NCAA

Stanford had gameplan, not talent, to beat Baylor

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Stanford had gameplan, not talent, to beat Baylor

DENVER, Co. Stanford has lost in blow-out fashion, to powerhouses like UConn and Tennessee.It has lost in heartbreaking fashion, blowing a lead to Texas A&M.Sunday Stanford lost in inevitable fashion, to Brittney Griners Baylor steamroller, which is expected to claim a national championship Tuesday night.But, the details of the losses start to fade and blur. The reality is Stanford lost again. The Cardinal are the Buffalo Bills of womens basketball. On the 20th anniversary of its last national championship, Stanford reached the ultimate stage the Final Four for the fifth straight time, only to leave without a national championship.Thankfully, Tara VanDerveer wasnt asked to explain her teams inability to reach its elusive title, after the 59-47 loss to Baylor at the Pepsi Center.Because there was really nothing to explain this year: the reasons behind the loss were obvious. The post game questioning had to do with the gameplan against Brittney Griner.And VanDerveer had a good gameplan. She just didnt have the players to execute it.She had one great player: Nneka Ogwumike, who tried to put her team on her back and kept fighting to the bitter end. VanDerveer had one extremely good player, Chiney Ogwumike, who fouled out with 7:39 to play.And she had some average players and some freshmen who could grow into something.VanDerveers plan contained Griner: her team relentlessly double-teamed the 6-8 player,limiting her to zero dunks and just 13 points, her second lowest output of the season, and three field goals, tied for her season low.But Stanford couldnt get its own offense on track.The Cardinal needed a perimeter game and went 2-for-17 from the three point line. Nneka Ogwumike started attacking Griner with success in the second half, and led all players with 22 points but it wasnt enough. She confessed to having to overcome a psychological hurdle against Griner.I was definitely psyching myself out, she said.We were too worried about her. In reality attacking her wasnt as hard as we thought it would be.Ogwumike, like Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen before her, has had every one of her Stanford seasons end in the Final Four. Its an incredible accomplishment, but a bittersweet one. Over the years, Nneka went from being devastated by the losses, to annoyed, to accepting. Sunday night she seemed philosophical. She knows its better to lose in the Final Four than the alternative.Now shes passing the torch to her sister.I really wish we could have won this game for her, Chiney said.I think she was the best player in the game tonight. She was the best player on the court, and I am proud to say that.Stanford, as always, gets an A for effort. An A for sportsmanship. An A for preparation and gameplanning. But the Cardinal still hasnt got what it really wants.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”