What a weird game. What a weird 100-59 victory. At first, Stanford came out with its starting five and looked like a machine, passing inside, scoring, even an early alley-oop to Nneka Ogwumike and the score was 23-14 at the eleven and a half mark. Then, Stanford’s man to man defense, long it’s stalwart all year, looks confused and a step too slow and we let 7-17, 5-7 in the PAC-10 Washington State make all kinda crazy shots, so much so that it was tied at 28 with about 6 and a half minutes left in the first half.
To Washington State’s credit, they executed their screens and double screens well and freed up their shooters, and then their shooters knocked down shots. Stanford was slow to help when they drove in to the lane, to switch when picked, or even react and therefore they frequently lost their man, hence the crowds chant of, “Somebody guard number 11!” Okay, that was C yelling, but number 11 Jazmine Perkins had 14 points in the first half and actually put Washington State up 28-26 with a three with about 7 minutes left in the first half. Hecka Nneka, Stanford didn’t even give up the lead when they played UConn.
Stanford did this before with a PAC-10 foe, we think it was USC, where they had trouble with switches on defense and double screens and Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer adjusted her team to a zone, and that was all she wrote. They shut down the other team defensively in that game without having to worry about screens. So, C and R kept waiting and waiting for Tara to call a time out and go to zone. And she didn’t and she didn’t and then it was tied at 28 with about five minutes left.
Stanford went on a 20-4 run in those last five minutes and went in to the locker room up 46-32. Talk about demoralizing for the other team. To be tied, to have the lead even, and then you blink and you are walking to the locker room down by 14.
How did Stanford score? Well, they worked it inside to Nneka and sister and Chiney Ogumike, and Chiney got offensive rebounds and put backs, too. Jeanette bombed a three in there, Nneka had a tip in, you know, the usual. Kayla made a save under the Stanford basket, while falling out of bounds, a backhanded scoop to a streaking Nneka down the middle of the lane and she put it back off the glass before Washington State could react. Hecka Nneka indeed! When they want to be, they are incredible.
When they blew the whistle for the second half, Stanford didn’t let up and went on a 15-2 run and Washington State didn’t score until almost 6 minutes had gone by in the second half (Jazmine Perkins made 2 free throws). Nneka was a beast on the boards, treating the crowd to ohhhs and ahhs when she would sky high and also when she would put back an offensive rebound without bothering to land on the floor. And the Stanford team as a whole was hustling and hitting the floor for loose balls, most notably Lindy La Rocque and Kayla Pedersen. And then there were fast breaks and Washington State’s inexplicable ability to guard the bottom of the basket. Its was as if their defense kept creeping up to the foul line and a Stanford player would slip back there and have an easy, uncontested lay up. First the starters, and then the bench was able to do it when they came in with 10 minutes left. Loved seeing Toni Kokenis score 13 points by driving in the lane. The crowd favorite was reserve Grace Mashore and they heartily applauded her three. Even with their bench, Stanford won by 41, after being down in the first half. Just weird. And Stanford might not be able to come back so strongly against ranked opponents in the tournament.
Coach, what happened out there?
“The second half, we really took over,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I think our team might have come out a little casual. We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be early in the game. We had to make some adjustments offensively, which I thought we did.”
Nneka, what’s your take?
“One of the things that I think is our best quality is we don’t have an arrogant air about ourselves,” Ogwumike said. “We don’t walk in and say, ‘Oh, we’re Stanford, let’s just play, things will work for us.’ When we’re not playing or performing, it’s a lack of concentration and focus.”