Monday, February 20, 2012

Update on PAC-12 Tournament Tickets

Our writeup on Planning for the PAC-12 Tournament has been updated with some new information on ticket sales, namely,

You can now buy tickets for individual "sessions" at this Ticketmaster page. However, each session costs $35. To see all the (possible) Stanford games you would need to buy three sessions (Thursday first session, Friday first session, Saturday final) which comes to just $5 less than you would pay for an all-session package from this Stanford sales link.
Click the link to the previous post for the other logistic and travel info.

Also see the FBC Travel Page for some hotel links and a list of things to do in L.A.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another good win on the Oregon Trail

By Wally Mersereau

Stanford didn’t see much sunshine from the sky in Oregon, but on the court the weather was really nice. Stanford did not play perfectly. There is lots of room for further improvement. But, all in all, this was a very successful road trip. Coaches, players and fans were well satisfied.

On Saturday, in its second game in near-new Matt Arena, Stanford beat Oregon 81-46, a margin two points greater than the winning margin over Oregon State on Thursday. The Ducks are a much different team than the Beavers. The Oregon goal is “run and gun”--play at a fast pace and aim for fast break scores. This requires a different defensive strategy than that used against OSU where the need was to contain 3-point shooters. Stanford succeeded defensively against both of these differing opponents.

How well did the defense do against the two Oregon teams? A good measure is to compare Stanford’s winning margins against Cal’s winning margins this weekend. Offensively, Stanford scored a combined 159 points against the two teams and Cal scored 158. A virtual tie in points made. But Stanford allowed a combined 68 points by its opponents and Cal allowed 139. Wow! Cal gave up 71 combined points more than Stanford! There is the answer. This was an excellent defensive achievement by the Cardinal against two different types of teams. Cal, while winning, let the opponents do what they like to do. Stanford did not.

Another satisfying aspect of the dual wins was the fine play and broad contributions from many Stanford players. Yes, Nneka and Chiney led the way by providing 63 of the total points, but other players provided a total of 96 points. The leading other point providers were Joslyn with 26 points, Bonnie with 17, Toni with 15 and Lindy and Sara with 11 combined points each. And everyone contributed to successful defense in both games.

How about ball control? Another “Wow!” is in order here. Toni had a combined 12 assists and 1 turnover, Amber had 7/1, Lindy had 6/0. As a team, for both games, Stanford had 42 assists and 13 turnovers, a ratio of 3.26/1 vs. its opponents combined with 17/31--almost twice as many turnovers as assists.

Three-point shooting was encouraging on this trip, with 10 being made at OSU and 8 at Oregon—at a combined rate of 37.5%. Combined totals were 5 of 12 for Bonnie, 4 of 10 for Toni, 3 of 6 for both Lindy and Sara and 1 of 3 by Joslyn.

Finally, how about free throws?—a category that has been troublesome for the Cardinal at times this season. Not on the Oregon Trail, where Stanford made a combined 29 out of 32 or 91% vs. its combined opponents with 15 out of 26 or 58%.

I could go on, but you get the picture. However you dice and slice this road trip it comes up looking good. And it felt good while it was happening.

I returned tonight on the same plane as the team. As we touched down at SFO and cell phones came out, the word spread up and down the aisle that UConn had lost to St. John’s and that Baylor was trailing Texas Tech at the half. A temporary giddiness swept over the players. But then Kate Paye broke in to say, “We need to take care of Utah,” and Nneka said, “Yes, we need to win out.” By the time the plane arrived at the gate the players had sensibly reverted to a “one game at a time” view of the future.

The trip to Oregon was a confidence builder, but the team is by no means over confident. In the three remaining games at Maples, I expect Stanford will “win out” at Maples, be ready for Cal and will enter the Pac-12 Tournament well prepared and with determination.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Oregon Interlude

By Wally Mersereau

The road trip to Oregon, in the green and spacious Willamette Valley with the big river flowing northward through its center, differs from other Stanford road trips because of the extra events involved. No other trip with the team has these extras. There is something about this trip, year after year, that makes it stand out. It’s not about the weather, which is usually murky, durky, dank and drear. For weather, the Arizona trip usually in unmatched and Oregon is not even in the running.

For several years there has been a pre-game meal with Stanford alumni in Eugene. Depending on the time of the game this may be a brunch or dinner. As a traveling fan, your only obligation is to just show up--arrangements are made by the locals. Tomorrow this will be a brunch at a restaurant a short stroll from Matt Arena.

A communal meal in Corvallis before the Oregon State game is more hit or miss because most traveling fans stay in more cosmopolitan Eugene. The Big River restaurant is the most frequent Corvallis venue, featuring seafood and huge desserts. Its drawback is that it doesn’t open until 5 pm and the service for groups is slow, creating anxiety as departure time approaches and the food has not arrived. Last year there was an alumni-organized lunch in Corvallis in a smaller restaurant that was pleasant and more relaxed.

