began to leave the court after the game. They turned back and all the players – Tennessee and Stanford both – formed a big circle with arms entwined. When asked about it at the postgame tent, Jeanette said that it, "... wasn't planned, it just happened."

Tara said, "Every game we play against Tennessee is a win. You learn something and get better because of it. If you don't also get the most points, it's a little 'w'. Today we got the big 'W'."

The victory was emphatically a team effort, beginning with Kate Paye's scouting report, which the entire team studied and learned. Learned so well that the Stanford bench was calling out Tennessee's plays during the game.

They practiced hard, with the reserves taking the roles of Lady Vols. Sarah was so enthusiastic in her impersonation of Kelley Cain that she was warned not to injure Jayne.

They learned well from their "F" in rebounding against Duke – they outrebounded Tennessee 44-34.

Their defense was excellent. They, primarily JJ, were all over Angie Bjorklund (Tennessee's threat on the perimeter) and held her to 15 points and just three 3-pointers, two of them easy ones towards the end of the game. They, primarily Jeanette, held Shekinna Stricklen (Tennessee's top scorer and second-best rebounder) to eight points and two rebounds.

Jeanette was Ms. Do-Eveything. She guarded Stricklen without committing a single foul, she had six assists with just two turnovers, she maintained her 100% free shot percentage, she scored seven points and had three rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

Kayla played the full 40 minutes and quietly made her presence felt, as usual. She was the top scorer with 16 points, and had three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.

Nneka had a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds). She got a lot of defensive attention again, as she did from Duke – eight of her points were on free throws, which she made at a rate of 80%.

Jayne had her second double-double of the week (10 points and the game-high 14 rebounds), three assists and three blocks.

Ros found her shot against Tennessee again and hit two three-pointers and a layup in less than two minutes towards the end of the first half. That extended Stanford's lead to 12 points, and Tennessee never really recovered.

Here are the game reports:

The box score and play-by-play,

The press conference video,

The game highlights video,

And photos:

One of Jayne's three blocks Kayla drives past Stricklen Jayne boxes out Jeanette drives to the basket Hmm-m-m-m, this isn't quite what I had in mind

December 18, 2009

The Great Rivalry

Tomorrow's game between Stanford and Tennessee will be the 27th one between the two teams.

Jake Curtis says of the long-standing rivalry, "It’s not a rivalry so much as an annual status report pitting two of the best against each other." Read more...

Rick Eymer (Palo Alto Times) writes that "The Silencer", a.k.a. Kayla Pedersen, will be an important part of the game plan. Read more...

In an article by Dick Fleser (Knoxville News Sentinel), Pat Summit is so effusive in her praise of the Cardinal that one might think she's trying to lull them into a false sense of security. Read more...

Mechelle Voepel (ESPN) gives us a detailed preview of the upcoming game between, "... what might be the most earnest-looking Tennessee group you've ever seen and Stanford — a team that combines skill, athleticism, grace and intelligence as well as any fan could hope to see." Read more...

Michelle Smith ponders whether Summit's plan to climb from last year's first-round NCAA exit to the Final Four will be blocked by Stanford. Read more...

December 17, 2009

Next up: Tennessee

The photo's got nothing to do with the upcoming game, but it's one of my favorite memories of the Stanford/Tennessee series – Ros leaving Shannon Bobbitt in the dust on her way to scoring nine points in overtime two years ago.

But to move on to the present ...

The Lady Vols are proving that last season was an aberration, not a trend. The seven freshmen have matured and bought into Pat Summit's work ethic and commitment to excellence.

They were picked to finish second in the SEC (behind LSU). They've made an impressive start. They are undefeated (9-0) in a tough non-conference schedule that included games against three ranked teams – Baylor, Virginia and Texas. They're ranked #3/#3. Their RPI is 2 and their strength of schedule is 5.

How do they match up against the Cardinal?

At the Point

Tennessee's starting point guard and their "do everything" player is 6'2" sophomore guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen. She is their leading scorer (16.0 points per game) and their second-best rebounder (7.4 per game). She gets fouled a lot and makes 92% of her free throws. She has the most assists (4.2 per game) and a good assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0).

Coming off the bench to run the point are 5'2" sophomore guard Briana Bass (0.9 ppg, 1.7 ato), 5'11" freshman guard Kamiko Williams (2.6 ppg, 0.7 ato) and 5/10" junior guard Sydney Smallbone (3.1 ppg, 1.0 ato). Reserve forward 6'1" sophomore Alicia Manning (4.3 ppg, 1.7 ato) sometimes runs the point.

Stanford's starting point guard and "whatever-it-takes" player, Jeanette, averages 12.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. She has the most assists (4.4 per game) and a good assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9). She makes 100% of her free throws, but doesn't get fouled very often.

Sharing point guard duties with Jeanette are JJ (9.5 ppg, 2.2 ato) and Lindy (2.0 ppg, 0.4 ato).

As a team, Tennessee's assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.0. Stanford's is 1.2.

On the Perimeter

Tennessee's starting shooting guard 6'0" junior Angie Bjorklund is their best three-point shooter. She makes 3.1 per game at a rate of 43.8 %. The only other Lady Vol who makes at least one three-pointer a game is starter 6'1" freshman guard Taber Spani (1.1 per game at 37.0%).

On the perimeter for Stanford, Kayla leads the way with 2.5 three-pointers per game at a rate of 45.5%, Jeanette adds 2.3 at 42.9%, and JJ adds #2.4 at 38.8%.

