Supporting cast shines as Stanford pulls away to beat UCLA

Fueled by a second-half run, the Stanford women’s basketball squad fended off one of its peskier opponents to defeat the UCLA Bruins by a score of 72-55 Friday night.

Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike

Freshman forward Erica McCall (24) scored 12 points, making six of her eight shots and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench to propel Stanford past UCLA Friday night. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal (18-1, 7-0 Pac 12) notched another conference victory against UCLA (10-10, 4-4). In the first half, however, the Cardinal wasn’t as dominant as it had been in much of the early part of the season. Its one-point lead at halftime was its slimmest margin at the break this season.

UCLA came into the matchup with a plan to use its physicality and length to get Stanford’s offense out of sync and force someone other than Stanford’s All-American forward Chiney Ogwumike to beat them.

“They were physical,” Ogwumike said, “and it took me a little bit to adjust to it.”

By playing tough, aggressive defensive on Ogwumike early on in the game, the Bruins were able to disrupt her offensive rhythm for much of the first 20 minutes. Ogwumike, second in the nation in field goal percentage, missed five of her first six field goal attempts to begin the game. In spite of the tough start, she worked her way to a hard-earned 21 points and 15 rebounds.

“There are a lot of things to be proud of,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said after the game. “We played with good energy for a long time. I’ve never been so thrilled to hold anyone to 21 points.”

Following a recent trend, however, Ogwumike’s teammates stepped up to play major roles. Freshman guard Lili Thompson recorded 15 points in the game, notching her third consecutive double-figure scoring effort and seventh this year, while fellow freshman Erica McCall contributed 12 points and senior Sara James scored 11.

Though the Cardinal prevailed, the Bruins did not go down without a fight. With just over nine minutes to play, they were still within six points. But in the final stages of the game, the intensity of UCLA — who dressed only eight healthy players for the game — seemed to wane. Junior guard Amber Orrange and Ogwumike made jumpers to push the Cardinal lead to an insurmountable 66-51 lead with just under five minutes remaining.

“UCLA is extremely aggressive,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer, “but I thought our team came out in the second half and got it going. We attacked a lot better and were more aggressive.”

Foul trouble was also an issue for the depleted Bruins roster. Physical defense against Ogwumike down low caused the referees to blow their whistles, and UCLA was forced to constantly rotate its few forwards to keep them from fouling out.

Star forward Atonye Nyingifa posted 18 points to lead the Bruins in scoring, and guard Nirra Fields scored 13 in the effort for UCLA. For Stanford, Orrange dished out eight assists to further establish herself as the conference’s leader in the assist-to-turnover ratio (3.28). With the victory, the Cardinal extended its win streak against the Bruins to 17.

The Cardinal now turns its sights to the USC Trojans (14-6, 7-1) who will visit Maples Pavilion tonight. Only a half-game behind Stanford in the Pac-12 standings, USC will provide stiff competition for the Cardinal, and the matchup will have with big implications for the conference standings. The Trojans knocked off No. 19 Cal in Berkeley Friday night 77-70.

Tip off tonight is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Contact Lauren Lockett at llockett ‘at’ stanford.edu.