Stanford a Tall Order for UCI


Colleen Matsuhara was shuffling through some scouting reports when a visitor stuck his head into her office.

"Maybe we could get some stilts," she said, managing a weary smile.

The coach of the UC Irvine women's team has been sick for a week . . . and then she got a good look at the Stanford team the Anteaters face tonight during their first NCAA tournament appearance in school history.

And you could get a kink in your neck looking up at this Cardinal team.

"Allah-mi (Basheer) told me their center is 6-5 and 200 pounds," forward Jinelle Williams said. "She said, 'That's big for a girl.' I said, 'Girl, that's big for a man.' "

Basheer, a 6-foot-2 center, was named most valuable player of the Big West tournament after scoring 43 points and grabbing 31 rebounds to lead Irvine to its first conference title. Tonight in Maples Pavilion, she will have to rely on quickness when she goes up against 6-5 Anita Kaplan, who is averaging 14 points and five rebounds.

"Allah-mi has blossomed into a top-flight player and right now she's a very confident young lady," Matsuhara said.

The Cardinal (26-2), outscoring its opponents by 15 points a game, is so deep that some of the players' numbers are not as impressive as a few other telling statistics. For instance, Stanford is averaging 10 more rebounds and seven fewer turnovers than its opponents.

And depth? Ten players average 11 or more minutes and no one averages more than 29.

Consider the small forward spot. Starter Kate Starbird is 6-2, averages 16 points, four rebounds and four assists a game. When she's not on the floor, All-American volleyball player Kristin Folkl, also 6-2, manages to average eight points and five rebounds.

"They say (Folkl) can dunk," Irvine assistant Mark Adams said, grimacing.

And so it goes, on down the Stanford lineup.

If the Anteaters (19-10) are to have any chance at an upset, three things must occur:

--Irvine must shoot a good percentage from the field, which means Williams and Basheer have to make their layups and short bank shots and forward Cher Scanlon and point guard Tamera Thomas have to hit about half of their three-point attempts.

--The Anteaters must take care of the ball. Thanks primarily to Thomas' superb ballhandling, they had only 12 turnovers in the Big West tournament final. And that's a good statistic in a sport where teams sometimes commit 30 turnovers and win.

--Basheer and Williams will have to hold their own on the boards, which probably will be the most difficult task for the Anteaters. The Cardinal has six players between 6-2 and 6-5. Basheer is the only Anteater who plays and is taller than 5-11.

Still, no matter the outcome, this will not be a season of discontent for Matsuhara and her players, especially senior starters Williams, Scanlon and guard Michelle Kahler. They all endured a .174 winning percentage during their first three seasons at Irvine.

"We talked about improving on boxing out and I tried to give them an idea what the crowd is going to be like," Matsuhara said. "But I emphasized that we want them to relax and have some fun."

Anteater Notes

Tonight's game will be broadcast live on KUCI (88.9 FM) with Mark Roberts and men's Coach Rod Baker calling the action. The game will start approximately 8:30 p.m., 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Southern Mississippi-Southern Methodist game, which begins at 6.

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