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Team USA schools Stanford, but both sides learn

Team USA kicked off its four-university road show at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. Led by Cardinal almunus Nneka Ogwumike '12, the national team trounced Stanford 95-80. (Photo: BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

The first 13 points scored came from Stanford players, but only nine came from someone wearing a Stanford jersey. Nneka Ogwumike ’12 opened her emphatic return to Maples Pavilion with a layup and a pair of free throws.

“I am still undefeated at Maples,” Ogwumike said. 

Four separate Cardinal each sunk a shot to take an early 9-4 lead over Team USA. Preseason No. 3 Stanford held on to that lead throughout the quarter, and would also win the third quarter against the side vying for Olympic gold in Tokyo. Nevertheless, USA was able to take a lead and hold off an insurgent Stanford 95-80. 

“It was probably everything that we hoped it would be,” said USA co-coach Cheryl Reeve. “Stanford’s very difficult to play against. We got exactly what we needed.”

Senior guard DiJonai Carrington opened Stanford’s scoring with a three on her way to a 17-point performance. In 24 minutes, Carrington shot 5-of-11, was a perfect 6-of-6 at the line, and tallied 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

Sophomore guard Lexie Hull scored seven points in the first quarter, including a trey. After a stellar but injury-shortened freshman campaign, Hull improved heading into her sophomore season, scoring seven points in the first quarter and earning praise from Ogwumike.

“Especially Lexie in the first quarter,” Ogwumike said. “I’ve seen her develop into being able to create her shot a little bit better.”

Hull totaled 11 points, the third-highest on the team, on 5-of-9 from the field. After holding USA to just 27% from the floor in the opening 10 minutes, the visitors shot 63.2% from the field in the second quarter.

“The first quarter, I didn’t think we’d make it to 40 points the way we were going,” Reeve said. “Having to find your way back into a game, there’s value, and that’s exactly what we want from this tour.”

As USA opened up a second quarter lead, junior guard Kiana Williams caught fire with a trio of three-pointers to keep Stanford in the game. Williams shot 6-of-17, including 5-of-12 from distance to tie Carrington for the team lead with 17 points. Playing mainly at the point over the course of her 32 minutes, Williams also contributed six rebounds and three assists.

“You wouldn’t know that we we planned for getting up on Kiana and not letting her get off threes,” Reeve said.

“Just my competitive edge, had to find a way to get my shot and credit to my teammates for moving the ball around,” Williams said.

“We know Kiana can play,” Ogwumike said.

Stanford played with a high level of confidence and swagger, even while matched up with the world’s best. 

“Looking across the court and seeing the best in the world, people that you watched growing up, lacing their shoes up is kind of surreal,” Carrington said. “In our huddles, I just reminded our team, you know, they lace their shoes up like we do when they wake up in the morning.”

Nevertheless, there was a lot for Stanford to learn. USA shot 53% to Stanford’s 39%, out-rebounded the Cardinal 48-31 and recorded seven blocks.

“I would just say we got the concept across of using fakes a little bit more after a couple of us got blocked or ended up traveling because we saw them coming towards us,” Carrington said.

“This is just a whole level of basketball that we don’t get to see,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “Hopefully everyone remembers what it looks like and what it feels like.”

“I feel like everyone’s confidence was boosted,” Williams said. “I know mine was for sure just being on the same court as them.”

“Confidence knowing that we were able to hold our own on the court with the best in the world,” Carrington said. “We were able to compete, we got stops, we blocked their shots, we stole the ball from them. Yes, they did the same to us, but it wasn’t like we were out there getting pummeled the whole game.”

This was the third USA tour to come to Stanford since VanDerveer coached Team USA to a 52-0 record and an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta. 

During that time, Amy Tucker assumed the role of interim head coach and led Stanford to the Final Four and a 29-3 record, for which she was named National and Pac-12 Coach of the Year. As the women’s basketball administrator, Tucker was on hand at Maples on Saturday to give Chiney Ogwumike ’14 her Final Four ring.  

“When I think about Nneka as a freshman, she would have gotten torn up the same way we did,” VanDerveer said. “Our freshmen work extremely hard and did extremely well against A’ja Wilson and Sylvia Fowles.”

After missing Tuesday’s exhibition with Beijing Normal, freshman guard Haley Jones checked in to the game for the first time as a Cardinal on Saturday. Freshman forward Fran Belibi was one of just two Cardinal with a positive plus/minus, but was limited to nine minutes due to foul trouble. She came away with four points and a couple of rebounds and assists. 

“Fran, I think she is a raw talent,” Ogwumike said. “She came to the right place to develop herself. And it’s really great to know that she has so much potential and is already producing in the way that she is at her young freshman age. I’m excited to watch Stanford this year.”

Freshman guard Hannah Jump was 2-for-2 for seven points, while forward Ashten Prechtel struggled from the field with a 2-of-8 line, yet still notched four points, four rebounds and a pair of assists.

“Our freshmen post players were thrown into the deep end of the pool, and I thought they did phenomenally well,” VanDerveer said.

Reeve allowed Ogwumike a curtain call with a little over a minute remaining in the contest. The Stanford alum hugged her former coaches VanDerveer and Kate Paye, then proceeded to address each member of the Cardinal bench. She finished with 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, with both misses from behind the arc. In a performance reminiscent of her dominant days in a Stanford jersey, she added 12 rebounds and four assists.

A’ja Wilson was also sterling for the national team, with 22 points on 7-of-12 and 8-of-10 from the line. Team USA will play three more top-10 ranked schools between Pac-12 opponents Oregon State and Oregon, as well as Texas A&M.

Next time Stanford takes the court will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT against Eastern Washington, and that one counts.

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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