Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oregon Brunch, Seattle Hotel Deal

Teressa Trusty, current president of the Stanford Alumni in Eugene, writes to invite all visiting fans to join local alumni for a brunch prior to the Stanford-Oregon game. The game is at 1pm on Sunday March 1st. Brunch will be from 11am at the Wild Duck Cafe, 1419 Villard St., just across from Matt Knight Arena.

The PAC-12 tournament starts just four days later in Seattle, on March 5th. If you haven't booked your hotel for that trip, consider the Hotel Five, a boutique hotel under the Monorail. If you enter the promo code SALE in this online booking form you will find rooms from $150-$170. The hotel is just under a mile walk to Key Arena, but they offer complementary bicycles for guests, and a free shuttle service which unfortunately stops at 5:30pm. (But you know what works? There are usually pedicabs hanging around Key Arena evenings, and a pedicab ride would be a fairly cheap way to get back to the hotel after the evening session.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Sweep in LA

By Wally Mersereau

The starting line-up in Galen Center on Sunday was the same as at UCLA, but this time the Cardinal tried something different. Instead of starting out in a deep hole it chose to start in a shallow one and it began climbing out earlier than in recent games despite Kaylee picking up two early fouls.

Kaylee was replaced by Bird who made 6 quick points and then made another bucket to increase her first-half total to 8. McCall’s above-average shooting when she entered the game was crucial to putting Stanford in front. Tess was put in to face USC’s maulers, primarily Simmons, and to reduce fouls on Kaylee and Bird. I think this was a good decision by Tara.

Lili regained her shooting ability and had scored 13 points by halftime. Despite an assortment of missed early lay-ups, by the mid-point of the first half the Cardinal was up by 10 and kept this lead relatively steady to achieve a halftime lead of 36-27.

Stanford held a lead of from 10 to 15 points throughout the second half. The final score was 71-60.

The Cardinal had to deal with rough play by big-bodied Trojans while having to endure ear-splitting noise during time-outs from an over-the-top DJ who seemed intent on trying to cause hearing impairment. Fans should have been given ear-plugs.

Lili’s improved shooting gave her a team-leading 21 points, followed by Bird with 11 and Amber with 10. Bonnie and Kaylee had 8 points apiece and Bri contributed 7.

Fortunately, USC’s maul-ball play resulted in a larger share of foul calls on the Trojans while Stanford’s free throw shooting improved wonderfully and this helped to maintain the lead. Lili was splendid from the line with 12 of 14 and the team made 20 of 24.

Based only on watching both LA teams this weekend, my opinion is that UCLA is the better team with more skilled players and consequently is more dangerous. The Trojans played rougher. Current Pac-12 rankings appropriately reflect the difference in the LA schools.

This was a challenging weekend and winning both games was a splendid accomplishment, allowing Stanford to share second place with Arizona State.

Attendance was higher than Galen’s usual 500 or so, although a significant number were groups of children.

Friday, January 23, 2015

True Grit

By Wally Mersereau

The Daily Bruin today had a story on today’s women’s game against Stanford headed “Team looks to establish new tradition”. The story tells of Stanford’s 14 consecutive Pac-12 championships and quotes coach Cori Close as saying “Stanford has an incredible tradition”. The article notes that the UCLA freshmen “have never faced a Tara VanDerveer team” and says the Bruins “see a chance to topple a wobbling empire and start a new legacy in Los Angeles for women’s basketball”.

The first quarter of tonight’s game made this speculation seem plausible as UCLA jumped out to a 26-13 lead and a similar pattern to last week’s ASU game seemed to be taking form. But this time the Cardinal didn’t wait until the second half to begin battling back. Stanford started to understand how to defend the free-scoring Bruins and began to find its own basket. At the half Stanford was down by only three points, 37-40.

The second half found Stanford in control from the get-go. The game was quickly tied on an Amber bucket from beyond the arc and once Stanford took the lead it never gave it back, outscoring the Bruins in the second half 42-30, for a final score of 79-70.

Briana started this game in place of Karlie and was the initial point guard. Her full-tilt play was occasionally out of control, but generally she was effective and she tied as high scorer with 21 points. Also with 21 points was Bonnie who had her greatest game ever by contributing in so many ways and doing so with determination and effectiveness. Her defense was exceptional. She had 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Close behind was Amber with 20 points, 5 assists to 1 turnover, 4 steals, 4 of 4 free throws and 2 of 4 threes. Amber played hard from the opening tip.

