W. Basketball: Slow start nearly catches up to Stanford in win over Sun Devils

Feb. 3, 2012, 1:48 a.m.

Many years ago, French botanist Andre Aubreville wrote, “The desert always menaces.” And for the Stanford women’s basketball team, that fact was never truer than on Thursday night.


W. Basketball: Slow start nearly catches up to Stanford in win over Sun Devils
Three clutch three-pointers from freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, who finished with 10 points on the night, helped propel Stanford to a 62-49 win over second-place Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. Thursday night. (MEHMET INONU/The Stanford Daily)

In the end, the Cardinal (18-1, 9-0 Pac-12) managed to pull out a 62-49 win over Arizona State (15-5, 6-3) thanks to a dominant performance from the Ogwumike sisters, but not before the Sun Devils pushed Stanford to the brink of its first conference defeat in over two years.


The Sun Devils, the second-best team in the Pac-12, got out to an early lead thanks to a solid start from center Kali Bennett, while both teams struggled to find net in the first half. A pair of three-pointers from Cardinal freshman forward Taylor Greenfield and eight points in the last six minutes of the half from senior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike left the game tied at 28 at the half, though.


The pattern of sour shooting continued for both sides early in the second half, but Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike teamed up to score 10 points in the first six minutes of the half to give the Cardinal a 40-34 lead. That slim lead evaporated quickly when Sun Devil guard Micaela Pickens reeled off six straight points, including a steal of Nneka Ogwumike that led to a fast-break layup and tied the score at 40 with less than 12 minutes to go in the game.


Over the next five minutes though, the Ogwumike sisters and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis rose to the challenge with strong offense and dogged defense, as the trio added nine points to the Cardinal’s total before another Greenfield three-pointer made it 52-40 — snuffing out any upset hopes that the Sun Devils might have still had.


When all was said and done, the Cardinal’s sister act had put on a show once again, as Nneka finished with a team-high 22 points and 16 rebounds and sister Chiney added 20 points and 16 boards of her own. Greenfield added 10 points thanks to her three three-pointers, and Kokenis rounded out the Cardinal’s top scorers by contributing seven points of her own.


After a tough fight against the Sun Devils, Stanford’s road trip does get a little easier on Saturday. The Cardinal, which is still leading the Pac-12 thanks to a spotless conference record, plays Arizona (13-8, 2-7) on Saturday. While Arizona State was able to challenge the Cardinal, the story won’t likely be the same for the Wildcats, who are the worst team in the conference.


Arizona did start the season on a scorching run, going 12-2 in its first 14 games, but has stumbled to a 1-6 record since then. Junior guard Davellyn White paces the Wildcats with 18.2 points per game, followed by sophomores Candice Warthen and Erica Barnes, who add 12.8 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.


With a win over the Wildcats, the Cardinal would have wins against every team in the conference this season, an interesting feat in the first year of the Pac-12. The Cardinal is a near-lock to complete another perfect conference season and capture its 12th consecutive conference title.


Stanford and Arizona tip off their conference showdown at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

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