W. Basketball: Utah pushes Card close in the desert

Jan. 6, 2013, 6:07 p.m.

For the first time since joining the Pac-12 a year ago, Utah gave Stanford a tough game, but in the end, the No. 4/3 Cardinal (13-1, 2-0 Pac-12) proved too much for the Utes (9-4, 0-2 Pac-12) to handle. Stanford used a 15-6 run in the second half to pull away for a 70-56 victory at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Sunday afternoon for the Card’s 80th consecutive conference victory.

The story of the game was the career-best performance by junior guard Sara James. She provided the spark Stanford needed off the bench, finishing with 18 points — breaking her previous record of 14 set against San Francisco in December, 2010 — in 31 minutes of action. James was remarkably efficient, scoring that 18 on just eight shots, while also contributing four assists.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who led Stanford with 20 points, was excited to see her classmate excel in such a big way.

“I keep telling people Sara James is the most competitive person I’ve ever met, played with/against in practice,” said Ogwumike, “so I’ve just been hoping and praying and excited for her to get her opportunity. Today she had her opportunity and she maximized it. She was aggressive, and that’s one thing Sara James is.”

Aggressiveness was the theme in Stanford’s second-half push.

“In the second half,” Ogwumike said, “I knew we needed to come out more aggressive and Coach says if I do it, others will do it.”

At the half, Ogwumike had eight points on four of ten shooting. In the first seven minutes of the second half, Ogwumike hit four of five to help Stanford maintain a seven-point lead after Utah’s best scoring stretch of the game.

Sophomore guard Amber Orrange (16) and senior forward Joslyn Tinkle (12) joined Ogwumike and James with double-digit point totals, though the rest of the Cardinal offense added only four points. Utah’s redshirt senior guard Iwalani Rodrigues, who was the only player from either team on the court for all 40 minutes, led all scorers with 21 points.

The Cardinal offense managed to shoot 46.6% from the field against a pesky Utah defense without its starting shooting guard, junior Toni Kokenis. She played only ten minutes — none after halftime — in her start at Colorado Friday night and did not dress at Utah because she wasn’t feeling well. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield started in her place, but it was James who really stepped up to fill her fellow junior’s shoes.

Stanford saw two streaks come to an end in Salt Lake City. Chiney Ogwumike did not record a double-double for the first time since the Baylor game, snapping a ten-game streak. She finished with 20 points, but only six rebounds and five assists. Additionally, Stanford lost the rebounding battle, 35-33, for the first time since the season opener against Fresno St. Utah used its strong rebounding performance to stay in the game in the first half, owning an 11-0 edge in second chance points at the break.

Stanford did, though, extend its conference winning streak to 80 games with the victory. The Card’s last loss in Pac-12/Pac-10 play came on Jan. 18, 2009, at California. The Golden Bears (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) wrapped up a Rocky Mountain sweep of their own with a 53-49 win on Sunday in Boulder after a 55-50 win at Utah on Friday night. Stanford will travel to Haas Pavilion to take on No. 7 California Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. before hosting the Golden Bears at Maples Pavilion on Sunday.

Sam Fisher is the managing editor of sports for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 244. Sam also does play-by-play for KZSU's coverage of Stanford football, Stanford baseball and Stanford women's basketball. In 2013, Sam co-authored "Rags to Roses: The Rise of Stanford Football," with Joseph Beyda and George Chen.

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