Friday, November 11, 2011

11s no jinx in Texas

By Wally Mersereau

On the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011 the Stanford women, with the eyes of Texas upon them, won their first official game of the season in Austin. They won it without Nneka who was out with some kind of “upper body injury”. They did it with important contributions from two of the freshmen. And they did it with Tara using 12 players, including 5 freshmen. It was not a pretty win, but it was a clear and important W.

Seven players had 21 or more minutes, including freshmen Taylor with 29 and Amber with 25. Taylor started the game, showing that her start against Vanguard was not just an exhibition oddity.

The first 6 minutes of the game were essentially a tie. Stanford took the lead and kept it with 8 minutes left in the first half. At the half it was Stanford up 35-30. Mikaela played for the first time this season—a total of 9 minutes.

Texas really stepped up its defensive pressure in the second half and maintained it to the end of the game. Stanford withstood the pressure well, although its lead shrank to 4 points with 13:30 left in the game. After that Stanford pulled itself together and kept control of the game, ending with a final score of 72-59.

On this Veterans Day, important veteran playing came from Chiney, Joslyn, Toni, Lindy and Sarah. Two outstanding freshman performances were provided by Taylor and Amber.

Chiney had a double-double in her 26 minutes, despite early foul trouble. She was high scorer with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Amber with 25 minutes and Joslyn with 23 minutes each scored 14 points and had 6 rebounds. Joslyn finished the game with 4 fouls. Toni scored 10 points and had 2 rebounds in 25 minutes. Taylor had 9 points and 2 rebounds in 29 minutes. Lindy’s stats were not impressive, but her play was. Sarah scored 6 points and had 6 rebounds in 21 minutes.

This was a hard-fought game with the outcome not certain until the last 5 minutes. Texas is a strong team and deserves its #24 ranking. Interesting comments from Texas fans seated behind me were that Chiney was the best player on the floor and that Tara is not afraid to substitute.

What were some of the lessons learned? Not having Nneka makes a big difference, but not a fatal one. Chiney is a leader and was able to rise above her early foul trouble to finish strong. Joslyn is truly much improved this season. Lindy and Toni can come through under pressure. Taylor and Amber both are excellent all-around players who did exceptionally well in their first real tests.

Tara substituted more freely than she usually does. She used eleven players in the first half.

Improvement is needed in rebounding and free-throw shooting, along with Nneka’s return to health.

Official attendance was 4,700, but my estimate was 3,500. Somewhere between 35 and 50 Stanford fans were there, including Taylor’s parents and an enthusiastic group of Amber’s family members. The win was satisfying and the trip to Austin worthwhile. This Stanford team needs lots of improving, but it is a good one--and this should be an enjoyable season.