Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stanford Sweeps Hawaii Tourney

By Wally Mersereau

Like a trade wind, or a new broom, the Stanford Cardinal swept through its three opponents at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu to emerge undefeated and uninjured. In fact, the team was healthier at the end than at the beginning as Toni’s illness appeared to be cured by the trip to these tropical islands. I’m sure Toni would recommend this treatment for whatever ails you.

Although not being prone to boast, if pressed, Stanford at this point, with all due modesty, can point to a 5-0 season record, including a win over the vaunted Lady Bears, once thought to be the finest in the land. This trip to Hawaii was good for team and fan alike. Gentle breezes blew and the swish of basketballs passing through nets could be heard with regularity.

Stanford’s final tournament game against Tennessee-Martin was not dull. It was a really good game. The Skyhawks approached the game as other teams will this season when they face the Cardinal--with nothing to lose, playing fearlessly and loose. T-M has some excellent shooters who kept the Skyhawks very much in the game until about the last five minutes of the first half when Stanford was first able to build and hold a 10-point lead. The score at the half was 41-31.

Although Tennessee-Martin continued to make a good effort, Stanford was fully in control in the second half, steadily increasing its lead to the final score of 92-68.

One thing missing from the game was a crowd. After the first game today where Baylor topped Hawaii 77-42, most of the local fans left. The attendance shrank to about 250 for the Stanford game and the number of Stanford fans dwindled to about 25.

Amber had a great game with a number of dazzling passes. Bonnie and Taylor both demonstrated that they are broadening their range of contributions. Bonnie was a real scrapper throughout the entire tournament and certainly in this game. Taylor played with more finesse, making moves and shots she has not shown before. In the second half Bonnie was not shown on the scoreboard for an extended period when she made several shots. Her points were never correctly credited on the scoreboard, but I think are correct in the final stats.

Mikaela was a key player in this game, contributing more than her stats show. Jos may have had a personal scoring high of 25 while rebounding, defending and passing in a big-time way. Chiney was again amazing, making shots that only she or Nneka can make in racking up another double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Sara could not get a break today. Nothing she tried worked and she quickly picked up fouls. It was not her night. Erica, wearing a black brace on her right knee that I haven’t noticed before, played well in her few final minutes. Tess did fine, but will eventually be able to do much more.

Stats-wise, Chiney played 29 minutes and made 12 of her 16 shots, had a block and a steal and was 1 for 1 in free throws. Jos scored her 25 points in 34 minutes, had 6 rebounds, a block and a steal and was 6 for 6 at the line. Amber was in for 33 minutes with 12 points, 7 rebounds, a block, two steals, 2 of 2 at the line and a phenomenal 10 assists and only 2 turnovers. Bonnie scored 11 points in 14 minutes, including two 3-pointers.

The team shot 57% from the field (much better in the second half), made 4 of 10 threes and had its best free throw shooting of the season at 74%. Stanford outrebounded T-M 46 to 26.

After the game tournament awards were presented with the team trophy obviously going to undefeated Stanford. Chiney was rightfully named tournament MVP, with Jos also named to the all-tournament team.

The Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks may have a masochistic scheduler who has matched them against #1 Baylor, #4 Stanford, #8 Louisville and #18 Purdue early in their season, apparently to guard against over-confidence. The Skyhawks have only one win to their name, over unranked Arkansas State, but from the way they played against Stanford they can put a scare into some of their future opponents. It’s hard to see how they could have lost to Hawaii on Friday. Incidentally, Pat Summitt was an All-American at Tennessee-Martin circa 1970.

Dull is not the right word, but …

By Wally Mersereau

Tonight’s 69-42 Stanford win over Hawaii on the second day of the Rainbow Wahine Classic lacked a little something in a weekend of epic and unexpected Stanford victories on the court and on the field. The win over Hawaii was not unexpected and there was nothing epic about it.

I was able to watch the Stanford-Oregon football game on TV in my hotel room up to the time Stanford tied the game 14-14 when I left for the basketball game. When I arrived at the arena I was informed Stanford had defeated Oregon in overtime for an upset of similar magnitude to the women’s win over Baylor the night before.

In the Hawaii game the Stanford women made an effort and got the win, but it was lacking the intensity and wonder of yesterday’s great accomplishment. So, what was noteworthy about it?

Well, for one thing, Tara was able to show she can produce an 11-player rotation under the right circumstances. Yes, eleven players logged 11 minutes or more and none had more than 25. Every player who came on this trip got in the game (Alex did not travel). Chiney recorded another double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Jos was tops in scoring with 16 points, including two 3-pointers. Amber had 13 points and Toni 12.

Mikaela wore a black supportive sleeve on her injured left knee, but started again and played 11 minutes so her injury does not seem to be serious. Chiney returned to representing the team at tip-off and was successful after stepping aside to let Mikaela face Brittney Griner. Tara and her staff continued to dress informally in keeping with the locale.

The game started slowly with Stanford getting in a groove about the 10-minute mark, but the entire game had plenty of sloppy shooting. The team field goal rate was 43% (down from 51% against much stronger Baylor) and 3-point shooting sagged to 27% (4 of 15) compared to 50% in the Baylor game. Free throws were about the same at 68%.

