January 31, 2015

Cardinal cleans up act and conquers Cougars

The Cardinal's second victory of the season over the Cougars was considerably easier than the first one.

Cardinal play was sometimes sloppy in the first half as Cougar pressure caused way too many turnovers. But the Cardinal didn't let the game get away from them. They never fell behind by more than three and went into the locker room trailing by just two points.

Tara wouldn't reveal (at the postgame Behind the Bench session) exactly what she said to the team at halftime, but it was clearly good advice. The Cardinal started the second half with a 6-0 run.

June Daugherty called a timeout, after which the Cougars ended the Cardinal run with a three-pointer by Tia Presley. But the Cardinal were still ahead by one and kept the lead all the way to the end — to a 75-56 victory.

Amber led the Cardinal offense this afternoon with 15 points on 50% shooting. Although she had six of the Cardinal's 18 turnovers, she matched those with six assists and two steals. Tara said, "I never know who's going to step up for a given game, but I know that Amber always does."

Bird was close behind in the scoring with 14 points on 60% shooting. She also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots.

Three other Cardinal scored in double digits – Bri (11), Lili (10) and Karlie (10).

The Cardinal continued their careful shooting at the line. They made 73% of their free throws (16 of 22).

Cardinal defense held the Cougars to 31% shooting from the field, well below their season average of 39%. Lili's tight guarding held Tia Presley, the third-best scorer in the Pac-12, to just four points (that 3-pointer early in the second half and a free throw). Amber's defense held Lia Galdeira, the second-best scorer in the Pac-12, to 16 points (just short of her season average).

The Cardinal dominated the boards, 47-30, partly due to the absence of Cougar center Shalie Dheensaw, who suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Kaylee led all rebounders with eleven, six of them O-boards, in just 16 minutes of playing time. She also made three of five layups, one block and one steal.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

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

A video interview of Amber after the Cardinal tops Washington State.

January 30, 2015

Kudos to Amber and Bri

Amber has been named to a fourth individual award watch list — the Dawn Staley Award, which recognizes the nation's best guard in women's Division I college basketball. Read all about it in More Eyes on Orrange from Stanford Athletics.

Tom FitzGerald (SF Chronicle) recognizes Bri's contribution to Cardinal success in Roberson making most of opportunity

Anticipation and reflection

Rick Eymer (Palo Alto Online) anticipates the upcoming games against the Washington Schools: Stanford women's basketball tops busy home weekend slate

As does Alexa Philippou (The Stanford Daily): Women’s basketball seeks to strengthen position as Washingtons visit

Warren Grimes (SWBB fan) reflects on last weekend in LA:

Which Stanford player had the most minutes during the LA weekend?

If you guessed Amber, you are wrong, although she came in a close second at 67 minutes. The answer is Bonnie Samuelson, who had a combined 68 minutes. The highest scoring players over the two games were Amber (30 points), Bonnie (29 points), Briana (28 points), and Lili (22 points).

Yes, we are definitely still a guard-perimeter oriented team.

As far as rebounding, we out boarded UCLA but lost the rebounding battle to USC (USC had 41 boards to our 32), but the team was still performing at a level far above what happened against Arizona State. USC’s bad shooting percentage was at least partially responsible for the large number of offensive boards for USC. I was impressed with the determined boarding by both Samuelsons. Karlie, usually playing the three position, slightly outboarded her sister (for the weekend, .18 boards per minute for Karlie compared to .16 per minute for Bonnie). What is clear is that rebounding has become a team responsibility, not just left to the post players.

Not much new on free throw shooting. The team shot 72% for the weekend, but the percentages turn heavily on whether post players (not so good) or perimeter players (very good) are doing the shooting.

As to the pick and roll offense, I noticed one new wrinkle. The post players who set the pick were consistently breaking for the basket as soon as the defender made contact with them. This gives the ball handler (for whom the pick is set) an additional option (passing the ball to the post who is heading for the hoop). This did not work so well earlier in the game, but if memory serves, Kaylee Johnson got three late game layups off feeds from the ball handler. The defense can adjust to this, but if the post defender follows our post to the hoop, this will give more room to the ball handler to get to the hoop herself (or take the pull up).

