Sunday, April 6, 2014

Facing the Music in Music City

We've made this mistake before: gone to the Final Four arriving the middle of the day before the first games. There's quite a bit of stuff on the two days before that would almost justify the cost of another hotel night. Game day minus two, there's the WBCA (Women's Basketball Coaching Association) awards dinner. The major attraction here is seeing your favorite players all poshed up in their best frocks.


Frame grab from "Real Ladies of Maples"

You have to be a WBCA member to get in (fan membership is $85/year) but anyone can stand outside and see the teams enter on a red-carpet walk.


Frame grab from "Real Ladies of Maples"

So we didn't see that. Some years, there's the WBCA's High School All-America game. It wasn't held this year. On game day minus one, there are the team open-practice sessions, highlighted this year by the impromptu line dance (don't miss the video). We didn't see that; it was happening about as our plane was landing. There's a battle of the bands, that should be fun. Stanford's band won it this year.

Wandering around "Tourneytown" on game day we did happen into the mascot play-off, won by the Tree on a trivia question.

Closer to game time there was a no-host reception for Stanford fans in the lobby of the team hotel.

Finally it was game-time. And you know how that went down, with the hopeful first half and the struggling second half, ending with the final team huddle of the season.

For the above pictures at higher resolution, as well as a bunch more photos of Nashville and things before and around the games (Muffet's green shoes ... E. Payne's award ... the Pedal Tavern ... the Terp being adorable...), check out the photos in the gallery.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

(For lots more pictures, see our Smugmug gallery!)

Yesterday was clear and bright, but when we peeped out this morning we found the ground (and our car) covered in an inch of fluffy, dry snow.

The roads were already wet so we did the short drive to Café Diem again, but did not venture the drive down to Des Moines to see the inside of the Capitol. Maybe some other time (not likely). At three we drove all of four blocks to the Gateway Hotel on the other side of the street for the team send-off.

Heading for the game we noted patches of blue sky and remarked that we hoped it would hold, as tomorrow we have to drive back to Omaha.

The game didn't start well, with Florida State leading by 7 or 8 for several minutes.


Ruh-roh!

Then Stanford clamped a smothering defensive blanket on the Seminoles and went on a 26-2 run to end the half 32-16. The second half the teams were almost exactly equal and the game ended 63-44.

Whew, we breathed in relief, back to California and Maples! And headed out the door to find...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day Off in Des Moines

Each tournament trip has at least one day off. Well, we suppose the team is watching film and practicing. But we fans have to fill the time somehow. This is a brief account of how we did that, to accompany our gallery of pictures. (Yes, click that link!)

We checked out the free breakfast at the Best Western. Blah. So we headed into downtown Ames and had a very pleasant time at the Café Diem on Main Street. Nice room with lots of comfortable tables, decent capuccinos, and cranberry scones just out of the oven.

Then we drove the 30 miles to check out Des Moines. ("It is named after the Des Moines River, which may have been adapted from the French Rivière des Moines, meaning 'River of the Monks.'" Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Main target was the state Capitol which turned out to be an outrageously gold-domed structure sticking up like a yellow beacon on a hill visible from many miles away. We walked around it for an hour in bright sunshine, but got thoroughly chilled in the 35F breeze.

Then we took a slow ramble through downtown Des Moines, and stumbled onto a sculpture park in the middle of the city. Lots of whimsical art works certainly brighten an otherwise not especially memorable place.

Further down Grand street we came to the Des Moines Art Center, a large and interesting gallery specializing in art of the 19th century to now. The building, with its three parts designed by three different major architects in different eras, was interesting and fun to see.

From there we ambled back to Ames via minor roads. Pretty boring drive, actually, with everything colored beige with accents of gray. For a few weeks in May this region is probably stunningly lovely. (Then it gets hot.)

Streamed the OSU trouncing of Middle Tennessee on the computer, and so to bed.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Smack Dab in the Middle

OK, technically speaking the geographic center of the USA is near Lebanon, KS, more than 300 miles east of Ames, IA. But from a California perspective Ames is close enough. So here we are in the middle of the country, courtesy of the Selection Committee, to see some basketball games.

