At one point early in the game, Stanford had missed 14 straight shots, most of them at point-blank range. That it didn’t ultimately hurt the Cardinal in a 79-58 win over Cal at Maples Pavilion on Saturday shows something about the difference between Stanford and the rest of the Pac-10. “Overall, we really need to play a lot better,” Tara VanDerveer, almost through gritted teeth. VanDerveer had to be happy about the day she got from Nneka Ogwumike, 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Ogwumike is, without a doubt, the best player on the floor for Stanford right now.
She was thrilled with the backcourt minutes she got from JJ Hones, coming off knee swelling to finish with 22 minutes logged, five points and five assists. She was likely elated to see what she got from senior point guard Melanie Murphy, back from her own knee injury for the second game. Murphy, who missed six games matched her career high with 11 points, including six free throws and a beautiful no-look pass to Ogwumike in transition in the second half.
“I was happy with how she pushed the ball, and made good decisions,” VanDerveer said of Murphy. “We need guard play where people can break down the defense from the point of attack and make good decisions. I thought JJ and Mel both gave us good minutes at the guard.”
But VanDerveer was obviously not happy with the play of senior center Jayne Appel, who salvaged a rough day. She was 5 of 16 from the field for 13 points, missing a bevy of layups to go with six rebounds. She played 28 minutes. Asked whether Appel is fully healed from her offseason knee surgery, VanDerveer demurred.
“I don’t really know how to answer that,” VanDerveer said. “I think she feels good, but I think a lot of it, whether she’s back or not, you have to be effective. This was not a game where Jayne was really effective like she was in other games for us.”
Appel looked out of position on some shots. Others just didn’t fall. VanDerveer was asked whether her All-American might be having a crisis of confidence.
“A lot of times, Jayne really needs to be on balance, some of the early shots were off-balance,” VanDerveer said. “She needs to create a little more speace and go up stronger. But some of them were point-blank lay-ups. One of the great things about Jayne, when she’s struggling, she’s not down on her teammates, she stays in the game. She’s one of those people with a short memory and that’s good.
“It’s a real key to our team. Some days the offense not there, and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for all of us to see a lot of good shots not go in, but we had to do other things. But in order to really go anywhere, you’ve got to make lay-ups.”
Murphy was the bright spot on a day that wasn’t bad for the Cardinal, but not as good as some other days have been. Murphy said she has kept her chin up through her injury-plagued career.
“You are always going to go through lows, you have to keep moving,” Murphy said. “My teammates have done a good job of keeping me involved. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten down about it because you can always come back.”