December 30, 2012

Moving on to the conference season

I'm not sure what broke yesterday, but I'm confident that Tara can fix it and take the Cardinal through another successful conference season — play starts next weekend.

Chiney, for one, will be ready to go. After the game yesterday, she said, "Connecticut, the team we just played for 40 minutes, is the standard. We need to get to that standard. I'm motivated, definitely." Then she suggested that she and Amber might take a few extra shots before the evening's men's basketball game.

How is the conference shaping up this season?

A few days ago, the Eugene Register-Guard published an article by Curtis Anderson in which he asks, "Will this be the year that Stanford tumbles from its perch atop the Pac-12 women’s basketball universe?"

He concludes with a comment by UCLA coach Cori Close, “Stanford sets the bar so high, it gives us a measuring stick. I’m not saying someone is going to knock them off, but this conference has risen up and is ready to have some very competitive games, even with Stanford.”

Click here for Anderson's article.

Click here for his preview of each team.

December 29, 2012

Cardinal schooled by the Huskies

UConn, who was clearly the better team today, defeated Stanford easily 61-35.

Stanford had no answer for UConn's superb defense. It almost literally stopped the Cardinal in its tracks time and time again. It held them to the fewest points in a game and the lowest shooting percentage (19.3) in the 24 years that those stats have been recorded.

The Cardinal defense was pretty good too. It held the Huskies to their fewest points of the season, and the Cardinal got more rebounds (44-40) and more O-boards (17-6) — the only encouraging stats for them and their fans.

Chiney was heavily defended — double- and triple-teamed — but she never stopped trying. She kept forcing up shots — many of which teetered on the rim, then fell out of the basket. I don't believe she got a single sweet roll today. She made only 27% of her shots, but her persistence earned her yet another double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Bonnie brought a gleam of hope to Cardinal fans when she sank back-to-back three-pointers midway through the second half.

But it was far too little, far too late. The Cardinal will have many lessons to learn from the video of today's game.

Chiney speaks to the team after the game

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

A gallery of photos by Bob Drebin (Stanford Photo),

A gallery of photos from the (Mercury News),

December 28, 2012

Last words

I'm looking forward to seeing the game instead of reading about it. But there's still time for some last words about Great Rivalries, Streaks, and TV Snubbery:

1 vs 2: Stanford, UConn women renew rivalry by Doug Feinberg (Associated Press)

No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 UConn face off in women's basketball by Elliott Almond (Mercury News)

Stanford vs. UConn Gets Short Shrift From ESPN Networks by Jeff Jacobs (Hartford Courant)

UConn-Stanford women to write another chapter in growing rivalry by Rich Elliott (Connecticut Post)

Breaking Stanford's streak not high on priority list by Jim Fuller (New Haven Register)

More commentary from Connecticut

Here are more stories about tomorrow's game from several Connecticut journalists:

Note: I had a bad link to the CARDboard in my previous post — that's been corrected now.

December 27, 2012

Commentary on Stanford-UConn Showdown


UConn's Geno Auriemma, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer expect lots of offense by Elliott Almond (Mercury News)

Stanford-UConn showdown more than just No. 1 vs. 2 by Rick Eymer (Palo Alto Online)

Stanford-UConn: More Than A Fairy Tale by John Altavilla (Hartford Courant)

Previewing UConn from the CARDboard

Maples set for 1-2 showdown

By Michelle Smith (espnW):

It's only December. But Saturday's showdown feels like so much more. Stanford's 82-game home winning streak — and No. 1 ranking — are on the line when UConn comes to town. Read more...

December 25, 2012

The Huskies are coming

I'm sure there'll be a plethora of commentary on the upcoming Stanford/Connecticut game in the next few days, so I'll just give some basic facts here.

The game will be at Maples at 1:00 on Saturday. The game is sold out and promises to provide as much excitement as the Cardinal/Huskies matchup of 2010.

The game will be televised by ESPNU and broadcast by KZSU for those unlucky women's basketball fans who can't be in Maples.

It will be a battle between the top two ranked teams in the nation, both undefeated, for the coveted #1 spot.

