Stanford Warms Up for 'Huge' Stretch
The No. 2-ranked Cardinal came back from their two-week finals break and pounded DePaul 96-60 at Maples Pavilion.
Now the fun really begins. Tuesday night is a matchup with No. 7 Duke. Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie is 3-0 against Tara VanDerveer in the last three games they've coached against one another. McCallie beat VanDerveer at Maine, at Michigan State and last year in Durham.
Then there's next Saturday's showdown with Tennessee. The Lady Vols are the No. 4 team in the nation and looking more and more like a title contender.
And finally, the Dec. 23 matchup against top-ranked Connecticut in Hartford, the regular-season game of the year.
"I've never played a stretch of games like these games," said Stanford fifth-year senior Rosalyn Gold-Onwude. "I like the way Tara puts it: It's like the tournament in December. It's really fitting."
Gold-Onwude also said that she's never been a part of a Stanford team with a makeup like this one.
"There are veterans here, and in every single game, people are talking in the huddle," Gold-Onwude said. "It's a different person each game, and that is something that hasn't necessarily always happened. I think we feel like we've been playing good competition now and we know what it takes.
"Every game is important, but these next three games are going to be huge."
The Cardinal (7-0) had five double-figure scorers against DePaul, led by sophomore Nneka Ogwumike with 24 points. Guard Jeanette Pohlen added 17 and Jayne Appel pitched in with 15 points. Stanford shot nearly 60 percent for the game and held DePaul to 32.9 percent from the floor. The Cardinal went on a 19-2 run bridging the first and second halves to put the game away.
"It was a good start for our big swing," VanDerveer said.
VanDerveer said before the game that she just wanted to get through this one, not think about Duke or Tennessee. DePaul, on paper, was plenty enough to occupy the mind.
Just a couple of weeks ago, DePaul was a top-15 team. But the Blue Demons lost their leading scorer, Deirdre Naughton, to an ACL injury against Northwestern on Nov. 24 and have lost three of the last six games since she went down.
DePaul coach Doug Bruno, in his 24th season, said his team is "reconfiguring," missing not only Naughton, but also senior guard China Threatt, the 6th Player of the Year in the Big East, w has not returned from a knee injury she sustained last season. The team is playing a stretch of 9 of 11 on the road, something Bruno did because he assumed he'd have a veteran team. Bruno started a freshman, a sophomore and three juniors against the Cardinal.
Sophomore forward Keisha Hampton led DePaul (7-3) with 19 points.
"We're still learning ourselves and I'm still trying to figure out as a coach what players need to be out on the floor in what spots," Bruno said. "We are young, but we are not the only young team in America and there are some young teams out there who are playing pretty well."
DePaul tried to knock Stanford around, particularly in the block, but the Cardinal weren't having it.
"Stanford is one of the best two teams in the country and we were excited about taking our team against a team as good as Stanford, and we obviously weren't up to that test," Bruno said. "They are too strong for us in every area. We didn't give them the competition I thought we were prepared to give them as they are getting ready for their biggest week of the preseason."
Bruno said he likes the Cardinal's chances at home in the next two games.
"I believed all year that Stanford and UConn are like No. 1 and 1-A, it's not even like 1-2," Bruno said. "Tennessee is playing better and coach Summitt's young players are growing up, so that's going to be a test. Duke is strong. But Stanford at home, I think they will take care of home-court business."