Duck, Duck, Goose

The Cardinal continued their resurgence with an easy victory over the Oregon Ducks at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. Team captains Jillian Harmon and Candice Wiggins provided early scoring punch, and an aggressive, trapping defense did in the Ducks.

On Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, the Stanford Cardinal decided not to go Duck hunting. They went the more humane route, preferring to do some heavy-duty Duck trapping instead. Stanford trapped and harassed an Oregon team that played #9 California tough on Thursday into 27 turnovers and an 83-49 victory. The Ducks did not seem to enjoy the Card's eradication methods. Maybe getting trapped repeatedly by the likes of Card center Jayne Appel was less than pleasant. Said Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins, "We knew that they really utilized the pick on the ball, so we wanted to make sure we were aggressive and trapped that right away. Our defense brings a lot of energy to our offense and gets us all going." This was the second game in a row where the Cardinal burst from the gate and put the contest away early. They built a 10-point lead in three minutes, and except for a slight mid-game scoring siesta, when the lead dwindled to 13, the Card methodically kept increasing the margin. "When you allow Stanford to shoot 51% you're not going to have much of a chance of winning the ballgame," said Oregon head coach Bev Smith. "They were pretty much able to do what they wanted to do offensively, particularly in the first half. We went to the zone and I felt we had good results with that. We just didn't do a good job on the boards. [Stanford forward Jillian] Harmon really, really hurt us in that aspect."

Indeed, Harmon did. The two primary chefs who cooked the Duck's goose were the Cardinal's two team captains, Wiggins and the previously mentioned rebound hog, junior forward Jillian Harmon. Said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, "We came out against a very good team that gave Cal a really good game, so we knew we needed to play well. Jill got us going. I told Jill after the game that we need to play schools from Oregon every week because I guess being from Oregon she likes to remind people that she played up there. She did a great job. She got us going, scored, rebounded, defended. That was the "old Jill" game, and we're very excited about that. Candice always brings great energy. We missed some free throws (8-17). We missed some three-point shots (7-25). But our defense and rebounding, and our depth, were real big factors for us. I was pleased with the weekend. We just need to build on it, improve, and keep doing what we're doing."

Whether "old" or "new", Harmon got "goosed" first. "We came out wanting to be real aggressive, trapping them, rotating, and helping each other out. At USC and UCLA, I don't think we were as aggressive defensively as we needed to be. We really addressed that in practice. When we play defense like that, I think that's when we're at our best," explained Harmon. She scored Stanford's first six points, on her way to 15 points (6-7 and 3-3 from the free throw line) and 9 rebounds (5 offensive) in only 17 minutes. Oregon has good size inside with 6'4" center Ellyce Ironmonger, 6'3" forward Ellie Manou, and 6'5" forward Nicole Canepa. Harmon at 6'1" was the one who kept coming down with the rebounds. "I see offensive rebounds as a great way to give our team energy, a great way to get easy baskets. It's kind of my job as a bigger "3" player, to crash the boards. That is what Tara has asked me to do for 3 years, so I'm used to it," offered Harmon. She and her post teammates controlled Oregon's inside game. Duck posts hit a few outside shots, but had little luck posting up. Junior post Morgan Clyburn concluded perhaps her best weekend as a Cardinal with an active defense that created 2 steals and 2 blocks. Even without scoring (0-1), Clyburn made a big positive impact with her defense and rebounding (5 rebounds, including 2 offensive in 18 minutes). With Clyburn coming on and freshman forward Ashley Cimino healthy, Stanford's post rotation is gaining some much-needed depth at just the right time.

After Harmon had gotten the ball rolling, she tapped the next "goose" on the head and let Candice Wiggins chase a few Ducks. Early in the first half, Wiggins embarked on a scoring binge that netted her 12 points in less than 5 minutes. When she paused to scan the skies for migrating birds (She could have been looking at the scoreboard, but let's assume bird watching instead.), the Cardinal lead was 18. Wiggins ended her day with 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. When asked about the contrast with her 4-point effort against Oregon State, Wiggins answered, "I didn't even think about the 4-point game because to me it's just about the way I feel after a game, which is how I test whether it's a good game or a bad game. [The OSU game] was just great, what our team needed. We needed to rebound from our weekend in LA. So for me, this weekend as a whole was a great weekend. Points are not necessarily the way you should measure the quality of your game."

Measuring game quality by Wiggins' standards, we can find a lot of good games to salute. Maybe Jeanette Pohlen had too many of those darned points, but we'll count her anyway. Pohlen finished with 15 points (6-9 and 3-4 from three-point range) and 4 assists in what was a very good weekend of basketball for the freshman. Junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude scored 7 points (3-6), added 3 steals, and dished out 3 assists without a turnover. She helped get the Card off to their speedy start by setting the aggressive defensive tone that prevented Oregon's leading scorer, guard Taylor Lilley, from getting off a shot. Freshman guard Hannah Donaghe chipped in with 2-2 shooting from beyond the three-point arc for 6 points in her 6 minutes on court. We can apply the Wiggins' standard to center Jayne Appel, who scored only 4 points, but did not miss a shot (2-2). She did have some foul trouble, but she also had 2 blocks and a steal, and more importantly, when Oregon swarmed her, she got the ball out quickly to perimeter shooters. Cutting post turnovers is a critical task for the Cardinal, who played an excellent game without having to force the ball inside to Appel, a development which bodes well for the future, when teams will certainly continue to make denying Appel their top priority. Oregon State let Appel have her way. Oregon denied her furiously. Stanford won both games by taking what the defense gave them.

The entire weekend of exorcising LA by bashing the Oregon schools was one long sigh of relief for Stanford. Said Tara VanDerveer, "I'm really proud of our team, how we came back. A lot of times if you lose and you were expected to win, there can be a blame game, but on either side of me are our two captains (Harmon and Wiggins) – they set the tone in practice. We went right to work on Monday. You couldn't change anything that happened so you might as well try to control what's coming down the road." Against Oregon State and Oregon, the Cardinal played with the energy and focus they will need to maintain when they head off on the road next week. Added Wiggins, "Obviously we were upset about [the LA losses], but more than anything we know how great of a team we can be. We all stuck together. Like Tara said earlier, there was no pointing of the finger. We know this is a special team, so we're not really concerned about what happened. We're learning from it, and I think we definitely learned a huge lesson. One lesson would have been good enough, but we had to learn two lessons."

If there is any finger pointing, we hope it is the "Fickle Finger of Fate" pointing favorably Stanford's way in return for the renewed intensity the team demonstrated this weekend. The Cardinal's game of "Duck, Duck, Goose" with Oregon ended in a manner just ducky for the home team because they aggressively took control. The game will change quite a bit once the Cardinal hit the road. We don't think Arizona State will be offering up kiddie games. They go in more for contact sports. Conference road trips are never easy, no matter the records or results of previously played games. Child's play, this isn't.

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