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No. 3 Cardinal suffers first Pac-12 loss of season

No. 3 Stanford women’s basketball ventured through the snow this weekend as it took on Washington State on Friday and Washington on Sunday. A narrow 77-69 win over the Cougars was just a preview of the atypical play that Stanford would produce on Sunday against the Huskies, when the Cardinal fell 87-82 in a game that it never really controlled. It was Stanford’s first Pac-12 loss of the season and second overall.

The Card started out the weekend with a dogfight of a game, as the Cougars stayed within 10 throughout the game and even led by one point with about seven minutes remaining. The deciding factor of the game was free-throw shooting, as both teams struggled until the end of the game with shooting and turnovers. The Cougars only shot 50 percent (10-of-20) from the free-throw line, while the Cardinal finished 13-of-16 from the line.

Fifth-year senior Mikaela Ruef (right) played one of the best games of her career against Washington. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Fifth-year senior Mikaela Ruef (right) played one of the best games of her career in the Cardinal’s loss to Washington. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

In a game with a final score of 77-69, every point counted and despite Washington State’s aggressive play – from winning the opening tip to snatching eight steals – the Cougars weren’t able to muster enough points to upset the Pac-12’s top team.

Against WSU, Stanford barely held a 6-4 lead just over six minutes into the game. At that point, both teams already had three turnovers and were shooting under 35 percent. It appeared that neither team was ready to play. Two 3-pointers from junior guard Taylor Greenfield ultimately helped spark a rally that put the Card up by 10 with 4:57 to play in the first half.

Greenfield provided the spark off the bench that the Cardinal needed to complement the ever-dominant play of senior forward Chiney Ogwumike. Greenfield finished with 11 points, going 3-of-4 from the 3-point line while grabbing nine rebounds and passing out five assists. Ogwumike led all scorers as she tied her career-high with 36 points and also grabbed 17 rebounds.

Going into the half, Stanford led 28-24 after an Ogwumike mid-range buzzer-beater. With 11 turnovers, however, the team had a lot of cleaning up to do in the locker room.

Ogwumike came out of the locker room on a mission and scored four points in the first 45 seconds of the half, sparking the fire that the Card needed to stay ahead. WSU leaders Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley also took their team onto their shoulders and finished the game with 21 and 20 points, respectively. However, it was not enough, as Stanford pulled out the victory.

On Sunday, it was Stanford that couldn’t deliver a come-from-behind win. After scoring the opening two points of the game, Stanford never led and trailed Washington by as many as 16 with 9:38 to play in the game. The Card lacked the same intensity and energy that it struggled to find against WSU. The offense was slow in transition, forcing Stanford to run through its plays on every possession instead of capitalizing on fast break opportunities.

Huskies freshman guard Kelsey Plum – arguably one of the best freshmen in the country – had a sensational night, scoring a career-high 23 points and shooting 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. In addition, four other Huskies scored in double digits, something that Stanford was not accustomed to giving up – the last team to have five players score in double digits against the Cardinal was Baylor in 2008. This was the Huskies’ first win over a top-five team since 1990, when it beat Stanford 81-78.

While the Washington offense was spot-on, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 47 percent from the field, its defense also caused problems for the Cardinal. The Huskies’ tight double team on Ogwumike was too much for the Cardinal offense to handle as it struggled to feed the ball into Ogwumike, who struggled to finish at the basket. Ogwumike was held to just 9-of-17 in shooting but finished the game with another double-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

The real standout of the game for Stanford was fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef, who enjoyed a career-best game. Ruef grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds, which tied her for third in Stanford’s all-time record book for most rebounds in a game. She also recorded a career-high in scoring with 16 points.

Junior guard Bonnie Samuelson (14 points) got the game within four points for the Card with 10 seconds on the clock by knocking down 3-pointers – something that Stanford had struggled with all game. On the next play, Stanford forced a five-second inbounds violation on Washington and got the ball back. Ogwumike got fouled on a missed layup and split the free throws, putting the Card within three. However, with only five seconds remaining and Washington shooting so efficiently from the line, it was too little, too late for the Cardinal.

Freshman guard Lili Thompson was the fourth Cardinal to score in double digits with 13 points. Although Stanford was able to generate some form of offense and had an even spread in scoring, it could not get the job done on defense, where it got beat by players off the dribble and didn’t close out on open shooters.

Even though Washington owned the game from the start, Stanford never hung its head or had the slightest look of defeat in its eyes – even when it was down by nine with 30 seconds left. What was made apparent in this loss was the necessity for other players to step up because Washington proved that Ogwumike is not entirely impossible to defend. Every player is important and has to be accountable for each and every game.

The Cardinal will return to Maples this weekend to play Arizona State on Friday at 7 p.m. and Arizona on Sunday at noon in its second meetings of the season against both teams.

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.