Stanford faces South Carolina in Fresno regional semifinals

712774.jpg

Stanford faces South Carolina in Fresno regional semifinals

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer recalls how during Dawn Staley's college days at Virginia she wore a rubberband on her right wrist and snapped it each time she committed a turnover.

VanDerveer remembers how much she enjoyed coaching the ultra-competitive Staley on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that captured gold in Atlanta. VanDerveer always told it straight, and that's what fueled the tough Staley, who grew up honing her game on the playgrounds of Philadelphia.

"When Tara found out we were playing South Carolina, she was ecstatic," sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike said. "She was like, Yeah, we're playing Dawn Staley's crew!'"

On Saturday night, VanDerveer's top-seeded Cardinal (33-1) will face Staley's No. 5 seed South Carolina team (25-9) in the NCAA tournament's Fresno regional semifinals, with Stanford looking to extend its school-record 30-game winning streak and take another step toward reaching a fifth straight Final Four.

"Coaching Dawn was just awesome. I loved coaching her," VanDerveer said Friday at the Save Mart Center. "She's a competitor more than anything else."

A humble one at that. The Gamecocks played at Stanford last season, and Staley invited VanDerveer to the visiting locker room to give her players a pep talk. And Staley spoke to VanDerveer's players at a 2007 tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands when Staley was still at Temple.

The Cardinal had just whipped South Carolina 70-32 in November 2010 when Staley asked her former coach to spend a few minutes with the Gamecocks players. VanDerveer also coached Staley assistant Nikki McCray.

"You don't really hear a lot of relationships like that when it comes to different coaches," said Stanford leading scorer Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who averages 21.8 points 10.1 rebounds and is eager to get to Denver and the Final Four in her NCAA tournament farewell tour. "It's nice to see those different types of dynamics. It's really cool. They have a lot of history together."

VanDerveer, Stanford's 26th-year coach, took a year away from the school to coach the U.S. Olympians to their gold medal in '96.

"Tara had a way of looking at basketball and seeing it played a certain way," Staley said, saying she learned from VanDerveer "to be more than just a player and build relationships. You learn all those little intangible things ... that made me one of the best point guards to play the game. Definitely Tara was one of those coaches who was really honest - she'll bring you to tears with her honesty. It fueled me."

Stanford and Staley's Virginia team each reached three straight Final Fours from 1990-92, with the Cardinal beating Staley in the NCAA semifinals on the way to its championships in '90 and '92. VanDerveer's Cardinal haven't won it all since then despite becoming a Final Four regular of late.

Current assistant and former Stanford guard Kate Paye guarded Staley in that 1992 game.

"Those are good years, 90 and 92. Hopefully that's a good omen. Dawn hopes it isn't," said VanDerveer, who cherishes a signed photo Staley gave her from when she was the Americans' flag bearer for the 2004 Athens Games.

The winner Saturday will face either No. 2 Duke faces third-seeded St. John's, who play the first game of the night.

VanDerveer, enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year, earned her 797th career victory in that game with South Carolina, then beat former Stanford star and University of San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi to join the elite 800 wins club shortly thereafter.

Next season, Stanford will travel to South Carolina, where the women's basketball program has become a big hit in Columbia.

"They play much better defense than she did," VanDerveer quipped of these Gamecocks compared to their coach. "Dawn is incredibly competitive, to the point she has amnesia. We used to play chess together and she will say how she beat me, and I'll say, No, Dawn.' Her team is so competitive."

South Carolina has reached its first regional semifinal since 2002, third overall in program history and first under fourth-year coach Staley. The Gamecocks' top three scorers and six players total - including all five current starters - were there that day last season to hear VanDerveer's words.

Not that they remember it much. This group has come so far since then.

"I don't remember much about the game, but we weren't prepared as much as we are now," guard Ieasia Walker said.

Markeshia Grant leads the balanced Gamecocks at 11.0 points, while La'Keisha Sutton averages 10.5 points for a South Carolina team that already pulled off an impressive win over Tennessee.

Staley sported an "I BELIEVE" long sleeve T-shirt on Friday in what has become her team's mantra.

"They've been pretty catchy since we've been having a pretty successful season," Staley said. "We really don't have anything to lose. They're the big dogs, the No. 1 seed. We still have to play the game."

VanDerveer looks at the Gamecocks much like the offensive-oriented Arizona State and California teams the Cardinal face in the Pac-12 Conference.

After traveling East to Norfolk, Va., for the first two rounds of the tournament, the Cardinal are back in familiar territory in California's Central Valley, where they beat Fresno State in this arena on Dec. 4. They're at the same hotel this time.

"This is kind of our second home and we want to come out and play really well here," VanDerveer said. "I think there's a comfort level having been here, been in the locker room, less newness. Whether that translates into wins or translates into more baskets, that's yet to be seen."

Read more: Comcast SportsNet - Authentic Bay Area Sports
Tune to SportsNet Central at 6, 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for more on this story

Landale leads with double-double in Saint Mary's dominant win

gaels-us.jpg
USATSI

Landale leads with double-double in Saint Mary's dominant win

BOX SCORE

MALIBU -- Jock Landale had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 20 Saint Mary's to a 78-49 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night.

