By Tom Taylor
At Maples Pavilion last night, Stanford finished off the home schedule of the 2011-12 season, defeating nonconference opponent Seattle University 76-52 and extending its unblemished record at home to five straight seasons and 79 games.
The contest was the first-ever meeting between No. 2 Stanford (26-1, 17-0 Pac-12) and Seattle (17-9), as the Redhawks returned to Division I as independents in 2009 and will join the Western Athletic Conference for next season. It was also the last time that Stanford fans will see graduating seniors Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Lindy La Rocque and Grace Mashore play on their home court.
“I’ve been a part of several teams that have been through Maples and to not lose on this court is really special,” Nneka Ogwumike said. “I’m glad that I was able to share it with this team. I wish for this for them because it’s not something that everyone can say everyday.”
Five of the Card’s players hit double digits in points, led by Nneka Ogwumike’s double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, compared to just one Redhawk, senior guard Talisa Rhea, who scored 18. Rhea, the reigning Independent Player of the Week, was a familiar foe to many of Stanford’s older players, as she played three full seasons at Pac-12 rival Oregon State before transferring to Seattle. But in eight career matchups, she has never tasted victory over Stanford.
Though the Cardinal led by 14 points at the break, the difference does not do justice to an unranked Seattle team that forced a series of errors from its more illustrious opponent. Perhaps this was not surprising given Seattle’s season–six of its players have forced 30 or more steals in games this year, while just three Stanford players reached this mark. By the first half buzzer, the Redhawks had six steals to Stanford’s four, just shy of the 6.1 average steals per game by the Cardinal’s opponents throughout the whole season.
Although it stretched ahead of Seattle with a couple of runs in the first half, the Redhawks cut back at the Card’s lead twice before Stanford pulled away for the 24-point victory.
“Tonight’s not an easy situation,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer after the game. “[Seattle head coach] Joan [Bonvicini] is just a fabulous coach, Rhea has played here before. Seattle comes in with nothing to lose, they played very hard, they played very well.”
In addition to a comfortable win, the challenge of a tough midweek game provided the Cardinal with a final tuneup before heading across the Bay to take on archrival California this weekend. VanDerveer said she was pleased with the way the schedule worked out this year.
“I think it’s just a great game for us,” VanDerveer said, “Because otherwise it just feels like such a long week…It’s different when [freshman forward] Bonnie [Samuelson] goes 4-for-8 in a game, or our team goes 13-for-13 in a game from the free-throw line versus in practice. You could do it in practice and it would be like, ‘So what?’ I think it was a great thing for our team.”
The strong performances of several freshmen, especially guard Amber Orrange, with 10 points and nine assists, and Samuelson, with four threes, were also notable, especially going into both the postseason, as the freshmen will play a major role in the run to the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
Next up is the final conference game of the year against Cal in Berkeley on Sunday. The Golden Bears are guaranteed to finish second in the Pac-12 win or lose, but are unlikely to need any extra motivation against archrival Stanford.
The Cardinal and the Bears square off in Haas Pavilion at 6 p.m. on Sunday.