Thursday, February 28, 2013

Putting down the Dawgs

By Wally Mersereau

The forecast for Puget Sound today was an 84% chance of rain. It turned out to be a Seattle-type rain, meaning a heavy overcast with an occasional drizzle. I doubt it merited a trace on the rain gauge. This afternoon I rode the monorail from downtown to Seattle Center and Key Arena to do a little scouting in advance of next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.

Alaska Airlines Arena is the new name for the long-time home of Husky basketball on the University campus. This was the first time I’ve seen this name in lights on two sides of the building. Inside are new electronic boards that provide the full range of team statistics. Next door, Husky Stadium is about 6 months away from reopening after a major renovation.

UW has two husky mascots these days: one in a dog suit who rides around on a Segway and a really beautiful genuine husky on a leash.

Susan King Borchardt and her husband Curtis talked with Tara and other coaches before the game and sat behind the Stanford bench along with Kate Starbird. 7-foot-tall Curtis is a Seattle-area native. He and Susan are now home-owners in the area. Other than player families and friends there was only a smattering of red sweatshirts scattered here and there among the roughly 2,000 fans attending the game.

Washington had only 7 players suited up as a result of a 3-player, one-game suspension for violating team rules. Neither Toni nor Aly made this trip to the Northwest.

Washington got off to a 3-9 lead at the start of the game, but, sparked by a 3-pointer by Bonnie, Stanford quickly was up 15-9 after 6 minutes of play and the lead grew steadily to the final score of 71-36. The Cardinal made lots of threes in the first half, but only one in the second half when it seemed a lid was on the basket for longer shots.

Chiney had 10 points and 9 rebounds at the half and ended with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks in 35 minutes. Jos had 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal in 33 minutes. Amber had one of her best games, handling the ball very well and racking up 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal and 4 assists/1 turnover in 30 minutes.

Mikaela excelled at rebounding with 13 to go along with 3 points, 2 blocks, 2 steals and 6 assists/2 turnovers in 25 minutes. Bonnie had 15 points (5 of 15 from 3), plus 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. Four of Bonnie’s threes were in the first half.

Stanford outshot Washington 40.5% to 16.9% as the Cardinal defense really locked down the Huskies. Assists/turnovers were 18/7 for Stanford and 4/9 for UW. The Cardinal had 11 blocks to zero and 6 steals to 4. Rebounds were relatively close with Stanford having the edge 54-47. The Cardinal only got to the free throw line 3 times and made 2. Washington was 8 of 10 from the line.

The Huskies were handicapped by having only 7 players with two of their better players suspended. The remaining Washington players gave it their all, but were out-classed by the Cardinal. UW will be at full 10-player strength for its game with Cal on Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In the new Bruin Lair

By Wally Mersereau

For something a little different, three Stanford fans made the lengthy trek to Santa Ana Saturday night to watch a CIF Southern Section high school playoff game between Mater Dei (“back-to-back-to-back State champion” we were repeatedly reminded) and Long Beach Wilson. Starting for Mater Dei were Stanford-bound Karlie Samuelson and younger sister Katie Lou. Bonnie and family members sat behind the Mater Dei bench. Attendance was about 200. Mater Dei won 89-31.

Watching this game confirmed the younger Samuelson sisters are difference-makers. Both have Bonnie’s quick release and shooting style and primarily shoot threes. Because they left the game well before the end I’m not sure of their final point counts, but Karlie had at least 12.

Family resemblance (Karlie Samuelson)

(The team was on my flight home. I told Bonnie we went to see her sisters play last night. She was surprised and pleased. Her face lit up. She said, "They did pretty good, didn't they?" I agreed.)

Sunday afternoon was Stanford’s first visit to the newly remodeled Pauley Pavilion.

South-east corner (nearest the car park)

The renovation came in under-budget at about $130-million. In comparison, 6-year-old Galen Center, built from the ground up, cost $147-million. Pauley is larger, seating almost 14,000 in its maximum configuration. Galen seats about 10,250. Although characterized as a renovation, it’s hard to find any evidence of the original Pauley. Everything looks and even smells new.

I really like the new Pauley. Its spacious concourse gives a pleasant, open feeling—and is bright in daylight.

All seats are cushioned and with armrests, although the cushions are a tad hard. One gold seat is reserved for John Wooden in his favorite location. Pauley is almost a shrine to Wooden with several display cases devoted to him and his era.

Pauley acoustics magnified the noise of the crowd of 3,100, making it one of the noisiest places Stanford has played this season. UCLA has techniques for getting its fans aroused and keeping them fired up that are worthy of study and emulation.

