Stanford Mashes Michigan, Advances to Sweet 16

When The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team played Tulsa in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it was a tale of two halves. In that game, Stanford was tied at 24 at the half against a number 16 seed, and then Chiney Ogwumike and Amber Orrrrange poured it on to win by 16. Tonight in round two against number eight seed Michigan, Stanford was a whole different team.

No one does scouting reports like Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer, and this one said Michigan likes to hit threes. And little known to any one else, Stanford likes to take your game plan and hand it right back to you. Time and time again C and R will read a team likes to fast break and push the tempo, and then Stanford is the one that is fast breaking Laker’s style. So what does Stanford do tonight? You guessed it, they hit the threes. And shut down Michigan’s three point shooters in the process. Maybe because the team has to replicate the other teams game plan so much in practice, they subconsciously end up playing it?

Whatever, the reason, it worked. Stanford looked like a team that plays together instead of going through one person. Granted, that one person is All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike, and she has carried this team so far all season, and carried them well. Tonight, she made a conscious effort to pass up her drives to the basket to find others. And it worked, mostly The game tone was set early when Chiney took a rebound out of the air and volleyball spiked it to a wide open Joslyn Tinkle under the basket for the easy lay up.

Chiney and Tinkle
Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, right, and Joslyn Tinkle embrace as coach Tara VanDerveer looks on (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Speaking of Tinkle, the Stanford senior was playing her last home game on Maples and she too made a conscious effort to get after it. She noticeably hustled, and shot early and often. She had eight points in the first five minutes. She made five out of five three-point attempts, a career high, and scored 21 points for the night. She has not looked so good in about half a season. Mostly due to Tinkle, Stanford was up 21-7 with twelve minutes left to play in the first and leading 41-16 at the half. It was total domination.

Stanford made a season best 12 three pointers. Guard Amber Orrrrange , who is really mastering the pull up jumper, hit a three when left open. She would have 11 points for the night. Starter Sara James made three of five from three-point land and bench player Bonnie Samuelson also made three from behind the line. Stanford would beat Michigan 73-40. Now that is some good ball.

Speaking of Sara James, she contributed nine points while limiting Michigan’s best three point shooter Kate Thompson, who air balled her first three and went 1-11 from the field for seven total points. Usually you get great defense from Sara, or maybe a double-digit game, but tonight she gave Stanford both. Well, nine total points is close enough. If Stanford can get everyone’s best defensive efforts and get four players in or near double figures, like tonight, then they have a legitimate shot at making a record sixth final four.

And speaking of Stanford’s defense, they shut down Michigan, threes or not. Michigan shot just 29% from the field and 18% from the three point line (so much for that three point shooting prowess). And Stanford played man-to-man defense all night, no zone or double-teaming, not even on Michigan’s Thompson. Sara James was left alone all night to shut her down, and she sure did. Sara’s coach and team trusted her and she delivered. Compare that to Michigan, and other teams that have to double and even triple team Chiney Ogwumike and she still scores.

Speaking of Chiney, she got a double-double, 12 points and 15 boards, and it is cool she got more boards than points. As we mentioned somewhere in this story, Chiney was consciously looking for her teammates. But at times it was detrimental to the flow of the game. The passes were telegraphed and picked off, and the player was not that open. Chiney usually takes one or two defends on near the basket and scores. She needs to find a better balance of passing to open players when doubled, and players need to move into position and be open when she is doubled. Why is Stanford figuring this out now in the tourney instead of throughout the year?

Nice moment after the game when Senior Tinkle was grabbed for the post-game interview. The Stanford team always huddles at midcourt then waves to their fans and heads to the locker room. As Tinkle was talking (and we think shedding a tear or two over her last game here), the team ran off the court. When the interview concluded, the team ran back on to the court and right at Jos. Chiney, her self-proclaimed twin, was the first to meet her and gave her a big ol’ embrace. Then the team, now complete, took a final lap around Maples, with Jos in the center, as it fittingly should be.
Next round is against Georgia, and Stanford has a couple of days to prepare. And no one prepares like a Tara VanDerveer. Best of luck in Spokane.

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