By Tom Taylor
Over Presidents’ Day weekend, the Stanford women’s basketball swept both Los Angeles schools on the road, first defeating USC 79-55 on Friday night and then earning a 68-57 victory over UCLA on Sunday.
The wins ensured that the No. 4 Cardinal (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12) would stay tied for top spot in the Pac-12 Conference with No. 6 Berkeley (23-2, 13-1), which also defeated both Southern Californian schools this past weekend.
The Trojans (8-17, 5-9) meanwhile dropped to eighth place in the table, and the No. 15 Bruins (19-6, 10-4) look to have lost their chance to return to the head of the pack. With just four games remaining for each team in the regular season, UCLA would need both Stanford and California to lose three games and newly third-placed Washington to also slip up at least once.
On Friday, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike stood out for the Card, grabbing her record setting 20th double-double of the season, with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Joining Ogwumike in double figures, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle recorded her second double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds, senior forward Mikaela Ruef scored 12 points and sophomore guard Amber Orrange netted 10 points. Ruef also set a personal points-in-a-game record, topping the 11 she made against Arizona a week ago.
Trojan sophomore forward Alexyz Vaioletma and junior forward Cassie Harberts netted double-figure points, with 13 and 14, respectively. But crucially for the Cardinal, sophomore guard Ariya Crook, who alongside Harberts is the only other USC player with a double-figure season scoring average, hit just six points.
Ogwumike again put in another strong performance on Sunday, hitting 26 points to keep her record of double-figure scoring in every game this season still alive. However, Ruef also continued her strong run of form, grabbing her second career double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior forward Joslyn Tinkle was just shy of joining Ruef, too, hitting 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Among the guards, sophomore Amber Orrange might not have made double figures in any one category, but her nine points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals show how much her all-around play contributed to Stanford’s win.
The biggest three scoring threats to the Cardinal from UCLA before the game looked likely to be senior forward Alyssia Brewer, redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa and senior guard/forward Markel Walker, all with double-figure point averages. True to form, Nyingifa, Brewer and Walker hit 12, 10 and 10 points, respectively.
UCLA fell behind by nine points after a Stanford 9-2 run midway through first half but clawed that back to within two points after increasing the pressure on the Card and preventing the visiting team from comfortably settling into its lead. When Stanford freshman forward Tess Picknell was called for a flagrant foul two minutes before the break, it looked like the momentum had completely turned.
However, the Cardinal opened the lead back out to five before halftime, and returning from the break, it stretched further ahead to earn 16 points of breathing space with ten minutes left in the game.
UCLA struggled when freshman guard Kari Korver had to leave the contest after picking up a cut on her right cheek when she tried to defend Ogwumike. Korver had looked particularly dangerous, hitting 2-of-3 from downtown and helping motivate and drive her team forward, and her absence did not help the Bruins.
UCLA did again narrow the gap, but it was too little too late, and Stanford was not going to let the lead slip away again. Though the Bruins pressed Orrange hard, she paid them back, breaking through and making crucial steals on defense even when the momentum seemed to be swinging back in UCLA’s favor.
As time wore down, a fired up Ruef helped seal the result for both her team and herself. With just 20 seconds remaining, she grabbed her 10th board and was fouled in the process, sending her to the line to score her ninth and 10th points, sealing her double-double performance.
Stanford now returns to The Farm to face the Oregon schools this weekend, first the Beavers on Friday night and then the Ducks on Sunday. The contest against Oregon will be Senior Night for Tinkle and Ruef, but both hope to play on home court during the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in March.
Contact Tom Taylor at tom.taylor “at” stanford.edu.