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Dominant run pushes Card past Seminoles, into Sweet 16

Stanford women’s basketball (31-3, 17-1 Pac-12) advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament in Ames, Iowa, joining the Cardinal men’s squad in the Sweet 16. The women beat Florida State 63-44 on Monday, a day after the men upset Kansas in St. Louis, Mo.

Star senior Chiney Ogwumike (above) will get to play at Maples Pavilion at least once more, as the Cardinal beat Florida State to advance to the Sweet 16. (BOB DREBIN/StanfordPhoto.com)

at least once more, as the Cardinal beat Florida State to advance to the Sweet 16. (BOB DREBIN/StanfordPhoto.com)

No. 10 seed Florida State (21-12, 7-9 ACC) jumped out to an early eight-point lead eight minutes into the game due its athleticism and aggressive play. The Cardinal were able to draw on their experience from coming from 17 points behind to win at USC in February, so they knew what to do when down early against the Seminoles and had the confidence to keep taking shots, take better care of the ball and continue to work hard.

“We started out in a little bit of a hole and then I think our team found its rhythm,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “A lot of it had to with our guard play and shooting.”

At the second media timeout of the game, VanDerveer, against the judgments of her three assistant coaches, decided to switch the Cardinal’s defense to zone, despite practicing the scheme minimally with the team.

VanDerveer typically prefers man defense because it’s easier to box players out and to hold each player accountable; however, the zone allows more players to play extended minutes without tiring out as easily. The 34-year coaching veteran had arrived earlier than the team on Saturday in order to scout the Iowa State-Florida State game and noticed that the Seminoles did not handle the zone defense well.

“They didn’t seem so comfortable against a zone and I just think it allowed us to not think about matchups,” VanDerveer said. “I was worried about rebounding but we did a pretty good job of it. I think [our zone defense] was disruptive. I’m of the belief [to do] whatever works.”

And work, the zone did. The Cardinal went on a 26-2 run to close out the last 12 minutes of the half, holding Florida State scoreless for nearly 10 minutes and to just 7-of-28 for shooting heading into the locker room. Stanford held a 32-16 lead at halftime.

“We were working as a well-oiled machine,” said freshman guard Lili Thompson. “We were communicating, we had hands up and it was really a good feeling to know that four other people on the court had the same goal in mind of just getting it done.”

The Card also held senior forward Natasha Howard scoreless for the first half of play. The Seminole All-America contender scored just 9 points in the game after coming into the contest with an average of 20.8. Just as remarkably, Howard was still the leading scorer for Florida State, marking the first game all season that no Seminole scored in double digits.

“The No. 1 goal on defense is to make players uncomfortable,” said Stanford senior forward Chiney Ogwumike. “So we just want to do our job.”

Ogwumike led all scorers with 21 points and 9 rebounds, while junior guard Bonnie Samuelson added three more 3-pointers to go along with six makes from behind the arc on Saturday. Samuelson finished with 11 points and 3 assists and was the first player off the bench for both of Stanford’s tournament games.

“I think Bonnie really had two break-out games for us this weekend,” VanDerveer said. “She really was why our team was successful this weekend, [with] her knocking down perimeter shots.”

Thompson also reached double digits with 14 points, 2 assists and a steal, playing with the poise and confidence of a much more experienced player.

Ogwumike said that in addition to celebrating her birthday in Ames, the weekend series in Iowa brought “good mojo” to the team since junior guard Taylor Greenfield got to return to her home state and play there for the first time in her collegiate career. Greenfield was held scoreless on Monday but had 6 points in the Cardinal’s first-round game.

The Card will return home and resume NCAA tournament play on Sunday at Maples Pavilion, facing the winner of No. 11 Florida and No. 3 Penn State.

“Right before our game, before tip-off, we gather up and yell ‘Maples’, because we love playing at Maples.,” Ogwumike said. “If there is a game to play hard it was this game [against Florida State] because we want to get back to our fans and our school, which has become such a great support system for us.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not about where you play; it’s about what you do on the court when you’re supposed to play,” she added. “I think no matter where we play, we’re going to play Stanford basketball.”

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.