Flights to Des Moines were few and expensive; it was much less costly to fly from SJC to OMA. Since we would have a rental car anyway, and the weather forecast was favorable, the 275-mile freeway run from Omaha to Ames was acceptable.

Saturday morning was clear, but to Californians arctic-cold at 35F with a gusty wind. We had breakfast at a Starbuck’s in downtown Omaha, which on this brief viewing seemed quite nice, with a number of impressive bronze statues of buffalo and pioneers scattered around the streets. Then we headed out for Ames.

The drive was an uneventful 75mph tour of what would probably be very attractive farming country in the spring. Right now everything was in shades of beige, with ice on all the ponds and a few patches of old snow on the roadsides. One impressive feature was the large number of huge wind turbines scattered across all high ground. More are being built, at least we saw one of the 100-foot-long vanes being trucked down the freeway.

Game 1

In Ames we opted to forego the send-off at the team hotel in order to be sure of not missing any of the first game of the day, the host school Iowa State Cyclones, seeded 7th, versus the 10th-seed Florida State Seminoles. The very large Hilton arena was quite full, the lower bowl at least 3/4 full and quite a few people in the upper reaches, mostly Iowa State fans. (Iowa State has averaged over 10,000 attendance this season.) The atmosphere was exciting and cheerful with a horde of happy fans clogging the aisles.

Unfortunately for the local fans, FSU dominated the game from the outset. They began with a quick 3, then two more 3s in the first couple of minutes, and had a ten-point lead before the Cyclones scored anything but free-throws. The Seminole’s hustling defense left Iowa State clearly discomposed, rattled, and out of rhythm. At the half the Cyclones had but a zephyr’s 18 points on a miserable 18% shooting pace.

During the second half Iowa State seemed to be trying to control the pace and their own emotions, but the only result was that their offense seemed slow and plodding. The final score was 55-44, showing that neither team had much offensive power. It was a very sloppy game: the ESPN recap notes that in this game, there were more turnovers than there were field goals!

Game 2

Toward the end of the recent TV documentary on Tara Vanderveer, after the loss to USC, Tara’s voice is heard saying “For the last month our offense has been stagnant, we need to work on that.” (She might have said “static” not “stagnant” but that was the general idea.) As a result we had hoped to see the Cardinal come out with new offensive fire for this game and dominate it.

They did not dominate from the start; the Coyotes (pronounced “coy yotz”) scored first and still led 13-12 after 5-1/2 minutes. Then Stanford surged to an 8-point lead and retained a large lead to the end. Bonnie really led the offense with six 3-point shots made, as well as some impressive rebounds. Lili hit three more (of six attempts) and also grabbed rebounds.

Chiney was the scoring leader at 23 points, but to our eyes she was not playing at her best. It’s perhaps heartless to say that the player who got 23 points and 8 rebounds, and became all-time scoring leader for Stanford, wasn’t at her best. And possibly it’s the defensive attention she now gets from every opponent that keeps her from controlling the paint as she used to do; or perhaps she’s just tired after a long season of being the heart and soul of the team.

Mikaela was a force in the first half, with 6 gritty rebounds, 3 assists and 4 points in only 13 minutes of play. At one point during a rebound, a South Dakota player’s arm hit her head and dislodged her scrunchy so her pony-tail came undone. She jogged down the court and through much of the next possession trying to get it under control until Tara subbed for her.

During a scrimmage for a loose ball, Mikaela tried to save the ball from going out of bounds, fell backward, and hit her head on the floor with a thump we could hear on the other side of the arena. She left the game and didn’t return, although word later is that there is no sign of concussion and she is available to play Monday. That’s a major relief because the team was clearly working better when she was on the floor.

On to Monday

Monday the vibe in Hilton Coliseum should be quite different from today’s crowded, county-fair atmosphere. First, it’s a weekday game that will start at 5:30. Very few of the South Dakota “howling pack” will stay; with their team gone they’ll head back to their day jobs. And a lot of the thousands of Iowa State fans will probably stay home as well. So it will be a much quieter place with probably plenty of choice of seats. Stanford should be pleased at not having to play in front of a roaring crowd of Cyclone fans.

