Category archive: Stanford Cardinal

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is in this somewhat odd position a lot: talking up teams that her squad has every intention of going out and beating handily.

The Cardinal have consistently been at the top of the totem in the Pac-10 for so long that excitement bubbles anytime there's even a hint that they might be challenged. VanDerveer likes the idea that eyes are focused on the Pac-10 … but she still wants the result to be same old, same old.

While few realistically thought UCLA would go into Maples Pavilion on Thursday and end the Cardinal's 55-game home winning streak, a lot of folks really wanted to believe it could be a battle.

But it wasn't. The Cardinal won 64-38 with a score that could have been lifted from just about any other Stanford domination of any Pac-10 foe in any year. On paper, it was the nation's No. 4 team vs. No. 8 -- the first time these programs had ever met when both were in the top 10 -- but it didn't play out that way on the court.

Before the game, UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell conceded the obvious: The Bruins couldn't compete size-wise with Stanford but would still have to try to find a way to defeat the Cardinal.

"Your go-to [players] have to match their go-tos," Caldwell said. "You have to be able to cancel out certain things. You can't give them everything; you have to make a commitment on how you're going to play them."

That's a pragmatic -- and, I think, correct -- way to approach Stanford. But that doesn't mean it will work, no matter how committed you are to it. And it didn't work Thursday.

Stanford's go-to players did what they do at a high level. Kayla Pedersen had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jeanette Pohlen had 14 points and four assists, Nneka Ogwumike had 13 points and Chiney Ogwumike had nine points and 11 rebounds.

Few teams in the country can match that kind of go-to power, and UCLA certainly couldn't Thursday. Jasmine Dixon was the only Bruin to score in double figures, with 12. UCLA came in shooting just better than 45 percent from the field this season but hit only 29.4 percent against Stanford.

So this wasn't the game that many hoped it would be. UCLA can view it as a type of reality check without letting it become discouraging. After all, this is a Stanford team that crushed Xavier at Maples late last month and then, two days later, ended UConn's 90-game winning streak.

Stanford hasn't lost at home since March 2007, when Florida State knocked the Cardinal out of the NCAA tournament. So the Bruins have to realize just what a powerful force they were trying to overcome at Maples.

By the same token, though, they also got a harsh lesson in how much they need to improve to be competitive with Stanford.

"It's interesting to see how far we've come since last year," Caldwell said prior to the game. "We seem to be turning the corner in terms of competing at a level of intensity that you have to have. Last year, we were the team trying to get the recognition of being nationally ranked. Now, as a staff, we're trying to make sure they understand, 'You're going to be the hunted as opposed to the hunter.' That's a different role for them."

Against Stanford, though, the Bruins were still in the same old position: trying to pull an upset. They'll get another chance Feb. 20, when Stanford visits UCLA.

VanDerveer will, most certainly, talk before that game about the Bruins' improvement and their climb in the Pac-10. But it will be up to UCLA to prove if the Bruins really are getting closer to where Stanford has been for a long, long time.

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If you have observed the various Thanksgiving hoops tournaments over the years, you know one thing for sure about them: You can never really tell if they mean anything.

Usually, the events are in distracting warm-weather places, and it's early in the season, so weird things can happen that don't necessarily translate into any deeper meaning. Or sometimes … they end up foreshadowing things that do occur later in the season. Most of the time in regard to upsets, I think it's the former.

But it's going to be intriguing to see which is the case in regard to the most surprising upset of the holiday weekend: Georgetown's 69-58 victory over Tennessee on Saturday at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

This would have been pretty noteworthy on its own, even with Georgetown ranked No. 12 and Tennessee No. 4. The programs had never met before, but these are the types of games Tennessee doesn't usually lose.

That seemed especially the case considering what happened in the previous games in the Reef Division of the Paradise Jam. On Friday, Missouri had upset Georgetown 54-45, while Tennessee had cruised 66-42 over Georgia Tech.

