By Tom Taylor
Living up to its brand-new No. 1 ranking, the Stanford women’s basketball team routed Long Beach State 77-41 at Maples Pavilion yesterday. The win capped a perfect Thanksgiving break for the team, which also swept Baylor, Hawai’i and Tennessee-Martin a week ago to win the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic and take the top-spot in the rankings from the Bears.
The 71-69 defeat of now-No. 3 Baylor (5-1) marked the second time in two years that the No. 1 Cardinal (6-0) has snapped the runaway winning streak of the nation’s then-leading team: the first time, it halted Connecticut at 90 wins in 2010 and the following year it held the Bears at 42.
“[That was] a huge win and a definite confidence-builder,” Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer said. “No one’s done it in forty-something games. They’re the national champions and they have the best player on the planet [Baylor senior center Brittney Griner]. She’s phenomenal. Our team had to come out and play with a lot of focus, be very intense, and we had to make shots and we did. We had to do some other things too. I thought it was a great lesson for our team.’”
Yesterday’s contest, only Stanford’s second home game so far this season, proved to be a much more one-sided affair as the 49ers (3-3) were no match for the home team.
The Cardinal raced ahead in the first period to lead 49-20 at the half, already posting eight more points than the 49ers would over the whole game. Stanford senior forward Joslyn Tinkle lead the team with 18 points, followed by junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who grabbed a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Joining them in double figures were teammates sophomore point guard Amber Orrange and sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield, with 13 and 11, respectively. Only one Long Beach State player put up double-figure points in response, sophomore guard Alex Sanchez, with 14.
Orrange scored the first three Stanford buckets to give her team an early 7-2 lead and punish LBSU’s opening strategy, which involved guarding Ogwumike closely while also preventing the outside shot. However, this not only gave Orrange the space to shoot, but also failed to contain the rest of the Cardinal offense. By the end of the first half, Ogwumike had 12 points and her team had hit seven-of-13 shots from downtown.
“I think it was really important that Amber came right down,” Vanderveer said. “They were soft on her and she just knocked down her shot right away. She had a three, Taylor made a couple of threes, Jos hitting her threes; I think that was huge. Those were the kinds of contributions we had in the Baylor game.”
Alongside Orrange and Ogwumike, Tinkle has become a crucial threat and cemented her starting role in her final year on the Farm. Though Stanford lost a key player from last season to the WNBA Draft when Nneka Ogwumike signed with the LA Sparks, its offense appears to have lost little of its production.
“What I like about Jos [is] she likes to score,” Vanderveer said. “She’s never met a basket she didn’t like. She goes to the basket strong. We count on Jos a lot and she’s been delivering really well. She’s having a great year so far.”
Excited as they may be about results so far, their ascent to top spot and the awards and recognition it has brought, the players and coaches are determined not to get too wrapped up in success so early in the season.
“I think that the No. 1 ranking is awesome because it shows the respect our team has around the country,” Ogwumike said. “But at the same time we know that numbers don’t matter in November. They matter when it comes to March and the [NCAA] tournament.”
“From hereon out no one is going to hand us the game, hand us the win,” Tinkle said. “So we’re fighting, we’re clawing, doing everything we can to maintain that title, so if anything it motivates us. Our target’s growing bigger and bigger.”
Next up, Stanford heads north to defend its No. 1 status against UC Davis (2-2) on Friday night and then Gonzaga (6-1) in Spokane, Wash. on Sunday afternoon.