Stanford center Jayne Appel has had perfect games from the field in her career, most recently in an 8-8 performance in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals. It was a pretty stat and Appel played very well that day, but 8-8 begs for more, begs for a little more rough and tumble and a little less perfection. On Saturday evening against the Cleveland State Vikings, Appel moved beyond quiet perfection into the much harder to achieve realm of absolute domination. Stanford piggybacked on her shoulders to an 85-47 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The sophomore center scored a career-high 33 points on 14-19 shooting from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line. She also grabbed 12 boards. If Appel had played more than 7 minutes in the second half, she would have scored at least 40. At the half, big #2 led Cleveland State 29-22 and the Viking posts probably wished they were off discovering Greenland. Said Cleveland State head coach Kate Peterson Abiad, "All year long people have talked about our size. Really this was the first game we were abused on the inside. We had not played against a post player of this caliber. When we got caught behind she scored. When we fronted her they could get passes inside and she scored. We did not have an answer for her. Unfortunately, on the offensive side of the floor we were not hitting shots. In the past, with post players who had been hurting us on the interior we have been able to take advantage of them on the defensive part of the floor. We forced other teams to make adjustments to defend us and tonight we weren't hitting shots. They didn't have to take Appel out of the game. They didn't have to make adjustments defensively to match up with us." Actually the Cardinal did not have to do much of anything other than watch Appel fold, spindle, and mutilate the Vikings. The Cardinal guards weren't particularly sharp with their shooting (6-22 from beyond the arc), but the team out-rebounded the Vikings 57-31 and went 21-23 from the free throw line. Senior guard Candice Wiggins scored 13 points and added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Freshman forward Kayla Pedersen did not shoot often with Appel dominating the paint, but wound up with 9 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists. Sophomore/junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude went 3-7 from three-point range for her 9 points. Sophomore guard JJ Hones contributed 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Junior forward/center Morgan Clyburn had a good day off the bench, going 3-3 for 6 points and hauling in 7 rebounds in only 9 minutes. The reserves as a whole had a fine game. Bench players contributed 21 points and the quintet of Clyburn, freshman guard Jeanette Pohlen, freshman forward Ashley Cimino, senior guard Cissy Pierce, and freshman guard Hannah Donaghe extended the lead late in the game against several of the Cleveland State starters. The Cardinal defense may have let Cleveland State get off a few too many open three-point shots but not many of those launches found the net, and the Vikings, who ended their evening with a field goal percentage of 25.3%, could not find other offense. They shot 29 threes and made 8. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said, "Our team came out and went inside to Jayne and Jayne really delivered for us. Jayne had a tough job at the other end playing against their ‘five-out' offense and I thought she did a very nice job defensively. Our whole team, I thought, played really well defensively. Ros (Gold-Onwude) had a really tough matchup playing (Kailey) Klein and JJ (Hones) played against (Brittany) Korth and I thought they both did a really good job. Of course we were switching a lot. Our players communicated well and Candice (Wiggins) always brings great energy. It was an excellent first-round game and I know we have to play better on Monday night and we will." Before the game Appel confessed to nerves about playing against much smaller players who would drag her out to the perimeter more than she is accustomed. Cleveland State had nobody taller than 6'. Appel's teammates were more than happy to help her pick on people not quite her own size. "Our team knew, we were told by Tara to go inside, it was working, so keep going to that. I think that was the most nervous I've been all year before this game just because I had to guard somebody smaller," said Appel. "I think we had a really good pre-game talk from Candice, actually. It got me in the right mindset going into the game knowing that we had defended Maples all year and we will continue to. I think that was what our team needed me to do at that point in time and I think all good players step up when they need to." Commented Ros Gold-Onwude, "Jayne is pretty amazing. She is not only blessed physically, but she's smart, she works hard. I don't think it takes much more than common sense (to get the ball to Appel). She has a height advantage. She's a very good player and I think that our guards on the wings, especially Candice, especially JJ, really did a good job of getting the ball to her, reading the defense. We've been dealing with that all year." The large crowd packing Maples did see one thing they had never seen before-Candice Wiggins getting hit with a technical foul. Her transgression was being a tad too frisky with an elbow following a foul from a Viking as Wiggins secured an offensive rebound. "I don't think I've gotten a technical foul since I've been in college. I had a lot of energy and it was really emotional for me," explained Wiggins. "A lot of teams play me really tough. They push and all that kind of stuff. Usually it's not a problem. I just let my emotions get the best of me. Tara told me right after, she's like, ‘You can't make mistakes like that. You can't do that.' I understand. It was very careless of me but I don't think it will happen again." "I know it won't," added VanDerveer. Seems to be the end of that story in what may go down in Stanford basketball history as the "Day of Technical Fouls." And onward go the Cardinal, to the tournament's second round that has been troublesome at home recently. Are there signs good or bad we can note? Not really, since Cleveland State never had any chance and the subtext of the game once it was clearly established that the Card could easily bury the Vikings from inside was just to get the win with a minimum of risk or effort. Get in, get out, and don't get hurt or tired. Cleveland State was overmatched. The Card did what they had to do and Appel shook her worry over "small ball" to shine, but nothing else about the game means a whole lot for later. The Cardinal must ramp up their intensity and effort in the next round, and every round thereafter, but they certainly know that and would have known that regardless of the ease of this first game. Second round opponent UTEP is a very balanced team with all 5 starters capable of scoring and all 5 able to shoot threes, but they are not deep, don't rebound particularly well, and do not have that much size aside from their starting center. They also have not played a strong schedule and have not beaten any team rated in the top 50 by Sagarin aside from first round opponent Western Kentucky, who themselves had not defeated a top 50 team. Anything can happen in the tournament, but odds are the UTEP Miners are about to encounter more than they can handle…if the second round curse is not weighing down the Cardinal. Do the Card think of it? Does it weigh on their minds? Said Tara VanDerveer, "We have addressed it and I figure if they can get into Stanford, they can figure it out." We can figure out this much-previous losses are only as significant as they are made out to be. This round seems to be a potential psychological hurdle, but must it be? It really should be more of a celebration. The Cardinal have had a super season and are playing their last home game en route to what could be an exceptional tournament run. If they don't get in their own way, and if those who support them don't drop any millstones around their necks, Round 2 on Monday should be a good time. The Card have worked hard all year to earn this game and enjoy the home court one last time. We hope that everyone takes a deep breath and lets go of the past, because that might be the only thing that can trip up the present. All the Cardinal need do is get out there, own their court as they have all season, and have a blast doing it. Next up is Spokane. No doubt.
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