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Women’s basketball routs Wildcats on Friday night

The Stanford women’s basketball team routed Arizona 73-43 at Maples Pavilion on Friday night to stay tied for first place in the Pac-12 Conference with California, which defeated Arizona State 66-53 an hour later across the Bay.

After a scrappy start, the No. 4 Cardinal (21-2, 10-1 Pac-12) pulled comfortably ahead to lead the Wildcats (11-11, 3-8 Pac-12) by 16 points at the half. Picking up where it left off after the break, Stanford extended its lead and gave head coach Tara VanDerveer the freedom to bench her starting players in the final minutes of play.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike led Stanford with another double-double, her 18th of the season, grabbing 18 points and 12 rebounds, but her fellow starters made highlights of their own in the win. Senior forward Mikaela Ruef scored a career-best 11 points and added 10 rebounds to make her first ever double-double in her collegiate career; senior forward Joslyn Tinkle hit 15 points from just 15 minutes after struggling with foul trouble; and both junior guard Sara James and sophomore guard Amber Orrange made four assists, James tying her career record. James and Orrange also added nine and six points, respectively.

From the bench, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson added a further eight points and Samuelson, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and redshirt freshman guard Jasmine Camp all played for long stretches of the contest.

“This week in practice we’ve had a couple of people out, including Jos [Tinkle], and we just said, ‘We can’t just be a one-trick pony,'” VanDerveer said. “It can’t be all about Chiney [Ogwumike] and the low block … when you play with somebody like Chiney, she makes it look so easy, she gets 32 points and other people need to assert themselves more.

“I’m really excited by how Mikaela [Ruef]’s been practicing really well, and they’re a physical, athletic team, and she got in deep and she scored on them. I’m excited for her.”

Much of the first half was scrappy, with both sets of players missing shots early on. At the first timeout, with 15:47 remaining, Arizona was shooting 28.6 percent and Stanford just 22.2 percent. By the break, though, both had improved, Arizona up to 33.3 percent and Stanford jumping to 46.4 percent. The Cardinal then continued to shoot well in the second half, while the Wildcats struggled.

Crucially, Arizona, featuring a player with the Pac-12 Conference’s second-best record on assists, senior guard Davellyn Whyte, did not click as a team. The Wildcats made just two assists to the Cardinal’s 16.

“We dropped passes — we didn’t finish all the passes that we did connect on,” said Arizona head coach Niya Butts. “We didn’t make those layups or make those shots. I don’t think they were bad shots — I think we shared the ball pretty well. Obviously our assist total, it didn’t indicate that. I think a lot of that was missed opportunities, just that we missed in general as a team.”

In the absence of junior guard Toni Kokenis, out with illness, several other Stanford players were called upon to help run the floor and keep Arizona’s stars quiet.

“We missed Toni [Kokenis] a lot,” Tara VanDerveer said. “It wasn’t just the press — we didn’t have a second guard that really looked to help handle, and it really threw us out of whack a lot. But it was a great opportunity for Jas [Camp] when she came in, and she did some really nice things. Other people had to make some plays for us, including Sara James and Taylor [Greenfield] … I thought we were gonna miss Toni more on defense, and I thought Sara James did a really nice job.”

Ruef’s performance, too, may mark a turning point in Stanford’s play. All season VanDerveer has been pushing for her and her fellow teammates to contribute more alongside Ogwumike and to fully grasp their potential.

“When I went back in, I was trying obviously to get two rebounds,” said Ruef, ”and then it happened, and I was happy. It’s weird because I never though I would score 11 points in a game. That’s way too much.

“I know how to [score], but … I felt like normally in the past it hasn’t been my job to score. I like passing more, but I’m making a concerted effort to try and score.”

As Berkeley continues its winning streak on the other side of the Bay and as both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments get closer, it may be the play of teammates like Ruef that makes the difference.

Stanford will next host Arizona State (11-12, 3-8 Pac-12) at Maples Pavilion at 2 p.m. PT on Sunday. The contest will be broadcast live on KZSU.