Saturday, February 5, 2011

The return of the threes

By Wally Mersereau

There were lots of positive vibes in Tucson on February 5. The multi-year reconstruction of the I-10 freeway through Tucson has ended. Arizona has unusually attractive freeway structures, in both Tucson and Phoenix, with artistic ornamentation and an absence of graffiti. The temperature increased today by about 15 degrees to the mid-60s and it was a beautiful Saturday. A winter visit to the Arizona desert is a pleasant experience in general and can be enhanced by attendance at a Stanford women's basketball game.

The good vibes carried into McKale Center where President Obama made his Tucson speech a couple of weeks ago. Both teams came out in pink tee-shirts, looking quite a bit alike. The similarity in appearances ended when the tee-shirts were removed and play began.

The first good omens were Nneka getting the opening tip-off for the first time in 4 games, followed by Stanford scoring first. Two minutes into the game the score was 9-0 and Lindy had shown the way with the first 3-pointer of the day. By game's end Stanford had bagged twelve--count 'em--twelve 3-point shots which I'm sure is a season high, topping even the rain of threes in Oregon. Players contributing to that happy total were Jeanette with 5, Lindy with 4, and Toni, Sara and Grace with one each for a very nice 40%. Free throws also went well, with the Cardinal making 19 of 24 or 79%. The team assist-turnover count was a healthy 20 to 11. And Stanford out-rebounded the Wildcats 46 to 34. Nneka was especially impressive in her stretching scoops of many rebounds that would have been out of reach for other mortals.

All five starters had double-digit scoring, with Nneka providing a dandy double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Tara did not substitute as early or as freely as in the Arizona State game, but still nine players had 10 minutes or more of playing time. Toni played much more and much better today. Sarah had good hands today and was more active than usual in grabbing rebounds. A mystery was that Mel did not play at all. She was on the verge of going in with only two or three minutes remaining, but Tara called her back and sent Grace in instead.

The half-time score was 45-24 and the final was 91-61, returning Stanford to the 30-points-or-more margin for Pac-10 games.

Wilma and Wilbur Wildcat were present. Wilma has a red ribbon on her head and dances demurely. Wilbur is a full head taller than Wilma, wears a black hat and walks with a swagger. The Arizona band had three tubas, significantly fewer than ASU, but played well, with its leader dressed in a tie and blue blazer. The red tee-shirt-wearing band liked to chant "U of A", which I have always found a bit unusual because of the strong emphasis on the word "of". I don't think I have encountered another school that gives such prominence to "of". There were four floor-bound baton twirlers and four female cheerleaders who were lifted aloft by their male counterparts. Attendance was announced as 2,300, but my eyeball survey led me to conclude that closer to 1,200 actual bodies were occupying seats. That included about 40 Stanford fans who had much more to cheer about than did the quieter 1,160.

This was a good road trip. Stanford passed its most challenging Pac-10 test so far at Arizona State and showed it was back in the groove at Arizona. The Pac-10 win-loss record now stands at 11-0, which is consistent with the other good vibes felt in Tucson today.

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