Sports


Cardinal women survive tough NCAA basketball opener

 

There's got to be some flashy nickname out there to describe the apparent transformation of Stanford senior forward Taylor Greenfield when it comes time for tournament play.

Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer doesn't need a nickname. All she does is win with a capital 'W.'

The 14th-ranked and fourth-seeded Stanford women's basketball team survived a tough test from Cal State Northridge, winning its first round NCAA tournament contest by the deceiving score of 73-60 on Saturday at Maples Pavilion.

"They have a tough team," VanDerveer said. "We had to work really hard to win the game. I'm really proud of our team for battling."

The 13th seeded Matadors held leads in both the first and second halves, including a 36-30 edge two minutes into the second half.

With the game tied at 40, Greenfield and sophomore guard Lili Thompson combined to score the next 14 points and the Cardinal withstood a final Northridge rally to advance into Monday's second-round matchup with No. 5 seed Oklahoma at 3:30 p.m.

"Once we got down by six, I knew we had to refocus," Thompson said. "I wasn't necessarily worried but I wanted the team to refocus."

Greenfield, named the Pac-12 Conference tournament MVP, led the way against the Matadors with 19 points and Thompson added 17. Bonnie Samuelson, who finished with 14 points, helped Stanford take an early lead. Erica McCall had 10 points.

"I was stoked for the game and I knew in order for us to win I had to make a contribution," Greenfield said. "Today it happened to be scoring. The turning point was against Arizona State in the Pac-12 semifinals and it's been repetitive, in a good way, since."

Stanford improved to 12-0 when at least four players score in double figures.

The victory featured milestones for VanDerveer and Maples Pavilion. VanDerveer won her 800th career game at Stanford, becoming the 10th college basketball coach, men's or women's, with at least 800 victories at a single Division I school.

"Personally it's great to be a part of all the awesome players who have come before us," Thompson said. "I was talking to Chiney (Ogwumike) today, it's her birthday, and to be just one more number in addition to them is pretty cool."

The Cardinal improved its all-time mark on its home court to 500-87, an .852 winning percentage. VanDerveer is 800-165 (.829) at Stanford and 952-216 overall.

"I've had many great coaching experiences at Stanford and this is one I will remember," VanDerveer said. "You win because you have talented players, a system and assistant coaches who work overtime. I was hired as a young coach and received great support from the administration from the beginning. Now let's go get No. 801."

Kaylee Johnson had 10 rebounds to set a Stanford freshman single-season record with 338, nine more than Kayla Pedersen grabbed in an eventful 2007-08 season.

Cal State Northridge refused to go away peacefully, drawing to within 60-54 with 1:48 remaining to play on a layup from Ashlee Guay, who scored a game-high 27 points.

"We had the momentum at that point and the thinking was we had the lead and we were going to hold onto it however we needed," said Greenfield, who reached double figures for the third straight game after doing so three times in her first 28 games of the season.

Greenfield averaged 3.2 during conference play and then averaged 13.7 points during the conference tournament. She scored a career-high 20 points in the Pac-12 title game win over California and nearly matched that against the Matadors.

"I think the excitement of being in a tournament has a lot to do with that," Greenfield said. "In the Pac-12 tournament we were the underdogs and I don't think many people expected us to win. I've never experienced that before and I wanted my senior season to end differently. This team does a good job of rallying around each other and them being happy for me was huge."

Her teammates have begun to call Greenfield "Tournament Taylor." Not a bad nickname, at all.

Cal State Northridge went on a 13-0 run in the first half and took a 29-28 advantage into intermission.

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