The Stanford women’s basketball team finished off another successful regular season on Saturday, defeating Washington State 72-50 and winning its 13th-straight conference title. Cross-Bay rival California defeated Washington 73-60 on the same day to ensure that the Card must share the title this season.
The win for the No. 4 Cardinal (28-2, 17-1 Pac-12) over the Cougars (10-19, 6-12) also means it will bring home its 22nd all-time conference title and has clinched the No. 1 seed for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament. The Card last tied for the conference title at the end of the 2004-05 season, when it had to share the honor with Arizona.
No. 6 Cal (26-2, 16-1) defeated Washington (19-9, 11-6) to end that nine-year run and make amends for an upset five years ago, when California also entered the final day tied with Stanford for the lead, and when both schools faced the same opponents in Seattle. That day, the Cardinal also defeated Washington State, but the Golden Bears slipped up against Washington to lose 74-66 and hand sole possession of the title to Stanford.
Starring for the Cardinal, consensus National Player of the Year candidate junior forward Chiney Ogwumike grabbed her 24th double-double of the year (and 54th all-time) with 28 points and 13 rebounds. She also broke another couple of records with this performance, setting a career-high in points as well as taking yet another honor away from her sister Nnemkadi Ogwumike ’12 by setting a new school and conference single-season mark of 381 boards.
Elsewhere for Stanford, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle added 13 points, senior forward Mikaela Ruef scored seven and pulled down 10 rebounds and junior guard Sara James contributed nine points and six rebounds.
In comparison, no single Washington State player made double figures in either points or rebounds, though scoring and rebounding duties were much more evenly shared among the Cougars. Twelve of the 13 players that saw action for the home team added to the points total and every single one grabbed at least one rebound.
Leading the Cougars, freshman sensation guard Lia Galdeira could not live up to her 14.9 season average in points, hitting just eight, but her seven rebounds did beat her season mark of 5.2. WSU, though, was undoubtedly hurt by the absence of sophomore guard Tia Presley, who tore her right ACL against Oregon at the end of January. Until that season-ending injury, Presley was scoring 13.3 points and grabbing 4.3 rebounds per contest.
Washington State was also hurt by poor shooting, hitting just 28.6 percent from the floor compared to Stanford’s 42.9 percent, and was rushed into poor choices on offense by the conference’s best defensive team. Overall, the Cardinal stole the ball seven times and blocked six shots. The Cougars also struggled to contain Ogwumike, doubling up on her to no avail as she still broke her points record.
The large lead—Stanford was ahead by 30 points at 63-33 with just over 10 minutes gone in the second half—allowed Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer to rest key players, including Ogwumike, who sat out with 11:28 still remaining in the game. That might prove crucial now that the regular season has ended. The Pac-12 Tournament is just five days away and with Stanford hoping to win the title it will need to play—and win—games on three consecutive days.
Stanford will now look ahead to a return to Washington this Friday, when it will start its tournament play after receiving a bye through the first round. The two NorCal teams of Stanford and California will be hot favorites to square off in the final on Sunday, a game that may have much wider implications that just deciding the Pac-12 Tournament. The Cardinal is currently on the line between receiving a No. 1 or No. 2 seed into the NCAA Tournament and Berkeley is hot on its heels. No. 5 Duke’s 69-65 loss to Miami on Thursday is likely to drop it below Stanford, but any of one these teams could arguably make the case for one of the top-four seeds, if it can win out.
Contact Tom Taylor at [email protected].