Sunday, February 23, 2014

South Central to Westwood

By Wally Mersereau

Acting upon Dave Cortesi’s FBC travel suggestion of taking in the USC-Cal game at noon before leisurely moving west for the Stanford-UCLA game at 4 pm, I trod the familiar path to the Galen Center on a sunny Sunday in Los Angeles. This was a good idea. I was able to warm up for a day of women’s college basketball while conserving my emotional energy for the second game of this double-header.

It was Senior Day at Galen. Cassie Harberts, Desiree Bradley and Kate Oliver were given tearful thanks and a fond farewell.

If I hadn’t been there to see it I wouldn’t have believed this was the USC team that pushed Stanford to the limit on Friday. In this game Cal immediately took the lead and never gave it up. The first half was fairly close with Cal up a maximum of 8 points. In the second half Cal led by an average of 11 points, with a final score of 76-67. Brittany Boyd’s ankle was not taped or braced and she only winced once after landing after a rebound. Otherwise she seemed her usual frisky, overconfident self.

I then set off across the great metropolis to the haunts of the Bruin. It was “Going to College Day” at UCLA and there was a large turnout of children who greatly increased the attendance in Pauley Pavilion. My guess was that there were about 6,000 seats filled

Pauley still has a brand-new feeling. And it far surpasses Galen in the quality and quantity of concessions. Galen has no ice cream. Pauley has five kinds, presenting the difficult problem of which to choose.

It also was Senior Day at UCLA with Thea Lemberger and Atonya Nyingifa the honorees.

For a reason unknown to me, Tara surprisingly started Briana, Erica M and Bonnie along with Chiney and Amber. Once substitutions began, the usual starters began taking the floor. Every player appeared to be in shape to play.

UCLA held the lead for most of the first half, but not by the large gap USC had achieved on Friday. In general, the scoring gap was 5 points or less. Stanford tied the score shortly before the half and led at the halfway mark 29-25. The Cardinal was pretty sloppy much of the first half and contributed generously to the UCLA lead.

During the first 10 minutes of the second half Stanford kept a 4- to 8-point lead. Then the Cardinal increased the gap slightly to between 9 and 14 points for the last 10 minutes. The final score was 65-56. Chiney finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 steals and 8 of 12 free throws. Amber was the only other Stanford player in double digits with 13.

Team statistics were not encouraging. Only 2 of 9 3-point attempts went in for a lowly 22.2%. Worst of all, the team had 9 assists to 16 turnovers—evidence of sloppy play, especially in the first half.

Bonnie played extremely well, more than her stats indicate. As usual, Mikaela also was a real warrior with 7 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and 3 of 5 free throws.

This game became increasingly comfortable to watch. While Stanford had come back from a big hole against USC, it stayed clear of a hole against the Bruins. This game was much preferable. In the second half today Stanford played much better on offense and defense, closer to expectations. Overall, it was not pretty, but the right team won.

This was a rough and tough weekend, as the trip to LA often is. The final result was another two notches on the Cardinal belt. A win is a win and Stanford is returning with two more of the desired W and none of the dreaded L.

The frosting on this weekend’s cake, achieved this afternoon in Westwood, is the clinching of the Pac-12 championship once again. I am hoping to see “2014” added to the board in Maples for next weekend’s final Pac-12 season’s games.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Trying Trip to Trojan Land

By Wally Mersereau

Friday was a beautiful winter day in LA with a high temperature in the 70s. There was a little haze, but the Hollywood Hills were clearly visible from my downtown hotel room.

This is an important road trip. The Pac-12 season is winding down. Stanford is close to clinching the conference title, but really needs to win-out from here on. Every game is going to be a battle, with every opponent trying to pick off the Cardinal. The target is on Stanford’s back in day-glo colors. No opponent is going to fail to notice.