Stanford has to continue to refine the offense to have a chance in the one time match up against Oregon State late in the season. But a lot to worry about before then, including this weekend against the Washington schools.

January 29, 2015

Cardinal vs Cougars previews

Here are previews of the game on Saturday afternoon at Maples:

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.)

January 10, 2015

Cardinal disrupts the Dawgs

This was an exciting, tense game, although it was another low-scoring affair, as both the Cardinal and the Dawgs disrupted each others' offense with strong defense.

The defense was extremely effective in the first half, which ended 22-24 and featured (if that's the word) a 2-for-17 streak of "clunks" and "clanks" and "whiffs" by the Cardinal offense.

In the second half, both teams began finding the basket. The Cardinal opened with a 9-0 run but the Dawgs quickly came back. All told, the lead changed five times in the second half, helped by long, dramatic three-point shots from both teams. Bonnie hit two very timely shots from well outside the arc, as did Washington's Kelsey Plum and Brianna Ruiz.

But the most dramatic shot of all came with less than 30 seconds on the clock. Stanford had the ball and ran the shot clock down to 11 seconds without attempting a shot, at which point Tara called time. Out of the timeout, the ball moved about from player to player but nobody could get open. With less than 2 seconds on the shot clock, the ball came to Lili, and she fired from well outside the line just as the shot clock expired. The ball came off the glass high above the hoop and dropped through.

The referees watched replays to make sure the ball had been launched in time – it had been, and Stanford had a four-point lead that Washington could not close in the remaining seconds. Stanford 60, Washington 56.

Nobody ran away with the scoring. Each team had three players who scored in double digits for a combined total of 41 points. For Washington: Kelsey Plum - 16, Jazmine Davis - 13, and Aminah Williams - 12. For Stanford: Lili - 15, Amber - 14, and Bonnie - 12.

Both Cardinal freshmen contributed greatly to the defense. Kaylee grabbed 13 rebounds, four of them O-boards (and committed only two fouls). Brittany came off the bench for 12 minutes, grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

And photos by Elaine Thompson (Associated Press):

Kaylee pulls down one of her 13 rebounds
Bird, the most energetic rebounder
Lili, a bit too aggressive on defense
Bonnie tries to keep Kelsey Plum from going to her left
Amber shoots against Aminah Williams
Karlie shoots over Brianna Ruiz
Lili drives past Kelsey Plum
Amber foils larceny attempt

January 09, 2015

Washington roadtrip and Bonnie

By Ashley Westhem, managing editor of sports for the Stanford Daily:

By Erik Erickson, University of Washington The Daily:

January 08, 2015

Next: Away in Washington

The Cardinal are playing their first conference road games this weekend in Washington:
  • In Seattle vs the University of Washington on Friday evening at 7:00
  • In Pullman vs Washington State on Sunday afternoon at 1:00
Both games will be televised by Pac-12 Networks, streamed online by Pac-12 Networks, and broadcast by KZSU. Washington live stats here; Washington State live stats here.

Lili drives against Jazmine Davis at Maples last season

  University of Washington Huskies (aka The Dawgs)

Washington took a while to adapt to its new coach (Mike Neighbors) last year, but came on strong towards the end of the season. They finished sixth in the Pac-12 with a .588 winning percentage and advanced to the Elite Eight of the WNIT.

They're continuing that strong play this season. They're the highest scoring team in the conference and the 12th-best in the nation with an average of 80.4 points per game.

They entered the season with one of the top returning backcourts in the country – Jazmine Davis and Kelsey Plum. Both earned All-Pac-12 honors last season, while Plum was the conference Freshman of the Year. They've increased their scoring a bit this season to a combined average of 40.5 points per game, which is the second-best in the nation for a backcourt. Their ball distribution has also improved, with Davis averaging a career-best 4.9 assists per game and Plum adding 3.7.

After losing their first game of the season, the Dawgs went on an 11-game winning streak capped with a 70-45 victory over #5 Texas A&M. That victory got them into the national Top 25 rankings as #23 in the Coaches Poll.

They began conference play last weekend with a loss to Arizona State, which dropped them out of the Top 25 to 26th place in both polls.