There is extra incentive for each team to win:

  • Stanford will be protecting its home game winning streak of 82 games, the longest in the nation.
  • Connecticut would dearly love to break that streak as payback for Stanford's breaking its 90-game win streak in 2010.
This is how they match up statistically midway through the season:

Points per game 75.7 88.1
Scoring margin +24.0 +45.1
Field goal % 50.6% 54.0%
3-pointers per game 4.9 9.0
3-point % 34.8% 40.7%
Free throw % 74.2% 73.1%
Rebounds per game 44.5 40.4
Rebounding margin +12.9 +12.6
Assists per game 14.6 22.0
Turnovers per game 12.2 13.7
Assist/turnover ratio 1.20 1.61
Steals per game 5.5 12.2
Blocks per game 5.5 5.7
Win-loss record 11-0 10-0
Rank 1/1 2/2
RPI 1 4
Schedule strength 2 12

The Huskies' key players — their current freshman phenom, last season's freshman phenom, and four seasoned upper classmen — are:

#30 6'4" freshman forward Breanna Stewart has played on five USA Basketball gold-medal winning teams since her freshman year in high school, received numerous Player of the Year awards as a senior, and is on the Naismith award watch list this season.She's the Huskies' leading scorer (16.9 ppg), rebounder (7.2 rpg) and shot blocker (1.6 bpg). She makes 59.8% of her field goal attempts and has tallied two double-doubles.

#23, 6'0" sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis takes turns with Stewart as the Huskies' leading scorer. She's currently second with 16.4 ppg. She's the Huskies' most prolific three-point shooter — she's taken ⅓ of her shots from beyond the arc and made 54% of them, for an average of 2.9 per game. She also tallies 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

#31, 6'5" junior center Stefanie Dolson is the Huskies steady presence in the front court. She averages 11.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.

#14, 5'7" junior guard Bria Hartley sprained her ankle last summer and got off to a slow start this season. She missed the first two games of the season, but is getting back to full form and scored in double digits in the Huskies' last two games. Her averages for the eight games she's played in are 10.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals.

#34, 5'11" senior guard Kelly Faris has started every game as the Huskies point guard since her freshman year. She's always had an excellent assist/turnover ratio — 4.7 this season (#1 in the nation, as of 12/16) and 1.99 for her career to-date. She also averages 9.4 points. 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game.

#5, 5'10" redshirt senior guard Caroline Doty may have never achieved her full potentional after her series of ACL injuries, but she still contributes a strong 16 minutes per game to the Huskies' success. during which she averages 4.3 points (3.3 of them from beyond the arc), 1.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. She's started eight of ten games this season.

Here are UConn's 2012-13 statistics and roster.

December 24, 2012

Remembering John Pohlen

I am saddened to hear that John Pohlen, Jeanette's dad, died yesterday after a two-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

My husband and I first met John and Cindy Pohlen in 2007 when we shared a taxi in the Virgin Islands en route to Jeanette's fourth game as a Stanford freshman in the Paradise Jam. We were delighted to meet Cardinal parents and they were delighted that we knew their daughter and admired her game.

They told us that their two older sons had finished their collegiate sports careers and that they were finding great joy in devoting their leisure time to following Jeanette's career.

It didn't take them long to become key members of the Cardinal family. John's business obligations occasionally interfered, but he and Cindy attended almost all of Jeanette's home games and many away games in the next four yours.

I remember John as a very gregarious person — always friendly and cheerful — who went off and sat by himself at Maples so that he wouldn't be distracted from his intense interest in the game.

I remember that John, who was once a basketball coach, guided the off-season training that helped Jeanette develop into an outstanding basketball player.

I remember John, so proud of Jeanette's fabulous performance when Stanford won the conference title in her sophomore year.

John taking over the role of pink-clad Cardinal dad from John Appel in Jeanette's senior year.

John taking the mike from Jeanette at the postgame meeting after Stanford won its 11th consecutive conference championship in 2011. He spoke of his admiration for the Cardinal basketball program and of how far Jeanette had progressed in her career. "Her first basket was for the wrong team," he said.