Approached southbound on Figueroa, the Galen Center has a massive, and somewhat fascist, façade, something Mussolini would have liked although he would have left off the brick trim. Inside, it is a very pleasant place with comfortable seats and short, easy-to-navigate aisles. The arena announcer is more of a homer than the one at UCLA, embarrassingly over the top with booming, long-drawn-out names of the Women of Troy. USC is big on dancing girls and there were two large platoons of them in contrasting uniforms, but only a small band. At the 6 pm tip-off there were about 250 fans present, but the attendance more than doubled by half-time. The official count was more than a thousand, but I moved to a sold-out section that was well under half full, so I stand by my estimate.

Lili was not suited up. Everyone else seemed fit to play. Karlie was back from resting her foot and started, along with Taylor and the Big Three.

The game began the wrong way and got worse before it got better. For much of the first half it reminded me of the Washington game. USC was scoring on almost every possession and Stanford had a hard time finding the basket. At the first time-out Stanford trailed 4-12. Four minutes later it was 9-21. With 8 minutes remaining in the half it was 13-31 and that also was the score at the 6-minute mark. From this 18-point deficit, Stanford finally began to battle back, closing to 30-37 at the half. I had been hoping the Cardinal could reduce the gap to single digits and this was done. This was a nice come-back from a deep hole.

The second half was better from start to finish. At the first time-out the score was 37-39 and with 12 minutes left 41-43. Stanford tied the game at 43-43 and then with 10:32 remaining was up 49-43 and kept the lead to the end of the game. The largest Stanford lead was 9 and the final score was 64-59. Stanford won the second half 34 to 22.

Three-point shooting went away again and the team made only 3 of 11 attempts for 27.3%. Rebounds were almost even with a 35-33 edge to the Cardinal. Stanford out-blocked 5 to 1, but was out stolen 4 to 6. Free throws were a bright spot with the team making 17 of 20 for 85%.

Tara substituted with abandon in the first half, seemingly somewhat desperately trying to find some combination that could stop USC and score some points for Stanford. Many players were in and out quickly and, in the end, the rotation of those with 10 minutes or more was seven. Chiney was in for 38 minutes, Amber for 37, Mikaela for 34, Bonnie for 28, Karlie for 21, Briana for 17 and Taylor for 14 minutes.

Chiney had only 9 points at the half and finished with 27, along with 7 rebounds. Bonnie was again second in scoring with 14 points, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc and 8 of 8 free throws. No other Stanford players were in double digits in points or rebounds. Briana made 7 points and looked good at the point. She is improving rapidly.

For USC Ariya Crook had 24 points and was especially dangerous in the first half. Cassie Harberts scored 12 points. No other Trojan broke into double digits. USC threatened at the end, getting to within 3 points with 18 seconds left, but Stanford held on with two free throws by Bonnie with 14 seconds left producing the final Cardinal points.

This was a trying game. I have the feeling there will be more like this, extending through the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford is going to be tested in every game from here on out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Buying Tickets for the Tournament

The PAC-12 is selling single-session and all-session tickets for the tournament at Key Arena in Seattle. This is the sales page. When you "Click here to buy" you are sent to a Ticketmaster page that loads an interactive arena seating chart. (In the Chrome browser, the seating chart never appeared, but it did on Firefox and Safari.)

You may have already ordered tournament tickets, perhaps when you renewed your season tickets for Maples. If so, those will be coming in the mail. As of 20 Feb, the Stanford Ticket Office has not received their allocation of tickets. They say they might have a few additional seats to sell after mailing out the pre-orders, but not many, and they can't say when they'll know for sure. So for additional tickets, it's back to the above purchase website.

There are large General Admission sections at the ends of the court. The bulk of reserved seats are $110 for all-session. Section 113 is behind the higher-seed bench; section 101 across from it. There are also three narrow "VIP" sections available across from the benches. "VIP 1" is across from the higher-seed bench. The VIP sections are $185 for all-session tickets.

The purchase process is involved and slow. Before you can complete a purchase you need to create an "account" with the Seattle Storm. There's a "create account" link at the top of the page, and it's a good idea to do this (or log in, if you created one last year) before selecting seats.

