The No. 1 Stanford women’s basketball team returned from a 13-day break for final exams to rout Pacific 78-43 at Maples Pavilion tonight, opening its season account with nine straight wins for the fifth time in program history.
Though the Tigers (7-2) came into this game on their best start in 30 years, having been undefeated until falling narrowly 89-82 to Florida a week ago, they could not find their way past the team with the longest active home winning streak in the nation, standing at 82 games. The Cardinal (9-0) may have been slightly rusty after a long break from playing games, but ultimately the top-ranked team was too good for Pacific.
Standing out for Stanford, both senior forward Mikaela Ruef and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike set career highs, Ruef with 13 rebounds and five assists and Ogwumike with 31 points. Ogwumike also made it six straight double-doubles with 13 rebounds for herself, and senior forward Joslyn Tinkle added another 10 points.
In contrast, two of Pacific’s leading players, senior guard Ashley Wakefield and senior forward Kendall Rodriguez, were kept to a combined 0-21 from the field, Wakefield scoring just one point from the free throw line and Rodriguez leaving Maples empty-handed. Starting the game their season averages were 9.6 and 11.0 points per game, respectively.
“This is a good game for us,” said Pacific head coach Lynne Roberts. “It’s not fun to get your tail kicked; no one enjoys this at this point, but games like this will make you tough and you play the No. 1 team in the country … they really show you what you’re not good at. They really expose weaknesses.”
In the early action, Pacific showed no sign of allowing the No. 1 team to dominate; with eight minutes gone, just three points separated the two teams, and though the Cardinal starters were on average more than two inches taller than their opposition, the Tigers were successfully neutralizing this advantage, equaling Stanford’s eight points in the paint.
The shooting accuracy favored the Cardinal, but not by much at 6-14 compared to 5-14, and neither team had felt the need to take many shots from outside the arc, the Tigers attempting three and Stanford two, none of them hitting the target.
However, as the home team began to find its feet after almost two weeks out, it pulled significantly back ahead to lead 42-27 at the half and take a 26-12 advantage in the paint. The Tigers found themselves taking more shots from outside and Stanford reversed an early 5-2 deficit on turnovers to 7-8.
“You’re out of your rhythm of playing a lot of games,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “We’ve got a lot of great games coming up and this was a very important game for us to come out and have a lot of different people come in. … That was one of our goals, to get more people in the mix … trying to get different people ready for what’s coming.”
Returning from the locker room, the Cardinal continued where it had left off, stretching the lead to 25 points with 8:57 remaining on the clock. This comfortable margin allowed VanDerveer to bench both Ogwumike and Tinkle and give substantial playing time to other teammates.
Though sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield had to leave the court after hitting her chin, in her absence and with several of the starting players sitting down, the team extended the lead to 35 points by the end.
One of the players emerging as a key part of VanDerveer’s setup this year, having spent last year sidelined with injury, is Ruef. She was given the responsibility of guarding Baylor’s senior forward Brittney Griner in Stanford’s biggest win so far this season almost a month back and is continuing to improve and set new career highs.
“I have a lot of fun just being back out there,” said Ruef. “It was hard last year not playing and watching all the games. And I was really determined this year coming back that I didn’t want to be on the bench anymore because it’s no fun being there. … If I can stay because I’m rebounding then I’m happy about that. I just do whatever needs to be done.”
Next up Stanford heads across the country to face back-to-back ranked schools in No. 24 South Carolina (10-0) on Wednesday, Dec. 19 and No. 13 Tennessee (6-1) on Saturday, Dec. 22. Both will be crucial tests for the Cardinal, which has dropped games on the road against East Coast opponents during the winter break over the last four years. When it returns to the Farm on Dec. 29 it must then face archrival No. 2 Connecticut (8-0).