Stanford Opens Up Tourney Play With 79-47 Win

Andy Drukarev provides the Bootleg faithful the stats, facts, and quotes from Tara VanDerveer and players after Stanford blew out a tight game midway through the first half, posting a 79-47 NCAA Tournament First Round win over the UC Riverside Highlanders on Saturday night at Maples Pavilion. Read how the Cardinal were locked in a two-point battle early before cruising by their Big West opponent.

Although Stanford fans tend to hold their collective breath in the first round of #1 vs. #16 seed NCAA tournament games, the Cardinal's 79-47 victory over 16th-seeded UC Riverside was largely devoid of any tension.

Stanford jumped out to a double digit first half lead, before putting the hammer down in the early stages of the second half to cruise to an easy victory.

Even though the Highlanders have some talented and athletic perimeter players, it was clear from the game's onset that Stanford's post players would simply be too much for UC Riverside to handle.

Cardinal forward Nneka Ogwumike grabbed eight of her 11 rebounds and scored 12 of her team high 19 points in the first half, while center Jayne Appel proved a worthy sidekick, adding seven points of her own in the first half, as Stanford jumped to a 37-23 halftime lead.

The Highlanders were able to stick around for a while in large part due to some hot perimeter shooting. Running a version of the "shoot early, shoot deep, and shoot often" offense, UC-Riverside put a mild scare into the Stanford faithful by draining four of their first 10 three-point shots to pull to within 18-16 with under 12 minutes left in the first half.

"I thought that our team worked hard defensively but we weren't really as quick as we needed to be getting out on some of their shooters and switching when we needed to switch on them," Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer said.

But the defense tightened up as the second half began, as the Cardinal held UC-Riverside to only 22% from beyond the arc in the second period.

"We got more aggressive in the second half," VanDerveer said.

That aggression manifested itself early and often on both sides of the ball. Stanford didn't allow the Highlanders to score a point until 15:22 of the second half, by which point the Cardinal had extended their lead to 47-23.

"I thought we came out and really got into our transition game in the second half," VanDerveer said.

Even with VanDerveer substituting liberally in the latter parts of the second half, the Cardinal cruised down the stretch, extending their lead as high as 75-41 before settling for a 32-point victory.

Although Kayla Pedersen, Ogwumike, and Appel (albeit in limited minutes) made their usual contributions to Stanford's offensive output, the star of Stanford's all-around game was Jeanette Pohlen.

"I thought the story line for me was Jeanette Pohlen," VanDerveer said. "I'm so excited to see her knock down her shot. She pushes the ball and has a motor of all motors. You talk about in the NCAA that you have to have a guard, well tonight we had a guard."

Pohlen, who scored 16 points on 5-8 shooting, deflected some of the praise thrown her way towards the Cardinal's dominating post players.

"It's always nice as a three point shooter when you're hitting your shots," Pohlen said. "They're going to be doubling and tripling Jayne, Kayla and Nneka and obviously they're our No.1 go to players. They're very unselfish players and (when they're doubled) they're going to kick it out so hopefully I'm going to be ready to shoot if they do leave me."

More Notes and Quotes:

Although the announced crowd for tonight's contest was 5645, it looked and sounded larger.

"I was really excited about our crowd," VanDerveer said. "I don't know if we keep track but for me this was our biggest first round game crowd that we've seen in a long time."

Despite a poor shooting night (4-15 from the floor), Pederson had another strong floor game, gathering a team-high 12 rebounds and hitting all seven of her free throw attempts.

"The first half I just wasn't aggressive enough, letting people push me around," Pederson said. "Then coach set up a play for me for the very first play in the second half and I think that kind of helped my confidence. [It was] like okay, she is still going to go to me and my teammates had my back the whole time."

In the post-game news conference, several questions were asked about the numerous upsets in the men's side of the tournament, and what impact those might have had on the team.

"The whole mentality right now, and I think we carried it over from the Pac-10 tournament is ‘one and done,'" Pederson said. "We have to play like every game is our last game. Today could have been our last game, so we leave it all on the floor. As you can see with Kansas losing, nobody is safe in the NCAA tournament and that's what I love about it. Anything can happen."

With that said, there seems to be a growing disparity between the top seeded and lower seeded teams in the women's bracket. (Every higher seeded team won in today's games) Although fans might enjoy the ‘madness' of frequent upsets, VanDerveer seemed content with the favorites continuing to win.

"I think the committee did a great job of seeding the tournament," VanDerveer said. "Obviously we didn't want to be an upset. I think things have been a little bit set this year, not that that means it's going to be. I know that everyone else likes upsets, but I don't."

One of the prominent storylines of Stanford's tournament run is undoubtedly the health of Appel. Although the big center only played 15 minutes, VanDerveer was happy with what she saw.

"I thought that (15 minutes) was about right for her to play," VanDerveer said. "I think she probably wanted to play more. I thought she had a great tournament, and she was off her ankle all week. I think that we're going to need her if we want to go deep in the tournament but this game was a game where defensively they were all perimeter, all out there shooting. So we really could play either Joslyn [Tinkle] or Michelle [Harrison] I thought it worked out fine for Jayne."

Although it didn't count for any points on the scoreboard, the play of the game happened midway through the second half when Ogwumike made a dazzling spin move on a fast break to score a lay-up, but was called for traveling. Ogwumike was asked about the spin-o-rama afterwards, and didn't appear to harbor any resentment at the apparent blown call. "Well honestly, I kind of surprised myself with that move," Ogwumike said. "But afterwards the ref said people were telling her it wasn't a travel so she guessed she made a bad call, but no hard feelings or anything. A call's a call - it's not the end of the world." After a break tomorrow, the Cardinal will be back in action in round two on Monday evening. Stanford will face a tougher opponent in the sharp-shooting University of Iowa Hawkeyes, and VanDerveer is aware of the challenge that lies ahead.

"I think [Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder] does a great job with her program and for that team to be where they are now compared to where they started in the bottom of the Big Ten, I think they're coaching staff and their players have really bought in," VanDerveer said. "And they can shoot the ball. You have [Kamille] Wahlin, [Jaime] Printy, and [Kelly] Krei. They shoot the ball very, very well and they play a system that brings out the best in them. I think its good for us that we played a team like Oregon that also shoots the ball really well. Our team is going to have to really work hard defensively and get out on people and do the things that we're capable of doing."

Stay tuned to The Bootleg for all the latest on the Stanford's Women's Basketball team, throughout the entire 2010 Women's NCAA Tournament.

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