Two days after securing at least a share of its 11th consecutive Pac-10 title, Stanford women’s basketball left little doubt that it’s still on top of the conference as the team cruised to a 99-60 victory over the visiting Oregon Ducks, earning yet another outright league championship in the process.
Senior point guard Jeannette Pohlen wrapped up the No. 2 Cardinal’s (26-2, 17-0 Pac-10) final two-game series in emphatic fashion, knocking down 20 points in a season-low 20 minutes of play. Her classmate and fellow three-time veteran of the Final Four, forward Kayla Pedersen, played just 19 minutes and went 5-for-7 with 13 points.
The win over Oregon (13-14, 4-12) advances a number of remarkable streaks and achievements for Stanford. The Cardinal has now won 60 consecutive games in Maples Pavilion, dating back to its home opener in 2007. That run includes victories over two top-ranked opponents: most recently, a 71-59 win over Connecticut last December and another over Tennessee back in 2007.
“The streak we have here at home is very special,” Pohlen said. “We want to give our fans a win every time we’re at home.”
The conference championship is Stanford’s 20th in program history and the 20th in 25 years. For Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, the process has become almost routine. After leading the Cardinal to all but one of those titles, she barely even cracked a smile as she handed the trophy to her players on Saturday.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was on hand to personally deliver the silver-and-blue crystalline cup.
Stanford got right to work in earning the win, going on a 17-5 run to open the game. After a 10-0 outburst later on in the half, Stanford walked to the locker room with a 56-25 lead.
The team may not have needed it on Saturday, but the Cardinal received an added boost from returning starter Nnemkadi Ogwumike. The junior forward injured her ankle last weekend at USC, but played 12 minutes and scored four points, all on free throws, against the Ducks.
She wasn’t alone in getting limited minutes. Stanford’s starters hardly played in the second half, when shooting guard Toni Kokenis, a freshman, and her fellow Illinois native, redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Boothe, pushed their point totals to 10 and 11, respectively. Kokenis was perfect with her shooting, going 3-for-3 from the field and knocking down all four attempts from the line.
Redshirt senior Melanie Murphy got 14 minutes on the court, mostly as a point guard. Stanford’s only fifth-year player, Murphy got into double digits as she scored 10 points on 6-for-7 free throw shooting.
In short, Stanford was making it look easy. In the last 10 years, the team often has.
“I think maybe some people might take it for granted sometimes,” Pohlen said of the streak of conference championships. “Maybe the fans or people who don’t really follow Pac-10 basketball closely. But a lot of work goes into everything that we accomplish.”
With another title for the banner and just one game left in the regular season, Stanford can start turning its attention to the playoffs–and the big opponents it might meet there.
At No. 2, the Cardinal is behind only top-ranked Connecticut (28-1, 17-0 Big East), an opponent that has often had Stanford playing second fiddle in the National Tournament. The Huskies are in the midst of another incredible year, having secured the Big East Tournament’s top seed with a win over No. 18 Georgetown last weekend. But after Stanford’s upset earlier this season, it’s understandable that not everyone agrees with the current national rankings.
“It’s debatable who’s the best team in the country,” said Oregon head coach Paul Westhead. “[Stanford] would certainly get my vote.”
The Cardinal will wrap up its regular season with an 8 p.m. match against Cal this Thursday in Maples Pavilion.