The No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball team will play host to Arizona tonight at Maples Pavilion. It will be the only scheduled meeting between the two teams this season and marks the first time that Arizona has visited the Farm in over two years.
The Cardinal (20-2, 9-1 Pac-12) is currently tied for top spot in the Pac-12 Conference with No. 6 Cal, while the Wildcats (11-10, 3-7 Pac-12) lie tied for eighth place with in-state rival Arizona State. The Sun Devils (11-10, 3-7 Pac-12) will be playing the Golden Bears (11-11, 3-7 Pac-12) tonight, before crossing the Bay to face Stanford on Sunday.
Stanford leads the all-time series against Arizona 57-12 and has won the last 21 matchups between the teams. The Wildcats also enter this contest on a run of five straight defeats while the Cardinal has strung together six wins since Cal dealt it its first loss in the Pac-12 since January 2009.
Adding extra incentive to this game, with just eight outings left in this year’s Pac-12 Conference for the Cardinal, it is closing in on a 13th straight title and a bye through the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in early March. If Stanford wins out, it will be guaranteed both, but to take sole possession of the conference crown and the top seed for the tournament, it may need a little luck. Cross-bay rival Cal is showing little sign of slowing down and is currently ranked nationally just a couple of places lower than the Card.
Last time out, against Oregon State in Corvallis, Stanford junior forward Chiney Ogwumike made headlines with a huge double-double performance, recording a personal best 32 points and adding 18 rebounds. Her play in the 65-45 win helped bring her a record-tying fifth Pac-12 Player of the Week award on the season and means that, with a career total of seven, she is just one honor away from Stanford greats Candice Wiggins ‘08 and Jayne Appel ‘10.
The Wildcats will look to senior guard Davellyn Whyte and junior guard/forward Kama Griffitts, who transferred from North Idaho College last season. Both Whyte and Griffitts boast scoring averages in the double figures this season, with 16.4 and 12.0 points per game respectively. Whyte has also handed out 4.81 assists per game, the second-highest in the Pac-12.
Ogwumike, though, has twice as many boards as Arizona’s leading rebounder. The junior has 12.3 rebounds per game compared to junior forward Alli Gloyd’s 6.1 and also leads the conference in three crucial statistical categories: scoring (22.4 points per game), field-goal percentage (58.4) and double-doubles (17).
However, as Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer has stressed several times this season, the Card will need big contributions from elsewhere on the roster. It cannot rely purely on Ogwumike if it hopes to win more silverware and return to the NCAA Final Four for a sixth straight season.
Against the Oregon schools last weekend, sophomore guard Amber Orrange took up that challenge, controlling the play and handing out 17 assists over the two contests. She also took home 12 points against OSU and is fourth in the Pac-12 in assists (4.27 apg). Fellow sophomore Bonnie Samuelson also had a major contribution—in her 11 minutes on the floor, the forward went 4-5 from downtown. She currently ranks second on three-point shooting percentage in the conference (36.8).
So far this season, Stanford has been unbeatable away from home, with a record of 13-0, but has dropped two games at Maples, against No. 3 Connecticut and California. However, those contests were against two of the nation’s top-ranked teams, and so the Cardinal should certainly be the favorite when hosting the two unranked Arizona schools.
As a team, Stanford is first in the Pac-12 in six statistical categories, including its scoring defense, holding teams to an average of just 53.0 points per game, and scoring margin, with an average gap of 17.3 points between Stanford and the opposing team.
The Cardinal can also count on a height advantage that may prove useful in the battle for rebounds. Stanford’s relatively small starting line up against Oregon State was still a combined two inches taller than Arizona’s against Washington State, and the Card boasts six 6-foot-3 players on its roster, while the tallest two Wildcat players are just 6-foot-2.
Friday’s game between Stanford and Arizona will tip off at Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on KZSU.
Contact Tom Taylor at email@example.com.