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Stanford women roll into second round of NCAA hoops

 

The mother of Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was crying after the Cardinal won. The parents of Stanford great Jennifer Azzi were wearing USF colors at Maples Pavilion.

There were certainly unusual circumstances in the first round of the NCAA Women's Tournament Saturday, but one thing remained ordinary -- the Cardinal won handily on its home floor.

Stanford, the No. 4 seed, blew out No. 13 San Francisco 85-58 Saturday night at Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal (25-7) will host No. 12 seed South Dakota State Monday at 6 p.m. in an attempt to make its ninth straight Sweet Sixteen. The Jackrabbits (26-6) upset No. 5 Miami, 74-71, earlier on Saturday for its second-ever NCAA Tournament win.

The Dons (21-12) are coached by Azzi, a member of VanDerveer's first recruiting class. She was named the 1990 Final Four MVP as Stanford won it's first-ever NCAA women's basketball championship.

"It was all weird is the best way I can describe it," Azzi said. "I mean, I'm hugging Tara and we're both saying how it's just strange to play in this building and obviously for us to play against her team. I tried to do my best to focus on our team and block it all out, and then my mom and dad are in the stands in USF gear, not Stanford gear. The whole thing was just a surreal kind of experience."

VanDerveer compared it to playing against her younger sister Heidi VanDerveer, the head coach at UC San Diego.

"What's a little weird is when my mom saw Jennifer just now and she's crying because Jennifer lost," VanDerveer said. "I'm like, 'Mom, I'm blood.' But everyone loves Jennifer."

The coaches embraced before and after the game, but VanDerveer didn't take it easy on her former player once the ball the tipped.

Stanford led by as many as 37 with 7:05 remaining. The Cardinal had a 49-22 edge in rebounding and shot 51.7 percent while holding No. 13 USF to 32.8 percent from the field.

It was Stanford's 16th straight win against USF and its 13th straight win on The Farm in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford improved to 33-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament games at Maples Pavilion.

It was a balanced effort on offense from the Cardinal, who had seven players score at least eight points. Lili Thompson had a game-high 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting while Erica McCall had her 16th double-double of the season, posting 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Coming off her 13-assist performance in her last game against Washington (the most by a Cardinal since 1991), freshman Marta Sniezek had nine assists to one turnover against the Dons in her first NCAA Tournament game.

USF's top player, senior Taylor Proctor, was held to 13 points (on 4 of 16 shooting) and two rebounds, well off her season averages of 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, with Stanford's Kaylee Johnson leading the defensive effort.

Stanford didn't show any ill effects from being upset by Washington in the opener of the Pac-12 Tournament 15 days ago. VanDerveer praised the team's shot selection, ball movement, and defensive effort, though she pointed to the team's 17 turnovers as evidence that Stanford is capable of playing even better.

Thompson thought the Washington loss created a sense of urgency and focus.

"The biggest thing is the one-and-done," Thompson said. "If you lose a game in the regular season, you have a next game. But with the Pac-12 (Tournament), you have to earn that right to play, and we didn't, and we had to go home and that wasn't a good feeling. And now this is the real deal where if we lose a game we don't get a chance to come back and try again."

Azzi is hopeful this loss will also be a learning experience for her team, which exceeded expectations to reach this point. The No. 6 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament, USF beat the top three teams to make the NCAAs for the first time since 1997.

"The greatest thing is that our younger players got a taste of this and now understand what it means," Azzi said. "Every one of our returning players should use this to motivate them in the offseason."

VanDerveer and Azzi coached against each other once previously, when the Hall of Fame coach won her 800th game, 100-45, in San Francisco in 2010. VanDerveer is now 22 wins away from joining Pat Summitt as the only NCAA women's basketball coaches with 1,000 wins.

VanDerveer said she was never conflicted during the game.

"I love Jennifer," VanDerveer said. "But I love winning more."

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