Trip to the desert successful for women's BKB

The Stanford women's basketball team made plenty of history last weekend by sweeping the Arizona schools down in the desert.

When the Cardinal beat Arizona State 62-43 on Thursday night, they successfully secured the outright Pac-10 conference title for the sixth consecutive year. In a 75-48 victory over Arizona on Saturday, senior forward Jayne Appel grabbed eight rebounds, pushing her ahead of USC grad and WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie as the Pac-10's all-time leading rebounder. Neither victory was easy though, as the Cardinal were forced to pull away in the second half of each game. The first-half struggles for Coach Tara Van Derveer's team have been common this year, and both performances were uninspiring after Stanford's best weekend of the year against the Oregon schools.

Arizona State Game

The Cardinal went to Tempe last Thursday with at least a share of the Pac-10 title already wrapped up, but they needed all their talent to secure a victory. The Stanford cagers led only 29-20 at the half, but pulled away with five minutes left in the game for the 19-point victory.

After an offensive explosion last week - a 104-60 win over Oregon and a 82-48 win over Oregon State – this lackluster performance was hardly to be expected. Indeed, the Cardinal appeared to be hitting their offensive stride heading into the final three games of the regular season, but Thursday proved to be a down night for the Cardinal starters, minus Jayne Appel. Appel's 19 points and eight rebounds led the way, but the rest of the starting five managed just 34 points. Stanford and ASU had very similar games statistically, with the Card grabbing 37 rebounds to the Devils' 34, and the Cardinal turning the ball over 21 times to ASU's 20.

The Sun Devils have proved to be a serious challenge both at home and on the road this season for the Cardinal, as the Devils jumped out to a 29-25 first half lead back on January 28 at Maples Pavilion, and held Nnemka Ogwumike, the Pac-10's second leading scorer, to just six points in Thursday's game. With all the troubles Stanford has had with the Devils this season, it is safe to say that the Card are hoping they don't draw the Tempe Terrors in the upcoming Pac–10 tournament.

Arizona Game

After a weak performance in Tempe, the Cardinal once again fell victim to a poor first half against Arizona on Saturday night. Leading 32-27 after 20 minutes, the Cardinal responded by outscoring the Wildcats 43-21 in the second frame. The star of the game was Jayne Appel, who secured her place in history with her fourth rebound of the night with 4:03 to play in the first, pulling her ahead of Leslie. Appel finished the game with 1,218 rebounds for her career, four ahead of the 1,214 Leslie pulled down from 1990-94.

Overall, Stanford's starters fared much better than they did against Arizona, led by Kayla Pedersen's 26 points and eight rebounds. All starters finished in double figures for the Cardinal save for guard JJ Hones, who was filling in for Rosalyn Gold-Onwude after she suffered a blow to the head against ASU.\

The slow start was reminiscent of January for the Cardinal, when they struggled getting out of the blocks for six straight games. Luckily for the Card, they will have a week off to find the aggressive play that has carried them to a 27-1 overall record this season.

Looking Ahead

Stanford's final regular-season game sends them across the Bay to tangle with 17-11 Cal. The third-place Bears have dropped six conference games this season, including a 79-58 loss at Maples Pavilion back on January 2. Cal also spent last weekend in Arizona, losing their first Pac-10 game in almost a month, 57-50 to Arizona State on Saturday, after a 58-52 victory over Arizona on Thursday.

Overall, the Bears have been successful lately, posting a 6-2 record since the beginning of February. Cal sits in the middle of the road in almost every major Pac-10 statistical category except one: rebounding. The Bears are the second-best rebounding team in the conference, averaging only four fewer per game than Stanford (45 to 41), even with the Cardinal's three leading rebounders – Pederson, Ogwumike, and Appel – all averaging more than nine rebounds per game. In addition to the rebounding talent of the Bears, they also have the Pac-10's leading scorer in Alexis Gray-Lawson, who tops the list with 18.1 points per game. The 5'8" redshirt senior is a finalist for the Women's Naismith Award, and shoots almost 40 percent from the floor and over 30 percent from beyond the arc. The game tips off at 12:30 PT in Haas Pavilion, and will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net and locally by Comcast Bay Area.

Finally, March

After Saturday's sojourn to Berkeley, the team will take another one-week break before heading to the Galen Center in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 tournament. As the number one seed, Stanford will play on Friday, March 12, facing the winner of the play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. This weekend's action in the Pac-10 will go a long way towards determining those seedings, as every team could move up or down but for No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 UCLA.

This parity ensures the other eight teams will be watching the out-of-town scores intently this weekend. For example, should Cal lose to Stanford and Arizona State snag two wins at the LA schools, the Bears would drop from the three seed all the way to No. 5. As usual, with one weekend left, there is still plenty of drama in the Pac-10.

Jack Blanchat is a sophomore at Stanford and hails from Little Rock, AR. He broadcasts for KZSU and has a stint at the Houston Texans on his resume. His Bootleg screen-name is jmblanchat.

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