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Women’s basketball routs USC to strengthen grip on Pac-12 lead

With ESPN in the house to call its nationally televised contest, Stanford women’s basketball (19-1, 8-0 Pac-12) cruised to its 18th consecutive victory on Monday night.  The Card defeated the USC Trojans (14-7, 7-2) at Maples Pavilion by a score of 86-59 in an important game for positioning within the Pac-12 conference.

The Women of Troy came into the game ranked second in the Pac-12, half of a game behind the Cardinal. Though the matchup was billed as an intense matchup between the conference’s leading teams, Stanford passed the test with flying colors.

Chiney Ogwumike (13) . (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Chiney Ogwumike (13) dominated the Trojans in all facets of the game, finishing with 30 points and 12 rebounds in the Card’s 86-59 victory. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Head coach Tara VanDerveer rolled out the same starting five that the team has been using for the latter portion of the season to open the game – junior point guard Amber Orrange, freshman guard Lili Thompson, senior guard Sara James, fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef and senior forward Chiney Ogwumike all started for the Cardinal. As it has been for the past few weeks, the starting five was firing on all cylinders together on Monday night. In fact, both teams opened the game with strong shooting performances, as Stanford and USC each converted on seven of its first 10 shots, which kept the game close early on.

Midway through the first half, however, USC suffered a long cold spell that it was not able to recover from. In turn, the Cardinal began to pull away at the nine-minute mark of the first half by converting on easy close-range shots and open threes. In addition, Stanford was able to get the ball in the lane seemingly at will. The guards’ great penetration and entry passes allowed for layups and easy shots in the post.

Due in large part to this easy scoring, the Cardinal hit a scorching 55 percent of its field goals in the opening half of play. Ogwumike dominated the first half with 17 points, most of which were easy lay-ins around the goal. She finished the game with 30 points and 12 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season. Ruef also had a solid first half, posting nine points. At some points in the game, everything seemed to be falling for the Card. Ruef even sunk a long 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 1:05 left in the first half.

Stanford’s ability to keep USC’s star forward and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Cassie Harberts in check throughout the game was probably most instrumental in fueling Monday’s blowout. The Cardinal defense, which leads the Pac-12 in points allowed per game (59.6), held Harberts to only five points in the entire first half. Early in the game, every time she touched the ball in the post, a swarm of white jerseys surrounded and befuddled her. Harberts ended the game with 17 points and six rebounds.

Stanford carried an 18-point lead into the halftime break that the Trojans were not able to cut into for the rest of the game. The second half was more of the same song for both teams. The Cardinal continued to get the ball down low and either score easy baskets or flip it out to the perimeter for open threes. Thompson and fellow freshman guard Karlie Samuelson each splashed two 3-pointers and added 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the Card’s effort.

For the Women of Troy, point guard Ariya Crook was able to use her quickness to get into the lane and led USC’s charge with 18 points. Forward Kaneisha Horn also contributed nine points.

Overall, the Cardinal thoroughly dominated the team that was a close second in the conference on both ends of the court. If USC represents the toughest test that the Pac-12 has to offer, it may be smooth sailing for the Cardinal for the remainder of the regular season.

The Cardinal will welcome its archrival from across the Bay, the California Golden Bears, on Thursday as it seeks to maintain its perfect Pac-12 record. The No. 21 Bears (14-5, 6-2 Pac-12), who have already lost to USC this year, will come to Maples Pavilion tied for third place in the Pac-12 conference with No. 15 Arizona State.

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