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.
Stanford had gameplan, not talent, to beat Baylor
April 2, 2012, 5:51 am