Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 5th, 2009: Stanford at UConn (NCAA tournament)

Connecticut Huskies 83, Stanford Cardinal 63

Jayne Appel and the Stanford Cardinal are quite singular, Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery are a dynamic duo, and UConn lets up on the gas pedal.

And then it was on to game two. The de facto championship game, or so it was declared. The heavyweight match. UConn versus Stanford. Both teams out for revenge.

And then it turned out that Jayne Appel was really the only Stanford player who actually gave a damn about the fact that this was the Final Four, and even she wasn't as sharp as she could have been. But Pedersen especially seemed to be slacking off (especially in the second half, where the only way she seemed to know how to get involved was to commit stupid hard fouls). Stanford's guards were going to lose the matchup battle with the Huskies anyway, but I wasn't expecting Pohlen and Harmon to be quite so epic in their fail. Ogwumike seemed overwhelmed by the moment for most of the game- it ws only after UConn had, er, called off the dogs, that she seemed to get into her groove. Gold-Onwude seemed to be the only bench player for the Cardinal who wanted to get involved (it's a Queens thing, we don't take shit from people ;)). Though we were at the other end of the arena from the Stanford bench, I'm pretty sure VanDerveer was asking her team what the hell was wrong with them. They tried to force-feed the post a lot, which seemed ridiculous, especially since they were feeding her in the low post, when she's better as a European-style high post, making her plays further out. UConn is not Iowa State, and though Tina Charles isn't quite as big as Appel, she's a helluva lot better than anything the Cyclones were throwing at her in that game. And Uconnc ame with the help a lot more often than ISU did.

Good fucking God, Renee Montgomery. I think she decided that she didn't care what anyone else had in mind, she doesn't plan to lose her last college game. If she weren't so frigging tiny, she'd be the best shooting guard in the draft, but because of her size, she pretty much has to be a point guard, and I wouldn't want my nominal distributor taking that many shots. Being an offensive threat so that the other team can't double down o my top player, yes. Being a shothog, no. And Maya Moore was right alongside her in making sure Stanford was never really much of a credible threat. God, she's so smooth- in that regard, in the way she moves and the smooth silky grace she has- she reminds me of Candice Dupree. And I think she might be psychic on top of everything else- one of her rebounds was on some beautiful anticipation on a missed Stanford FT. Kalana Greene made the Cardinal regret leaving her open, because she has that nice little midrange jumper. McLaren's size made a big difference in the middle- more, I would say, than Charles, though Charles is the more skilled player. I keep thinking of Rutgers last year, when Vaughn was the more talented player but Junaid was getting the big minutes because she was a little more savvy with her body. But I'll get off this Scarlet tangent before the Husky fans come after me with a length of rope and some inappropriate comments about my hair. For all that UConn turned on the afterburners and got the lead up to 30 before letting it slip down to nineteen or so... that was Geno slowing the game up (and Hayes being a very astute freshman and backing the ball out to waste more clock on two different plays). I like that he doesn’t run up the score when he has the talent and the time to do it.

'sup, Denise? Congrats on the big gig! I remember when you were just a linesman on Bonita Spence's crew. Now you're in the Final Four. Sweet. Shame about the crappy linesmen you keep getting stuck with, though. Again, a very inconsistently called game- loose, then tight, then loose again, then, just as we're starting to think they're loosening it up so everyone can go home or to the bar, they tightened it up again.

UConn, as always, traveled exceedingly well, both in their allocation (points for the matching tees!) and in general. Signs your team's lead is so big that the game's a lead pipe cinch: when your semi-official spirit guy starts the chants, your enthusiasm is dimmed to about a third of what it was in the first half. It was kinda funny. And how can you not love the Stanford band and that kooky Tree? I mean, the highlight of the day was watching the Tree and the band kick ass in the Battle of the Bands, then sitting with the band while the Tree participated in the mascot challenge. (The organizers seemed confused as to why the band wasn't leaving the vicinity- they didn't seem to realize that the Tree is part of the band, and they're not going to leave their homie behind.)

Funny how everyone thought this was going to be the closely contested game and that the first one was going to be a blowout. I think VanDerveer is wondering the same thing, because Stanford's body language about midway into the second half screamed "we've lost already, just kill us and get it over with, and we do mean kill us, because we have to fly back with Coach if you don't, and that's an experience worse than death." Now that the Big East has established its dominance in women's hoops this year, I'd like to see a competitive game on Tuesday- and, hopefully, a more properly filled arena. There were some shamefully empty sections.

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