On the other hand, Stanford will have to play a team that has a hustling, pressing defense not unlike that of Colorado or USC, two teams that gave the Cardinal trouble this season. If the lessons of the PAC-12 tournament have been learned, Stanford will keep their composure and execute against FSU. If they do, then FSU’s sloppy ball-handling and frequent fouls should make it a fairly easy win.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Not the desired outcome

By Wally Mersereau

I’m not sure what the opposite of “all’s well that ends well” is--probably something like “all’s bad that ends badly”. That pretty well describes my mood on this rainy Saturday evening in Seattle. Before entering Key Arena for tonight’s Stanford game I had endured two four-game, ten-hour days in that venue. One of the games was a challenging Stanford win over Colorado, but I could have done without the other seven games and not felt deprived at all.

As I entered the arena this evening my confidence in Stanford winning the tournament was high. I expected two difficult, but winnable games. I was pleased that the first 8 games were over and only three remained. I anticipated Stanford would be in two of those games, would win them both and would emerge once more as tournament champion. I thought the hardest game would turn out to be last night against Colorado.

At a chalk talk at the Westin hotel this afternoon, Tempie told us the game plan included tight defense, leaving no USC player unguarded. This was a good plan, but it was not executed well. USC outplayed Stanford, especially on defense. The Trojans achieved a much tighter defense—just the kind Tempie said was Stanford’s objective.

Southern Cal should have been more tired, having played two games in two days. Stanford had only played one. But USC started off ahead. Stanford struggled back after 10 minutes or so and managed to take a small lead, but at the half it was a 32-32 tie. Chiney had 13 points and Lili 7. Crooks had 13 points for the Trojans.

I had expected some effective halftime adjustments. Instead, USC jumped to an 8-point lead and held it until midway in the second half. Stanford then whittled away and finally got a 3-point lead with 3 minutes to go. But in less than a minute the Trojans had taken back the lead, built it to 7 and then held on against Stanford’s frantic efforts. Before the final horn Stanford got within one point, but could get no further.

The desperate fouling by Stanford in the final minute was reasonably effective, but was not enough and the final score was 72-68 with the wrong team on top.

As Stanford fans, we are not conditioned to deal with losses. They are too few and far between to build our tolerance and toughen us to take a loss or two in stride.

Chiney did her part, ending with 30 points despite a lot of misses. Lili and Amber got in low double digits. But it wasn’t enough. The primary reason for the loss was not being able to carry out the game plan of tight defense on every USC player.

This is an elimination tournament and Stanford was eliminated tonight. USC deserved its win after fighting like Trojans.

Another Long Day

By Wally Mersereau

The second day of the Pac-12 Tournament was sunny and dry. Stanford Red was much in evidence in Key Arena. Attendance was much the same as yesterday: 300-400 in the afternoon and 700-800 at night.

Game 5

#1 Stanford took on #9 Colorado at noon. This was a game of two halves—the first one was unsatisfactory, adjustments were made and the second half represented a nice comeback and a taking control of the game by the Cardinal. Chiney had only 5 points in the first half, but ended with 19. Lili came alive in the second half. Alex played 17 minutes and made nice contributions. Mikaela made key shots and grabbed rebounds. Bonnie continued her fine play on offense and defense.

Colorado led at the half 23-21. The final score was 69-54 with Stanford on top. In the first half Stanford was unable to capitalize on rough play and resultant fouls by missing most of its free throws. The weak start by the Cardinal was troubling. Stanford needs to play more consistently well if it is to win this tournament and stay alive in the NCAA tournament to follow.

Chiney ended with 19 points and 11 rebounds; Mikaela with 10 points and 16 rebounds; Lili with 16 points and 3 rebounds and Bonnie with 15 points and 4 rebounds.

Nneka was in the stands.