The highlight of any Oregon trip is a meeting with Tara (usually accompanied by Amy as a sidekick and foil) on Friday. In the olden days when the team and most fans stayed at the Valley River Inn, this event was held in front of the ever-burning fireplace in the VRI lobby on Friday evening. When the team moved to the Eugene Hilton downtown, an afternoon dessert function with Tara was organized. After a lapse of a year or two, this year’s trip has Tea with Tara at the Hilton on Friday afternoon.

The format of the Tara meeting is similar to a post-game meeting at Stanford. What distinguishes it is its intimacy, allowing more of an up-close-and-personal flavor and frank discussions. To attend one of these small meetings with Tara is very special. I doubt any other team provides anything similar.

Thirteen Fast Break Club members met with Tara, Amy and Eileen this afternoon at the Hilton. The meeting lasted for an hour. Many topics were discussed, including scheduling of games, possible locations Stanford might go for NCAA Tournament games, the effect of seedings on assigned game locations, regulations and restrictions on hosting NCAA games, yesterday’s OSU game, preparations for tomorrow’s Oregon game, team uniforms and uniform regulations, Tara’s upcoming interview at Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto, what the team did today, what the team schedule will be tomorrow, the performance of individual players and the team as a whole, Matt Arena vs. historic Mac Court, etc., etc.

While we were meeting with Tara, Kate Paye was having a one-on-one session at another table with Amber, watching videos on a laptop, with Kate pointing out specific things on the videos. Tara said similar sessions are held with every player.

This year, for the first time, I am staying in Corvallis. I am finding it pleasant and relaxing and a nice change from more familiar Eugene. Through Yelp I discovered the funky Nearly Normal’s vegetarian restaurant that I can only rave about. Corvallis has a population of about 60,000, compared with about 250,000 in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Consequently, Corvallis has more of the feeling of a small college town. I recommend it.

I also recommend to readers of this piece that they give consideration to going on the Oregon road trip next year. It’s always fun and interesting and never disappointing. A pleasant adventure in a different part of the world is certain. All you will need to know will be posted in the travel section of the FBC website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beaver Bashing in Corvallis

By Wally Mersereau

My hunch that Stanford would be ready to dominate in its rematch with Oregon State proved correct. The Card struggled to a 7-point win at Maples in the first meeting of these teams. But there was no Stanford struggling tonight at Gill Coliseum. The defense was strong, shooting was good, ball handling was deft and the team took care of the ball.

The Cardinal jumped out to an early lead and was up 15-5 after 10 minutes. At the half it was 36-16. Oregon State played Stanford evenly during the first 10 minutes of the second half before the Card bore down to end the game 78-45.

Eight Stanford players had more than 12 minutes on the court. Nneka had 16 points at the half and ended with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 30 minutes. She left the game with 10 minutes to play. Chiney had foul problems in both halves and was limited to 21 minutes, during which she scored 10 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Joslyn was a rebounding machine, snagging 14 to go with 7 points and 2 assists in 34 minutes. Her overall defense was excellent, as was that of the entire team. Toni also had 34 minutes and made 9 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.

Three-point shooting was good for Stanford tonight with the team making 10 of the long shots at a 45.5% rate. Toni and Bonnie both had three and Lindy and Sara both had two. It was especially nice to have Bonnie be successful after her recent drought and for Sara to get a pair, plus another basket, in only 9 minutes. It was also nice to have Lindy hit her threes.

As a team Stanford had 22 assists and 7 turnovers compared to OSU’s 10 assists and 15 turnovers. Rebounding was fairly close with Stanford leading 35-32. The Cardinal had another good effort at the free throw line, making 10 of 12 for 83.3%. The Beavers made 5 of 8 free throws for 62.5%.

The all-male officials seemed to have lost their whistles in the first half and there was lots of wild, rough playing under the baskets. The officiating seemed better in the second half.

Oregon State has no stand-out player, but continued to get good contributions from many players. The Beavers played good defense, made a stalwart effort to the end, but were out-classed.

Attendance was about 2,500 on a gray, cool and drizzly day. A large OSU pep band with six tubas played an assortment of tunes, including a rousing national anthem. One OSU male cheerleader held a small female aloft on one upraised arm. Fan participation events were fast-paced with multiple contestants, which made them more entertaining than usual.

This was an enjoyable and satisfying game for Stanford fans. On the other hand, Oregon State fans were rather muted as any hopes for an upset evaporated early.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oregon Events TBA

Just a reminder, here is the schedule for Oregon events this week:

7pm Thursday 2/16, game at OSU in Corvallis. Here is a Google map of Corvallis showing Gill Coliseum.