As a team, Tennessee averages 5.9 three-pointers a game. Stanford averages 7.9.

In the Paint

Tennessee's "big" is 6'6" sophomore center Kelley Cain, who averages 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. She is joined in the paint by starter 6'3" sophomore forward Glory Johnson, who is Tennessee's best rebounder (8.0 rebounds) and third-best scorer (13.2 points ) and reserve 6'3" sophomore forward Alyssia Brewer (7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds).

In the paint for Stanford, Jayne averages 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Nneka adds 19.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. Kayla adds 8.0 points inside the arc and 9.3 rebounds.

As a team, Tennessee averages 45.2 rebounds a game – 16.2 of them offensive. Stanford averages 46.4 rebounds – 17.6 offensive.

After their game against Texas, Pat Summit said, "We have size and skill in the post. When our posts get doubled, they're able to kick the ball out." So far this season, Tennessee post players have made 19 assists (2.1 per game). Jayne, Nneka and Kayla have made 54 assists (6.8 per game).

Here are Tennessee's 2009-10 statistics and their roster.

December 16, 2009

Postgame analyses

Mechelle Voepel and Michelle Smith have written interesting postgame analyses of the Stanford/Duke game in terms of its effect on Saturday's game against Tennessee.

Voepel concludes, "... if you're looking for what might be the most entertaining game of the season at Maples, it's likely happening Saturday. That is, if Tennessee holds up its end of the bargain. From what we've seen, it's safe to say Stanford will." Read more...

Smith concludes, "... Stanford knows what it needs to do to be better on Saturday. And they can thank Duke for the help." Read more...

December 15, 2009

Blue Devils exorcised

A game preview from North Carolina yesterday predicted, "If Appel dominates and their shooters get any good looks, Duke will lose by double digits."
  • Jayne had ten points and ten rebounds – the only double-double of the game.
  • Kayla, JJ and Jeanette sank six three-pointers
  • Stanford 71, Duke 55
It wasn't easy. The Blue Devils are noted for their aggressive play, and they brought it all to Maples.

Stanford lost the battle of the boards 39-44, but outshot Duke 46.9% - 28.4% and benefited at the charity stripe by making 79% of their free throws.

The score was tied at 17 halfway through the first half. Then Stanford went on a 17-point run, and Duke never got closer than eight.

Kayla is my player of the game with 22 points, three 3-pointers, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. She also made the play of the game – a solo fast break – by tipping a rebound to herself and racing it down the court for a layin.

Nneka played for 39 minutes in spite of receiving a great deal of attention from Duke's tough defenders. She had 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

JJ had 12 points, two 3-pointers and six assists.

Jeanette also played for 39 minutes and had nine points (her three's weren't falling tonight). three rebounds, four assists, a block and two steals.

Ros (and Jeanette) kept Duke's top scorer, Jasmine Thomas, in check most of the time and limited her to 14 points.

Jayne had the aforementioned double-double and some foul trouble. Joslyn came in briefly several times and gave Jayne a rest.

And that was it for Stanford. Tara said at the postgame Q & A session, "This was not a game for experimenting [with the lineup]."

Here are game reports:

The box score and play-by-play,

No press conference or game highlights videos yet. Maybe tomorrow – look for them on the FBC website.

And more photos:

Jayne lays up a shot Karima Christmas comes up with the ball Karima Christmas shoots over Nneka JJ drives past Keturah Jackson Karima Christmas drives past Nneka Jasmine Thomas drives into Jeanette Ros congratulates Nneka (on surviving?)

December 14, 2009

From Duke's point of view

DWHoops is an independent media organization that covers Atlantic Coast Conference and Duke Women's Basketball. Senior editor Rob Clough has posted a most interesting article "Previewing Duke at Stanford".

His bottom line is, "If Appel dominates and their shooters get any good looks, Duke will lose by double digits."

Read it all here. You'll enjoy it.

Nneka is Pac-10 Player of the Week ... again!

In the DePaul game last week, Nneka took heed of Tara's advice, "Start off with a knockout punch, then keep punching them into the ground." She scored the game-high 24 points – her fourth 20+ point game performance this season. Her scoring average is now 20.1 – best in the Pac-10 and #22 in the nation. Her field goal percentage is 63.9 – second-best in the Pac-10 and fifth-best in the nation.

Her outstanding performance earned her the Pac-10 Player of the Week award for the second time in her career and the second time in a month.

Congratulations Nneka!

December 13, 2009

A well-oiled machine

The Cardinal came back from their two-week layoff hard and fast and smooth, and defeated DePaul 96-60.

Nneka led the onslaught with 24 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block.

Ros played with ferocious intensity for 28 minutes and had her best game of the season – 12 points, including one from beyond the arc, five rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Jayne's first rebound of the game was the 1000th of her career. She joins Val Whiting and Nicole Powell as the only Stanford women to achieve that. She now needs just 138 more to break Nicole's record of 1143.

Five players scored in double digits – Nneka, Jeanette, Jayne, Ros and Kayla.

Five sank three-pointers – two from Jeanette, two from JJ, one each from Kayla, Ros and Grace.

Rust? Perhaps a couple of spots, but they wore off by the end of the game.

Here are:

Jayne drives for a shot

Kayla battles for a rebound

Jeanette pulls up for a shot

Kayla grabs a loose ball

The bench celebrates Grace's three-pointer