It's going to be an exciting weekend in Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Three major school records are on the verge of falling – Jazmine Davis is 58 points shy of the all-time scoring record, Aminah Williams 29 short of the rebounding record and Talia Walton 12 short of the blocks record.

The starting players are expected to be:

  • #10, 5'8" sophomore guard Kelsey Plum is the second-best scorer in the nation with an average of 25.0 points per game (just 0.7 less than the leader, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State). She takes about 30% of her shots from beyond the arc and makes 42% of them, for an average of 2.0 per game. She averages 3.7 assists per game and has a decent assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.3. She is the most-fouled Dawg and the best free throw shooter – she earns more than a third of the team's total free throws and makes 89% of them. She also tallies 2.0 steals and 3.2 rebounds per game.

  • #32, 5'7" senior guard Jazmine Davis runs the point for the Dawgs. She averages 4.9 assists per game (#5 in the conference), with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4. She averages 15.5 points (#7 in the conference), 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.

  • #3, 6'2" redshirt junior forward Talia Walton averages 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks (#2 in the conference) per game. She takes 46% of her shots from beyond the arc and makes 38% of them, for an average of 1.9 per game (#9 in the conference).

  • #23, 6'0" senior forward Aminah Williams is the leading rebounder with an average of 10.0 per game (#4 in the conference). She averages 9.0 points per game.

  • #21, 5'10" redshirt freshman guard Brianna Ruiz averages 5.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
The Dawgs' win-loss record (12-2 overall, 1-1 conference) places them in fifth place in the Pac-12. Their RPI (17) places them second and their strength of schedule rank (80) places them seventh.

Here are the Dawg statistics and roster.

  Washington State Cougars

Under the guidance of head coach June Daugherty, now in her eighth season at WSU, the Cougars continue their climb up the Pac-12 ladder.

They made major strides last season when they finished in seventh place with a .500 winning percentage after a very tough non-conference schedule. They advanced to the WNIT, their first postseason tournament appearance since 1991.

This year the Cougars are off to their best start in 24 seasons with a 10-2 record. Their usual tough non-conference schedule included three ranked teams — they defeated Dayton (#22) and Maryland (#10), but lost to Nebraska (#16).

The Cougars aren't ranked, but they have received votes in the national polls for the past several weeks.

With most of their core group returning, the Cougars have their sights set on returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than two decades. Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira have picked up where they left off last season, leading the team in scoring and among the Pac-12 leaders in both scoring and steals.

The starters in every game this season have been:

  • #3, 5'11"junior guard Lia Galdeira leads the scoring with 19.5 points per game (#2 in the conference) and is the second-most productive three-point shooter. She takes 37% of her shots from beyond the arc; she makes only 26% of them, but that comes out to 1.7 per game. She averages 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.2 steals (#2 in the conference) per game.

  • #5, 5'10" senior guard Tia Presley scores a bit less than Lia (18.9 points per game, #3 in the conference), but is the better three-point shooter. She also takes 37% of her shots from beyond the arc but makes 41% of them for an average of 2.1 per game (#4 in the conference). She averages 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.9 steals (#9 in the conference) per game.

  • #23, 6'4" senior center Shalie Dheensaw is a strong presence in the post. She gets the most rebounds (7.2 per game, #10 in the conference) and the most blocks (1.8 per game, #3 in the conference). She scores 8.3 points per game.

  • #11, 5'9" junior guard Dawnyelle Awa dishes 3.0 assists per game and has a very good assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.1 (#6 in the conference). She scores 5.1 points per game.

  • #34, 6'1" junior forward Mariah Cooks averages 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game
The Cougars' win-loss record (10-3 overall, 1-1 conference) places them in sixth place in the Pac-12. Their RPI (42) places them fifth and their strength of schedule rank (154) places them ninth.

Here are the Cougar statistics and roster.

January 06, 2015

Bonnie and Karlie making waves

Janie McCauley (Associated Press) has written a lovely story about Bonnie and Karlie: Samuelson sister tandem making waves in Stanford's starting lineup

New Year Bracketology

Charlie Creme (espnW) has published his opinion of the results of the 2014 non-conference season in his first bracket of the year.

