OU's tall order
BY LYNN JACOBSEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, April 04, 2010
4/04/10 at 4:31 AM
SAN ANTONIO — Oklahoma and Stanford are as different as night and day.
The third-seeded Sooners (27-10) run an up-tempo, fast-paced offense and like to get out and run behind Danielle Robinson and Nyeshia Stevenson.
The No. 1-seeded Cardinal (35-1) runs more of a half-court, methodical offense led by a trio of front-court standouts in Kayla Pedersen, Jayne Appel and Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
Whichever team can force the other from its comfort zone in Sunday's national semifinal will determine who advances to the national championship game on Tuesday. The two teams square off in the first of two contests Sunday in an ESPN-televised game at 6 p.m. at the Alamodome.
"That's a simple way to look at it," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said of the speed versus size analogy. "Most games ultimately do boil down to that. For us, we've had an ability all year, it seems, to play the way we need to play in order to win, whether it's half-court or full-court, or patient on offense or scoring quickly.
"We can do it a lot of different ways. Not necessarily real pretty whatever way we do it, but we found a way to be effective. So hopefully we'll be able to use our speed to our advantage."
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said her team will be challenged in slowing down Oklahoma's speed.
"There's not one person on our team who can stop (Robinson and Stevenson)," she said. "We have to play team defense against them. We're going to have to have people really focused on helping, not just one-on-one Ros (Rosalyn Gold-Onwude) against Robinson or Jeanette (Pohlen) against Robinson or Stevenson.
"Robinson can turn on the afterburner jets. She just goes from end to end as fast as anyone. She has such incredible speed and quickness, and every time you look at her she's smiling and laughing. She brings great energy to their team," VanDerveer added. "And the two of them (Robinson and Stevenson) just play so well together. Stevenson is a recipient of a lot of her passes. Stevenson is more of a 3-point shooter, pure shooter, where Robinson is more of a slasher."
Stanford's success hinges on the play of Ogwumike (18.2 points), Pedersen (15.9) and Appel (13.6).
"We have to limit their touches in the post," Oklahoma senior Amanda Thompson said. "They're 6-3 and up down there. We just have to play big, use our quickness and be quicker to the ball."
This is the seventh meeting between the two teams and fourth in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford owns a 4-2 record in the series, including the last three games in the series and second consecutive in San Antonio.
The majority of the talk has been on the other semifinal matchup between Connecticut and Baylor and Stanford advancing to the championship game.
That hasn't been lost on Oklahoma players.
"It's clear at this moment right now that we are being overlooked," Thompson said. "That makes the victory that much better. It's what has happened all year. It's nothing new. Like I said, we're in the bubble. That's us, our team, our staff and people who have been down with us every day."
The Sooners will need another big game from Stevenson, who has been on fire the last two games, scoring 52 points in the Sooners' wins over Notre Dame and Kentucky.
"I'm ready," Stevenson said. "I was feeling it in Kansas City. I've had a good week of practice. Hopefully, I'll get right back in the flow of the game."
Another key component in the Sooners' success could be Abi Olajuwon. The Oklahoma center will be challenged by Stanford's size. But that is nothing new.
"People keep asking what are you going to do with Jayne? Jayne's a fantastic player. I don't want to take anything away from Jayne Appel. She may be the greatest interior passer we've seen in years, and (she's) obviously an incredibly capable scorer in either direction.
"But Abi has played Cokie Reed of Texas, she's played Tina Charles from Connecticut, she's played Brittney Griner three times. It's not like Abi has been the biggest kid on the floor all the time. She gets this. She understands it, and she'll be ready for it."
NCAA WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR
SUNDAY’S GAMES | At San Antonio | OKLAHOMA VS. STANFORD • 6 p.m. Sunday • TV: ESPN-25 • Radio: KTBZ am1430 | CONNECTICUT VS. BAYLOR • 8:30 p.m. • TV: ESPN-25
Lynn Jacobsen 581-8461
OU coach Sherri Coale speaks to her team as Danielle Robinson listens during practice Saturday for the Sooners' Final Four game with Stanford. Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World