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Cardinal heads back to mountains with increased depth

Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike started the Pac-12 season with a bang in last weekend’s season opener and earned her fifth Pac-12 Player of the Week honor this season. In doing so, she became the Pac-12’s all-time leading rebounder and averaged 32 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in the Card’s dismantling of both Oregon and Oregon State.

(Frank Chen/The Stanford Daily)

Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike (13) became the Pac-12’s all-time leading rebounder last weekend.(FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

This weekend, the No. 4 Cardinal (13-1, 2-0 Pac-12) will embark on a journey into the mountains for its first conference road trip of the season at Utah (7-6, 0-2) on Friday and No. 17 Colorado (11-1, 1-1) on Sunday.

This time last season, the Card was heavily dependent on the production and leadership of Ogwumike, causing head coach Tara VanDerveer to make a strong call for her other players to step up. Then-junior guard Sara James came through in this exact road series with the highest-scoring game of her career, totaling 18 points and four assists in the Card’s win over the Utes. Three other Cardinal players also scored double-digit points in that game to seal the 70-56 win.

Fast-forward to the present and VanDerveer is singing a different tune. Various starters and players off the bench have been taking their turns in contributing to the team effort, providing consistent backup and leadership from all over the roster. Because of that, it should be expected that the Card will receive impactful scoring from at least one player other than Ogwumike — something that wasn’t a given at the tip-off against Utah a year ago.

Stanford has three players averaging double digits in scoring this season: Ogwumike with 26.6 points per game, junior guard Amber Orrange with 10.5 and junior forward Taylor Greenfield with 10. The Card has come alive from behind the three-point line this season, with Greenfield and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson leading the way with their .520 (13-of-25) marks from behind the line in the past six games. Freshman guard Lili Thompson has also made her mark by hitting eight triples and averaging 11 points, four assists and 3.5 rebounds in that same span.

Though not one of the Card’s main offensive threats, senior forward Mikaela Ruef has produced 7.2 points per game while being a force at the post position, ranking in the Pac-12’s top-15 in rebounding, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Utah is led by a pair of forwards: senior Michelle Plouffe with her 17.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and freshman Emily Potter with 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Utes’ defense has proved to be a force to reckon with, as it has held the Cardinal to 70 points or fewer in the teams’ last six meetings. The Utes will enter the matchup having dropped its first two conference games to UCLA and USC.

Due to the recent addition of Utah and Colorado to the Pac-12, the Card plays four conference teams just once per year. Stanford started out with two of those teams last weekend in Oregon and Oregon State and will finish with Colorado and Utah this upcoming weekend in its only matchups with those four teams of the season. Starting next week, the Card will play all other conference teams twice — once at home and once on the road.

The Card plays at Utah at 5 p.m. on Friday and at Colorado at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ 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 and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and now serves as Managing Editor of Sports. 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.
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