He has seven Pac-12 teams in the bracket with these seedings and evaluation:

3 Oregon State
If last year's second-round NCAA tournament appearance didn't do it, this season's win at North Carolina certainly announced the Beavers' arrival to the national forefront.
4 Arizona State
The Sun Devils had a solid but under-the-radar nonconference season. They caught everyone's attention with a resounding win over Washington in their Pac-12 opener.
5 Stanford
After the win over UConn, the Cardinal have looked fairly ordinary, and it might be difficult to win at least a share of a 15th straight Pac-12 title. The new offense is still struggling to take shape.
5 California
The Bears have stumbled since losing Courtney Range to a knee injury and are relying on Brittany Boyd more than ever.
7 Washington
With 25.8 PPG on better than 50 percent shooting from the field, Kelsey Plum might be the most efficient scoring guard in the country.
10 Washington State
The Cougars have nonconference wins over Maryland, Gonzaga and Dayton, résumé-builders that could be big in March.
10 Southern California
Despite the dismissal of last season's leading scorer, Ariya Crook, a month before the season started, the Trojans are off to a solid start. Four starters are scoring in double figures.
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January 05, 2015

Cardinal beats the Utes, 55-44

Updated Jan 6: Added press conference audio.

In the first half the Cardinal struggled with a terrible case of lid-on-the-basket-itis, missing shot after shot. Utah graciously allowed them to stay in the game by shooting even more poorly at 21% to Stanford's 27%. The Cardinal showed some life late in the first half, igniting the crowd with a clean 3 by Lili and a strong layup by Kaylee. Still, the half ended on the very low score of 20-14. It was notable that Utah took no free throws in that half.

In the second half the Cardinal found their stroke and quickly raised their shooting to 37%, in the process taking a double-digit lead about the second media timeout and holding it to the end.

The Cardinal found a bit of the inside offense they've been working so hard to develop. Kaylee stayed out of foul trouble and in the game tonight for 29 minutes. She provided some fine defense with seven rebounds, four blocks and a steal. Even better, she scored seven points on two layups, a jumper and a free throw.

Bird made just one of three attempts, but it was a beauty – a clean layup on a perfect bounce pass from Taylor Greenfield.

Bonnie had a rough night, being repeatedly mauled by Ute defenders and scoring only two free throws. But she grabbed seven of the rebounds that gave the Cardinal a 43-33 advantage over the Utes.

Brittany provided an exciting few moments of hustle in the first half, as she stole the ball from Cheyenne Wilson and made a fast break for the basket. She was fouled on her layup, but made both of her free throws. She also blocked three shots.

As in Saturday's game against Colorado, the bulk of the Cardinal offense came from Amber and Lili who led the scoring with 17 and 14 points respectively.

Given the unfriendly starting time of 5pm on a workday, it was no surprise that the crowd was a sparse 2,782.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

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

More about Tara's injury that Rick Eymer mentions in his game report: Tara VanDerveer breaks bone in arm,

And photos by Nhat V. Meyer (Bay Area News Group):

Brittany heads for the basket with her stolen ball
Brittany is fouled on arrival at the basket
Bonnie heads for the basket
Bonnie heads for the floor as her shot is blocked
Amber takes control

January 03, 2015

Cardinal buffaloes Colorado

Stanford capitalized on a career-best 26 points from Amber to grind out a close, 62-55 victory over a determined Colorado squad.

Lili added 17 more points; no other Cardinal was in double digits.

Although it seemed at times that Colorado’s bigger, more aggressive players were mopping up every loose ball, in the end the Cardinal won the battle for rebounds, 37-35. The rebounding was a great team effort for the Cardinal, with ten players each grabbing from two to five rebounds.

Although Colorado came in with a reputation for sloppy ball handling, the Cardinal actually gave up more turnovers in this game, at 16-13.

Colorado took the lead for just a few seconds in the second half, but a Stanford win never seemed a certainty until the final seconds, and the shower of “victory balls” after the buzzer was very welcome.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The postgame interview of Amber by Ros (video),

The postgame press conference, with Tara, Amber and Lili (audio)

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

And photos by Jeff Chiu (Associated Press):

Lili takes it to the hoop
EPayne disagrees with a foul call
Good sibling defense
Bri harasses Haley Smith
Jasmine Sborov, Bird and Karlie fight for possession
Chiney and Sara are happy fans
Sweet victory