The Stanford women’s basketball team recovered from a difficult start to defeat Tulsa 72-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Maples Pavilion on Sunday. It will now face Michigan in the second round on Tuesday evening after the Wolverines defeated Villanova 60-52.
The No. 16 seed Golden Hurricane (17-17, 9-4 Conference USA) appeared undaunted by playing the No. 1 seed Cardinal (32-2, 17-1 Pac-12) on its home court in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and forced three turnovers in just the first minute of play. However, Stanford fought back from an early six-point deficit to tie the game 24-24 at the half and when it returned after the break its offense finally began to click, opening up enough of an advantage to win and head through to the Second Round.
“I think that teams tailor some things to us,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “I think they were more aggressive than what we’ve seen. They were coming in fighting for their life and we were fighting for our life. Their defense was probably more extended than what we’d seen in other games.”
Stanford junior forward Chiney Ogwumike lead her team with 29 points and eight rebounds and sophomore guard Amber Orrange added another 14 points. Narrowly missing out of double-figure scoring, both senior forward Joslyn Tinkle and sophomore guard Taylor Greenfield hit nine points, Tinkle also making three blocks. Though redshirt junior Mikaela Ruef was the lone starter not to hit a basket, her eight boards, seven of them defensive, helped the Cardinal limit the Hurricane.
At the other end of the floor, senior guard Taleeya Mayberry and freshman guard Kelsee Grovey both scored double figures, with 18 and 12 points, respectively, and senior forward Tiffani Couisnard grabbed the most rebounds of anyone on the court, with nine.
A ferocious start by Tulsa caught Stanford slightly off-guard as it returned to action after a two-week break. The Cardinal’s offense struggled to be effective against the Hurricane’s aggressive defense and in the first half Mayberry succeeded in slowing down and frustrating the home team’s playmaker, Orrange, limiting her to just three points and a single assist. In Stanford’s previous game, the Pac-12 Tournament final, Orrange had contributed a career-best 20 points to lead her team past UCLA.
The highlight for the Cardinal in this early period was Ogwumike, who quickly topped the three points she had scored in her last game, the Pac-12 Tournament final. Still, Stanford looked in danger of repeating history. Back in 1998 Harvard became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the history of the Tournament, men’s or women’s, winning 71-67 at Maples Pavilion.
Any height advantage that Stanford may have had over the Golden Hurricane — a combined 11-inch difference over the starters from Tulsa — had seemed to have little effect. The road team grabbed just as many boards (18) as the home team in the first half, edging the offensive boards.
However, Stanford began to battle back into the contest. A Greenfield three brought the Card its first lead of the game — 15-14 with 11:04 left in the first half — but Tulsa refused to give in and when the teams finally headed to the locker room for the break, they were locked in a tie.
“We keep a pretty consistent mood,” Greenfield said. “We don’t get rattled. I think that’s one thing that keeps us so strong. The message was that we could have twenty minutes left of our season. We don’t want it to end, we love playing together. Everybody got motivated. The first half was over; the score was zero to zero and we stepped up in the second half.”
When the two teams returned for the second half, Stanford quickly made the breakthrough to open a healthy lead. A Couisnard layup gave the Hurricane a one-point advantage with almost two minutes gone, but from then on the Cardinal began to click offensively.
“We knew in the second half they were going to make a push and we just hoped that that push wouldn’t be too significant,” said Tulsa head coach Matilda Mossman. “There was about a six or eight minute period in there where they outscored us by 12 or 14 and then we couldn’t recover from that.”
The No. 1 seed would end the half shooting 65.5% from the field, in comparison to Tulsa’s 34.3%, and owned a 36-18 advantage in the paint by the final buzzer. It also better used its size advantage to lead the final rebounding 40-31, and while Ogwumike’s teammates added just 10 points to her 14 in the first period, they contributed 33 to her 15 in the second.
“It took us a little time to get some traction and get going,” VanDerveer said, “but I’m really proud of how our team battled. We definitely looked like we had two weeks off and we played like that in the first half. But in the second half, we started to get things going … We’re moving on and we’re very excited to play whoever wins over there.”
Stanford will now play No. 8 seed Michigan (22-10, 9-7 Big Ten) in the second round at Maples Pavilion at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and on KZSU.