With Saturday night’s 61-47 win over Colorado, the No.4 Stanford women’s basketball team advanced to the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament with the opportunity to bring its seventh consecutive conference title back to the Farm.
Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike had another record breaking performance with her 25 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. Her two-game total of 40 rebounds is a Tournament record. Her 48 total points against Washington State and Colorado also makes her the tournament scoring leader going into tomorrow’s championship game.
The Card started out the first half slow, going into halftime trailing the Buffs 28-27. It shot only 28 percent from the field and had six turnovers.
Head coach Tara VanDerveer was upset by the physicality of the game and the lack of fouls called under the basket.
Ogwumike was double teamed the majority of the game and fouled hard on several plays, finishing on only nine of 24 attempts. The number of attempts, though, proves the amount of determination and perseverance that Ogwumike maintained throughout the game and was still able to finish with her 25th 20-plus point game.
VanDerveer credits all adjustments made at halftime to the players and assistant coaches.
“[Our goal was to] go in [to the second half] spreading out a little more, taking people off the dribble, try to utilize mis-matches and just keep going to Chiney and more than anything space the floor,” said VanDerveer. “I liked how Mikaela attacked the basket. Sara James drived too; Amber, Chiney attacked the basket, and quite honestly we could only play people who were going strong to the basket.”
The second half was a complete turn-around. Ogwumike received help from sophomore point guard Amber Orrange and redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef in particular.
Orrange finished with 13 points, two blocks and four steals. VanDerveer claimed that her aggressive driving to the basket helped spark the offense and get it going.
Ruef had a complete game, scoring 11 points, grabbing seven rebounds and passing out four assists. Ruef’s strong efforts under the basket helped the Card go on a run with about 10 minutes left to play to help the team extend its lead and gain some much needed momentum.
A three-point shot by junior guard Sara James (five points, three rebounds) with less than five minutes to play sealed the game and the Card never looked back. James’s three was the only shot from behind the arc made in the game, with only three taken in total.
Colorado’s senior guard Chucky Jeffrey led the Buffs with 19 points, but didn’t receive enough help from her teammates to ever gain a bigger lead than four.
“We learned from this game and we got better,” said Ogwumike. “And we play for each other at Stanford. We play hard and we play together and it was fun.”
The Card will not face Cal, as it had anticipated, in the final game Sunday. Instead, it will face third seed UCLA, who knocked off the Golden Bears 70-58. It seemed possible that Cal would bounce back from a 26-point deficit but the 23 points of UCLA’s forward Markel Walker would make that task impossible.
VanDerveer admits that competition in the Pac 12 tournament is much stiffer this year.
“Look at Cal,” said VanDerveer. “They had a great, great year and you just have one bad night and you’re not in the finals and not given a chance to compete.”
The Card will play its third game in three days 5 p.m. Sunday against UCLA in the championship game.
“Two-thirds of our work is done and the most important third is ahead … There’s going to be a little extra adrenaline tomorrow [to help the players physically bounce back],” said VanDerveer. “I would take who we have over playing 10 people. In different situations we can play more people but I think we’ll be in great shape tomorrow and I think everyone will see a very exciting game.”