Game 6

I was so emotionally drained by urging Stanford on in the first game that I did not have much energy or interest for the second game between #4 Arizona State and #5 USC. I had no preference as to which team won. ASU generally led in the first half, USC in the second. The game was tied with two minutes to go, but the Trojans squeaked by to win 59-57. Stanford will play USC in the 6 pm game on Saturday.

Amy, Kate and Tempie scouted this game.

Game 7

The 6 pm game was the Friday highlight. #7 Washington State put itself forth as a Cinderella candidate by defeating #2 Cal 91-83 in a hard-fought game. The Cougars led 45-44 at the half. Lia and Tia were the stars for WSU with 24 and 19 points, but the victory was a real team effort with strong performances by many Cougar players.

Brittany Boyd fouled out with 5:48 to play. Gray and Brandon led Cal’s scoring with 25 and 19 points. The Bears started desperation fouling with a minute to go, but WSU plunked in free throws to assure its upset win.

Game 8

The final game of the day matched #3 Oregon State and #11 Utah. The Beavers jumped out to a quick lead and built on it to a half-time score of 32-13. Utah could not get its shots to fall. OSU looked much more poised and polished than early in the season. Jamie Weisner played for the first time in 8 games with two pins in her broken left hand, but did not score. Wiese and Hamblin were the dominant players for the Beavs.

The final score was OSU 50, Utah 35. Only three players scored in double digits, Wiese for the Beavers and Plouffe and Potter for the Utes. Utah shot only 21% from the floor.

Looking Forward

At the end of this second long day, two days remain, but 72% of the games have been played and only three remain. Eight teams have been eliminated. The semi-final games on Saturday will be Stanford vs. USC and Washington State vs. Oregon State. I’m looking forward to the three remaining games on a more humane schedule. I’m hoping Stanford will take care of business early on both days and come away with the championship. The WSU-OSU game tomorrow should be a good one. I have no prediction as to the winner. Washington State had to work harder for its win today than did the Beavers and has had to play an additional game. So Oregon State will be fresher. A deciding factor will be whether the Cougars can sustain their will to win into a third day.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Endurance

By Wally Mersereau

Endurance is essential to survive certain challenging ordeals: running a marathon, persevering in the dog sled race to Nome, and being a fan for all of the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament. The latter event goes on and on. Fortunately, the seats in Key Arena are well upholstered.

In four games, eight teams went at it like cats and dogs, as if their very survival depended on it—which it did. Four teams won and will play at least one more game. For the other four it was one and done--their 2013-2014 season ended in defeat in Key Arena.

The competition began at noon and concluded ten and a half hours later.

Game 1

First up was #8 UCLA against #9 Colorado. The Bruins led slightly at the half, but the Buffs tied the game midway through the second half and then took the lead and held on to win 76-65. The Wilson sisters finished with 16 and 17 points each. Stanford will play Colorado at noon on Friday. Kate and Tempie scouted today’s game. A key Cardinal objective will be to control the Wilsons.

Game 2

Next up was #5 USC vs. #12 Arizona. This should have been an easy win for the Trojans. Arizona only came out on the winning end of one Pac-12 game this season. But Arizona fought like Wildcats and led at the half 30-25. The teams traded the lead in the second half and USC managed to do just enough to come away with the win 59-54. USC will play Arizona State on Day 2.

Game 3

This 6 pm tip-off game was the most fun to watch. #7 Washington State took on #10 Oregon. Oregon brought its run-and-gun offense and the Cougars matched the fast pace and then some, led by Tia and Lia. At the half the Cougs were ahead 59-55. In the second half the Ducks twice cut the lead to three, but the Paul Westhead era ended as WSU triumphed 107-100. Four players led the scoring: Presley and Galdeira for the Cougars with 31 points apiece and Rowe and Alleyne for Oregon with 29 and 28 points each. WSU will play Cal on Friday.

Game 4

I began yawning in this final game of the day as fatigue began to show itself. But the game was not a yawner. #6 Washington, the slayer of Stanford, met #11 Utah. The Huskies did not have their magic touch today and allowed the Utes to come away with the upset of the day. Utah led at the half 31-28 and at the finish 65-53. Plouffe scored 28 for Utah and Plum 20 for UW. The Utes are the lowest seed to progress to the second day when they will meet #3 Oregon State.

