No. 4/4 Stanford Gears Up For Paradise Jam This Weekend
No. 4/4 Stanford Cardinal (3-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 2/2 Connecticut Huskies (2-0, 0-0 Big East)
ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. - The No. 4/4 Stanford women's basketball team escapes the winter weather of the continental U.S. this week, setting up camp on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 2007 Paradise Jam. The Cardinal opens up tournament action Thanksgiving Night against No. 2/2 Connecticut with a 5:30 p.m. PT contest that will be televised on FSN. Stanford continues tournament action Saturday at 5:30 p.m. PT against Old Dominion, before closing things out Sunday against an opponent to be determined at a time to be determined. All of Stanford's Paradise Jam contests can be heard live on KZSU 90.1 FM, with play-by-play man Jake Kelman on the call.
Last Time Out For The Cardinal
Stanford played its first double-overtime contest in over 26 years this past Sunday, edging the Utah Utes 81-77 in Salt Lake City. Despite shooting only 35.8% from the field (including 4-24 from three-point range) and never leading over the final 18:26 of regulation, the Cardinal got five clutch points, including a three-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining, from sophomore Melanie Murphy that sent the contest into overtime. After a Utah converted a last-second shot of its own to force a second overtime, Stanford finally took over in the second extra session, scoring the first six points and holding on for the win.
The Huskies (2-0) come into the Paradise Jam sporting the No. 2 national ranking in both polls. Thursday's meeting with No. 4/4 Stanford will be Connecticut's first test of the new season, as the Huskies' first two wins consisted of 98-35 and 91-36 home walkovers of Stony Brook and Holy Cross last week. Connecticut, led by head coach Geno Auriemma (623-120 record in his 23rd season), returns all five starters from last year's 32-4 Elite Eight team, including center Tina Charles (14.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and guard Renee Montgomery (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg). UConn also boasts highly-touted freshman forward Maya Moore, who averaging 26.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over the first two games.
All-Time Against Connecticut
The Thanksgiving Day clash between the Cardinal and Huskies marks just the seventh time that the two storied programs have met, with Stanford holding the 4-2 edge. Three of the previous six meetings, like Thursday's, have occurred on a neutral court. Two have come in the NCAA Tournament, including the most recent meeting of the schools, a 76-59 Cardinal rout in the Regional Semifinal in Kansas City, Mo. The Huskies, though, have claimed two of the past three meetings after Stanford had captured the first three.
Battle Of Titans
While the career numbers and achievements on the court of the players in Thursday night's battle are quite impressive, the opposing coaches bring legendary resumes of their own to the fight. Between Stanford's Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma are nearly 52 years of head coaching experience at the Division I level, seven national championships, and an eye-popping 1,315 career victories.
Sunday's double-overtime, 81-77 win at Utah was only the second time the Cardinal had gone into extra time in its last 124 games, and only the second time it had ever played a double-overtime game. The last time Stanford played two extra sessions was nearly 27 years ago, during the 1980-81 season. On Feb. 24, 1981, the Cardinal battled the San Francisco Dons through two overtimes before falling 79-78.
Movin' On Up
Stanford, ranked fifth in both national polls last week, kept its 2007-08 record unblemished with Sunday's win over Utah and moved forward another spot in the rankings. With previous No. 4/4 LSU's loss to No. 3/3 Maryland, the Cardinal slide forward to occupy the fourth slot in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls.Appel Named Player Of The WeekSophomore center Jayne Appel, after a monster opening two weeks that saw her shoot 61.5% from the floor and average 22.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 3.33 blocks a game in Stanford's 3-0 start, was named the Pac-10's Player of the Week on Monday, the second such honor of her career. Appel, who posted a pair of double-doubles over the three wins, highlighted her overall performance in last Sunday's 81-77 double-overtime win at Utah. There, she established new career highs with 30 points, 20 rebounds, and six blocks.
Climbing To The Top Of The Record Books
Heading into the 2007-08 season, senior guard Candice Wiggins stands on the brink of establishing multiple new career records in the Stanford women's basketball annals. Currently, Wiggins is already the all-time Stanford leader with a career mark of 18.7 points per game, and stands fifth with 1,886 career points. Besides being only 114 points away from the 2,000-point mark, Wiggins needs to score 330 more points to take over the top spot from all-time scoring leader Kate Starbird (2,215 points). Moving beyond the arc, Wiggins, with a three-pointer in Stanford's 81-77 win at Utah, brings her career three-pointer total to 210, tying all-time leader Vanessa Nygaard. Additionally, with 38 more three-point attempts this season, Wiggins, who currently has 512, will pass Sebnem Kimyacioglu's all-time leading mark of 549 three-point attempts. Finally, Wiggins enters the season fourth on the all-time free-throw percentage list with an 82.6% success rate, just two percentage points behind Suminski's top mark of 84.3%.
