Basketball teams take shot at some redemption
Cardinal women host UCLA and USC; men host Cal on Saturday
The Stanford women's basketball team has a new set of streaks to deal with this weekend and it's not all good. A victory or two, however, will go a long way to righting the season's focus.
The sixth-ranked Cardinal (3-1 in the Pac-12, 14-2 overall) finds itself on the wrong end of positive streaks after falling to California, 67-55, last weekend.
Stanford hopes to find some balance when No. 14 UCLA (4-0, 13-2) visits Maples Pavilion for an 8 p.m. tipoff Friday night. USC (4-0, 7-8) come to town Sunday for a 4 p.m. Start.
So far this year, Stanford ended defending national champion Baylor's winning streak and run at the top of the polls in Hawaii and won at Tennessee, ending a long drought.
Stanford returned to Maples Pavilion and had its 82-game home winning streak snapped in a surprising 61-35 rout by Connecticut on Dec. 29.
California ended Stanford's 81-game winning streak against conference opponents and the Cardinal lost back-to-back home games for the first time since Feb. 16 and March 1, 2001, against the Golden Bears and USC.
Losses to the current co-leaders could put Stanford's string of 12 consecutive conference titles at risk. The Cardinal hasn't lost three in a row at home since a four-game slide during the 1985-86 season, Tara VanDerveer's first year as head coach.
In fact, Stanford has had exactly two losing streaks of longer than three games just twice during VanDerveer's tenure and never since 1987.
"We're trying to be more aggressive in practice and trying to emphasize things that will make us more successful," VanDerveer said. "We're really learning how teams are playing us, how different teams scout us and what we need to do."
Getting production from someone other than junior Chiney Ogwumike would be a step in the right direction.
Against the Golden Bears, Stanford's points were its lowest at home in a conference game since a 63-54 loss to No. 18 Oregon on March 5, 1987. It also marked the Cardinal's first double-digit defeat at home in Pac-12 or Pac-10 play since losing 72-57 to Cal on Feb. 4, 2007.
Ogwumike scored 18 points against Cal, a third of Stanford's offensive output. She also scored 18 in the loss to Connecticut, just over half of the Cardinal offense.
Toni Kokenis and Amber Orrange added another 21 points against Cal, but on a combined 8-of-23 shooting. Ogwumike was 7 of 13.
Stanford needs people to step up, something that VanDerveer has been urging all year.
"We've been in worse situations than this for sure," VanDerveer said. "We've been 0-2 at the start of the (conference season). We just have to figure out how people can help us. How can Mikaela Ruef help us? How can Tess Picknell help us? How can we play people? They're not Nneka (Ogwumike), no one is. It's a puzzle that we're just working on and working on."
Stanford's postseason hopes are on the line this weekend when California and former Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery visit Maples Pavilion on Saturday for a tipoff at 1:30 p.m.
The Cardinal (1-3 in the Pac-12, 10-7 overall) has gotten off to an awkward start in conference play and is looking to regain some momentum heading into the heart of the conference schedule.
Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell have been consistently providing Stanford with solid efforts all year. Guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright need to return to the level of consistency they displayed in the Cardinal run to the NIT championship last season.
The Bears (2-2, 10-6) have been struggling to gain some consistency this year as well, providing Stanford with the perfect opportunity to slide back into the Pac-12 race.
The Bay Area rivals each split their games last week, beating Washington State and losing to Washington. Stanford beat the Cougars, 78-67, and dropped a 65-60 decision to the Huskies.
Randle and Bright were exceptional against Washington State but not so much against Washington.
California, picked to finish third in the conference, started the year 6-0 but has won back-to-back games only once since then, with three losses over its last five games.
Stanford had two separate three-game winning streaks and were 7-3 after 10 games. The Cardinal has lost three of its last four games.
Nationally No. 2 Stanford travels for the first time this season when it takes on No. 8 USC and No. 4 Pepperdine in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action this weekend.
Stanford (1-0 in the MPSF, 4-0 overall) is coming off a dramatic comeback victory over Pacific in an MPSF opener Saturday. The Cardinal fought off six match points after falling behind 14-11 in the fifth set, and rallied to victory, extending its home winning streak to nine.
Friday's Stanford-USC match marks the men's volleyball debut for the Pac-12 Networks. Stanford will appear four times this season and the Networks will air eight matches overall.
Stanford has stuggled in its MPSF road openers in recent years. Other than two victories over Pacific (in 2012 and 2009), Stanford has not won a conference road opener since 2002. The Cardinal is 0-7 in non-MPSF road openers in that span.