I devoted most of Thanksgiving Day to flying eastward from SFO, beginning before daylight. Arrival and departure boards showed a normal number of flights and my two flights were full, but the three airports involved were not crowded. I did not reconcile these somewhat conflicting observations. By late afternoon I was on the west coast of Florida riding in a taxi from the Fort Myers airport to the exotically named Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort, the hub of the Gulf Coast Showcase College Basketball Tournament. The weather was reminiscent of Hawaii, sunny and warm, with a gently blowing trade wind.
Eight teams and supporters of one sort or another were in residence. The initial event was a Thanksgiving buffet dinner held outdoors on a lawn with seating at many round tables. Debbie Antonelli, freelance basketball analyst, briefly interviewed each coach about aims for his or her team in the tournament. One coach said one of his goals was not to peak too early. Thinking of Monday’s game with Santa Clara, my first thought was that Stanford clearly had not peaked too early, but then I realized it was possible it had peaked in its home opener with George Washington. I decided that was unlikely and concluded the Cardinal could reasonably expect to resume its goal of progressing toward a late-season peak. Stanford’s three games in this tournament will reveal more about the team’s strengths and weaknesses and its progress toward its peak.
The tournament provides four games each day, with winners advancing to play other winners and losers playing consolation games against other losers. The Sunday result will be two undefeated teams playing for the tournament championship while other teams play for third, fifth and seventh place. Buses take teams, parents and fans the three miles or so between the hotel and the arena.
On Day One Stanford was in the second game against the Missouri State Lady Bears, preseason favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference. This was the Cardinal’s first chance to redeem itself after the Santa Clara loss and it did so in fine fashion, the highlight being 15 three-pointers. The Stanford record for most threes in a game is 16. Today there were 8 threes by halftime, but long baskets made in the second half came up one short of the record. Lili and Karlie had five each, Bri had four and Brittany had one. This was a satisfying and reassuring win. The final score was 82-65.
Kailee was given an unusual amount of playing time: 21 minutes, despite scoring no points. Lili led in scoring with 26, Bri had 18 and Karlie 15. Erica had 9 points and 10 rebounds, Kaylee 5 points and 8 rebounds. This was another good team effort.
Today’s win advances Stanford to a Day 2 matchup with the Dayton Flyers who won their opening game today over the Maine Black Bears. Dayton plays a flexible zone defense that will present another test for the Cardinal that struggled against Santa Clara’s zone. Against Maine the Dayton defense was very effective, with a final score of 58-37. All four Stanford coaches intently watched the Dayton-Maine game. At the hotel, before the games began, I asked Amy if the team was ready for a zone defense and she replied “I hope so.” I hope so too. Tomorrow will reveal the answer.
There were about 150 watchers in the arena at the start of the Stanford game, including 11 Stanford fans. This shrank to about 100 when a block of Dayton supporters left before the second half.
The third game was a hard battle between the Louisville Cardinals and the Marist Red Foxes. The first half was close with Marist ahead 32-28. In the second half both teams were tired from their strenuous efforts. In the end the more aggressive Cardinals wore down the nice girls from Marist to win 65-53.
I did not stay for the final game between LSU and Purdue. The winner of that game will play Louisville tomorrow.