Kaylee notched another double-double with 10 points and 17 rebounds. She missed her first four free throws, then made her next four. She ended with 6 of 12 successful trips to the line. She practiced free throws before each half, but this remains a weakness.

Karlie was first off the bench and contributed 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 of 3 three-pointers. She was effective on defense as were all of her teammates after the first 10 minutes.

UCLA is a dangerous team, Nirra Fields was hot with 22 points, but she did her worst damage in the first half.

Stanford’s early come-back and strong second half was a display of true grit. Six players accomplished most of this: the starters plus Karlie. These six players were magnificent, individually and collectively. They gave great effort with poise and courage once they started to cut into the Bruin lead.

UCLA started with a highly effective game plan and initially executed it to perfection, but as the game progressed the tide turned. UCLA fell behind and could never come back. Tonight’s game was not the start of a new tradition in Los Angeles but, rather, was a splendid demonstration of Stanford basketball at its finest.

The Cardinal not only had to face the talented, motivated and well-prepared Bruins, but also had to deal with some poor officiating. On several occasions, UCLA players were clear violators but fouls were called on Stanford. The Bruins play physical, aggressive basketball and get away with more than they should, although they were called for a lot of fouls in the first half.

There was a nice turnout of Stanford fans in Pauley Pavilion, but overall attendance was mediocre. I estimated it at about 1200. From a Stanford fan perspective this was a great game, well worth a trip to LA. The weather today was perfect with a temperature of about 70 degrees. I strolled the UCLA campus this afternoon and was impressed with it and with the students populating it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Whole Lot Better

I entered the Alaska Airlines Arena at the University of Washington tonight with trepidation. What a difference a year makes! Last year the U-Dub game in Seattle was a painful loss with Stanford unable to get its shots to fall—even with Chiney. I recall writhing in my purple plastic seat in agony as Bonnie’s long desperation threes clanged off the rim down the stretch as Tara figured threes were the only hope of getting out of the hole the Cardinal was in. Nothing worked. Stanford just couldn’t shoot and it seemed as if Washington couldn’t miss.

Tonight’s game was a whole lot better. The score was relatively close for the entire game and the final four minutes went Stanford’s way, thanks to clutch shooting by Lili, Bonnie and Amber. At the 4-minute mark Stanford was down one at 49-50. Lili got the lead back with a jumper at 3:39, Bonnie increased the lead to 55-50 with her fourth three at 2:39. Amber tossed in a jumper at 1:10 and Lili delivered the coup de grace with 27 seconds left with a magnificent three off the backboard to achieve a 60-55 victory. Whew! Way to go, Stanford!

Lili made 13 of her 15 points and Amber 12 of her 14 points in the second half. This dynamic duo has been getting the job done of late. Lili has left her slump behind and Amber is providing senior leadership. Kaylee continued her improved play with 5 points, 13 rebounds and only two personal fouls.

Stanford was down at the half 22-24, but outscored the Dawgs in the second half 38-32. Kelsey Plum had 16 points, Jazmine Davis had 13 and Aminah Williams 12. Stanford didn’t stop these Husky stars, but kept them sufficiently under control to come away with the win.

Seven Stanford players had 12 minutes or more—the starting five plus Taylor Greenfield and Brittany. All seven contributed. I found I was most comfortable with the starters on the floor.

This was a big win. Washington is a better team than either Colorado or Utah and Stanford won this game on the Huskies’ home court despite lots of fan support for the Dawgs. Official attendance was 2,677 and that matches my eyeball opinion. There were about 35 Stanford fans present. Brittany had a cheering section of a dozen or more and was identified by the game announcer as a local product.

It was a nice dry day in Seattle with the temperature only a few degrees cooler than in the Bay Area. I enjoyed my 75-cent ride on the light rail line from the airport to downtown. I discovered an upscale sushi place across from the art museum. It was almost full at 4:30 and I figured that was a better recommendation than a bunch of strong Yelp reviews and that proved to be the case.

If Stanford can do as well in Pullman as it did tonight in Seattle this will be a splendid road trip indeed. It would be nice to return home 4-0 in the Pac-12.