STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Kelly Graves kept his Gonzaga players courtside to watch as Stanford celebrated Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer for her recent 900th win.
Even after a lopsided 73-45 loss for the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday at No. 6 Stanford, Graves and his players stayed long enough to offer their applause and congratulations.
Graves considered it an important moment for his young women.
“It’s great that she was honored in front of all the fans here, the faithful,” Graves said. “I wanted our team to sit out there and watch it and appreciate who she is and what she’s done for our game. You think about 900 wins, that’s 30 a year for 30 years, for crying out loud. We’ve won 30 one time. It’s incredible what she’s done.”
Sunny Greinacher scored 18 points to lead the West Coast Conference favorite Zags (8-2), who had their six-game winning streak snapped while losing a sixth straight in as many tries against perennial Pac-12 power Stanford. Gonzaga was coming off impressive wins against Big Ten opponents Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Graves still considered it a solid road trip winning two of three.
“I think we’re a decent basketball team, we have a long way to go,” Graves said. “Going in we wanted to win two out of three, we won two out of three. … We’re not at their level right now.”
Chiney Ogwumike had 19 points and seven rebounds in the first game at Maples Pavilion since VanDerveer won her 900th game against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 27 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. VanDerveer became the fifth Division I coach to join the 900 club, and was honored after the game for her accomplishment in an on-court ceremony.
“It’s cool to be a part of something so special,” Ogwumike said. “She makes us better players. She’s wise beyond her years.”
A cheering crowd on its feet after the final buzzer, VanDerveer’s players pulled on Cardinal red 900 T-shirts, while Stanford President John Hennessy and athletic director Bernard Muir presented the coach with a framed No. 900 white Stanford jersey.
“It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around 900,” VanDerveer said over the public address system. “This is the only way I could get a Stanford jersey, as a coach. … Let’s get some more!”
VanDerveer was cheered when a 900 image featuring her photo appeared on the main scoreboard during an early timeout, while fans waved 900 posters throughout the arena. VanDerveer’s mother, Rita, cheered her accomplishment, too. The top VanDerveer phrases also were read by players on the video board, along with a postgame video tribute.
“My mother pulled a fast on me and showed up,” VanDerveer said. “I didn’t think much about it. We were down in Mexico, I had kind of moved on — 900’s a lot of games. I’m kind of thinking back, ‘How’d this happen?”’
Kailee Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers and added 11 points for Stanford in its seventh straight win since a 76-57 defeat at No. 1 Connecticut on Nov. 11. Amber Orrange had 10 points and three assists.
Gonzaga stayed close early and pulled to 6-6 before Stanford responded with a 15-3 spurt — including 12 unanswered points — and built a 21-8 lead at the 11:22 mark of the first half.
The Bulldogs hadn’t lost since dropping their only other matchup against a ranked opponent this season, 82-78 at No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov. 14.
“That’s why I love playing Stanford,” Graves said. “You have to be at your best. They expose you, they expose your weaknesses.”
Stanford shot 48.1 percent in the opening 20 minutes on the way to a 33-19 halftime lead and it was never close the rest of the way. The Zags missed all nine of their first-half 3-point tries and 14 overall to shoot 34 percent.
A “Welcome Back” video tribute was held for former Stanford star Nicole Powell, now a Zags assistant coach, before pregame introductions. She received a warm standing ovation and waved to the crowd.
“It was great,” Greinacher said. “I didn’t know all the success, I knew she was a great player in the WNBA and overseas. To see what she did here at Stanford was incredible.”