PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – It took three tries to get number 800, but Wednesday in Puerto Vallarta Tara VanDerveer and the Stanford women needed just one, scoring an 83-59 decision over Florida Gulf Coast to give the Naismith Hall of Famer her 900th career victory.
VanDerveer, in her 35th year as a head coach and 28th at the Stanford helm, is the fifth women’s basketball coach to reach the 900-win mark, joining Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt. She is now tied for fourth with Conradt on the all-time wins list during a career which also included stops at Idaho (1978-80) and Ohio State (1980-85).
She now owns a career record of 900-204, with 748 of those victories coming with Stanford.
“It goes fast,” VanDerveer said about hitting the 900-win mark. “I can remember my first game, playing a lot of games in different places. Obviously, some really big games, but it goes really fast. I’m very thankful for the places I’ve coached, the assistants I’ve worked with, the athletic directors I’ve worked for, the outstanding players I’ve coached, and the fabulous fans at Idaho, Ohio State and Stanford.”
The Cardinal (6-1) was paced by double-doubles from Chiney Ogwumike and Mikaela Ruef. Ogwumike led all players with 27 points and 13 rebounds while Ruef grabbed 12 rebounds to go with a career-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Freshman guard Lili Thompson also hit double figured with 12 points.
For seniors Sara James, Chiney Ogwumike and Mikaela Ruef it was a special moment as well, as the trio was also with the Cardinal for VanDerveer’s 800th-career win back on Dec. 22, 2010.
“It’s excited, and a big day for Tara to get to 900 wins,” Ruef said. “That’s a huge number, I can’t even imagine. I’m really excited to be a part of it, and I know Chiney and Sara are excited to be a part of it. It’s just such a huge accomplishment.”
“She dedicates her life to the game and it shows with this win,” Ogwumike said about VanDerveer. “I think we played well not only because we wanted to, but also because we wanted to for Tara, so she’d have a good memory of this game. She said to us after the game that anytime she thinks about her 900th win she’ll think about how well we played, and how far we’re coming as a team. We’re just excited to put a smile on her face today.”
Stanford raced out to a 34-12 lead within the first 12 minutes of the contest, as Ogwumike and Ruef combined for 23 of those 34 points. Together the pair shot a combined 17-for 21 (81.0 percent) from the field while the Cardinal shot 49.2 percent as a team for the game.
Florida Gulf Coast relied almost exclusively on the 3-point shot to carry its offense, and heated up just enough with Stephanie Haas, Sarah Hansen and Jenna Cobb hitting triples to pull the Eagles within 12 at 40-28 with 1:03 left in the half.
The Eagles attempted 44 3-pointers in the contest and hit 14, led by five from Kaneisha Atwater, who led FGCU with 15 points on the day. Haas scored 14 and Hansen 11 to round out the Eagles in double figures.
Stanford nearly nullified those 14 triples for FGCU, making 10 of its own led by three from Thompson. Six different Cardinal players hit a 3-ball as the team went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc.
The Cardinal got a big contribution from Alex Green in the final minute as the redshirt sophomore guard knocked down a triple of her own with 35 seconds to go, then after an Eagle miss hustled for a give-and-go layup from Ogwumike just before the horn, putting the Cardinal in front by 17 at the break at 45-28.
A three-point play from Thompson and layup from Ogwumike pushed the Cardinal lead to 50-30 in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Eagles continued firing away. The combination of FGCU’s 3-point attack and frantic defense held the Cardinal to just two points over a three-minute stretch which got the Eagles to within 14 at 52-38.
At this point Stanford was through with playing games with the Eagles and asserted its control over the contest. Ogwumike and Ruef split the points of an 8-0 Cardinal run, and the Eagles were put away for good when Amber Orrange converted a four-point play with 9:33 to go to put the Cardinal in front by 22. Stanford also used its size to out-rebound FGCU by a 47-33 margin.Stanford’s lead would balloon to as many as 31 points on two occasions following triples from Green, who scored a career-high eight points, and Thompson.