Stanford faces familiar NCAA opponent in UC Davis
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Ten months ago, Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer called once more upon her counterpart at UC Davis for some offensive guidance.
Davis coach Jennifer Gross and her top assistant and husband, Joe Teramoto, visited campus a third time to work with VanDerveer and the Cardinal on the Princeton system. In appreciation, VanDerveer treated them both to an overnight in San Francisco — during baseball season so they could catch a Giants game.
On Saturday, No. 2 seed Stanford (28-4) takes on the Big West champion and 15th-seeded Aggies (25-6) in the NCAA Tournament.
“If we probably had our druthers we wish we were in different brackets so we could cheer for each other,” VanDerveer said Friday.
The other first-round matchup at Maples Pavilion in the Chicago Regional features West Coast Conference champion BYU (25-6), a seventh seed, against No. 10 Auburn (22-9) with the programs playing for the first time. The two winners meet Monday.
Stanford beat Auburn for the 1990 NCAA title.
When Stanford faced UC Davis in November, a 71-43 Stanford victory in both teams’ season opener, VanDerveer said it felt like facing her sister given all that Gross did to assist.
“It kind of reminded me a little bit of old-school basketball … coaches worked together to get great teams,” VanDerveer said. “She’s a real special coach. But having said that, we have our work cut out for us because we’re running a lot of the same stuff.”
Gross feels equally indebted to VanDerveer.
“She’s become a friend, a resource, a mentor for me,” Gross said. “I admire her so much and celebrate all of her success and Stanford’s success. She’s been extremely gracious with her comments on Joe and I coming down here and helping them with the Princeton offense. That’s been fun for us to help their staff but to also get a chance to develop a relationship with her and their staff. Everything we’ve tried to help them with with the Princeton offense, she’s given so much back to me.”
The Cardinal are coming off an impressive Pac-12 tournament run in which they beat Oregon to avenge a loss in the tournament title game a year ago and also rebound against the Ducks, who won 88-48 last month to snap a 29-game losing streak on Stanford’s home floor. The loss was the worst in VanDerveer’s 33 seasons at Stanford.
The Aggies are riding a 16-game winning streak into their second NCAA berth, rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat Hawaii for the Big West tournament crown.
In 2011, they were a 16 seed and lost 86-59 in the first round at Stanford in then-Davis coach Sandy Simpson’s final game before he retired.
UC Davis, led by senior Morgan Bertsch at 23.5 points per game, reached the Elite Eight of the Women’s NIT last season and was determined to build on that momentum.
And don’t fret if you’re seeing double: Both rosters have sets of twins.
Karley and Kourtney Eaton play for Davis, while Lacie and Lexie Hull are key freshmen for the Cardinal.
Last time against Stanford, the Aggies shot just 14 for 62 — 22.6 percent — and 8 of 31 from 3-point range while being outrebounded 50-25.
“I specifically remember their coaching staff coming down and helping us implement this offense into our system and they were a really big help,” Stanford senior Shannon Coffee said. “I’m excited to see the improvements that we have made since that first game of the season and I think it’s going to be really interesting that it’s against the same team.”
Auburn returns to the tournament for a third time in four years after not making it in 2018, something that pushed this group. The Tigers reached the second round three years ago then lost to NC State in the first round in 2017.
They also played a first-round NCAA game at Stanford in 2008, eliminated by George Washington.
“It’s just a big deal just for our program, getting Auburn women’s basketball back on the map,” senior guard Janiah McKay said.
At 13.8 points, McKay leads four Auburn players scoring in double figures in an offensive scheme that creates scoring chances from an in-your-face, swarming defense.
“We’re a pressure team, probably one of few teams in the country that presses for 40 minutes,” coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We like to cause disruption, make things a little harder, make teams more uncomfortable.”
The Tigers have forced 21.2 turnovers per game this season and committed just 13.1 while averaging 12.2 steals.
BYU pulled off an 82-68 upset of favored-but-injury-plagued Gonzaga in the WCC tournament championship game. The Cougars are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
BYU presents a matchup challenge given its threats from 3-point range as well as 6-foot-7 Sara Hamson in the middle.
Handling the Auburn pressure will be a key.
“There’s no way I can go out and make my team practice like Auburn in (the) press and do those things like they can, but what we have to do is get the ball in positions where we can make plays,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said.