No. 6 Stanford women’s basketball advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by beating No. 15 seed South Dakota 81-62 in Ames, Iowa on Friday night.
points from behind the arc, providing Stanford with the balanced scoring it needed in a 81-62 win against South Dakota in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/isiphotos.com)
Stanford failed to secure the No. 1 seed when it lost to USC in the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, marking the first time in five seasons that the Card have not gotten the top seed. But even as a No. 2 seed, Stanford flexed its muscles on offense against the Summit League champion Coyotes.
“I thought we took care of the ball well tonight. We had players knocking down shots and different players stepping up for us,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “I thought we did a lot of things really well, but we did not do as good of a job defensively as we need to do to continue down this road.”
In the win, Chiney Ogwumike led all scorers with 23 points and 8 rebounds. The senior forward only needed one basket 37 seconds into the game to surpass the Pac-12’s all time scoring leader, former Cardinal star Candice Wiggins.
Junior Bonnie Samuelson was on fire from behind the arc, complementing the scoring power of Ogwumike effectively and taking the defensive pressure off her teammate down low. Samuelson finished with 18 points, sinking six of her 10 attempts from 3-point range.
“My coaches have been giving me a lot of confidence all season,” Samuelson said. “We know that Chiney can’t do it all every game and we need to help alleviate some of that pressure ,and I just try to shoot and hope it goes in. And today it did.”
South Dakota put up a good fight in the opening five minutes, playing tight defense, keeping Stanford away from the key and knocking down shots to build a 13-12 advantage at the 14:34 mark of the first half. However, Stanford increased its intensity on defense and in transition offense and forced 10 Coyotes turnovers in the first half alone. The Cardinal went into the break with a 42-27 lead.
Coyotes star Nicole Seekamp “couldn’t be stopped”, as VanDerveer put it, and scored 22 points in the game to go along with a pair of steals. However, no other South Dakota player managed to reach double digits in scoring, and so the Coyotes offense was unable to match the Cardinal’s deep attack for enough of the game to keep the score close.
“South Dakota was a good game for us because they were aggressive and we need to be the aggressors and not back down,” Ogwumike said. “It was a good game and I think it will be really beneficial for us.”
The Card came out of halftime poised and played the remaining 20 minutes consistently to keep a comfortable lead throughout.
Stanford was presented with the opportunity to get multiple players a lot of playing time when fifth-year senior Mikaela Ruef left the game with an injury with about five minutes remaining in the half. VanDerveer kept Ruef out for the rest of the game due to precautionary reasons after the forward had her feet taken out from under her while going for a lose ball, hitting her head as she fell to the ground. In Ruef’s absence, however, junior guard Taylor Greenfield and freshman forward Erica McCall were afforded more playing time.
“Injuries happen but we just have to keep going,” Ogwumike said. “At this point, I was really proud that Taylor was aggressive in playing the four-position and Bonnie was stretching people out. When things change you just have to step up and I was proud that people really filled the gaps.”
The Cardinal play the No. 10 seed Florida State Seminoles on Monday. FSU advanced to the second round after beating Iowa State, knocking off the hosts by playing 40 minutes of near-flawless, high-intensity basketball to win 55-44.
“Florida State disrupts you. They have size; they have athleticism,” VanDerveer said. “They have a WNBA player in [Natasha] Howard. They seemed very relaxed and not intimated at all. They have a great team culture and are in the NCAA [tournament] every year.”
Florida State is tall, quick, likes low-scoring games, plays zone defense and is physical — it’s the kind of team that won’t let Stanford easily control the pace of the game. The experienced Seminoles are led by Howard, a senior who averages 20.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
“We’re excited about the contributions that we got tonight and we’ll let that marinate for about 15 minutes and then we’re going to delve into Florida State,” Ogwumike said. “Every game is very important and every possession is very important so we just have to have that mindset.”
“No matter who you play against it’s about the 10 people on the court,” she added. “I think we are very focused on just playing the game of basketball. We have a lot of ‘benergy’ — bench energy — and Coach keeps us in line so we’ll be focused on everyone do their part and keeping the game small within the confines of the basketball court.”
The Cardinal will play Florida State Monday at 3:30 pm PDT in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.