Most fans did not stay all day. Only a few of the hardiest or most foolish did so. The majority came to watch their team and then departed, usually arriving early or lingering to watch part of another game. My guess is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people were present for at least one game. At any one time attendance varied from about 200 to 300 for the afternoon games and from 700 to 1,000 for the night games.

Friday will again be an endurance test for ardent fans with another slate of four games. The top four Pac-12 teams will arrive fresh and confident to meet the tired survivors of Day 1, all of whom were forced to give their all to earn the right to play another day.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

South Central to Westwood

By Wally Mersereau

Acting upon Dave Cortesi’s FBC travel suggestion of taking in the USC-Cal game at noon before leisurely moving west for the Stanford-UCLA game at 4 pm, I trod the familiar path to the Galen Center on a sunny Sunday in Los Angeles. This was a good idea. I was able to warm up for a day of women’s college basketball while conserving my emotional energy for the second game of this double-header.

It was Senior Day at Galen. Cassie Harberts, Desiree Bradley and Kate Oliver were given tearful thanks and a fond farewell.

If I hadn’t been there to see it I wouldn’t have believed this was the USC team that pushed Stanford to the limit on Friday. In this game Cal immediately took the lead and never gave it up. The first half was fairly close with Cal up a maximum of 8 points. In the second half Cal led by an average of 11 points, with a final score of 76-67. Brittany Boyd’s ankle was not taped or braced and she only winced once after landing after a rebound. Otherwise she seemed her usual frisky, overconfident self.

I then set off across the great metropolis to the haunts of the Bruin. It was “Going to College Day” at UCLA and there was a large turnout of children who greatly increased the attendance in Pauley Pavilion. My guess was that there were about 6,000 seats filled

Pauley still has a brand-new feeling. And it far surpasses Galen in the quality and quantity of concessions. Galen has no ice cream. Pauley has five kinds, presenting the difficult problem of which to choose.

It also was Senior Day at UCLA with Thea Lemberger and Atonya Nyingifa the honorees.

For a reason unknown to me, Tara surprisingly started Briana, Erica M and Bonnie along with Chiney and Amber. Once substitutions began, the usual starters began taking the floor. Every player appeared to be in shape to play.

UCLA held the lead for most of the first half, but not by the large gap USC had achieved on Friday. In general, the scoring gap was 5 points or less. Stanford tied the score shortly before the half and led at the halfway mark 29-25. The Cardinal was pretty sloppy much of the first half and contributed generously to the UCLA lead.

During the first 10 minutes of the second half Stanford kept a 4- to 8-point lead. Then the Cardinal increased the gap slightly to between 9 and 14 points for the last 10 minutes. The final score was 65-56. Chiney finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 steals and 8 of 12 free throws. Amber was the only other Stanford player in double digits with 13.

Team statistics were not encouraging. Only 2 of 9 3-point attempts went in for a lowly 22.2%. Worst of all, the team had 9 assists to 16 turnovers—evidence of sloppy play, especially in the first half.

Bonnie played extremely well, more than her stats indicate. As usual, Mikaela also was a real warrior with 7 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and 3 of 5 free throws.

This game became increasingly comfortable to watch. While Stanford had come back from a big hole against USC, it stayed clear of a hole against the Bruins. This game was much preferable. In the second half today Stanford played much better on offense and defense, closer to expectations. Overall, it was not pretty, but the right team won.

This was a rough and tough weekend, as the trip to LA often is. The final result was another two notches on the Cardinal belt. A win is a win and Stanford is returning with two more of the desired W and none of the dreaded L.

The frosting on this weekend’s cake, achieved this afternoon in Westwood, is the clinching of the Pac-12 championship once again. I am hoping to see “2014” added to the board in Maples for next weekend’s final Pac-12 season’s games.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Trying Trip to Trojan Land

By Wally Mersereau

Friday was a beautiful winter day in LA with a high temperature in the 70s. There was a little haze, but the Hollywood Hills were clearly visible from my downtown hotel room.

