Feature: The LA Sweep

Jan. 9, 2008

By Dick Rockne

If this is how it's going to be, the 2008 Pac-10 women's basketball race is destined to be one of the wildest ever, if it isn't already.

A look at the standings going into Week 3 is all anyone needs to see to know that something strange is occurring. Stanford, identified in preseason polls as destined to win an eighth straight Pac-10 championship, is tied for fourth place less than three weeks after soaring to No. 2 nationally following its oh-so impressive victory over Tennessee.

Coach Tara VanDerveer's Cardinal is in the fix it's in because it was the victim of the Los Angeles Sweep for the first time in 14 years. Two days after losing at UCLA, 69-56, Stanford dropped a 73-72 decision at USC to fall to 2-2 behind California and Arizona State, both 4-0, and 2-1 Oregon.

The Cardinal is tied with its stumbling blocks, USC and UCLA.

Stanford's double dip left Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne 'a little surprised' because the Cardinal had been so consistent all season. But having played UCLA and USC the week before, Turner Thorne knew what Stanford had faced.

'They're good,' Turner Thorne said of the Bruins and Trojans. 'Both those teams have a lot of talent. So it (Stanford losing two) was surprising, but it wasn't.'

As the inheritor, for the moment at least, of the Bay Area's mantle of women's basketball superiority, California's high-flying Golden Bears need to be mindful of the Pac-10 perils, said their coach, Joanne Boyle.

'I told my team that when you get into Conference all the rankings and everything go out the window because these teams know us so well,' Boyle said. 'I think there's a respect for teams but I don't think anyone is scared of anybody in this Conference. I just keep re-iterating this to my team: don't step out on the floor and take any team lightly.'

Oregon coach Bev Smith said Stanford's two losses indicate 'some chinks in the armour and some vulnerability.' But that doesn't mean she's savoring her team's Saturday afternoon game at Palo Alto.

'Knowing Stanford and knowing the coaching staff this might not be the greatest week to go down there to play them,' Smith said.

To that end, VanDerveer understated: 'We need to improve. We didn't play very well last weekend and we want to play a lot better.'

Poor shooting (29.6 percent from the field, 8 of 16 from the free-throw line), 18 turnovers and unbalanced scoring (Candice Wiggins and Jayne Appel accounted for 46 of Stanford's 56 points) contributed to the Cardinal's loss to UCLA. Against USC, 3-point shooting was a big difference - the Trojans made 11 of them, the Cardinal three (of 20).

Junior guard Camille LeNoir's successful 14-foot jump shot with 8.1 seconds to play proved to be the winner for USC when Wiggins missed with 2 seconds remaining.

USC coach Mark Trakh said he didn't see Wiggins' shot.

'I was hiding at the end of the bench,' Trakh told Michelle Smith of the San Francisco Chronicle. 'I waited to hear the crowd reaction, then I knew we won. But I couldn't bear to watch.'

'I just think we have to make sure we're playing the way we want to play,' VanDerveer said. 'We're rebounding well. Our defense is getting better. We need some people to knock down some open shots.'

Stay tuned.

And look what happened at Corvallis

Sarah Hays and Beatrice Bofia.

Remember those names because years from now both are likely to be the answer to a trivia question in Tucson if not throughout the Pac-10 Conference.

Who are they? Both are University of Arizona juniors who play on the Wildcat basketball team. Hays is a 6-foot-1 forward who transferred to UA from Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Bofia is a Cameroon-born, 6-foot-7 center who transferred to UA from Illinois Central.

But all that is not what makes them trivia eligible. What does is the fact they were the last two players Arizona had available for the final minute of the second overtime of one of the strangest games in Pac-10 history, a marathon won by Oregon State, 94-88, in Corvallis Jan. 3.

'Anybody who was involved or watched that game will never forget it,' said Arizona's Joan Bonvicini who, in 29 years of coaching, never had a team finish a game with fewer than five players.

The fact Arizona, which began the game with just six players, could have and maybe should have won - the Wildcats led by 16 points with 11:14 to play - merely adds to the bizarre situation.

Four of the 10 Wildcats were not available when the game began. Ify Ibekwe had an eye injury and Jessica Arnold was recovering from a concussion. Twin sisters Rhaya and Rhea Neabors also were held out - Rhaya for a personal reason and Rhea for an academic problem.

'It put us in a very tough situation,' Bonvicini said. 'But having said that, our players were mentally, physically and emotionally ready to play. Probably as much as any team I've had in the last three years. We came out and just dominated. We were up by 16 and just playing really well.'

But, like the Wildcats, the Beavers never quit either. At the end of regulation the score was tied at 65.

'What a lot of people forget is we were down 16 when it was five on five and fought back,' OSU coach LaVonda Wagner said.

Marie McGee and Tasha Dickey fouled out in the final two minutes of regulation, leaving only four players available for the start of the first overtime, which ended tied at 78. Then, Amina Njonkou fouled out with 2:28 to play in the second overtime and Ashley Whisonant was disqualified with her fifth foul with 1:01 left.

That left Hays and Bofia.

'Everything was good except the result,' Bonvicini said. 'I was very proud of our team. They (sic) showed great heart and determination.'

Bonvicini said she expects to have all 10 of her players available for Saturday's game against Arizona State.

NOTES: Freshman guard Darxia Morris, who scored 20 points and had five assists and three steals in UCLA's win over Stanford, is not expected to be available for the Bruins' games at Washington and Washington State. She suffered a knee injury Sunday against California. ... UCLA's win over Stanford was its first ever over a team ranked in the top three. ... Washington extended its winning streak against Washington State to 25 straight by beating the Cougars, 61-46.

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