No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball (19-1, 8-0 Pac-12) recently faced what some were expecting to be two difficult tests when it took on No. 15 Arizona State last week and played USC on Monday to determine which team would sit atop the Pac-12.
If those were tests, then the Cardinal passed with flying colors. And it’s not as if the test wasn’t hard — both teams have good records and solid rosters and have proven themselves with big wins of their own — it’s just that the Cardinal is above the pressure of test-taking at this point in the season and is just concentrating on playing its own game.
That’s exactly what the Card is going to do tonight when it takes on No. 21 Cal — another so-called “test.” The reason that Stanford has been so successful against all of its opponents, ranked and unranked alike, is because senior forward and consensus national player of the year candidate Chiney Ogwumike is not the only player showing up to perform well on these tests. On Monday against USC, four Cardinal players not named “Ogwumike” scored in double digits to go with Ogwumike’s 30 — only the second time that has happened this season.
Senior forward Mikaela Ruef tallied a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman guard Lili Thompson added 12 points apiece and freshman guard Karlie Samuelson chipped in with 10 of her own. Although Ogwumike is the only Stanford player to average double digits in scoring (27.1 points per game), this doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Card, as it still manages to generate an average of 80.3 points per game. Different players in each game — and more recently, multiple players — have stepped up in order to complement Ogwumike’s output.
Thompson in particular has been stellar in Pac-12 play, averaging 11.3 ppg in conference play and 8 ppg overall. Thompson, along with Orrange, has been efficient in feeding the ball to Ogwumike and using screens to create open shots for herself. Ruef has also been instrumental in providing Ogwumike with “rainbow” passes, as head coach Tara VanDerveer refers to them.
Tonight’s game will be a matchup of the two best point guards in the Pac-12 with Orrange (9.6 ppg) and Cal junior Brittany Boyd (14 ppg) squaring off. Both players are on the watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which honors the best point guard in the nation. The pair is also ranked first and second on the Pac-12’s assists leaderboard: Boyd leads with 5.63 assists per game and Orrange is close behind with 4.90 apg, including eight against UCLA last Friday. One of the Card’s keys to the game will be to disrupt the passing efficiency of Boyd by playing tight defense to force both harder passes and less desirable shots.
Cal is also led by junior forward Reshanda Gray, who is averaging 17.3 ppg and 7.9 rebounds per game. The Golden Bears only trail second place in the Pac-12 by half a win and will strive to close the two-game gap with Stanford in their two meetings this weekend. This will be the second consecutive season in which the Card and Bears will play each other back-to-back due to the condensed schedule.
Last year, Stanford had to split the conference crown with Cal after it lost to the Bears at Maples the second time the two teams met in the same week. Stanford will hope to actually utilize its home-court advantage this time around and make yet another statement against a ranked opponent, while Cal will hope to consolidate its continued dominance in the Pac-12. Anything can happen in a rivalry game, but if Stanford lives up to the caliber of play it displayed against Arizona State and USC, Cal could easily end up failing this test.
Tip-off for the Battle of the Bay is set for tonight at 8 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.