Stanford Women's Basketball, Shakes off Bad First Half, Takes Down Tulsa

It was a Tale of Two Halves. The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team opened the first round of the NCAA tournament (otherwise known as “The Big Dance,” or in Stanford’s case, “Quest for Six” – Final Fours, that is) against Tulsa and almost had their run end before they started.

Amber Orrange hits game winning shot
Chiney Ogwumike knows she needs to get her teammates invloved if Stanford is to advance (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tulsa gave all the right pre-game quotes, “we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could win,” just like any other 16 seed, then visited the Golden Gate Bridge. And then the 16th seed is supposed to get crushed and all they get is a lousy T-Shirt they bought from the illegal vendors at the parking lot to the Golden Gate Bridge. Except this time the number 16 seed didn’t realize it was supposed to be smoke and mirrors and they actually believed the hype. So much so they came out swinging, and made four steals in three minutes and went up by six points in the first five minutes.

The Tulsa coaching staff must have been figuring the refs were not going to call as much in these games and so were very, very physical. They pushed around Bonnie Samuelson as if she were a paperweight and were holding, holding holding Stanford’s best player Chiney Ogwumike to try and stop her scoring.

But you can’t keep an Ogwumike down. Chiney scored two quick baskets to open the game and to say to herself and the basketball world at large that see, I just scored four points, one more than the three points I scored in the whole game in the Pac-12 finals against UCLA.

Tulsa drove a fast-paced game and attacked the basket early on. They also were very good shooters and since they were undersized, would pull up for jumpers. Most of them went in. Chieny could score almost at will to keep Stanford in it, and bench player Taylor Greenfield added six first-half points to help out. But not much else happened scoring-wise in the first for the Cardinal, and if they want to advance even more in the Big Dance, they will have to have others step up.

Tulsa couldn’t keep such a frenetic pace and was tiring in the first half when Stanford took a small lead. But with three and a half minutes left in the first, Chiney Ogwumike got her second foul and joined Joslyn Tinkle on the bench. If you saw the UCLA game, then you know Stanford does not do well with Chiney on the bench. Stanford’s Amber Orrrrange scored the last four points of the half for Stanford and the game was tied at 24 going into the locker room.

The Twiterverse went a little gleeful at Stanford’s struggles, and of course brought up the only number one seed, men’s or women’s to be beat by a number 16 seed was of course the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team on their home court. They were hoping history would repeat itself. But although those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer lived through it and has not forgotten. And she is the mastermind of half time adjustments.

Tara VanDerveer at the half told her team that their season could be over in 20 minutes. Message received. Both teams came out for the second and Tulsa took a one-point lead at the 18 minute mark. Then Chiney, with a little help from Amber Orrrrange, got a 12 point Stanford lead just like that and now the number one seed started to look like their ranking. Also, Tulsa, who had success with mid range jumpers, started to drive on the much taller cardinal and Stanford’s wall o’ defense took away shots or made them air-ball their shots. Around the same time, the refs finally started calling fouls on Tulsa, even stuff they got away with in the first half.

Chiney, perhaps instinctually knowing she needs her teammates to step up, forgo drives to the basket, her bread and butter, to feed Joslyn Tinkle several times for easy lay ins. Chiney lead the team in assists with four, and Tinkle would finish with nine points, although she had just one point in the first half. Taylor Greenfield also had nine, and Amber’s drives and pull ups netted her 14 points.

Tulsa, to their credit, did not fold like a number 16 seed. They got it back to within 10 with four minutes left. Then three minutes later, Stanford held them scoreless and suddenly had a 20 point lead. Chiney went to the bench with one minute left having scored 29 points and grabbed eight boards. Stanford's back up center Tess Picknell got a basket and a block, and frankly, the block made her more excited than the basket.

Tara VanDerveer gave all the right quotes after the game, saying she would rather have a game like this (bad first half, terrific second half) then “play a great first half and stink it up the second half.” Yes, and it would be even better to play two great halves. The next rounds won’t let them get away with a bad half, or even a bad quarter. Stanford will play Michigan Tuesday at 6:30 in the second round.

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