I remember Cindy and John ushering Jeanette into Maples on Senior Day.

I so admired John for his devotion to his family and to Stanford Women's Basketball. My very best wishes and sympathy are with Cindy and Jeanette and all their family.

Defense helps keep Cardinal No. 1

Graham Hayes (espnW) explains how Stanford's unconventional defense is a big reason why they're No. 1. Read more...

December 22, 2012

Victory in Knoxville at last!

The Cardinal broke its seven-game Knoxville losing streak today with a comfortable 73-60 victory over the Lady Vols.

The orange-clad crowd in Thompson-Boling Arena stayed on their feet for 2 ½ minutes while Stanford took a 6-0 lead on jumpers by Chiney and Amber. The Cardinal had increased the lead to 19 five minutes into the second half and were never seriously threatened. Tennessee didn't get closer than nine in the remaining minutes of the game.

The Lady Vols found no effective defense against Chiney, who tallied her eighth consecutive double-double with 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds (eight of them O-boards). She also had a career-high five assists and two blocks.

Although Amber's time on the court was limited by foul trouble in the second half, she played a very strong game today. She tallied 14 points, three rebounds, six assists, a block and three steals!

Toni was strong on both ends of the court. She kept the Lady Vols' energetic leading scorer, Meighan Simmons, in check and helped to limit her to just 12 points. She blew by and through the Lady Vol's defense to score 11 points and added a rebound, two assists and two steals.

It looks like Jos is coming out of her scoring slump. She made just one of three shot attempts in the first half. When asked at halftime what could be improved, Tara said, "We need more offense from Jos." Perhaps Tara repeated that to Jos in the locker room — she took eight shots in the second half and added eight more points.

The Cardinal didn't bring their 3-point game east with them, with one glorious exception – Bonnie. Tara put her in late in the first half when the Lady Vols began to nibble away at the lead. Bonnie, quick as a wink, sank back-to-back 3-pointers, and Cardinal fans breathed easily again. She stayed in for 15 minutes and contributed some fine defense as well as another 3-pointer and a couple of free throws.

Toni's eleven points included one 3-pointer, but that was it from beyond the arc for the Cardinal. As was the case in South Carolina, the Cardinal replaced shots from the perimeter with drives to the basket. Jos drove and scored once, Mikaela twice, Toni and Amber again and again.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The game highlights video,

A gallery of photos by Randy Sartin (USA TODAY Sports),

And photos by Wade Payne (Associated Press):

Chiney drives
Amber drives
Toni drives
Toni puts up her shot
Chiney takes her shot
Jos looks for a receiver
Toni keeps an eye on Meighan
Jos on defense
The cheering section

December 21, 2012

Lady Vols seek redemption

The Tennessee Lady Vols held a press conference today. The main topics were their loss to Baylor yesterday and their hopes to get back on their track to the top with a victory over Stanford tomorrow.

Here is the Associated Press report by Steve Megargee: Lady Vols seek redemption against No. 1 Stanford

and videos of the interviews of coach Holly Warlick:

and freshman forward Bashaara Graves:

December 20, 2012

Pac-12 flexing its muscle

For the first time in six years, the Pac-12 has four teams that are ranked in the top 25 of the national polls — Stanford 1/1, California 8/9, UCLA 12/16 and Colorado 25/nr.

Michelle Smith (ESPN) writes:

The Pac-12's women’s basketball coaches have spent years trying to convince others -- and sometimes themselves -- that their league is a rougher, tougher place than it is perceived to be.

This year, though, the Pac-12 has a strong case for folks to buy what they are selling.


December 19, 2012

Still undefeated, by the skin of their teeth!

In a highly competitive game that kept bringing the crowd of 8000 to its feet, the Cardinal managed to barely squeak past the Gamecocks to a 53-49 victory.

In a pregame interview, coach Dawn Staley said, "Because [Stanford] is the No. 1 team in the country, everybody is going to watch and see what they’re doing. I think we’re just going to be in the way."

