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Cardinal back on track with routs of ASU, Arizona

The No. 6 Stanford women’s basketball team (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12) rolled to two consecutive dominant victories against its Pac-12 rivals from Arizona over the weekend. Coming off of a surprising loss against the Washington Huskies last week, the Cardinal regained focus and bounced back to ensure that the loss had not thrown them off track.

Stanford junior guard Amber Orrange (above) led the Cardinal in a pair of much-needed wins against the Arizona schools. (BOB DREBIN/StanfordPhoto.com)

Stanford junior guard Amber Orrange (above) led the Cardinal in a pair of much-needed wins against the Arizona schools. (BOB DREBIN/StanfordPhoto.com)

Friday evening, the Cardinal welcomed the Pac-12’s second-place team, the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-4, 9-3), into Maples Pavilion. Playing after its first loss in nearly three months — a game in which it allowed the Huskies to score 87 points  — Stanford made a recommitment to defense that paid off against Arizona State.

The Cardinal defense was sharp from the opening tip, as it kept the Sun Devils from scoring a field goal in the first eight minutes of the game. Fueled by disappointment from its performance against Washington, Stanford’s intense defensive effort held Arizona State to 24.2 percent shooting, the lowest of any Cardinal opponent all year.

All-American senior forward Chiney Ogwumike emphasized the importance of the defensive side of the ball following the Washington setback.

“Last week, we weren’t satisfied with our defense at all,” said Ogwumike to GoStanford.com. “Defense is a matter of will so we made the commitment to play it really hard. I told our team it was a chance to be reborn and start new, so I like the direction we’re going in starting today.”

Not only did Ogwumike set the standard for defensive intensity, but she and junior guard Amber Orrange also led the team on the offensive end. Ogwumike posted 20 points and 13 rebounds for her 19th double-double of the season, while Orrange got to the basket easily and contributed 14 points (12 in the first half) and a career-high five steals in an impressive performance. Led by 30 points from Ogwumike and Orrange, the Cardinal put the game away in the first half, taking a 32-12 lead into halftime.

“This game more than any other, Amber really got on a mission,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer to GoStanford.com. “She was attacking, scoring really well. This is the Amber we know and love.”

Following the Cardinal’s rout of the Sun Devils, the Arizona Wildcats visited Maples on Sunday afternoon and suffered a similar fate, as Stanford crushed the Wildcats in a 74-48 victory.

Much like in the game against the Sun Devils, Stanford was propelled by stingy defense — and this time, lots of 3-point shooting. Though the afternoon began with the teams trading baskets, the Cardinal put the game out of reach midway through the first half with a critical 25-2 scoring run. Junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, who knocked down five 3-pointers, led the run on her way to a team-high 17 points. Samuelson became the first player other than Ogwumike to lead the team in scoring since the second game of the season.

Ogwumike, who finished the game with 15 points, scored 11 during the run. Orrange also contributed another solid all-around performance, adding nine points, nine assists and five rebounds. The team finished the game with 13 3-pointers, five short of the conference single-game record.

With Sunday’s victory, Stanford retained a firm lead in the Pac-12 standings and clinched a bye in the first round of next month’s conference tournament. If the Card maintains the physical, aggressive defense that it displayed this weekend, its remaining matchups should be no problem.

With only four games left, the team is beginning to close out its regular season. Next weekend, the team will travel to Los Angeles for rematches with the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins, two teams that it has already beaten.

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