No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball returned from its first Pac-12 road series with a comfortable win at Utah and a too-close-for-comfort victory at No. 17 Colorado.
In the win against Utah (7-8, 0-4 Pac-12), senior forward Chiney Ogwumike led the Cardinal (15-1, 4-0) with 30 points and nine rebounds, followed by junior point guard Amber Orrange with 14 points and six assists.
Stanford did a great job on Friday in its 87-61 win against the Utes, limiting the early output of point guard Danielle Rodriguez, making it hard for her to initiate the offense and drive to the basket.
Ogwumike also did a stellar job protecting the basket and keeping leading scorer Michelle Plouffe off the boards, as Plouffe was held to just five points in the first half. Ogwumike herself had 17 points in the half, and her aggressive moves to the basket forced Plouffe to commit three fouls before the halftime break.
Stanford made three 3-pointers in a four-minute stretch to go on a 14-0 run with eight minutes to play in the first half, taking a 35-13 lead. Senior Sara James led the run with two 3-pointers of her own.
The Cardinal came out of the half with a 49-29 advantage, but Utah went on an 8-0 run five minutes into the second half to cut the lead to 18. Plouffe quickly picked up her fourth foul, however, and with her out of the game, the Card capitalized and pulled ahead 68-43 with 10 minutes remaining. After that, the Card never looked back with James finishing on a fast-break layup and Ogwumike contributing a 3 of her own to take away any momentum that the Utes tried to scrape together.
At halftime, Sunday’s game at Colorado (11-4, 1-3) was seemingly heading in the direction of total Cardinal domination, like the Utah game two days earlier. The Card led 55-38 – the 55 points marked the most Stanford has scored in a first half this season.
“I thought we had a good first half,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “Colorado played really aggressively, they got into some foul trouble and then we had some young players step up.”
Stanford had all of the momentum heading into the break after freshman Karlie Samuelson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Samuelson finished the game as the Card’s second-leading scorer with a career-high 17 points, making five of eight shots from behind the arc.
“I’ve been shooting a lot better recently and just getting more shots off,” Samuelson said. “That [buzzer beater] felt cool.”
Colorado went through bouts of playing well and then getting sloppy. The Buffs played the Card close to start the half but slowly slipped away as they struggled in shooting. The Buffs picked up the intensity in the final minutes of the half, however, improving their shooting to 39.5 percent.
The Cardinal efficiency at the free-throw line, which saw Stanford shoot a season-high 87.5 percent, allowed it to maintain an average 20-point lead throughout most of the afternoon – until the referees start calling a close game. By the midpoint of the second half, both teams were in the bonus due to multiple fouls called under the basket and away from the ball.
Ogwumike and Orrange each picked up her fourth foul with five minutes remaining in the game. The two-player game played by Ogwumike (34 points, 16 rebounds) and Orrange had been key in setting up Ogwumike for the pick and roll and Orrange for the jumper.
Colorado was also in foul trouble as its leading scorer and reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Arielle Roberson, played with three fouls starting early on in the second half.
Roberson did not have a dominant first half – she was held to just eight points – but came alive in the second half when the Buffs needed it most. The combined efforts of Roberson (19 points) and Jamee Swan (20 points, 13 rebounds) got the Buffs within 12 of the Card with less than 10 minutes to play.
At the 2:35 marker, the Buffs, within 10 points of the Cardinal, applied their full-court pressure to Stanford and managed to force turnovers and earn key possessions. But free throws and clutch shots down the stretch kept the Card ahead and sealed the shaky 87-77 win.
“We turned the ball over 18 times. We didn’t handle [the full-court] pressure very well,” VanDerveer said. “It hurts us a lot when Chiney and Amber get into foul trouble, but it’s good to have those kinds of games to see how people play.”
Stanford heads back on the road later this week for bouts with Arizona and Arizona State. Friday night’s game against Arizona is set for 6 p.m. and Monday’s matchup at Arizona State will start at 4 p.m. Both games will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.