The Fighting Gamecocks got in the way bigtime with a suffocating defense that disrupted the Cardinal offense. They clogged up the interior and closed off the perimeter — the Cardinal made just 40% of their shots, well below their 52% season average; they took only four shots from beyond the arc and made none of them. The tough defense also contributed to the Cardinal's season-high 18 turnovers, ten of them from Gamecock steals.

But the Cardinal outrebounded the Gamecocks 42-31 and out-blocked them 11-2. The Cardinal defense held the Gamecocks to just 29% shooting.

The Cardinal were ahead most of the game, mostly by just a couple of points. Their biggest lead was seven points for less than a minute in the first half.

With 1:14 left to play, the score was tied 45-45 and the Cardinal had possession. Tara called a timeout. I (and maybe the Gamecocks) expected that the ball would be in Chiney's hands, but it went to Mikaela instead, who laid it up and in for perhaps the most exciting two points of her career.

Toni began the scoring with a jumper and ended it with six free throws. In between, she kept driving through the Gamecock defenders to the basket and ended with a total of 15 points.

Chiney battled through the tough defense to a seventh consecutive double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds. She also had four blocks.

Jos didn't score at all tonight, but her defense was a key factor in the Cardinal victory. She had seven blocks (matching her career high) and seven rebounds.

Amber led the Cardinal offense most of the game. She had little opportunity for assists, but contributed eleven points to the Cardinal victory.

Taylor played for eleven minutes. She didn't tally any stats, but showed no ill effects from her hard fall in the Pacific game.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The game highlights video,

And photos by Rainier Ehrhardt (Associated Press):

Toni drives to the basket
Chiney tries to get to the basket
Jos looks to pass
Mikaela hangs on for dear life
"Almost" is so disappointing

Stanford visits South Carolina tonight

Darryl Slater (The Post and Courier) writes of the impact that Dawn Staley has had on South Carolina women's basketball and previews tonight's game. Read here...

The article is based partly on interviews with Coach Staley and players Ieasia Walker and Aleighsa Welch. Watch here ...

December 18, 2012

Is Mikaela the missing piece?

Has the Cardinal coaching staff found Mikaela to be the missing piece in the right mix for a sixth consecutive Final Four appearance? Elliott Almond (Mercury News) thinks so.

Mikaela has certainly found her role in the rotation since she was assigned the job of guarding Brittney Griner seven games ago. Since then she has averaged 2.6 assists (second to Amber) and 7.6 rebounds (second to Chiney, who claims that Mikaela is a rebound stealer).


December 17, 2012

Next up: Gamecocks and Lady Vols

The Cardinal heads across the country this week on a challenging road trip — first to South Carolina on Wednesday evening (4:30 pm Pacific Time), then on to Knoxville for a game on Saturday afternoon (1:00 Pacific Time).

Both games will be televised — the South Carolina game on Fox Sports South and the Tennessee game on SportSouth & Fox Sports Arizona. Be sure to check your TV Provider Guide for these games, which have been picked up by some nation-wide providers. Both games will also be broadcast by KZSU and shown by GameTracker.

Stanford played both South Carolina and Tennessee last season, but none of the three teams are the same. What will be the same is the intensity of the competition — expect nothing less than "A" games this week.

Toni blowing by Meighan Simmons last season

  South Carolina Gamecocks

You remember South Carolina, don't you — Dawn Staley's Gamecocks — the team that came close to defeating the Cardinal in the Sweet Sixteen last season?

The scrappy little senior guards who broke through the Cardinal defense for 32 points (Markeshia Grant and La'Keisha Sutton) are gone.

But the freshman forward who grabbed eight offensive rebounds and four defensive ones (Aleighsa Welch) is still there, and she isn't suffering a sophomore slump.

The Gamecocks are still an undersized, very good rebounding team with aggressive man-to-man defense. They allow their opponents just 42.7 points per game (#2 in the nation) and get 16.4 more rebounds per game (#2 in the nation). They steal the ball almost ten times per game. And you can bet that coach Staley has a game plan that will seriously challenge the Cardinal.

