Explosive Stanford hoping to solve stingy Aggies


Explosive Stanford hoping to solve stingy Aggies

April 2, 2011


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen have run through nearly every emotion possible this week - even before their Final Four game.

The two Stanford seniors were relieved just to reach Indianapolis. They are determined not to leave this Final Four empty-handed. And they are eager to get back to work Sunday against Texas A&M.

Somehow, they've even found a way to - get this - relax heading into their final weekend as college teammates.

"I'm just trying to enjoy every moment, trying to have fun," Pedersen said Saturday. "Whatever happens, happens, just as long as all of us lay it all out there for each other."

The semifinal shapes up as a clash of styles.

The Cardinal (33-2) have four scorers averaging in double figures and score 79.8 points per game as a team, but Texas A&M has a shutdown defense and Stanford isn't playing at Maples Pavilion where it has won 63 straight.
RELATED: Experience key for Stanford

Texas A&M (31-5) is only the second team in tourney history to limit four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer, and six of the last eight Aggies opponents have failed to top 50 points.

All-American forward Danielle Adams and teammates Sydney Carter and Sydney Colson cracked jokes during their media availability, and coach Gary Blair even brought out a step ladder and measuring tape at the end of the 1-hour practice - stealing a scene from the movie "Hoosiers," which was filmed six miles away at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse.
RELATED: Texas A&M loaded with offensive weapons

Texas A&M also added some down home language to the discussion

"We say howdy," coach Gary Blair said in his opening comments Saturday. "You're supposed to say howdy back. Most of y'all are just getting up, I understand."

On the court, there's no Southern hospitality.

Blair, who made the Final Four in 1998 with Arkansas, is back with the same game plan that shocked top-seeded Baylor on Tuesday. The Aggies will pressure Stanford's guards for 40 minutes, hoping to score off turnovers, and use the versatility of Adams to put additional pressure on the Cardinal defense.

It was good enough to get the Aggies within a game of playing for their first national title in their first trip to the semifinals.

"I think we'll be pretty successful making them uncomfortable, making them run something they don't really want to run because it's just the style of defense we play," Carter said.

Stanford understands.

The Cardinal have spent all week devising a plan to beat the Aggies pressure, while trying to answer questions about the self-inflicted pressure they've felt since blowing a 20-12 halftime lead against UConn in last year's title game.

They got some measure of revenge in December's rematch, a 71-59 victory that ended Connecticut's record-setting 90-game winning streak. But they have more in mind than just a regular-season win over the Huskies, who play Notre Dame in Sunday's second game.

Rewind: Stanford rolls 'Zags to advance to Final Four

The good news is that they're used to playing on the big stage.

"Whether it's interviews, all the different things that you've done, there's a certain routine and you don't feel as, maybe, just stressed about things," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It you're five minutes late, maybe the first year you were worried."

So the only real concern for Stanford is whether the seniors can finish the job.

"We're just very focused. Maybe a little more relaxed," said Pohlen, the Pac-10 player of the year. "Kayla and I have talked about it's such a privilege to be here, and we're very grateful to have been able to make it this far for four years. But we definitely haven't got the job done, so we're very focused."

Over the past four seasons, the dynamic duo has done just about everything from setting school records for games played (149 and counting) to all-league and national honors to the run of four straight of Final Fours.

But there's one glaring omission: No national championships.

Instead, the Cardinal settled for second two of the last three years, losing to Tennessee in the 2008 title game and Connecticut last year and now they're back on a clear-cut mission - winning the school's first title since 1992.

"Any time you come to three or four Final Fours and you've not achieved the prize, it humbles you," said freshman Chiney Ogwumike, who went to the previous two to watch her older sister, Nnemakdi. "We came here to win a national championship."

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.

Gameday: How the well-rested Nets will test the Durant-less Warriors

Gameday: How the well-rested Nets will test the Durant-less Warriors

Roughly 20 hours after winning in Philadelphia, the Warriors on Sunday take their act to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they’ll be without Kevin Durant as they try to sweep a back-to-back set for the first time this season.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 2pm, with tipoff scheduled for 3:05pm.

It’s the third back-to-back set of the season for the Warriors (12-4), who have split the first two. This one follows a stirring comeback victory over the 76ers on Saturday and it comes against a Nets team sure to test their endurance.

That test is automatically tougher with Durant, who scored scored 27 points against Philly but will be sidelined Sunday with an ankle sprain.

Brooklyn (6-9) is playing without two guards who figured prominently in their plans, as both Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell are out with injuries.

Warriors by 11

Stephen Curry vs. Spencer Dinwiddie. Curry broke out his mini-slump in the third quarter Saturday in Philly, scoring 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from deep. He’ll see plenty of Dinwiddie, whose wingspan approaches 6-9. Starting in place of the injured D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie has become a solid catalyst for Brooklyn’s fast-paced offense. His 5.57-1 assist-to-turnover ratio leads all NBA point guards. If he plays exceptionally well, the Nets may have a legitimate chance.

Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L ankle sprain) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Nets: G Jeremy Lin (ruptured patellar tendon) and G D’Angelo Russell (L knee surgery) are listed as out.

Kane Fitzgerald (crew chief), Ben Taylor and Scott Wall.

LAST 10:
Warriors: 8-2, Nets: 3-7.

The Warriors swept two games against Brooklyn in each of the last two seasons and have won 14 of the last 19 overall.

THE GAS TANK: After expending a lot of energy in wiping out a 24-point second-half deficit against the 76ers, the Warriors now confront the NBA’s most hyperactive team. Brooklyn leads the league in pace for the second consecutive season under coach Kenny Atkinson. The Nets are rested and they want to run. With the Warriors shorthanded and coming off a game on the previous night, Brooklyn will push at every opportunity.

TRUST THE D: The Nets rank second in field-goal attempts but 25th in field-goal percentage and 26th in 3-point percentage. They rely on volume to stay in games, and sometimes it’s enough. The Warriors, with the exception of the first half on Saturday, have tightened their defense and now rank fifth in defensive rating. They may have to go deep into the bench, but they’re defense should hold up.

THE GLASS WAR: On sheer rebounding numbers the Warriors and Nets are about equal, thanks largely to Brooklyn ranking second behind Phoenix in both field-goal attempts and missed shots. Where the Warriors separate is in rebounding percentage, where they rank sixth and Brooklyn is 25th. If the Warriors can stay even on the glass against a team that also is comfortable playing “small,” it likely will be enough to put them over the top.