Amber had 4 assists and one turnover as she continued to handle the ball well. Tess had one point and 8 rebounds. Mikaela, Jasmine and Taylor were all scoreless.

The most entertaining play occurred in the first half when the ball was passed to Chiney at the post. Instead of catching the ball Chiney tipped it out to Jos who shot from further away and made it.

Speaking of Baylor, the Lady Bears defeated Tennessee-Martin in the first game today 82-67 wirh Griner reportedly making a dunk.

The Hawaii band played well, with a varied repertoire, while diminutive cheerleaders were raised aloft. Attendance looked to be about the same as yesterday except the 50 Stanford fans and the 50 Baylor fans were generally not present at the same time. The Stan Sheriff Center is distinctive in having a concession stand with five different types of ice cream—not flavors, types.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

By Wally Mersereau

... bluebirds fly... Sometimes they really do. Stanford’s bluebirds took flight today over the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu as the Cardinal picked off national champion, and #1-ranked, Baylor in a thrilling win on the campus of the University of Hawaii.

Seven and a half months ago the teams met in the semi-final game at the Final Four in Denver. In that game Stanford double- and triple-teamed Brittney Griner, holding her to 13 points to Nneka’s 22, trailed the Bears by only one point at the half, but was outplayed in the second half to fall 59-47. At Denver Chiney scored 4 points before fouling out after 27 minutes. Toni scored 9 points and Amber 3.

Before Griner joined the team, I saw Stanford lose to Baylor 81-65 in Waco in 2008. I did not expect to see a Stanford win today. How sweet it is!

This win was a true team effort with some players contributing in uncharacteristic ways. Bonnie played 11 minutes and never attempted a 3-pointer, but made 5 rebounds, some of them hard-fought. Toni (she of delicate health) put in 30 productive minutes, making 5 of 9 field goals and 5 of 6 free throws to contribute 15 points. She also was the point guard at times. Mikaela was a true warrior, playing 30 minutes and leading the team in rebounds with 12 even though hurt at the end of the first half.

As usual, Chiney led the way with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Chiney made her first ever 3-pointer as a shot clock buzzer-beater in the first half. Taylor made 6 of 9 from the field including 4 of 6 3-pointers for 16 points in 29 minutes. Jos was another warrior, guarding Griner, making 4 of 7 field goals, including 2 of 3 3-pointers for 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Overall, Stanford made 51% of its field goal attempts, 50% of its 3-pointers (7 of 14), 67% of its free throws and out-rebounded Baylor 40 to 28. Every bit of this collective effort was vital to achieve the 2-point win.

Stanford double-teamed Griner in the first half (mostly by Jos and Mikaela), holding her to 4 points. She was not so heavily guarded in the second half and finished with a game-leading total of 22 points.

Stanford took the lead fairly early in the game, going up by 12 points until Baylor began cutting the lead down to 31-29 at the half. Baylor clearly had the momentum in the last 8 minutes of the first half, but was not allowed to carry it into the second half which truly became a great battle. Baylor finally regained the lead with about 7 minutes left in the game, at about the same point as it made its move in the first half. Griner began making basket after basket, but Stanford kept answering back. The score kept going from tie to up 2, to tie to up 2. This was as thrilling a finish as you could hope to see.

The score was tied at 66-66 with a bit over a minute to play. Then it was 70-69 with Stanford ahead with less than 10 seconds left and with the ball. Toni was fouled with 8 ½ seconds to go, with that being Baylor’s 10th foul, and made one of her two free throws to reach the final score of 71-69.

Odyssey Sims had a serious leg injury of some sort four minutes into the game and did not play again. Mikaela appeared to be similarly hurt just before the end of the first half, coming out with a heavy limp. But she started the second half and continued to play well. After the game she had ice on her left knee.

Kim Mulkey congratulated each Stanford player after the game, enhancing my opinion of her. For Stanford, six players carried most of the load with 28 to 37 minutes, augmented by Bonnie with 11 minutes.

Winning is so much better than losing and winning over #1 Baylor with Britteny Griner is just about as good as it gets.

Stanford and Baylor both had about 50 fans present. My guess at total attendance was somewhere between 400 and 500. So this great, great game was seen by few.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cal Tickets Now on Sale

The Cal ticket office has finally listed the January 8th game at their online sales page.

At 9:03 a.m., the best available pair of tickets were in row C of section 1, but good seats will presumably go fast.

You're better off ordering your tickets by phone (800-GO-BEARS (462-3277)) so that you can ask for seats in a specific section instead of just specifying "best available".

Here's the Haas seating chart. Section 1 is behind the visitor's bench, section 17 is across from it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gonzaga Game to Sell Out

Hard-travelling FBC member Wally Mersereau writes regarding a purchase of tickets for the game at Gonzaga, 2 December:

Today is the first day single game tickets are on sale. I bought the three best available seats together. These are in the very top row in Section 113 which is on the bench side near one end of the court. The visitor bench is in front of Section 115.

I quizzed the salesperson extensively and was convinced that these are indeed the best available... The cost is $6.50, with no fees, even for postage. I was told there are a few single tickets and pairs but none lower than 7 rows from the top. If these are the best available on the first day of sale, soon there will be none available.