The Stanford women’s basketball team finished off Pac-12 play in perfect style by defeating archrival California 77-62 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles today to win the inaugural Pac-12 tournament and its ninth conference tournament title.
The top-seeded Cardinal (31-1, 18-0 Pac-12) never trailed the Golden Bears (24-9, 13-5 Pac-12) in the contest, but was pushed hard by the conference runners up.
The Stanford victory was highlighted by a standout performance from senior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who continues to make her case for National Player of the Year. Both she and her sister, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, grabbed double-doubles, with Nneka leading the team with 29 points and 12 rebounds and Chiney racking up 17 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Amber Orrange added 13 more points, and junior forward Joslyn Tinkle and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis rounded out the Stanford scoring with nine points apiece. For the Bears, junior guard Layshia Clarendon scored 20 points and freshman guard Brittany Boyd added 13.
Tinkle also made her presence felt on defense, with five important blocks. Perhaps the most intriguing single stat was Nneka Ogwumike’s 3-for-4 afternoon from beyond the three points line. In her entire career she had made just two three-pointers on just 15 attempts.
Each time the Card began to pull ahead, the Bears dug deep and dragged the lead down. With just over eleven minutes left in the contest, though ten points adrift, California seemed to have turned the momentum in its favor until the Ogwumike sisters made their presence felt down the stretch to pull away. Even an elbow to the face for Nneka and foul trouble for Chiney, which kept her out of the game for several minutes, did not slow down the Cardinal’s dynamic duo.
Stanford will now head to the NCAA tournament next weekend as a one-seed, hoping to get its hand on the national title. The brackets will be released on Monday, so the Card does not yet know whom it will be playing. However, California will almost certainly be given a bid, so it’s not impossible that the cross-Bay rivals could meet along the way one final time this year.