By Nate Adams
Two days after reaching triple-digit points and setting the record for consecutive Pac-10 victories, the Cardinal found itself in unfamiliar territory as it narrowly pulled away from a scrappy Washington team on Saturday afternoon, managing to hold on for a 62-52 victory.
Junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the struggling Stanford offense with 22 points, tying Washington guard Kristi Kingma for the game lead. Her sister, freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike, had the best day from the field, going 8-for-11 and scoring 21 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Despite leading by only two points late in the second half, the No. 3 Cardinal (22-2, 13-0 Pac-10) capitalized on free throws and second-chance opportunities, bouncing back from 24 percent shooting in the first half to boost its lead back into double digits. The Cardinal’s next-smallest margin of victory to a conference opponent this season came against Arizona State on Feb. 3, when it won by 18 in a 72-54 contest.
The Huskies (10-12, 5-8), who had won three of their last four games, got into serious foul trouble, committing 27 personals and losing four players to foul-outs in the second half. Three members of Washington’s core–starting center Mackenize Argens, starting forward Mollie Williams and the Huskies’ second-best scorer, center Regina Rodgers (10.3 ppg)–were sent to the bench after less than 15 minutes of total time on the court.
When asked how the game might have ended without so many penalties, Washington head coach Tia Jackson didn’t go so far as to say the Huskies would have won.
“It’s a mystery to everybody,” she said. “I don’t know.”
But the Huskies’ trouble with the officials certainly gave Stanford a boost on a day it otherwise struggled to find the basket. The Cardinal had 33 attempts at the free-throw line, where it scored 23 points despite shooting at a lower-than-normal 69.7 percent clip. The team averages 75 percent shooting from the line on the season, led by conference leader Jeanette Pohlen’s 91 percent accuracy.
“Any time you give 33 free-throw attempts…the fact that we kept it close is by the grace of God,” Jackson said.
Pohlen, a senior point guard and co-captain averaging 15.8 points per game, didn’t make much of an offensive difference in Saturday’s affair, going 1-for-2 from the line and a miserable 1-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Nevertheless, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer gave Pohlen 28 minutes of game time, citing her leadership and defensive skills.
“We need Jeanette out there, period,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s 1-for-90, she’s out there, and she makes a lot happen. She defends for us and she has a very calming influence on everyone else.”
The rest of the team struggled from three-point land as well, going just 1-for-21. Senior forward Kayla Pedersen–who did manage to sink seven of her eight free throws–blanked on each of her eight shots from range. She went 3-for-13 from the field on a day when her team shot just 36.5 percent.
Freshman guard Toni Kokenis scored the lone three for the Cardinal and played for 19 minutes, with VanDerveer frequently switching her out for junior guard Lindy LaRocque, who started the game.
Those back-and-forth substitutions may have been an effort to respond to Kingma, who went on an offensive tear in the second half that left Maples Pavilion in stunned silence more than once. The junior point guard took command of the Husky offense in the second half–when Stanford typically pulls away in close games–leading every drive and doing most of the work herself, dishing out just two assists while scoring 18 points. She made five of her six three-point attempts, including a 25-foot bomb that pulled Washington within 47-45 with just 6:11 to go.
It took until the 6:36 mark of the second half for the Cardinal to score its 46th point, a milestone it reached at halftime against Washington State on Thursday.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike wasn’t concerned with the poor shooting, especially from the perimeter.
“We know what Jeanette is capable of, we’ve seen her day in and day out, and obviously Kayla gets the fire going as well,” she said. I have faith in my guards, absolutely…this isn’t how they shoot, and I think everyone knows that.”
With the final road trip of the season taking Stanford to Los Angeles next weekend, VanDerveer is glad to have the wake-up call.
“I like this a lot more [than a big win],” she said. “It gets people’s attention about playing people a second time, and I couldn’t ask for a better game to lead into our LA weekend.”
Stanford faces USC on Friday at 7 p.m., and then travels to UCLA for a match on Sunday at noon.