Cardinal Pile on Points vs. Chico State

Stanford has flattened Chico State by huge margins to begin each of the last two seasons. The third time would be the worst pasting yet, as the Card uncorked a barrage of threes and unveiled a talented group of freshmen. Freshman G Lindy La Rocque led the way with 7 threes.

The final score of Stanford's November 1st exhibition opener against the Division II Chico State Wildcats was 123 - 39. Similar to the idea that Eskimos use a multitude of words to describe types of snow, for this game we might need a multitude of words that characterize ever more severe routs so we can choose the most extreme version. This opening exhibition game was an exhibition in the truest sense of the word; it was much more a display or demonstration than a contest. It was a very welcome display of robust health by some returning players coming off injuries and of immense promise by a group of freshmen that totally alter the dynamic of the team. Although judging how the Card will fare against Rutgers or Baylor based on demolishing an overmatched Division II team is impossible, concluding that the team has a new dimension of depth and the overall talent to finish what last season's group started is eminently reasonable. We do like to be reasonable.

So what did we learn? What was exhibited to the 2000 or fans in attendance (the official box score says 3813 but the damp did not fog our glasses that much.) on a rainy day when football took center stage on campus? Hot shooting at home was unquestionably in evidence. Stanford shot 59.7% for the game while holding Chico State to 24.6%. The Cardinal bombed in 15-24 three-pointers (62.5%), led by freshman G Lindy La Rocque, who hit 7-13 threes for a team-high 21 points. La Rocque's threes are high, spinning rainbows that give the crowd time to gawk in admiration and murmur about the likelihood of a successful splashdown. There is always a little suspense to a launched three, but one of La Rocque's soaring bombs takes the thrill to the limit. La Rocque had plenty of time to shoot, which will not generally be the case against better defenses, but left open she was near automatic.

The freshmen class as a whole made a superb start to their Stanford careers. They accumulated almost half of Stanford's point total with three of them scoring in double digits. Heralded F Nnemkadi Ogwumike dazzled with some strong moves that lead to points (17 on 6-7 shooting), rebounds (8) and steals (2). With her speed and length, Ogwumike got where she was going in a hurry and produced several of those "How did she get there?" moments. Unless our eyes deceived us, at one point she somehow stretched to block a shot despite having a Chico State player standing directly between her and the shooter. Ogwumike also displayed fine court vision and passing skills in chalking up 4 assists. Center Sarah Boothe added 12 points on 6-8 shooting and 5 rebounds. Guard Grace Mashore contributed 4 points including one three-pointer and had a steal. Head coach Tara VanDerveer was very pleased with her frosh. "They did really, really well," offered VanDerveer. "They are going to give us exactly what we need – great depth. I thought Sarah and Nneka did extremely well, and Lindy with her defense and making 7 threes."

Sophomore G Jeanette Pohlen exhibited a leaner frame and an improved three-point shot mixed with the same relentless energy she displayed last season. Pohlen scored 19 points on 6-9 shooting including 4-4 from beyond the arc, hauled in 8 rebounds, dished out 3 assists and snared 3 steals. Pohlen also spent some time at point guard and did splendidly in that role. Said VanDerveer, "The person that really set the tone for us was Jeanette. I really like her energy. You can tell she's in better shape."

"[Shooting] is something that I worked on a lot this past summer," said Pohlen, who started for the Cardinal. "I really focused more on my three-point shot because I feel that's something that I was supposed to shoot last year but it didn't really happen that much. I really want to contribute this year by doing that because I know they are going to double Jayne (Appel), Kayla (Pedersen) and all our posts inside. We really need to be able to shoot outside. I'm just trying to figure out where I fit in, how I can contribute. Last year I was in a different role, coming off the bench and I might still come off the bench again, but the rotation isn't set yet, so I'm trying to keep working hard every day, go out there and play hard."

Junior C Jayne Appel scored 15 points (7-9) and grabbed 8 boards in just 14 minutes, but the numbers don't matter. She had no trouble scoring at will against a team with nobody over 6'1". What counts is that Appel demonstrated that all her limbs are fully functional after shoulder and knee surgeries. Appel ran the floor very well and looked remarkably crisp despite a delayed start to practice after rehab work. RS Sophomore F Michelle Harrison (4 points) and G Melanie Murphy (6 assists) saw their first game action after almost a year off due to ACL injuries. Each had some fine moments plus a little of the inevitable rust that accumulates during such a long time off. Sophomore F Ashley Cimino (4 points) looked improved after a frosh season shortened by a back injury. Senior F Jillian Harmon, who is acting more like a guard these days except that she just can't resist those rebounds, had her usual quietly effective game with 7 points on 3-6 shooting including 1 three-pointer, 6 boards, and 3 assists. Junior G JJ Hones finished with 6 assists against 1 turnover and nabbed 3 steals. Sophomore F Kayla Pedersen yanked down 10 rebounds in 13 minutes and added 6 points and 2 assists. Like 5 of her teammates, she hit a three. RS Junior G Rosalyn Gold-Onwude scored a quick 7 points in only 4 minutes and then bowed out to rest a minor injury suffered in a recent practice. Sophomore G Hannah Donaghe suffered a hip injury earlier this week in practice and was held out.

For the first game after just two weeks of practice, the Cardinal were fairly sharp, especially considering that 6 players were seeing action for the first time (the 4 freshmen) or for the first time in a long time (Murphy and Harrison). Stanford had 32 assists on their 46 baskets and all but one Cardinal recorded an assist. The team committed only 12 turnovers. The rebounding advantage was a massive 56 to 24 to the Cardinal. Said Jeanette Pohlen, "I think we played really well. It's obviously an exhibition game but as far as how hard we worked, I feel we worked really hard, and if we keep going at this pace we're going to keep improving as a team."

Improving is obviously the name of the game right now as the Card prepare to dive into some challenging games against Minnesota, Baylor, New Mexico and Rutgers in the coming weeks. In the meanwhile we might as well enjoy the feel-good nature of these exhibitions. Next up for the Cardinal on Friday November 7th is 2008 NAIA Champion, Vanguard University. Vanguard has even less size than Chico State. If they manage to challenge the Cardinal even a little, we will plotz, and we don't plotz easily.

For Don Anderson's photo gallery and slideshow from this game, click HERE.

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