After a relatively flat weekend against the Washington schools, the Stanford women’s basketball team will head south to Los Angeles for its final road trip of the Pac-10 season this weekend.
The No. 3 Cardinal (22-2, 13-0 Pac-10) looks to break out of a recent mini-slump in Southern California after it shot a season-worst 36.5 percent from the floor against Washington last Saturday and trailed Washington State midway through the first half.
Even though Stanford managed to extract two victories and stretch its winning streak to 15, the performance was far from the Cardinal’s usually dominant standard of play this season.
But the Los Angeles schools generally bring back some good vibes for Stanford. In a two-game set at Maples Pavilion in January, the Card punished then-No. 8 UCLA (21-2, 11-1), 64-38, before trouncing USC (15-8, 7-5), 95-51.
Despite the performances against the Washington teams, freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike said that the Cardinal is focused and upbeat about the last road trip of the regular season.
“It’s a huge weekend for us,” she said. “Because going on the road is always difficult, our approach is really focused this weekend in particular.”
First up for the Cardinal is the USC Trojans, who have gone 3-2 since the last meeting with Stanford but have a lineup of scorers that are daunting to any program.
Guards Briana Gilbreath, Ashley Corral and Jacki Gemelos all average at least 11.7 points per game, and Gilbreath is eighth best in the Pac-10 with 15.1 points per game.
The three guards combined for 27 points in last January’s matchup against the Cardinal, and Chiney Ogwumike said that more good play can be expected from the Trojans and the rest of the Pac-10.
“When you play in the Pac-10, everyone knows you, they see you, they scout you for the whole year, so it’s much more difficult to play in this conference,” she said. “We demand excellence on the court, so people are going to play their best game against us. We have to come focused and concentrate.”
If the Cardinal can capture a victory on Friday night, it will lock up a first-round bye in next month’s Pac-10 tournament, but even with a victory over the women of Troy, the conference title is still not a sure thing.
The No. 9 UCLA Bruins, Sunday’s hosts to the Cardinal, have only lost one game in the Pac-10 the 64-38 loss at Maples Pavilion last month.
Chiney Ogwumike said that both the Trojans and Bruins will be looking for revenge, a motivation that the Cardinal cannot afford to overlook.
“We know that we executed very well against them the first time, but we know that the second time they’re going to come back stronger and more studied,” she said. “[UCLA is] a very hungry team, and they’ve haven’t lost a Pac-10 game besides us, so we have to execute our game and know our scouting report.”
Chiney Ogwumike, the younger sister of junior (and reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year) Nnemkadi Ogwumike, also mentioned that even though the team struggled last weekend, adversity would only make the team stronger in the long run.
“We’ve had great shooters show up every game so far this year until that Washington game it just wasn’t connecting at that point, and one thing that you have to have is dependency between your guards and your posts,” the younger Ogwumike said.
“A shooter’s mentality is one that you forget quickly,” she continued. “So even though the shots weren’t falling, I think it was important for our team to see that even if you’re having an off shooting night, other people will step up, and my sister and I and all the other posts really worked hard to make sure that our shooters can keep that shooters mentality.”
After two games that head coach Tara VanDerveer described as “too casual” on the part of the Cardinal, Chiney Ogwumike also mentioned that a weekend stint against two of the strongest teams in the Pac-10 would be a good challenge for the Cardinal to maintain its sense of urgency.
“One of our strengths is our focus and concentration, and when we put our mind to it, we can be a really great team,” she said. “We need to test ourselves to make sure our concentration is there for every opponent.”
The Cardinal tips off in Friday’s matchup against the USC Trojans at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.