If a still-perfect conference record wasn’t impressive enough, Stanford women’s basketball will have an opportunity to take some major steps forward in Pac-10 history when it hosts Washington State tonight.
The No. 3 Cardinal (20-2, 11-0 Pac-10) tied its own conference record for most consecutive wins with a 91-61 rout of Arizona last Saturday, putting the team just one victory shy of an unprecedented 49 straight. In another sizeable streak, Stanford completely owns the all-time series against the Cougars (7-16, 5-6), winning all 51 matchups. On top of that, the Cardinal is riding a 56-game home winning streak.
“It’s quite a record, and something that we can be part of history with,” said sophomore forward Joslyn Tinkle. “So we’re excited.”
Both teams are coming off strong victories, scoring over 90 points each. That’s especially notable for WSU, which swept its first conference series in over a decade last week in Oregon. Washington State hadn’t taken a two-game set in the Pac-10 since January 2001, when it beat USC and UCLA at home.
The Cougars have shown resilience this season, approaching a .500 Pac-10 record after winning only a pair of non-conference games. And even then, their apparently mediocre record beguiles their talent: according to rpiratings.com, WSU has endured the 18th-toughest schedule in the country.
Washington State has turned things around with a respectable conference performance, and boasts the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week in Sage Romberg. The freshman scored 17 points off the bench in the Cougars’ come-from-behind, 67-64 win against the Beavers last week, and put up 15 more in a 96-90 thriller over the Ducks that saw five Cougars reach double-digit point totals.
“I feel like they’ve improved tremendous amounts,” Tinkle said about the Cougars. “Granted, they’ve struggled the past few years, but they’ve never really been a horrible team. I feel like they’ve brought in a lot of young, talented players, and it’s helped them. They’re big inside and they have good shooters as well.”
On a much shorter timescale, Stanford has battled back from some adversity of its own. The Cardinal committed 20 fouls and 17 turnovers in a less-than-stellar win at Arizona State a week ago, and suffered through an eight-minute stretch when no Stanford player could find the basket. While the 72-54 victory was a comfortable one by most standards, it marked the Cardinal’s smallest margin of victory in the Pac-10 season.
If anything, the stat sheet served as a wake-up call.
“We always know what to expect when we’re playing ASU, they’re a very scrappy, aggressive, guard-oriented team,” Tinkle said. “That’s a big weakness of ours, we’re not comfortable when teams are being aggressive like that. So that’s something we’ve been trying to work on and figure out this previous week, it’s a big goal of ours.”
Stanford turned things around in a big way for its match with Arizona. After head coach Tara VanDerveer took the players out for a team dinner and ice cream on Friday, the Cardinal came back and dominated in a 91-61 pounding that, like WSU’s win over the Ducks, saw five players break into double-digit points.
For a team that rotated its talented through a somewhat fluid set of lineups early on in the season, last Saturday’s win marks the latest in a trend toward a more consistent group of players getting called to the court, at least at the outset. Senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen has been locked in all year with 16.6 points per game and 44.7-percent three-point shooting, as have junior forward Nnemakadi Ogwumike (16.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game) and senior forward Kayla Pedersen (12.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Nnemkadi’s sister, freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike, has started in all 21 games she’s played in, and is holding down that spot with the conference’s second-best shooting percentage at 56.9. She’s behind only her sister, who’s leading the Pac-10 at 57.5 percent.
The fifth spot currently belongs to junior shooting guard Lindy LaRocque, who holds a team-best 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio and shoots at a 40.8-percent clip from beyond the arc. For players like Tinkle, who has the sixth-most starts on the team with seven, this means the chance of earning a spot in the rock-solid lineup may be getting a little slimmer.
“That’s something that took a while, to get our really set-in-stone lineup in there,” Tinkle said. “But on any given night, whoever’s playing well will be out there [at some point] . . . So for me personally . . . I’ll focus on doing the best that I can and take advantage of every second that I’m out there.”
Returning home for the first time since Jan. 22, Stanford will tip off with Washington State tonight at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.