Publication Date: Friday, January 30, 2002|
The faces of two Pac-10 races
The faces of two Pac-10 races
(January 30, 2002) Nationally No. 3-ranked Stanford women's basketball team in the driver's seat for another conference title
by Rick Eymer
With all due respect to the rest of the Pac-10 Conference, the Stanford women's basketball team is making a shambles of the race.
With their most recent effort, a 62-48 victory over Arizona State, the third-ranked Cardinal (20-1 overall, 10-0 in the Pac-10) already clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament set for Eugene the first weekend of March.
In fact, with California coming to town on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff, Stanford finds itself four games up in the loss column with eight to play. The Cardinal have to like their chances.
The thing is, while Stanford is acting locally, its thoughts are global - at least in terms of the national women's basketball scene. There's No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 Tennessee, which handed Stanford its only loss of the season to date. Then there's the Cardinal, who don't have to settle for anything less than a first-class ticket these days.
Stanford has withstood the loss of three players, two of them starters, to season-ending injuries this year and it just continues to roll.
With senior Lindsey Yamasaki and sophomore Nicole Powell both legitimate All-American candidates, this is a team good enough to dream large. There's plenty of talented players supporting the dream.
Yamasaki was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week for her efforts.
Arizona State, the Pac-10's top defense in points allowed, was beaten at its own game by Stanford, which is third in scoring defense, tops in field goal percentage defense, second in rebounding defense and first in blocked shots.
The Cardinal have such a lengthy resume that it's hard to conceive of them losing to a conference opponent.
"No one is unbeatable, but to beat Stanford you're going to have to play very well," said Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini after the Wildcats dropped 76-62 decision to Stanford on Thursday. "Who knows what will happen down the road. Stanford has so many weapons and if you make a mistake, they can convert. It's not only the starters. They have people coming off the bench doing things. They have a shot to do damage in the tournament because they have good depth."
Stanford already has surpassed last year's win totals and continues to match the best start in school history.
Stanford recorded its 13th 20-win season in the past 15 years, and 14th overall, in the 28-year history of the program.
"You can compare numbers, but this a different team. We can be better and we're measuring ourselves differently," said Yamasaki. "We have higher expectations."
Arizona State, which was ranked as high as No. 21 this season, is now part of a four-way tie for second place.
Yamasaki scored 23 of her season-high 27 points in the first half as Stanford won its 12th straight game on Saturday.
"I was just trying to take what they threw at me," said Yamasaki, who has scored in double figures in 18 of 21 games this year. "When I'm playing against bigger people, sometimes it's easier to get my penetration going and use my agility."
Powell added 13 points as Stanford beat the Sun Devils at home for the 18th consecutive time despite being held to its second-lowest offensive output of the season.
"We were just trying to stick with it," said Powell. "We just tried to take care of the ball."
The Sun Devils were held to a season-low 26.3 percent. Stanford has held its past 10 opponents under 40 percent.
"We're working very hard on defense, forcing teams to take low percentage shots," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "It was evident today. Our defensive effort was excellent."
Arizona State, held to its season low, began the day leading the Pac-10 in fewest points allowed per game.
The Sun Devils gave Stanford one of its toughest conference games in their last meeting. Arizona State led by 12 points, the Cardinal's biggest deficit of the season, before losing by nine on Dec. 21.
The Sun Devils closed to within 54-46 when Amanda Levens made a pair of free throws with 2:56 remaining, but Powell -- who left the game momentarily after getting hit in the right eye -- hit a 3-pointer from the corner 26 seconds later.
Yamasaki, who didn't score in the final 18 minutes of the game, matched Arizona State's first half total herself as she scored 23 points, including a basket at the buzzer which gave Stanford a 35-23 first half advantage.
Yamasaki, who scored 17 of Stanford's final 18 points in the half, made nine of her first 13 shots. She was briefly forced out of the game because of a cut on her right knee after being fouled, missing a free throw opportunity.
Lauren St. Clair, who sat out Thursday's game against Arizona with sore ribs, made her first start of the season. Pinewood grad Sebnem Kimyacioglu continued to play well coming off the bench as she scored 11 points against Arizona and six against ASU.
E-mail Rick Eymer at firstname.lastname@example.org