By Dean McArdle
Freshly crowned the Pac-12 champions, Stanford women’s basketball team found itself in a dogfight early on against Colorado on Thursday night. The Cardinal pulled away in the second half, notching a 68-46 victory at Maples Pavilion.
Senior All-American Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the No. 2 Cardinal with 23 points, and in the process passed former Stanford great Kate Starbird for second on the all-time scoring list. Nneka’s career total now stands at 2,230, trailing only Candice Wiggins at 2,629. Nnemkadi’s younger sister, Chiney, joined her in double figures with 18 points.
“To be in that group of people is really great,” Nneka said of becoming No. 2 on the list. “But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, without the support of my coaches, and at the same time there are bigger things that I want people to congratulate us on.”
Junior guard Chucky Jeffery paced the Buffaloes with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
With the victory, Stanford (25-1, 16-0 Pac-12) extended its home winning streak to 76 games. Connecticut’s loss to St. John’s on Saturday means that Stanford now possesses the longest active home winning streak in the country.
Colorado (16-10, 5-10 Pac-12) has now lost six of its last seven contests, and continues to slide after starting the season with 12 straight victories.
Out of the gate, both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively, combining for one field goal through the first four minutes.
Stanford stayed on the attack, though, driving to the basket and drawing fouls. The Cardinal scored its first six—and 13 of its 26 points in the first half—from the charity stripe.
Whistles echoed around Maples Pavilion for much of the early going. The Buffaloes and Cardinal traded fouls and turnovers at a torrid pace, with the teams combining for 26 turnovers and 22 fouls in the first half.
The Cardinal started to pull away after two free throws by Chiney gave it a four-point advantage, however Jeffrey responded with a tough turnaround jumper at the other end to keep the game tight.
Each time Stanford began to build a lead, Colorado answered, and at half time the score stood 26-18, with Stanford ahead.
Stanford came out of the locker room firing in the second half, dashing out on a 19-2 run through the first six minutes. The run featured freshman guard Amber Orrange weaving her way to the basket and absorbing a foul to complete a difficult and-one.
Baskets began coming in bunches for Stanford in the second half, and a Lindy La’Rocque and-one three-pointer with 10 minutes left put them ahead by 33. Colorado fought back late, but the Stanford’s lead was too great and too little time remained for the Buffaloes.
“Stanford’s dominance in the second half stood in stark contrast to the hard first half,” said Colorado head coach Linda Lappe. “In the second half we became a little bit stagnant and had trouble scoring.”
Vanderveer also praised Colorado’s tough defense in the first half. “Colorado came out and they were super aggressive, and we didn’t handle it that well in the first half, but in the second half we were more aggressive,” she said.
Nnemkadi added 11 rebounds to go along with her 23 points, collecting her 14th double-double of the season.
“Nneka really carried our team,” Vanderveer said. “I don’t think that there is any doubt that she is the Pac-12 Player of the Year, and she showed it tonight.”
The win gave head coach Tara Vanderveer her 699th career victory.
Stanford next plays host to Utah at 2 p.m. on Saturday.