Saturday, November 23, 2013

Deep in the heart of Texas

By Wally Mersereau

The team was on my Friday morning flight from San Francisco. Austin was not visitor-friendly, weather-wise, on this Stanford road trip. It was cold and wet--not fit for man or beast. Rain was falling as we arrived at the AUS terminal and the gloomy skies did not brighten then or later. The weatherperson on the TV news stressed it was unusual to have a high temperature below 40 on November 23. The good news was no flooding.

Kate used the wait at baggage claim to take Amber aside for some one-to-one coaching tips. Amber listened impassively. The advice must have been helpful because Amber had another great game with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals in 32 minutes.

The official attendance at the Frank Erwin Center was 3,900, but the actual crowd appeared to be no more than 2,000. Those wearing Texas brown stood before the game with right hands extended in the Longhorn salute as the 60-member band played “The Eyes of Texas” and continued to stand until their team scored. The Texas fans next to me said second-year coach Karen Asten is a big improvement over Gail Goestenkors because of more effective recruiting. Three of Stanford’s starters are from Texas: Chiney, Amber and Lili.

Discretionary Stanford starters were Lili and Karlie. Chiney lost the tip to the Texas 6-7 center. Mikaela scored 6 early points to keep Stanford in the game in what could have been a Texas runaway.

Sara had her best game so far, showing the hustle that has been missing until now. Her defense was effective and she scored two threes in the first half. Not stepping up in the first half was Chiney who had only 4 points at the half when Stanford trailed 30-37. Texas blocked at least two of her first-half attempts.

Texas is an excellent free-throw shooting team and I thought for a while this edge could win the game for the Longhorns. At game-end, free throws were 18 of 24 or 75% for Texas and 15 of 25, or 60% for the Cardinal. This game was the first of the season in which Stanford faced multiple attempts to press, none of which were successful.

Sara started the second half, apparently in recognition of her high level of play in the first half of the game. Six minutes into the second half Stanford still trailed 37-40. That was when Stanford began its pull-away, going from down 3 to up 8 in the next 6 minutes. Chiney came to life, scoring 14 points in the second half. After that Stanford held the lead to the end of the hard-fought game. The final score was 63-54.

Tara shrunk the rotation to seven players with 16 minutes or more on the court. Sara played 18 minutes, was 2 of 5 from 3 and had 4 assists and no turnovers. Mikaela had the only double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but was a pitiful 3 of 8 from the line. Karlie played 30 minutes. Bonnie did not play. Chiney fouled out with two minutes to play having made 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

I had a dry walk back to my hotel under dark gray skies. I listened to the Stanford-Cal football game on KZSU as I wrote this report.