W. Basketball: Cardinal cruises in first round rout

March 20, 2010, 11:26 p.m.
W. Basketball: Cardinal cruises in first round rout
Sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike rises for a shot in Stanford's 79-47 win over UC-Riverside on Saturday. Ogwumike, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, finished with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cardinal. (KYLE ANDERSON/The Stanford Daily)

In first round play of the NCAA Tournament at Maples Pavilion last night, No. 1 seed Stanford crushed No. 16 seed UC-Riverside 79-47, setting up a second round clash with Iowa, who held on for a 70-63 victory over Rutgers.

No. 8 seed Iowa (20-13, 10-8 Big Ten) pulled ahead by seven points in the first period against the No. 9 seed Scarlet Knights (19-15, 9-7 Big East) before the two teams traded blow for blow in a dead even second half. All five Hawkeye starters scored double figures and the team shot 10-23 on three-pointers, which may be clues to what sort of game the Cardinal might face from them.

In the second game, in front of a packed house, the Cardinal (32-1, 18-0 Pac-10) initially opened up an 8-0 lead on the Highlanders (17-16, 11-5 Big West) before they netted their first baskets from beyond the arc. UCR fought back to within two points at 11:57 in the first period, but from this point on it was all Stanford, as the Cardinal completed the first half with a 19-7 run and then added another 10 points after the break before UCR could reply.

Three players in the Cardinal starting lineup had stand-out performances – sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike and junior forward Kayla Pedersen both posted double-doubles while junior guard Jeanette Pohlen attacked the basket with purpose to continue her strong run of point-scoring.

“I’m really proud of Jeanette [Pohlen],” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “Tonight I was so excited to see her knock down her shot – she pushes the ball, she’s got a motor of all motors.”

“I talk about in the NCAAs you have to have a guard,” VanDerveer added. “Well I thought tonight we had a guard.”

Pac-10 Player of the Year and All-America nominee Ogwumike and the other Cardinal forwards made the most of their height advantage over a small Highlanders team to break inside the defense, netting points and drawing fouls.

“Obviously she’s a very tough matchup,” said UCR head coach John Margaritis of Ogwumike. “She’s a very tough matchup for us – she’s a very tough matchup for a lot of people. What makes her so special is the level she can turn it on to.”

“And I really think that she, obviously she’s relentless, but she’s at a different level in terms of her athleticism, her ability to just get after it,” Margaritis continued. “I think you always arrive late enough to just either watch her make something or foul her.”

Stanford shot 25 free-throws from just 16 personal fouls conceded by its opposition, which accounted for 16 points of the difference at the end. Three starting UCR players, forwards senior Amber Cox and redshirt juniors twins Rhaya and Rheya Neabors, were responsible for most of these, committing four fouls each to come close to fouling out.

The Card showed flashes of brilliance to light up the crowd. Incisive passing was, and has been all year, key to this. Several times the players brought out plays that looked like they were straight off the practice courts, passing telepathically to where they knew someone would be.

With a sprained ankle she picked up on March 2 and early foul trouble, senior center Jayne Appel saw just 15 minutes of action. But she made a real impact in this limited time, scoring the first points of the game and then coming in to break UCR’s rhythm with back-to-back baskets when it had worked hard to close the gap to two points.

“We’re gonna need her if we wanna go deep in the tournament,” VanDerveer said, “but this game was a game where defensively they’re all perimeter and they’re all out there shooting so we really could play either Joslyn [Tinkle] or Michelle [Harrison]. And I thought that Michelle Harrison did an excellent job for us. So I thought it worked out fine for Jayne [Appel].”

UCR relied heavily on shots from outside the arc, especially in the first half, where it attempted 13 three-pointers, making four. With Cox coming off a game where she shot 5-5 on threes, this was a natural outlet for the Highlanders, but credit also has to go to the Cardinal defense for keeping them on the perimeter early.

Redshirt senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude continued her strong defense, holding UCR’s leading scorer, junior guard Alyssa Morris, to just five points, while not a single Highlander broke into double figures.

With a 24-point lead the game was effectively over, allowing VanDerveer the freedom to rest starting players and give substitutes a good taste of the action.

The Stanford win finished the first day of action in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, and highlighted perhaps a victory for the seeding committee. There was not a single upset, and ominously for the smaller teams, the four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds that saw action on Saturday all won by over 30 points.

NCAA first round action continues today at other sites across the nation, before the second round contest between the Cardinal and Hawkeyes at 6:30 p.m. at Maples Pavilion on Monday.

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