This game was rough and bruising. It’s ironic that Tess was called for a flagrant foul for throwing an elbow. UCLA played so rough it merited multiple flagrant fouls. UCLA has good and skilled players. It’s unfortunate that Cori Close has them playing maul ball. I’m proud of how the Cardinal stood up to the onslaught, holding on to its lead. UCLA narrowed the lead in both halves, but could never completely close the gap. Stanford led by 5 at the half and won by 11, 68-57.

In addition to being rough, UCLA played with frantic effort for the entire game, bringing a pressing and determined defense at all times. Stanford kept its poise and withstood all the Bruins threw at it.

Chiney did not get a double-double, but she deserves the game ball for her heroic efforts in leading the team to victory. She had 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals and played the entire 40 minutes. Her statistics don’t do justice to all that she brought to this game. Mikaela did get a double-double, her second, with 10 points, 10 rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes. No one on the team puts forth more effort than Mikaela and she was essential for the win.

Jos fell just short of a double-double with 10 points, 9 rebounds, a block and a steal. She also played the entire 40 minutes. Amber, as usual, was multi-talented for another great stat line: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists/5 turnovers and 5 steals in 38 minutes. Bonnie produced two valuable 3-pointers, plus 3 rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes. She also provided excellent defense.

As a team, Stanford was outshot by the Bruins 54.5% to 39.7% and only made 4 of 19 3-point attempts for a poor 21.1%. But in other categories the Cardinal did better, leading in rebounds 38 to 31, in steals 11 to 9 and had fewer turnovers, 15 to 21 for UCLA. And Stanford free throw shooting was excellent making 18 of 20 for 90%.

This was as rough and unlady-like a game as Stanford has encountered this season. UCLA did get a lot of fouls called against it late in the game that gave Stanford many bonus free throws and these were an important part of the win. But the mounting fouls did nothing to subdue the Bruins. The Cardinal showed today that it can deal with the most unpleasantly aggressive play and keep doing what needs to be done to come out on top. Stanford had many women warriors on the court this afternoon.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cardinal triumphs over Trojans

By Wally Mersereau

Los Angeles provided traditional Southern California winter weather today with blue skies and a high temperature in the upper 70s. The San Gabriel Mountains were clearly visible from my hotel window. I watched the first half of the 6 pm Cal-UCLA game on my computer before heading for Stanford’s 8 pm Galen Center match-up. Cal was having an easy time with the Bruins. The final score in Westwood was known just before tip-off at Galen with Cal winning 79-51.

When USC came to Maples on January 20 Stanford led by 13 points at the half, but was outscored by the Trojans in the second half, with the winning margin down to 9 and a narrow 5-point lead with 3 minutes to play.

Tonight’s game at Galen resulted in a stronger win for the Cardinal. Stanford again led by 13 at the half, but won by 24, without a serious USC challenge in the second half. This was despite markedly more spirited and aggressive play by the Trojans in the last half. Stanford handled the USC efforts with poise and several times took advantage of Trojan players being left behind down court because of ineffectual defensive efforts.

USC has lost some close games in the Pac-12. This wasn’t one of them. There was no doubt as to the superior team or the outcome tonight.

Chiney had only 8 points in the first half, but then let loose in the second to get her 20th double-double, including 26 points, 15 rebounds and a block in 37 minutes. She did have 6 of Stanford’s 13 turnovers.

Jos also had a double-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in 38 minutes. Mikaela continued her excellent play on both sides of the ball, ending with 12 points, 8 rebounds and a block in 30 minutes. Amber scored 10 points and had a rebound. She had 5 assists and only one turnover in 29 minutes. Jasmine also did well at the point while scoring 4 points.

USC had two players with double-digit points: Harberts with 13 and Valoletama with 14. Crook was held to 6 points.

Stanford out-shot USC 46% to 27% and out-rebounded 43 to 26. Stanford 3- point shooting was only 28.6% (6 of 21), despite the first two Cardinal baskets being threes by Mikaela and Bonnie.

Toni made the trip, but was not suited up. Jeanette and Cindy Pohlen attended. Tara invited Jeanette into the locker room after the game. There was a respectable Stanford fan turnout within Galen’s total attendance of 844.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

In Beaver Nation

By Wally Mersereau

Even on a gloomy day, it’s a pleasant half-hour drive north from Eugene to Corvallis through the broad and green Willamette Valley. The natural and cultural history museum at the U of O informs that the valley has been inhabited for 600 generations. Representatives of the most recent generations assembled this morning at the Corvallis home of Ed and Mary Jennings for a sumptuous pre-game brunch before moving on to Gill Coliseum to see your Stanford Cardinal take on the Oregon State Beavers.