Another Top 5 Team...Another Day At The Office
As one of the elite women's basketball programs in the nation, Stanford has long been accustomed to facing off against the best competition around on an annual basis. Already this season, the No. 4/4 Cardinal have knocked off a national contender in Rutgers on Nov. 11, and on Thanksgiving will battle the second-ranked Connecticut Huskies. Dating back to last season, the Cardinal has won its past four games against opponents ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Casting Shadows In The Paint
Opposing teams have figured out rather quickly how big (excuse the pun) a problem it has become to not only defend Stanford posts Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen, but also to box them out and deny rebounds. Through the first three games of the year, the towering duo has combined for 79 of Stanford's 162 rebounds, and are a major factor in the Cardinal's +50 margin over its opponents in rebounding.
Ms. 'Money In The Bank'
While the career day of Jayne Appel and the 17 points from preseason All-American Candice Wiggins got much of the attention in last Sunday's 81-77 double-overtime win at Utah, it was the effort and clutch shooting of sophomore reserve Melanie Murphy that saved the Cardinal from the upset. Murphy took charge at the point late in regulation, and although she only scored five points in the game, she made them count. All five points came in the final 12 seconds of regulation, as she hit a jumper to cut the deficit to two, then, on Stanford's final possession, hit a three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to tie it up at 62-62 and send the game into overtime.
Setting The TableThe Cardinal may be known for its main scorers in preseason All-American Candice Wiggins and reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Jayne Appel, but the team has also put its selfless streak on display as well. Through the first three games of this season, Stanford is averaging 15.33 assists per game. Individually, four players average at least two assists a game, led by Wiggins' 3.0 assists per game. In two wins this year, at Yale and Utah, the Cardinal dished out 19 and 17 assists, respectively, as a team.
Road WarriorsAnother impressive note about Stanford's 3-0 start is that it has come entirely on the road. The Cardinal this week play three tough non-conference games on a neutral court in St. Thomas, so the lack of a supportive hometown crowd has been another factor that the Cardinal battle in the first six games. With the exception of the 2004-05 season, in which the Cardinal played its first two 'home' games at Santa Clara University's Leavey Center, the most games Stanford had played outside of the Bay Area to start a season was five, in the 1987-88 season.
Gotta Stay Healthy
No matter how much talent is on any given roster, a team must stay as healthy as possible to give itself the best chance for a national title. Stanford suffered a tough break last weekend, as sophomore forward Michelle Harrison was lost for the year with a torn ACL and sprained MCL in her left knee at Yale. Freshman Ashley Cimino (back) did not make the weekend's trip to the East Coast, while fellow first-year Hannah Donaghe (hip), who did not see action this past weekend, remains listed as day-to-day.
The Choice In The Pac-10...again
For the eighth year in a row, seven-time defending conference champion Stanford has been voted as the favorite to win the 2007-08 Pac-10 women's basketball title, according to both the preseason coaches and media poll. The Cardinal received eight of 10 first-place votes in the coaches poll, tallying 79 points overall, and 17 of 18 top votes in the media poll, good for 179 points. Arizona State was picked as the runner-up in each poll.
The honors have already begun rolling in for a pair of Cardinal players in 2007-08, as senior guard Candice Wiggins and sophomore forward/center Jayne Appel have been named to various preseason teams and award lists. Both players were named to the Preseason All-Pac-10 Team, as well as to the list of 30 preseason candidates for the prestigious Wooden Award. Wiggins, a three-time Kodak and Associated Press All-American, earned preseason All-America honors from the AP, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated.
Quick Glance At The Schedule
Trips to New England as well as to the Carribean and 13 opponents that participated in postseason play last year highlight Stanford's 2007-08 schedule. Stanford will play at least 13 home games at Maples Pavilion, which should be welcome news for a Cardinal club that has won 83 of its last 90 games at home while posting an impressive 15-3 record in the arena last year. Once again, the Cardinal will go to work against a schedule filled with traditional powerhouses and programs on the rise. In addition to the non-conference challenges, Stanford will renew acquaintances with its Pac-10 rivals, which include three teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season, and one that reached the WNIT. But as always, the Cardinal are more than ready to meet the challenges of their schedule.