You click on one of the blue sections to view the individual seats available (not very many) and select your choice. One at a time you put the tickets in your "cart" and then check out with a credit card.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Two Notes for Your L.A. Weekend

Two quick notes for those attending Cardinal games in L.A. this weekend.

Cheap Tix

If you don't already have your UCLA tickets, André L. has contributed four tix for that game that you can use. If you want them, email or leave a message at 650-387-3645. You can pick them up at the USC game Friday.

Consider attending Cal-USC Sunday

Cal plays at the Galen Center at noon Sunday. If you want to take in a whole lotta basketball, there would be plenty of time to attend that game and get across town for the 4pm Stanford-UCLA game later that day.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Perfect Storm

By Wally Mersereau

The sky was gray, but the ground was dry, when I arrived in Seattle early on Saturday afternoon. I had successfully left the rainy Bay Area behind. Weather forecasters were not in agreement as to whether or not the Bay Area storms would reach Puget Sound. Until 6 pm optimists, including me, were smugly pleased. I didn’t bother to carry an umbrella as I strolled downtown streets.

But then a few light snow flurries suddenly appeared. By 7 pm there was a light coating of snow on the roofs of parked cars and by 9 pm trees and roofs were white. On Sunday morning I looked down from my hotel windows at all horizontal surfaces covered with snow. Residents told me this was the first significant snow of the winter.

On Friday Stanford barely won a close game over Washington State and Washington had barely lost a close game to Cal. By Sunday the Bay Area teams had crossed the Cascades in opposite directions. Stanford had not contained the two quick Cougar guards. Would it do better against the two quick Husky guards? I headed for Alaska Airlines Arena on the UW campus to find out.

Red brick Hec Edmundson Pavilion was built in 1927 and seats 10,000. Alaska Airlines obtained naming rights to the facility in 2011. About 2,800 fans trudged through the snow on Sunday to see what would happen after tip-off. Little did they know.

I probably should have recognized the snow storm as being a bad omen. Washington jumped out to an early lead and the storm inside the arena began to build. It was a case of excellent, but not outstanding, shooting by the Huskies combined with unbelievably dreadful shooting by the Cardinal.

The team stats tell the depressing story. UW made 30 of 64 shots from the field at a rate of 46.9%. Good, but not great. But Stanford made 28 of 81—yes, that’s right—53 unsuccessful efforts for an embarrassing 34.6% return. How could that be? Stanford missed 53 shots! Wait, there’s more.

From beyond the arc, Washington made 9 of 22, a respectable 40.9%. Stanford made the same number of 3-pointers, but out of 41 attempts for an embarrassing 22%. How could that be? Stanford had 32 failed 3-point efforts! Where did all of the talented long distance Cardinal shooters go? They were all there, heaving it up time after time with little to show for their efforts.

Only from the free throw line did Stanford excel—making 17 of 20 for 85%.

I could go on, but you know the rest. You also saw it unfold like a bad dream.

Washington played a great game. The Huskies were not intimidated in the least by #3 Stanford. Every UW starter scored in double digits. The Huskies did not Fear the Tree. Many UW players stepped up. Stanford did not contain the quick Husky guards--or any other Washington players. Sadly, Stanford fell short, ending a long string of Pac-12 wins.

This was not a good trip to the Northwest, almost a loss to Washington State on Friday and then today’s debacle. Time to take a deep breath, reflect, and then begin again. This team is too good not to bounce back and play better than ever.

Go Stanford!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hotel deal for PAC-12 Tourney

The PAC-12 Tournament is, as you probably know, March 6-9 in Seattle. I've received a promotional email from the Hotel Five, a new-ish establishment that is not far from the Seattle Center and Key Arena. There are three promotions available, click here to view the hotel's page with the best deal, your third night free on a stay of three or more consecutive nights—perfect for the tournament. From that page, click in the upper left to view the other two deals, one for 15% off and one for a glass-blowing experience. If that doesn't work, try this link and make sure to include the promo code SEA109. That should get rates less than $120/night.

Hotel Five gets four stars from yelp reviewers. The walk to the front door of Key Arena is about 0.8 miles, per Google maps.