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Mikaela Ruef steps up in Arizona game

It is rare in a conference as dominant as the Pac-12 that a basketball team could blow out its opponents by more than 20 points in four consecutive games, but the Stanford women’s basketball team (22-2, 11-1) did just that this weekend.

The Card destroyed Arizona (11-12, 3-9 Pac-12) Friday night 73-42 and continued its crushing play against Arizona State (11-13, 3-9 Pac-12) Sunday, beating the Sun Devils 69-45.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike has been the engine behind the Stanford offense and defense the whole season, and, as the Card heads into the final games of Pac-12 play, that hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the notable spike in scoring across the boards from multiple Cardinal players.

The breakout star Friday night was senior forward Mikaela Ruef, who earned her first career double-double and scored her career high with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Typically a player known for the great things she does away from the ball—rebounding, defense, assists—Ruef proved that she is capable of playing offensive minded.

“It’s weird because I never thought I would score 11 points in a game,” said Ruef. “That’s way too much. I know how to [score], but…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.”

The Card had eight players get on the scoreboard against the Wildcats, something that head coach Tara VanDerveer has been waiting to happen since the start of the season.

“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,’” said VanDerveer. “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.

[Leigh Kinney/The Stanford Daily]

[Leigh Kinney/The Stanford Daily]

“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.”

Ogwumike and senior forward Joslyn Tinkle led all scorers with 18 and 15 points, respectively. The pair did such a consistent job throughout the game, and especially in the second half—Tinkle scored all her points in the last 20 minutes—that they put the Card ahead by 30 points with five minutes to play and were able to sit out the remainder of the game and watch the bench players contribute.

One player absent from both games this weekend, however, was starting guard junior Toni Kokenis, who has been struggling throughout the season with not feeling well and is playing on a game-by-game basis.

“I like the opportunity it’s providing other people [with Kokenis out],” said VanDerveer. “Toni obviously has a lot of experience, and we miss her, but this gets other people in the mix, and we’re going to need that.”

Against ASU, Stanford had a different player step up and set a new career high. Sophomore guard Bonnie Samuelson had 19 points against the Sun Devils as she shot 50 percent from three-point land. VanDerveer has made it clear that she has the utmost confidence in Samuelson’s shooting, making Samuelson more comfortable with taking lots of shots, something the team needs and thrives off of.

“I think Bonnie came in and gave me some great minutes, and even Tess [Picknell] this weekend,” said VanDerveer. “She got in there, and I think she’s really going to be able to help us. She’s been practicing really hard. Mikaela Ruef is doing a great job, so different people are [contributing].”

Ogwumike scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for another double-double. Tinkle also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

ASU never led once and struggled the majority of the night in shooting, making only 16-of-52 from the field. The Card’s defense shut down any offensive output the Sun Devils might have been able to muster, allowing only one player, freshman guard Haley Videckis (11 points), to score in double digits.

Sun Devils head coach and Stanford alum Charli Turner Thorne is returning to her team after a one-year sabbatical and hasn’t been able to pull the team together in the short time she has been back.

The Card capitalized on ASU’s youth and inexperience early and was able to afford many players valuable time on the court. Despite the absence of Kokenis, the Card did a good job taking care of the ball, recording only seven turnovers, with 12 assists.

Sophomore point guard Jasmine Camp averaged 15 minutes of playing time this weekend—time that she hasn’t seen since before her foot injury last season.  She passed out a combined six assists with only two turnovers against Arizona and ASU.

Sophomore guard Alex Greene also returned to the court for the final minutes of play for the first time in over a year after suffering from a torn Achilles tendon.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice to step up every single day and trying to have lots of different people doing different things for us, and I really think that our coaches have been challenging us a lot,” said Samuelson. “A lot of us have been trying to step up in different ways. Every game somebody new is stepping forward, and that will help us in the long run.”

The Card will need that same team effort as it takes on No.17 UCLA and USC next weekend in Los Angeles.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem@stanford.edu

About Ashley Westhem

Ashley Westhem is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and plans to take over as Managing Editor of Sports next volume and aid in KZSU’s coverage of football. She is an American Studies major from Lake Tahoe, Calif., and aspires to work in sports administration, to positively affect the lives of student-athletes and the relationship between the athletic and academic spheres of universities.