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Stanford sweeps LA trip, clinches share of 14th straight Pac-12 title

No. 5 Stanford women’s basketball (26-2, 14-1 Pac-12) clinched a share of its 14th consecutive Pac-12 title on Friday with a 64-59 come-from-behind win against USC (16-11, 9-6). The Cardinal had to overcome a 19-point deficit to secure the win — tied for the largest deficit it has ever overcome and eighth largest comeback in NCAA history. Then, on Sunday, the Card won the Pac-12 title outright by beating UCLA (12-16, 6-10) 65-56.

USC led the Cardinal from its opening possession, leading the entirety of the first half and until about nine minutes were remaining in the game. However, it was at that point when Stanford scored 12 straight points to take the lead 49-43, led by eight straight points from senior forward Chiney Ogwumike.

Junior forward Bonnie Samuelson (above)

Junior forward Bonnie Samuelson (above) notched 14 points and four assists off the bench Friday to spur Stanford’s comeback win over USC. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

After a beating at Maples last month, the Trojans played competitively for 40 minutes and wouldn’t allow the Cardinal to dominate on USC’s home court. USC made the first five of its six shots from behind the arc to start the game while effectively keeping the ball away from Ogwumike and forcing Stanford to make poor shot selections and nine turnovers in the first half. Ogwumike was held to just nine points and two rebounds in the first half, but filled her role as team leader in the second half to finish with 27 points and seven rebounds.

With six minutes remaining in the first half, USC took its largest lead of the game at 32-13. But during an official TV timeout with 3:51 to go, head coach Tara VanDerveer called a timeout to make adjustments and the Cardinal stepped back onto the court ready to take care of business. Stanford’s defense kicked into high gear with four minutes remaining in the half, holding USC scoreless for the remainder of the period, while managing nine points of its own, including a 3-pointer by junior guard Bonnie Samuelson with 10 seconds remaining.

“Our [Washington] loss really taught us a lot about ourselves, but we knew at the 10-minute mark of the first half tonight that a lot of game was left and it wasn’t a loss,” Ogwumike said. “That helped us play motivated on defense.”

Stanford trailed USC 37-30 at the break after a half dominated mostly by the Trojans’ impressive scoring and Stanford’s inability to finish at the basket and take care of the ball. However, the second half was all Stanford, as it played lockdown defense and played with composure on the offensive end, taking much better shots rather than taking the first open look.

“We have to look at things and make a decision to play harder right from the get-go,” VanDerveer said.

Stanford led by as much as nine with six minutes remaining, but USC’s Ariya Crook kept the Trojans in the game, leading her team with 24 points. With 18 seconds to play, Crook cut the Cardinal’s lead to just three by knocking down a 3 from the top of the key. When USC was forced to start fouling, Samuelson seemed to be the one with the ball in her hands often and iced the game by going 4-of-4 from the line in the final minute of play. Samuelson finished the game with 14 points and four assists.

“I know that [making free throws] is one of my jobs in close games, so it was good practice for me to be in that situation,” Samuelson said.

Against the UCLA Bruins on their Senior Night, VanDerveer tried out a different starting lineup with Samuelson and freshmen Erica McCall and Brianna Roberson joining junior point guard Amber Orrange and senior forward Chiney Ogwumike. For Roberson and Samuelson, it was the first start of their careers. Roberson started the game 2-of-2 in shooting and provided the Card with its opening five points as Ogwumike struggled to connect underneath the basket, shooting 1-of-6 from the field to start.

The Card trailed the majority of the first half but pulled ahead just before halftime to head into the locker room with a 29-25 advantage. In the second half, Ogwumike turned in one of her best defensive performances of the season, finishing with five blocks and four steals to go with her 26 points and 15 rebounds. Orrange also led the Card’s defensive and offensive efforts with 13 points, two steals and three assists, while senior forward Mikaela Ruef grabbed 11 rebounds.

The Card will return to the Farm for its final weekend of Pac-12 regular season play, with a Thursday matchup against Washington and a Saturday date with Washington State.

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. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and plans to take over as Managing Editor of Sports next volume and aid in KZSU’s coverage of football. 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.
  • CyclingKen

    Nice headline writing: “clinches share.” Yes, that was true after Friday’s game, but then they played UCLA.