Gill is a pleasant place to watch a basketball game if you aren’t distracted by the overuse of black and orange. The facility opened in 1949 and has been nicely modernized within its historic shell. It’s named for a 36-year coach at OSU with the floor named for another coach of shorter tenure. Gill seats a maximum of 9,600, placing it about midway in capacity between Matt Court and Maples. 1200 turned out for today’s game on Super Bowl Sunday.

I neglected to mention in my Oregon game report that Matt Court has an abundance of media boards that show comparative team statistics during games, allowing fans to be well informed at all times. Gill has just the basics.

So, how was the game those of you who chose to watch the Super Bowl may ask. It was the Chiney Super Show. Yes, she had another double-double, but that detail is dwarfed by the personal best of 32 points tallied in 36 minutes along with 18 rebounds. Chiney could have had 6 more easy points, but she faltered at the free throw line, making only 8 of 14 or 57%. Since she was the primary Stanford free throw shooter she pulled down the team percentage to just about the same level.

The problem with Chiney’s record performance was it didn’t leave room for anyone else to do much. The two exceptions were Bonnie, who sank 4 of 5 from 3-point land in 11 minutes on the floor, and Amber, who also had 12 points, along with 2 rebounds, 8 assists to 3 turnovers and 3 steals in 38 minutes. No other Stanford player had more than 3 points and only Sara had that many.

So the diversified offense displayed on Friday in Eugene did not survive the trip to Corvallis. Jos had 2 points and Toni had none. Stanford shot only 38.5% from the field, barely outdoing OSU with 35.8%. Stanford out-rebounded 47 to 32 and out-stole 9 to 2, but was out-blocked 1 to 6.

The other personal best of the night was achieved by Tess who scored the last two points of the game by making two consecutive free throws in one trip to the line, something she has not been able to do previously.

More than half of Oregon State’s points were racked up by Jamie Weisner and Ali Gibson, two talented guards, and the only Beavers in double digits.

The Cal women were on my return flight from Eugene to SFO, allowing me to confirm with Layshia Clarendon that the Bears had beaten the Ducks this afternoon. This gave coach Lindsay Gottleib her 100th career win.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Downing the Ducks

By Wally Mersereau

Wally Mersereau caught on "Oblivi-Cam"
It was a murky day in Eugene. The sky was heavily overcast with the temperature in the mid-40s. Mercifully, it was dry and I walked about two miles from my hotel to attend the Stanford fan get-together at a restaurant across the street from Matthew Knight Arena prior to the 6 pm game. About 20-some fans turned up, about equally divided between visitors and locals.

Near-new Matt Court is one of the finest on-campus facilities in the country, primarily financed by Phil Knight of Nike and named for his son who died at age 34 while scuba diving in Central America. As far as women’s basketball is concerned it has not been a case of build it and they will come. Attendance for this evening’s game was 1,812 in the more than 12,000-seat arena.

Words on the wall at Knight Court.

Oregon has some good players, with Ariel Thomas the scoring standout with 17 points. Several Ducks played good defense and Oregon out-rebounded Stanford 48-40.

Stanford jumped out to what seemed likely to be a runaway game, leading 23-6 with 12 minutes left in the first half and held this lead to the 5-1/2-minute mark. Taylor made a 3-pointer during this period. Oregon then began to battle back, getting the lead down to 10. The score at the half was 38-27.

Once again I failed to win in the challenging bingo contest that is an enduring half-time tradition at Oregon home games, but there’s always next year.

Stanford quickly increased its lead in the second half to 51-29 after only 4 minutes of play and at one point was up by 29 points. Oregon reduced the lead a bit, but the final score was Stanford 86, Oregon 62. Taylor made a second three near the end of the game. Bonnie also made two threes. Chiney left the game with about 6 minutes remaining, followed shortly by Joslyn as Tara began moving down the bench.

Oregon’s major problem was keeping control of the ball. The Ducks had 17 turnovers to the Cardinal’s 8. Unfortunately, Stanford failed to score on several steals that led to fast break lay-up opportunities.

Chiney battled her way to another double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds, a block and two steals in 28 minutes. She did not appear to be bothered by last weekend’s ankle injury. Jos added 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 4 steals in 26 minutes.

Sara did well in everything with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 26 minutes. Amber had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists/2 turnovers and a steal in 20 minutes. Toni also made a diversified contribution with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists/1 turnover, 2 blocks and 3 steals in 32 minutes. Jasmine played 12 minutes and had 2 assists/1 turnover, but did not score.

For a last place team with only one win in Pac-12 play, Oregon did well, out-playing Stanford at the end of the first half and requiring the Cardinal to keep its best players in the contest until near the end.

The most encouraging aspect of the game was that Chiney was given a lot of help from a goodly assortment of teammates. I was particularly pleased with Sara and Taylor coming through. Here’s hoping Stanford will be able to maintain a broad-based and productive offense to add to its reliable defense.