This is an important road trip. The Pac-12 season is winding down. Stanford is close to clinching the conference title, but really needs to win-out from here on. Every game is going to be a battle, with every opponent trying to pick off the Cardinal. The target is on Stanford’s back in day-glo colors. No opponent is going to fail to notice.

Approached southbound on Figueroa, the Galen Center has a massive, and somewhat fascist, façade, something Mussolini would have liked although he would have left off the brick trim. Inside, it is a very pleasant place with comfortable seats and short, easy-to-navigate aisles. The arena announcer is more of a homer than the one at UCLA, embarrassingly over the top with booming, long-drawn-out names of the Women of Troy. USC is big on dancing girls and there were two large platoons of them in contrasting uniforms, but only a small band. At the 6 pm tip-off there were about 250 fans present, but the attendance more than doubled by half-time. The official count was more than a thousand, but I moved to a sold-out section that was well under half full, so I stand by my estimate.

Lili was not suited up. Everyone else seemed fit to play. Karlie was back from resting her foot and started, along with Taylor and the Big Three.

The game began the wrong way and got worse before it got better. For much of the first half it reminded me of the Washington game. USC was scoring on almost every possession and Stanford had a hard time finding the basket. At the first time-out Stanford trailed 4-12. Four minutes later it was 9-21. With 8 minutes remaining in the half it was 13-31 and that also was the score at the 6-minute mark. From this 18-point deficit, Stanford finally began to battle back, closing to 30-37 at the half. I had been hoping the Cardinal could reduce the gap to single digits and this was done. This was a nice come-back from a deep hole.

The second half was better from start to finish. At the first time-out the score was 37-39 and with 12 minutes left 41-43. Stanford tied the game at 43-43 and then with 10:32 remaining was up 49-43 and kept the lead to the end of the game. The largest Stanford lead was 9 and the final score was 64-59. Stanford won the second half 34 to 22.

Three-point shooting went away again and the team made only 3 of 11 attempts for 27.3%. Rebounds were almost even with a 35-33 edge to the Cardinal. Stanford out-blocked 5 to 1, but was out stolen 4 to 6. Free throws were a bright spot with the team making 17 of 20 for 85%.

Tara substituted with abandon in the first half, seemingly somewhat desperately trying to find some combination that could stop USC and score some points for Stanford. Many players were in and out quickly and, in the end, the rotation of those with 10 minutes or more was seven. Chiney was in for 38 minutes, Amber for 37, Mikaela for 34, Bonnie for 28, Karlie for 21, Briana for 17 and Taylor for 14 minutes.

Chiney had only 9 points at the half and finished with 27, along with 7 rebounds. Bonnie was again second in scoring with 14 points, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc and 8 of 8 free throws. No other Stanford players were in double digits in points or rebounds. Briana made 7 points and looked good at the point. She is improving rapidly.

For USC Ariya Crook had 24 points and was especially dangerous in the first half. Cassie Harberts scored 12 points. No other Trojan broke into double digits. USC threatened at the end, getting to within 3 points with 18 seconds left, but Stanford held on with two free throws by Bonnie with 14 seconds left producing the final Cardinal points.

This was a trying game. I have the feeling there will be more like this, extending through the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford is going to be tested in every game from here on out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Buying Tickets for the Tournament

The PAC-12 is selling single-session and all-session tickets for the tournament at Key Arena in Seattle. This is the sales page. When you "Click here to buy" you are sent to a Ticketmaster page that loads an interactive arena seating chart. (In the Chrome browser, the seating chart never appeared, but it did on Firefox and Safari.)

You may have already ordered tournament tickets, perhaps when you renewed your season tickets for Maples. If so, those will be coming in the mail. As of 20 Feb, the Stanford Ticket Office has not received their allocation of tickets. They say they might have a few additional seats to sell after mailing out the pre-orders, but not many, and they can't say when they'll know for sure. So for additional tickets, it's back to the above purchase website.

