STANFORD WINS THE PENNANT! Stanford wins the pennant! Well, not the pennant, that being our little pun about the Giants, and The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team did not win a national championship or even any championship, but they just beat Baylor in the regular season, something nobody, least of all C and R, expected them to do. And it sure feels like a championship of some sort. Even the media was calling it an “upset” even though Stanford is ranked #4 to Baylor’s #1.
This blog is a day late because C was hung over from eating humble pie all night long. Yes, both C and R, who are arguably the biggest Stanford fans when it comes to arguing women’s basketball, had been saying all preseason and through the short regular season, “we’re going to get killed by Baylor!”
Well come on, let’s look at the evidence. Stanford is a young team. They have eight freshmen and sophomores out of 15 players. They also have three players who hardly played last year due to injury; Mikaela Ruef, Jasmine Camp and Alex Green (who still is not ready to play). Plus a veteran who has been injured to start the year (Toni Kokenis, rhymes with tennis). The Stanford exhibition games were a little shaky for the level of competition, getting out rebounded by a much smaller Vanguard University. Add to the fact that #1 Baylor, undefeated defending national champs riding a 42 game win streak, thrashed then #5 Kentucky earlier in the week. Stanford was ranked #4, even though they lost their top scorer, rebounder and heart and soul in senior Nneka Ogwumike. It just didn’t seem possible.
First of all, this incredible game was not televised anywhere. The twitter-sphere was aghast and complained mightily, but all our tweets go to other women’s basketball fans and to no one who has any real power to actually make this happen. (We gotta figure that one out.) The Pac-12 did throw up a feed at the last second, so hats off to them. On our computer, though it was a little jerky, and there was no audio. We streamed KZSU over the Internet, so we would hear what happened and see the compressed action a few seconds afterward. Taylor Greenfield hits a three, now we see it. Joslyn Tinkle gets a rebound and a put back, there it is.
The worst thing about not having the game televised was we couldn’t see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey’s outfit, although photos showed it was subdued athletic clothes. The real surprise was the photos afterward that proved Tara VanDerveer cut loose and wore her Hawaii tourist clothes!
The first half opened when most of us were at work, and imagine our surprise when Stanford went up by seven, nine, twelve….FOURTEEN points over Baylor in the first half. Granted, Baylor did lose their excellent point guard and defender in Odyssey Simms, when she went down just four minutes into the contest with a hamstring injury and did not return. But every team has to deal with injuries or a good player on the bench with foul trouble…or a contact lens issue.
Baylor did come back, thanks to a Baylor’s Jordan Madden, stepping up for 13 first half points. National Player of the Year last year, 6’8 Brittney Griner, was held to just four at the break, due to Stanford’s excellent double team of her. By contrast, Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike had nine in the first, taking it to BG early and often. Chiney Ogwumike even hit her first three! She had a second, but it was called back for a long two.
At the half the score was 31-29, Stanford holding on to a two-point lead. Stanford was buoyed by defensive play from Mikaela Ruef with 12 big rebounds, eight of them defensively. Taylor Greenfield ended up with 16 total points, making four from three-point land. Baylor’s coach was exhorting her team in the first half to show some energy and intensity, like Stanford was. Mulkey would later say after the game that during their streak, they were not tested and didn’t know how to react to a close game. Also, I believe Baylor was 1-13 from three-point range at the half. By contrast, Stanford would shot 7-14 from the three-point line for the game.
The second half, well it was all a blur, what with rushing home through traffic, trying to coordinate when to dash inside from the car with the KSZU radio on and get the computer fired up to see and hear over the Internet. Just when we were believing Stanford could do this, imagine our surprise, again, when Baylor took the lead with 7:11 left to play. Brittney Griner got unleashed and showed some of her moves and scored 18 more points in the second to have 22 for the game.
After trading leads, none other than Chiney Ogwumike does a reverse lay up over Brittney to put Stanford up by four with 22 seconds left. Chiney would end up with 18 points for the game. Of course we could really couldn’t see this, so we just took the KZSU guy’s word for it. After Destiny Williams hit her first three of the year, and just second three-pointer of the game for Baylor, to draw within one, Toni Kokenis would hit one of two free throws, making the score 71-69, Stanford. Baylor had the ball with four seconds, down by two, and Stanford knew the ball was going to Brittney for the last shot. It did, she shot, she missed and Stanford wins…the…the…Best Women’s Basketball Game nobody saw.