Friday 3:30pm in the lobby of the Eugene Hilton (map link): Tea With Tara, An informal coach's talk. Hang around in the lobby after, maybe somebody will have a suggestion where to go for supper. Note: Parking at the Hilton is underground and is charged at $2/hour. Weather and your health permitting, it should be possible to park on the streets within a few blocks. There is a vast car-park structure a block away at 7th and Olive but in Google street view I can't read the sign at the entrance, so don't know if it is available or at what price.

Saturday approximately at 11am, pre-game brunch with the Eugene Alumni group. This will take place at a new brew pub, the Wild Duck at 1419 Villard St (another google map link there). This is easy walking distance to Knight Arena.

Saturday 1pm, game with OU in Matthew Knight Arena (another Google map, there)

I still have a few OU tickets, call my cell 650-387-3645 now or in Eugene to get them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planning for the PAC-12 Tournament

The PAC-12 tournament approaches: bigger and longer and even more of a challenge for the obsessive fan than last year! Hereinbelow find all the info you need to deal with it.

First, the games. They are to be played over four days: Wednesday March 7th through Saturday March 10th. The women play four games Wednesday and four on Thursday at USC's Galen Center, and then semi-final and final games on Friday and Saturday at the Staples Center. Remember last year's nail-biting final against UCLA?

Click on this link to view a one-page PDF of the men's and women's brackets, covering 22 games in four days. Or, just click on the following image to see the schedule for the eleven games of the Women's bracket:

Presuming Stanford is the #1 seed, the Cardinal will first play at noon on Thursday, then go on to a noon game on Friday and, one hopes, 11:30 am on Saturday. But a true basketball aficionado wants to see all the games, eight hours of them on Wednesday and on Thursday. Bring a cushion!

If You Can't Go

If you can't make the trip, this year you can still see all the games. Note in the bracket above, that the semi-final and final games are on FSN. But also, all of the preceding games are, the PAC-12 says, to be streamed live on the Pac-12 YouTube Channel. So you could possibly watch all eleven women's games from home. You could even watch the post-game press conferences. (Shut-ins take note.) Hopefully you don't have a bandwidth cap on your internet.


As it was last year, the PAC-12 wants you to buy an all-session tournament package ticket that gives you an assigned seat at the Staples Center for all men's games, and gets you general admission to all women's games. There has been some confusion on this point, but the online FAQ is pretty clear:

You will have general admission to women's games and a reserved seat for men's games with your combined ticket for each session at STAPLES Center.

You can now buy tickets for individual "sessions" at this Ticketmaster page. However, each session costs $35. To see all the (possible) Stanford games you would need to buy three sessions (Thursday first session, Friday first session, Saturday final) which comes to just $5 less than you would pay for an all-session package from this Stanford sales link. For $110 you get men's-game seats in the furthest reaches of the Staples Center, up among the bats and owls, but if your main interest is the women's games, who cares?

Getting There

The trip starts with getting from the Bay Area to L.A. in time for the first games on Wednesday afternoon. You may plan to return on Saturday the 12th following the end of the Women's final about 2pm, or stay around for the men's final ending around 6pm (in which case you'd probably want to stay over and return on Sunday).

There are plenty of flights available, all costing around $150. Three nonstops from SJC get in to LAX in time for Wednesday's games, and also four nonstops returning after 6pm Saturday. There are seven nonstops from SFO that work, but only two return flights after 5pm Saturday. Delta has two flights out of OAK Wednesday morning and two Saturday evening returns. (As always, is a good tool for finding flights; but it doesn't cover Southwest, which has several suitable flights also.)

Or, you can drive. With two drivers trading off and minimal stops, it's about 7 hours Palo Alto to the Galen Center, only a couple of hours longer than the door-to-door air travel time. Forty gallons of gas, $150; two additional motel nights, $180—about the same as the air fare for two people. Plus you don't need a rental car in L.A.

Or—and now for something completely different—you can take the Amtrak Coast Starlight between San Jose and L.A. Union Station. Travel time about 11 hours each way, so go down on Tuesday, come back Sunday; round-trip price with senior discount: $88. Not bad at all!

L.A. With No Car?

Perfectly possible, as long as you plan to spend most of your time inside an arena. Select a hotel in walking distance of the Staples Center and you can travel to the Galen Center easily by bus or cheaply by taxi. Here's a map:

Click on "view Larger Map"; the Galen Center is at letter A, Staples at B.

Here is a map of hotels near the Staples Center:

Again, click View Larger Map to see them all.

In previous years the PAC-12 has hosted teams in the Wilshire Grand; however that hotel is now closed for reconstruction. We have no info on where teams are being housed. Uber-fan Wally Mersereau has already booked at the Marriott near Staples Center and says they are full or nearly so, already.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Waltzing to a win over the Wildcats

By Wally Mersereau

Q. What happens when the top team meets the bottom team in the Pac-12?
A. The top team wins—and wins big. Like 40 points big.

