The Stanford women’s basketball team wrote itself into the record books once again on Thursday night, cruising to a 100-59 victory over Washington State. With the victory, the Cardinal now holds the record for most consecutive conference wins in the Pac-10.
The No. 3 Cardinal has not lost a conference contest since Jan. 18, 2009 and has now eclipsed the prior record of 48 games, set by Stanford from 1995-98.
Despite the lopsided score, the win was a bit uncharacteristic for the Cardinal, which boasts a perfect 52-0 all-time record against the Cougars.
Stanford struggled to stop the Cougars’ hot shooting early in the game, and both junior guard Jazmine Perkins and sophomore Carly Noyes were perfect from the floor, combining to go 10-for-10 from the field in the first half.
The Cardinal’s flat first half came as a surprise, and the team couldn’t just coast if it expected to win its 49th consecutive Pac-10 game. Stanford looked to be heading for another easy victory, though, after opening up a 23-14 lead on freshman guard Toni Kokenis’ three with 11:28 to go in the half.
But the Cougars weren’t going to give up that easily. Thanks to Perkins’ leadership, Washington State charged back in the next six minutes, attacking the basket successfully past Cardinal forwards Sarah Boothe, a redshirt sophomore, and Mikala Ruef, a sophomore. That helped the Cougars take an improbable 28-26 lead when Perkins nailed a three with 6:51 to go.
But when Perkins punched, Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike punched back. The junior forward did what she needed to do to help Stanford take back its lead.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored eight of the next 11 points for the Cardinal, highlighted by a fast break when senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen bombed the ball downcourt to senior forward Kayla Pedersen, who lost the handle but still managed to flip a no-look pass to a trailing Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who laid it home for a 35-28 lead.
Stanford’s traditionally strong defense also steeled itself when it needed to, forcing the Cougars to make bad passes and take even worse shots. Washington State didn’t score for the last three minutes of the first half, and the Cardinal took advantage of the Cougars’ troubles to give itself a 46-32 lead heading into the locker room.
Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said her team didn’t come out with a great sense of urgency in the first half.
“With every team that we play, you look at the final score, but to get to that 40-point win you have to do the work,” she said. “I thought our team came out a little casual, and we were not as aggressive as we needed to be early in the game.”
However, the Cardinal made the Cougars pay in the first five minutes of the second half, which Stanford has dominated in all but one game this season, a 91-71 loss at DePaul back on Dec. 16.
Stanford came out of the break with a 28-7 run to snuff the Cougars’ chances for good just nine minutes into the half.
The scoring didn’t stop there, as Stanford made an extraordinary eight three-pointers on its way to a 54-point second half, its second-best scoring output in the second half all season on its way to the 41-point win.
Washington State head coach June Daugherty praised her team’s effort and improvement and marveled at the Cardinal’s strengths.
“I think they’re the best in the country,” Daugherty said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. The thing that’s so remarkable about them is that they continue to get better every game. It’s why I love being in the Pac-10–it’s a measuring stick every time you play them.”
Stanford’s starters weren’t as impressed with themselves, and they said that’s the key that has kept them hungry and successful this season.
“I actually think one of our best qualities here is that we don’t have an arrogant air about ourselves,” Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. “We don’t walk in and say ‘Oh, we’re Stanford, let’s just play, things will work for us.’ When things don’t necessarily go our way and we’re not performing, it’s a lack of concentration…I think we were too slow in doing what we were supposed to do and I think that’s why we had a little slump in the first half.”
The Cardinal’s “Big Three” were their usual dominant selves, as Nnemkadi Ogwumike had a game-high 19 points, Pedersen had 15 and Pohlen had 12 points and a team-high eight assists.
Kokenis also had an excellent night off the bench, shooting 5-for-6 to score 13 points, her season high.
Stanford’s next test will be the Washington Huskies, who comes into Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinal handled the Huskies with an easy 80-51 victory in their last meeting in Seattle, but the girls in purple and gold come to Maples on a hot streak.
Washington has won three of its last four games over conference foes, including a 60-49 victory over Cal on Thursday night to help its conference record to 5-7 overall.
Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Maples Pavilion.