There are large General Admission sections at the ends of the court. The bulk of reserved seats are $110 for all-session. Section 113 is behind the higher-seed bench; section 101 across from it. There are also three narrow "VIP" sections available across from the benches. "VIP 1" is across from the higher-seed bench. The VIP sections are $185 for all-session tickets.

The purchase process is involved and slow. Before you can complete a purchase you need to create an "account" with the Seattle Storm. There's a "create account" link at the top of the page, and it's a good idea to do this (or log in, if you created one last year) before selecting seats.

You click on one of the blue sections to view the individual seats available (not very many) and select your choice. One at a time you put the tickets in your "cart" and then check out with a credit card.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Two Notes for Your L.A. Weekend

Two quick notes for those attending Cardinal games in L.A. this weekend.

Cheap Tix

If you don't already have your UCLA tickets, André L. has contributed four tix for that game that you can use. If you want them, email feedback@stanfordfbc.org or leave a message at 650-387-3645. You can pick them up at the USC game Friday.

Consider attending Cal-USC Sunday

Cal plays at the Galen Center at noon Sunday. If you want to take in a whole lotta basketball, there would be plenty of time to attend that game and get across town for the 4pm Stanford-UCLA game later that day.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Perfect Storm

By Wally Mersereau

The sky was gray, but the ground was dry, when I arrived in Seattle early on Saturday afternoon. I had successfully left the rainy Bay Area behind. Weather forecasters were not in agreement as to whether or not the Bay Area storms would reach Puget Sound. Until 6 pm optimists, including me, were smugly pleased. I didn’t bother to carry an umbrella as I strolled downtown streets.

But then a few light snow flurries suddenly appeared. By 7 pm there was a light coating of snow on the roofs of parked cars and by 9 pm trees and roofs were white. On Sunday morning I looked down from my hotel windows at all horizontal surfaces covered with snow. Residents told me this was the first significant snow of the winter.

On Friday Stanford barely won a close game over Washington State and Washington had barely lost a close game to Cal. By Sunday the Bay Area teams had crossed the Cascades in opposite directions. Stanford had not contained the two quick Cougar guards. Would it do better against the two quick Husky guards? I headed for Alaska Airlines Arena on the UW campus to find out.

Red brick Hec Edmundson Pavilion was built in 1927 and seats 10,000. Alaska Airlines obtained naming rights to the facility in 2011. About 2,800 fans trudged through the snow on Sunday to see what would happen after tip-off. Little did they know.

I probably should have recognized the snow storm as being a bad omen. Washington jumped out to an early lead and the storm inside the arena began to build. It was a case of excellent, but not outstanding, shooting by the Huskies combined with unbelievably dreadful shooting by the Cardinal.

The team stats tell the depressing story. UW made 30 of 64 shots from the field at a rate of 46.9%. Good, but not great. But Stanford made 28 of 81—yes, that’s right—53 unsuccessful efforts for an embarrassing 34.6% return. How could that be? Stanford missed 53 shots! Wait, there’s more.

From beyond the arc, Washington made 9 of 22, a respectable 40.9%. Stanford made the same number of 3-pointers, but out of 41 attempts for an embarrassing 22%. How could that be? Stanford had 32 failed 3-point efforts! Where did all of the talented long distance Cardinal shooters go? They were all there, heaving it up time after time with little to show for their efforts.

Only from the free throw line did Stanford excel—making 17 of 20 for 85%.

I could go on, but you know the rest. You also saw it unfold like a bad dream.

Washington played a great game. The Huskies were not intimidated in the least by #3 Stanford. Every UW starter scored in double digits. The Huskies did not Fear the Tree. Many UW players stepped up. Stanford did not contain the quick Husky guards--or any other Washington players. Sadly, Stanford fell short, ending a long string of Pac-12 wins.

This was not a good trip to the Northwest, almost a loss to Washington State on Friday and then today’s debacle. Time to take a deep breath, reflect, and then begin again. This team is too good not to bounce back and play better than ever.

Go Stanford!