Stanford women banding together for Brittney, Baylor


Stanford women banding together for Brittney, Baylor

FRESNO -- In keeping with the Nerd City theme of Stanford womens basketball season, the Cardinals secret weapon for the Final Four is going to be a 6-foot-8 alto saxophone player named Andrew Klein, who majors in math and computational science.

A year ago, Stanford thought it might face Baylor and its game-changing center Brittney Griner in the Final Four. So coach Tara VanDerveer asked Andrew to come practice with the team and took to affectionately calling him Brittney.

But, last year Baylor got bounced by Texas A&M and Andrews contributions went unused.

RELATED: Stanford trounces Duke to reach Final Four box score

Now its time to get the alto sax player back on the floor because Stanford will face Griner for the first time ever, in the NCAA semifinal next Sunday in Denver.

Im really looking forward to the matchup, said senior Nneka Ogwumike, who will have played in the Final Four in every year of her Stanford career.

Stanfords streak started a year before Nneka arrived on campus. When youve been to five straight Final Fours its hard to imagine that you can be considered an underdog.

But thats exactly what Stanford will be in Denver.

Nobody is giving Stanford a chance against Brawlin Baylor and Big Game Brittney, who was ejected from Mondays victory over Tennessee for coming off the bench when a fight broke out. Griner wont be suspended -- she came out to play peacemaker, rather than get involved in the fight. Besides, the NCAA would be nuts to eject the biggest draw in the womens game.

Everyone wants to see Griner. And everyone expects Stanford to suffer the same fate as all of Baylors other opponents this season: a loss.. Baylor is undefeated this season, 38-0

VanDerveer doesnt mind being discounted.

We dont get a chance often to be an underdog or be totally overlooked, she said.

But she was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer for a reason. When asked how she would contend with Griner, VanDerveer said,

Ill think of something. We will have a game plan.

It will be a new game plan because Stanford has never faced Griner. Thought the other top teams -- No. 1 seeds UConn and Notre Dame -- have already had to contend with Griners game changing presence, Stanford has avoided her for three seasons.

Im excited, said Ogwumike, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the Fresno Regional, scoring 39 points on Saturday and adding 29 points in Mondays 81-69 victory over Duke. I feel like everyone but us have played against her.

Ogwumike faced Griner once -- in high school in Texas.

Thats when I learned to shoot the three, she said.

Time to start shooting over the alto sax player.

Ann Killion is a regular contributor to and Chronicle Live.

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino


Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

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


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


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.


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.


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


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

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.