No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball will need to hit the ground running in Columbus for its season-opening weekend, as the team gets ready to square off against No. 5 Ohio State University and top-ranked UConn.
Despite winning against the both teams the last time they net – 88-66 against OSU in 2009 and 88-86 (OT) against UConn in 2014 to snap the Huskies’ 68-game streak – the stage for this game is obviously very different. To succeed, the Cardinal will need to work together on both ends of the floor.
“I think having two hard opponents is good for us in the beginning, because we don’t get to March for three or four months, so I think it’s good to have it so we’re prepared down the road,” sophomore guard Anna Wilson said.
The Cardinal will first play OSU on Friday before facing the Huskies on Sunday for the “Countdown to Columbus,” advertising for the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four which will be played in Columbus.
As they travel to Ohio, the Cardinal will return to head coach Tara VanDerveer’s old team. VanDerveer coached the Buckeyes from 1980 to 1985 before coming to the Farm to transform the Stanford women’s basketball program. Although Stanford and Ohio State have played during VanDerveer’s time on the Farm, their only game in 2009 was played on neutral ground. This will thus mark Vanderveer’s first return to Columbus with her squad.
“I am sure she is [excited],” said senior Kaylee Johnson when asked whether VanDerveer was excited to go back to Ohio State. “But I just think Tara [VanDerveer] is a legend; no matter where we go, everyone knows her, everyone loves her. I am sure she is excited, but she is definitely focused more on the game.”
The Buckeyes are led by standout senior guard Kelsey Mitchell, who will challenge the Cardinal’s guards with her ability to drive and score and to shoot from the perimeter. Junior Marta Sniezek and sophomore Alexa Romano, who had the most minutes in the backcourt last week against UCSD, might start again this week, and will attempt to establish defensive pressure from the get-go.
Two days later, the Cardinal will play the best team in the nation. Anyone who follows college basketball knows how dominant Geno Auriemma’s teams have been over the past decade. This year should be no different. The Huskies are coming their first loss in more than 100 games against Mississippi State in the Final Four last year.
Three Huskies – juniors Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier and senior Gabby Williams – were named AP preseason all-Americans. To face off against such a balanced and dominant team, the Cardinal will expect a lot from their upperclassmen leaders, seniors Brittany McPhee and Johnson and juniors Alanna Smith and Sniezek.
For VanDerveer, the early trip to Columbus may prepare the Cardinal for a return to Ohio in late March.
“I think it will be great for us to play in Columbus against Ohio State – that’s where the Final Four is, and we want to go to the Final Four,” VanDerveer said. “Let’s get there and learn – it’s real early, [so] I think it’s a win-win.”
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.