On Thursday, Tennessee had almost doubled up Missouri, 82-44, while Georgetown beat Georgia Tech 67-58.

Following Tennessee's dismantling of Missouri, a friend from high school who knew I covered women's basketball sent me a note on Facebook about how far Missouri, which is our alma mater, would have to go to compete with Tennessee.

And I wrote back that Missouri was so far from Tennessee as to be utterly incomparable when it comes to women's hoops programs. So how odd is it that Missouri would then actually beat a team that would then beat Tennessee?

Very odd, and even more so considering that after an early 2-2 tie, the Hoyas led the rest of the way against Tennessee, which struggled throughout, especially in regard to 29 turnovers. Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers scored 28 points and dictated the pace of the game.

The turnovers and the inability to slow the Hoyas' perimeter threats of Rodgers and Monica McNutt (13 points) -- those two players combined for nine 3-pointers -- have to be worrisome to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.

So does the fact that Tennessee didn't play with the purpose that Summitt expects should be automatic by now. Those kinds of lapses happen to even really good teams, but they really shouldn't be happening to Tennessee now.

This is a group that has been through some disappointments in the past two seasons, especially in 2008-09 when there were a lot of young players. So you'd expect this would be a team especially wary of the very mistake Summitt said she thinks her players made: not being prepared for a challenge.

None of this is to take away from Georgetown's victory, though. The Hoyas beat Notre Dame last season when the Irish were ranked fourth in the country, and coach Terri Williams-Flournoy has been building her program to win games like this. Rodgers is clearly a special talent, and only a sophomore.

For women's basketball, this is great stuff. For Tennessee, though, it's a genuine concern. Do the Lady Vols really have the leadership that many figured would be there by now?

Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen injured her back with just more than a minute left. Summitt said she thought Stricklen would be OK, but it just gave Tennessee another thing to be concerned about in leaving "Paradise."

Worst holiday?

TCU, which was in the Island Division of the Paradise Jam, lost all three of its games in the Virgin Islands: to West Virginia, Iowa State and Virginia. The Frogs, ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll, will fall out of the rankings. But TCU has a tradition of playing difficult nonconference records and benefiting from that, even if it doesn't win the games.

Best holiday

No. 11 West Virginia moved to 6-0 with its three victories in the Paradise Jam Island Division. The Mountaineers topped TCU, Virginia and No. 17 Iowa State.

The 64-53 victory over the Cyclones was a triumph in game plan for West Virginia, which was focused on stopping Iowa State's traditional bread-and-butter: the 3-pointer.

The Cyclones had hit 14 3s in their victory over TCU, but made just two against West Virginia.

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly wasn't upset about the trip, however, saying it was a very good experience for his young squad to face such good defensive teams this early.

Good journey for Heels

North Carolina is 7-0 after three victories at Hawaii's tournament, but so far the No. 15 Tar Heels' schedule has been a snoozer. That will change at least for Thursday as they get a visit from No. 21 Iowa. The Hawkeyes are also 7-0 after winning two games in the Caribbean Challenge in Mexico.

That was the event impacted by Purdue's having to cancel its participation after Boilermakers player Drew Mingo came down with meningitis.

The great news out of West Lafayette, Ind., on Sunday was that Mingo was released from the hospital. No one else with Purdue has contracted the sickness.

Purdue is back in action Thursday against visiting Maryland, which happens to be the program that Mingo transferred from after playing two seasons for the Terps.

Ms. Do-it-all

Stanford senior Kayla Pedersen had her kind of game Sunday: 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals. Smaller Texas was able to do all right on the boards versus bigger Stanford (a 31-29 Cardinal edge), but coach Tara VanDerveer's squad offensively dominated a 93-78 victory against the No. 19 Longhorns.

VanDerveer is two wins from reaching the career mark of 800 victories, not that she's paying the slightest bit of attention to such milestones. Stanford takes a break now for final exams; the No. 2 Cardinal won't be in action again until Dec. 12 against Fresno State.

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