The Gaels (25-3, 15-2 West Coast) continued to roll in winning 10 of their last 11 games. Their only loss in that stretch was to No. 1 Gonzaga.

Lamond Murray Jr. had 17 points for Pepperdine (9-20, 5-12), which lost its third consecutive game.

A power outage caused the lights to go out with 18:41 left in the second half. Pepperdine official Roger Horne said power surges throughout campus caused the 15-minute delay. Players stayed loose by shooting in the dark.

The delay didn't slow down Saint Mary's, which led 41-21 before the lights went out. Landale, the junior center from Australia, had an empathic dunk for the first basket after play resumed and the Gaels cruised from there.

BIG PICTURE:

Saint Mary's did what it needed to do in recording another road victory. The Gaels and Landale continued to flex their usual muscles as they dominated in the paint and outrebounded the Waves 47-29.

Pepperdine has weathered the storm of an injury-plagued season and played with its 10th lineup of the season. Chris Reyes (heel) was ruled out for the season on Thursday, but the Waves still suited up nine players.

UP NEXT:

Saint Mary's returns home to play its regular-season finale against Santa Clara on Saturday, the final tuneup before the WCC Tournament. The Gaels won the last matchup, 72-59.

Pepperdine plays its last home game on Saturday against San Francisco. It's the final game at Firestone Fieldhouse for guard Jeremy Major, who is scheduled to make his 122nd career start, which would become most in school history.

Four players score in double figures, Stanford takes down Oregon State

stanosu.jpg
AP

Four players score in double figures, Stanford takes down Oregon State

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Even though Stanford has been buried in the lower half of the Pac-12 standings all season, Reid Travis isn't so sure his team is an underdog against No. 6 Oregon.

That might be a stretch considering the Ducks are making a run at the conference title but that didn't seem to matter to Travis.

"The way we're playing now is great for this time of year," Travis said following Stanford's 79-66 win over Oregon State on Wednesday. "I feel like we're really taking off. Even though our record doesn't reflect it I really do feel that we're one of the top teams so take that as you want to."

Travis had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead four players in double figures. Marcus Allen also scored 17, Dorian Pickens added 15 and Robert Cartwright had 10 as the Cardinal beat the Beavers for the 21st time in the last 23 games between the two teams at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford (14-13, 6-9 Pac-12) led by as many as 25 but had to hold on after Oregon State (5-24, 1-15) pulled within 74-63 with 3:28 left on JaQuori McLaughlin's 3-pointer.

Allen and Pickens scored back-to-back buckets for Stanford, and after Stephen Thompson's putback for Oregon State, Pickens made a 3-pointer.

"We're pointing in the right direction on both ends of the floor," Allen said. "Guys are getting good looks . and on defense we're more active. Hopefully that continues."

Drew Eubanks had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Oregon State. Gligorije Rakocevic added a season-high 16 points for the Beavers, who couldn't follow up after beating Utah last week for their first conference win of the season.

Stanford built a quick double-digit lead despite a strong start by Rakocevic. The 6-foot-11-foot center, averaging 3.8 points going into the game, matched his season high in the first half while scoring 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting.

The Cardinal countered with a more balanced attack after adjusting to the Beavers' zone defense. Travis, Allen, Cartwright and Pickens combined for 32 points in the first half to help Stanford take a 43-33 lead.

The Cardinal also controlled the boards while outscoring the Beavers 46-22 in the paint.

"For us to be at our best we're going to score from the free throw line, like we did in the Cal game, or score around the basket," Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. "Smash-mouth is a football term but if it was a basketball term I think that would be a good word for us."

Travis got Stanford going again after halftime and helped push the Cardinal lead to 69-44.

Eubanks nearly brought Oregon State back. He scored 17 points in the second half, including 13 of the Beavers' first 20.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State: The Beavers hopes of winning back-to-back games for the first time since beating Prairie View A&M and Texas-San Antonio to open the season didn't last long. They didn't play poorly - Oregon State shot close to 47 percent most of the night - but couldn't match Stanford's run coming out of halftime and never recovered.

Stanford: The win pushed the Cardinal into a tie for seventh place in the Pac-12, still nowhere near enough to get a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The outcome was never in doubt, but Haase was concerned about Stanford's mental approach.

DOUBLE TECHS

Eubanks and Travis were both hit with technical fouls after a heated exchange in the second half. Although no punches were thrown, Eubanks suffered a bloody nose during the incident and had to be treated near the Beavers' bench.

"We're trying to go at each other as hard as possible so of course there's different plays where a lot of contact happens," Travis said. "I like that. That's how competitors act and we just moved on from it. Unfortunately they called a technical on both of us. I'd like to see us play on in that sense."

UP NEXT

Oregon State: Plays at California on Friday night.

Stanford: Hosts No. 6 Oregon on Saturday in the final regular season home at Maples Pavilion this year. The Ducks beat the Cardinal 69-52 on Jan. 21.