Stanford not at full strength heading into the Pac-12 Tournament | March 8, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 8, 2013

Stanford not at full strength heading into the Pac-12 Tournament

by Rick Eymer

The Stanford women's basketball team heads into the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament with plenty of momentum off its regular-season conference co-championship with Cal. The top-seeded Cardinal, however, will be going after its seventh straight title without the services of junior guard Toni Kokenis.

Kokenis will miss the tournament this weekend in Seattle with an undisclosed illness. She has missed the past eight games and nine overall as a result of a condition that has plagued her all season.

The 5-foot-11 Kokenis has been averaging 7.7 points this season and provided experience and leadership, which could be missed this weekend. Whether she'll be back for the NCAA Tournament hasn't been decided.

The Cardinal will play its first Pac-12 tourney game on Friday at 6 p.m., against either Washington State or Arizona State. Stanford is expected to be playing in Sunday's championship game (5 p.m., ESPN2) against rival Cal at Key Arena in Seattle, Wash.

The nationally No. 4-ranked Cardinal (28-2) finished the regular season as Pac-12 co-champion, its 13th straight conference title and 22nd overall.

Stanford and California, with matching 17-1 records, shared this year's title. The Cardinal, however, earned the tournament's top seed by virtue of the third tiebreaker, a higher overall winning percentage.

Stanford has won nine of 11 conference tournament titles including the past six in a row. Stanford's record at the event is 33-2 with the two losses occurring in the 2002 and 2006 title games.

The Cardinal, which has now been the top seed at all 12 editions of the conference tournament since its inception in 2002, received a bye into Friday's quarterfinal round along with second-seeded California, third-seeded UCLA and fourth-seeded Colorado.

The Cardinal heads into the event led by the play of consensus national player of the year candidate Chiney Ogwumike, who is the only player in the nation ranked in the NCAA's top five in scoring (22.9 ppg), rebounding (12.7 rpg), field-goal percentage (59.1) and double-doubles (24). She also leads the Pac-12 in all four categories.

Forwards Joslyn Tinkle 12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), the Pac-12's shot-blocking leader at 1.90 blocks per game, and Mikaela Ruef (6.7 rpg, 64 assists) help patrol the paint for the Cardinal while sophomore point guard Amber Orrange is averaging 10.2 points and 4.33 assists per game.

The Cardinal defense is on a record-breaking pace heading into next weekend's event, holding opponents to Stanford all-time lows of 51.9 points per game and a collective 31.6 field-goal percentage.

Earlier this week, Ogwumike became the first player to sweep the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards and Tara VanDerveer was voted John R. Wooden Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the 13th time Tuesday as the conference announced its regular-season honors and teams.

Tinkle and Orrange were named to the All-Pac-12 Team for the first time in their respective careers, joining Ogwumike, a junior forward who was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.

Colorado's Arielle Roberson was voted Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. The conference awards and teams were voted by the conference coaches.

The selections of Ogwumike, Tinkle and Orrange to the All-Pac-12 Team give Stanford a total of 61 All-Pac-12 first-team selections.

It is Ogwumike's first Pac-12 Player of the Year award, second straight Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year selection, third straight nod to both the All-Pac-12 and All-Defensive Teams. Stanford players now have captured the Pac-12 Player of the Year honor 17 times and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award thrice.

As of the end of the regular season, Ogwumike is on pace to become the first player to win the Pac-12 Triple Crown, currently leading the conference in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage on top of her loop-leading 24 double-doubles.

Ogwumike already has set a slew of Stanford and Pac-12 records this season. On Feb. 24, she grabbed a Stanford single-game record 24 rebounds, breaking the previous mark of 23 set by older sister, Nnemkadi, against Oregon in 2009-10. Chiney's 27 points made for her 52nd career double-double, surpassing Neka's Stanford career mark of 51.

Her performance also made Chiney Stanford's sixth member of the 1,000-1,000 Club as she passed the 1,000-rebound mark against the Ducks during her record-setting effort. On Nov. 11 at Santa Clara, Ogwumike scored her 1,000th-career point.

This past Saturday at Washington State, Chiney again passed Neka in the Stanford and Pac-12 record books, grabbing 13 rebounds to bring her season total to 381, eclipsing her older sister's record of 376 set in 2009-10. Chiney's total of 24 double-doubles through the end of the regular season also stands as a Cardinal single-season record.

On the other side of the court, Ogwumike is one of two Cardinal players to earn the conference's top defensive honor. She has blocked 51 shots and made 48 steals, both second on the team. Stanford grad Rosalyn Gold-Onwude is the other Cardinal player to win the honor.

For the third straight season, and 13th overall, VanDerveer was voted by her peers as the top head coach in the conference. This season VanDerveer has guided a young Cardinal team to a 28-2 overall record, a No. 4 national ranking and its 13th consecutive and 22nd overall conference regular season crown.

On Nov. 19 after defeating then-No. 1/1 Baylor in Honolulu and capturing the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic, VanDerveer and the Cardinal were voted No. 1 in both national polls for the first time in eight years and held that top spot for six weeks.

It is the 14th time that Stanford has claimed the coach of the year honor, as Amy Tucker and Marianne Stanley shared the award in 1995-96 while VanDerveer was on sabbatical coaching the U.S. Olympic Team.


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