So I went to the storied halls of Maples Pavilion to watch the No. 5 ranked Cardinal worked their magic. Stanford took care of UC-Davis 93-44, but it wasn’t necessarily as magical as you might expect.
Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Big 12, or jaded into expecting to see a top-tier program run a fast-paced exciting game. This is not what you get when the Cardinal take the hardwood. You get slow, steady, businesslike. You get almost … unimpressive … looking basketball – that is until you look at the scoreboard and stat sheet. You get magic, but not necessarily from specific plays and players, but maybe from whatever Tara VanDerveer does to make these women wins for her night after night, and year after year.
I was trying to put my finger on what makes this team unimpressive when I see them in person and I just can’t really do it. They play solid offensive basketball, shooting a consistent 54.5 percent in the first half followed by 54.8 in the second. They hold on to the ball and make mostly smart decisions, committing just nine turnovers in the contest. The defense was effective in holding UC-Davis to 36.2 percent shooting and forcing14 turnovers. Stanford had four players in double digits and outrebounded the Aggies 47-16.
Sounds great, right? But for some reason, I just wasn’t overly impressed.
That said, there is some player magic to be seen, by the girls wearing jerseys stitched with Ogwumike on them. Nneka was already at the top of my 2012 WNBA Draft board, and now she is firmly entrenched in the top spot as I pine for Tulsa to trade up to get her. She can float above the crowd below the basket to pick up the pass and breeze in for the layup. She can leap heads and shoulders above players scrambling for rebounds to snag them in midair. She put in a game-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, was 6-of-7 from the line and grabbed nine rebounds. In 21 minutes. Her little sis, Chiney – not to be outdone by the senior – added 18 points and nine rebounds of her own in 25 minutes on the court. I expect her name to be at or darn near the top of her class by the time she reaches her final year of college too.
But after the Ogwumikes, I had trouble being wowed – except for by the nifty as ever Tree and the accompanying crazy Stanford band.
Things that stick in my noggin as head-scratching are the weird way Bonnie Samuelson runs around the court with her hands in ‘raptor’ pose, readied for the ball beyond the arc. And the curious shooting motion of the Stanford 3-point specialist that left my head shaking every time she downed one of her five made threes. The hesitation of Joslyn Tinkle to maintain her position in the paint, to shy away from contact in the first half was also curious. Particularly so, when you realize she did just that in the final 10 minutes of play when the game was more than decided to finish with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Taylor Greenfield, whom a friend told me is being touted as potentially the next Kayla Pedersen in Stanford circles, doesn’t look so Kayla Pedersen-esque. When I think Kayla, I think hustle, hard work and determination. When I think Greenfield, I think perhaps confused about her role and fairly silent when on the court. Or at least right now. The slow speed at which nearly everyone runs the court is a rare sight to me, and it looks even slower in person than it does on television.
The band master had a banana on a stick, the cowbell player was the most energetic I’ve ever seen, the tree danced around like I had hoped, and the band has their own set of dancers called the Dollies for entertainment. Unfortunately, the crowd they were entertaining was less than impressive (or at least by my Big 12 standards) with only 2,875 fans in attendance.
I don’t really have too many legit negatives to say but not really a lot of gushing positives either. But how can you argue about a 93-44 win by the 5th ranked team at Maples Pavilion?!? I guess you don’t…I think I’ll just scratch my head and wait to see if I can formulate any answers or get that warm, fuzzy feeling of ‘impressed’ the next time I get a chance to head to Maples.