South Carolina is one of just eight undefeated teams in the nation. Its 10-0 start is the best in school history. It's moving up in the national polls and is now ranked #21/17.

The Gamecocks are weak in two areas — ball-handling and free-throw shooting. They average just a bit more than ten assists per game and have a poor assist/turnover ratio of 0.7. They have the worst free-throw percentage in the nation – 51.9% – and are losing about 12 points per game on missed free throws.

The Gamecock starters are:

  • #24, 6'0" sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch now leads the Gamecocks in offense as well as in defense. She's the second-best rebounder in the SEC, with an average of 9.5 rebounds per game — 5.0 of them are O-boards (#1 in the SEC). She's also the Gamecock's leading scorer with 11.9 points per game and has tallied five double-doubles.

  • #25, 5'9" freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell averages 11.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

  • #21, 6'0" senior forward Ashley Bruner averages 11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

  • #2, 5'8" senior guard Ieasia Walker averages 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. She's the only Gamecock who shoots much from beyond the arc. Half of her field goal attempts are 3-pointers and she makes 31% of them.

  • #20, 5'10" senior guard Sancheon White averages 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

Here are South Carolina's 2012-13 statistics and roster.

  Tennessee Lady Vols

Stanford vs the Lady Vols — so familiar, yet so different.

Stanford and Tennessee have played each other 29 times in the past 23 years — never without Pat Summit at the helm.

Stanford has won at Knoxville just once in those 23 years, in 1996 with Kate Starbird, Vanessa Nygaard, Olympia Scott, Jamila Wideman, Naomi Mulitauaopele — the team that went on to lose to ODU in the NCAA Final Four.

Pat Summitt still plays an important role for the team as the honored Head Coach Emeritus. She attends nearly every practice and is in the stands for all home games.

Long-time assistant Holly Warlick has taken over as the active head coach.

Last season's starting five — Shekinna Strickland, Glory Johnson, Vicki Baugh, Alicia Manning, Breanna Bass — have all graduated.

One thing that hasn't changed is that everyone in the program is committed to the Tennessee Lady Vols' tradition of excellence. Coach Warlick's message to her team as the season began was, "New team, new staff, new goals ... Same heart, same pride, same fight."

And the Vols' loyal fan base is still on board. Almost 11,000 orange-clad fans have attended each game in Thompson-Boling Arena, and they're probably all singing "Rocky Top".

The current Lady Vols have lost a lot of height, but they are compensating with speed and athleticism. They are an up-tempo squad: taking chances, forcing turnovers, pushing the ball in transition. They are the second-highest scoring team in the nation with an average of 87.0 points per game.

They slipped up against Chattanooga in their season opener, but have been sensational since then, winning seven straight games and beating four top-25 opponents — Georgia, Miami, North Carolina and Texas.

They began the season ranked #20/26 in the national polls and have moved up to #10/11

The Lady Vol starters are:

  • #10, 5'9" junior guard Meighan Simmons is primarily a shooting guard and the Lady Vols' leading scorer with 17.9 points per game. She scores about ⅓ of her points from beyond the arc, where she takes 33% of her shots and makes 37.5 % of them. and at the charity stripe, where she makes 92.3% of her free throws. She also averages 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

  • #12, 6'2" freshman forward/center Bashaara Graves is a very physical and athletic power forward. She's the Lady Vols' leading rebounder (8.1 rpg) and second-best scorer (15.0 ppg). She's had three double-doubles this season.

  • #20, 6'3" sophomore center Isabelle Harrison is productive on offense and defense with 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

  • #11, 6'2" sophomore forward Cierra Burdick is a small forward who has just about doubled her freshman production with 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

  • #5, 5'6" sophomore guard Ariel Massengale came off the bench as the Lady Vols' point guard for the first five games of the season while she recovered from pre-season injury issues. She has now joined the starters in place of freshman guard Andraya Carter, who had season-ending shoulder surgery a week ago. Massengale scores 9.1 points per game and dishes out 4.3 assists with just half that many turnovers.

Here are Tennessee's 2012-13 statistics and roster.