Staying in the Game
ABOVE THE REST: Powell is a contender for national player of the year.
With five returning starters and a Pac-10 title to defend, the women’s basketball team has been drawing big home crowds and hopes for a solid, though perhaps not superlative, postseason.
The No. 11 Cardinal (17-5, 10-3 Pac-10 at press time) sailed through preconference play until then-No. 2 Tennessee came to town on December 14. Before a sellout crowd in Maples Pavilion, the televised marquee event took a downturn in the final minutes, with the Lady Vols winning 70-66 in overtime. Nicole Powell, Stanford’s All-American forward, played all 45 minutes, but the team couldn’t quite pull it off. “I don’t think it’s a good situation to depend on only one person,” coach Tara VanDerveer noted. The Cardinal lost to its next ranked opponent, then-No. 3 Texas Tech, 55-46, on December 21.
The team then won four of its next six games by more than 20 points (88-65 against Oregon State; 77-51 against Oregon; 90-69 against Washington State; 84-62 against Arizona). The Arizona win was particularly decisive, with Stanford leading by 47 at one point in the second half and shooting 59.6 percent for the game, including 15 of 27 from three-point territory.
But in late January and early February, the Cardinal began to wobble, losing to USC, trouncing Washington and Washington State, then falling to Arizona and Arizona State. The team continued to lean on Powell. “We had people at times just waiting for Nicole to make plays,” said VanDerveer after the USC game.
Powell, who leads the Pac-10 in scoring, rebounding and free-throw percentage, is one of three contenders for player of the year, with Connecticut’s Diana Taurasi and Duke’s Alana Beard. She has saved games with her outside shooting—and she has egged teammates on to play their own personal bests with her full-body smiles and leaps from the bench. Other Stanford scoring leaders include junior forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu, junior guard Kelley Suminski and redshirt junior guard Susan Borchardt.
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Data is from the past two weeks.