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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / POSTSEASON TOURNAMENTS : WOMEN'S WEST REGIONAL : Stanford Has the Edge at Home

March 26, 1994|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PALO ALTO — Will the Stanford women's basketball team really have an advantage playing on its home court in the NCAA West Regional final against Purdue tonight at 9?

The answer depends on who is asked.

"The crowd can't score for you and it can't play defense for you," said Rachel Hemmer, Stanford's 6-foot-3 junior forward.

Hemmer's view is supported by Tara VanDerveer, Stanford's coach, who has maintained throughout the tournament that there is nothing magic about Maples Pavilion.

VanDerveer said Friday that while she is glad Stanford is playing at home, the Cardinal often feels added pressure here and this can work against the team.

But Lin Dunn, Purdue's coach, isn't buying it.

"If she really believes that, then we ought see if we can change the game over to San Jose State," Dunn said. "I've already called over there. The facility is available."

The numbers justify opposing coaches' fear of Maples Pavilion.

Stanford has won 108 of its last 111 games at home. Its only home losses were to UCLA in the 1987-88 season, to Washington in the 1990-1991 season, and to Tennessee this season.

What's more, Stanford, seeded second in the West, draws large, supportive crowds. A sellout crowd of 7,000 attended its 78-62 victory over third-seeded Colorado (27-5) in the regional semifinals Thursday.

By Friday afternoon, all but 500 tickets had been sold for tonight's final, which will be televised live on ESPN.

Stanford (25-5) is led by Anita Kaplan, a 6-5 junior center who averages 16.8 points per game. Kaplan was virtually unstoppable in Stanford's regional semifinal victory, when she scored 29 points.

Stacey Lovelace, a 6-4 sophomore center for Purdue, will be assigned to guard Kaplan. What will she do?

"Whatever works," Lovelace said.

Top-seeded Purdue (28-4) defeated 13th-seeded Texas A&M, 82-56, in Thursday's other West Region semifinal. The Boilermakers are led by Leslie Johnson, a 6-1 freshman forward who averages 18.7 points and 9.4 rebounds.

VanDerveer recently described Johnson as "a female version of Charles Barkley."

Purdue is making its first appearance among the NCAA tournament's final eight teams.

Stanford won NCAA championships in 1990 and 1992 and advanced to the Final Four in 1991.

But it is the home court and the home crowd that could be the big difference today.

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