The seemingly self-evident truism of top team over bottom team was proven on Saturday afternoon in Tucson when the Cardinal waltzed over, around and through the Wildcats 91-51. Stanford paced itself nicely, scoring 20 points more than Arizona in each half.

It was a nice sunny day for basketball and Stanford completed its desert sweep before a paltry crowd of about 1,000 fans on the University of Arizona campus (don’t believe the official attendance of 1,831).

Unlike the ASU game, Stanford did not have to battle back in this one. The Card jumped off to a 10-0 start and led 51-31 at the half. Playing time and statistics were shared much more broadly than against ASU. All 11 players played and 10 had 12 minutes or more.

Joslyn led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. Chiney also had a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in 22 minutes. Nneka had 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in 22 minutes. Toni had 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover and 5 steals in 28 minutes. Amber had 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 20 minutes.

It was good to see Amber put the ball in the basket five times. Off the bench, Erica was noteworthy with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block in 14 minutes.

The 3-point shot returned to the Stanford repertoire with four players contributing long baskets. Joslyn made 3 of 4, Toni and Taylor each made 2 of 6 and Lindy made 1 of 3. Bonnie was cold on this pleasantly warm day, shooting 0 of 5 in her 17 minutes on the floor, but most just narrowly missed.

Team-wise, Stanford did better than Arizona in free throws with 79% to 71%, led in rebounds 47 to 34, led in assists 19-8, had 9 turnovers to 13 and led in steals 8 to 4.

Sarah Boothe was the only injured player to make the trip to the desert. Mikaela, Jasmine and Alex stayed home.

As a reward for traveling to games in Arizona, Stanford fans get free parking and free programs at both venues. That may not quite offset travel costs, but it helps a little.

Widely worn by Arizona fans were red T-shirts reading on the back: “We’re nuts for Butts”. This ringing endorsement has not benefitted head coach Niya Butts this season and certainly did not aid her in any discernable way on Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tough Triumph in Tempe

By Wally Mersereau

With great effort and determination Stanford pulled out a hard-fought win over Arizona State 62-49 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe on Thursday night. It was a sloppy, but great game. ASU interim head coach Joseph Anders said before the game that Stanford would have to earn every step, every bounce and every catch. He couldn’t have been more right. It took everything Tara and her team could bring forth to overcome the battling Sun Devils.

Neither team played well in the first half, which ended with a 28-28 tie. At that point Nneka had 11 points and 7 rebounds, Chiney 7 points and 6 rebounds.

With Tara’s half-time adjustments, Stanford built a 6-point lead in the second half, only to have the Sun Devils fight back to a 40-40 tie with 12 minutes to go. Stanford then exploded in a 20-2 run in the next 9 minutes to go ahead 60-42. The sisters combined for 13 points during that run.

The final sister stats were: Nneka with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 1 block and a steal in 36 minutes and Chiney with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 2 steals in 37 minutes.

Toni played her heart out and pushed her body to the point of exhaustion. She had 7 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in 39 minutes, but her stats don’t tell the story. She was superb, always playing well, running the team from the point even when she was worn out.

Lindy had only 1 point and 1 rebound in 24 minutes, but she also was a vital contributor. I would not have taken away one of her minutes. Amber had no points or rebounds, along with 2 assists, 3 turnovers and a steal in her 12 minutes. Stanford clearly played better tonight with Toni at the point and Lindy at the 2.

Taylor made Stanford’s only 3-point shots—three of them. The first two were close together and came at a crucial time in the first half to help catch up with the Devils. Her third 3-pointer was during the 20-2 run. Taylor played with poise in her 26 minutes, ending with 10 points and 4 rebounds.

Joslyn also was vital for this game, ending with only 2 points, but 6 rebounds and a block.

Both teams had excellent defensive efforts. ASU had only 10 players, all of whom played at least 8 minutes. Kali Bennett of ASU, a 6-5 redshirt senior, was much improved over previous years. She ended the game with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks and 2 steals. Kali is a banger and she got banged up in the second half, first with a nose injury which required a prominent bandage and then a painful hip injury that took her out of the game with 5 minutes remaining. She would have caused more problems, but fouls kept her on the bench for extended time in the first half.

Stanford had twice the rebounds as did ASU, 48 to 24 and that was a major difference. Stanford had three 3s (all by Taylor) to ASU’s two. Stanford was 68% at the free throw line, ASU 70%.

Attendance was not up to previous years. Only 2,000 turned out, including Kayla Pedersen’s and Nicole Powell’s parents.

Despite the sloppy play, I was pleased with Stanford belatedly putting the hammer down and coming away with a challenging win on the road. This game was really hard and the win was well earned.