Cardinal prepares for stiff Southern California test

Jan. 23, 2014, 12:59 a.m.

Following its successful sweep in the desert of Arizona and No. 14 Arizona State last weekend, No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball will welcome two familiar in-state foes to its home court this weekend, as Stanford’s two conference Southern California foes — the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans — will come to Maples this weekend to take on the Cardinal Friday and Monday, respectively.

(Frank Chen/The Stanford Daily)
Freshman guard Lili Thompson (1) has been a significant contributor to the Cardinal’s vastly-improved depth this season. (Frank Chen/The Stanford Daily)

Coming off five straight victories against top-25 opponents, Stanford seems to be fully gelling and hitting its stride. The dynamic play of senior All-American forward Chiney Ogwumike and burgeoning junior point guard Amber Orrange has led the Cardinal to 16 consecutive dominant wins. Other players, such as fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef and two of the freshmen, guards Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson, have recently stepped up significantly in their roles as well to give the team a more balanced attack.

Despite Stanford’s recent hot play, both the Bruins and the Trojans will look to give the Card all it can handle this weekend. Though UCLA is currently unranked, the team comes into Friday night’s matchup having won three of its last four meetings and boasts a 4-3 conference record. Stanford’s defense will have to be ready for the Bruins’ trio of scorers who average at least 15 points per game: Atonye Nyingifa (18.0 ppg), Nirra Fields (17.6 ppg) and Thea Lemberger (15.8 ppg).

After facing the Bruins, Stanford will face stouter competition on Monday night against the Trojans. While the Cardinal currently tops the conference standings with a 6-0 record in the Pac-12, USC is right on Stanford’s heels with a 6-1 conference record. Coming off a high-scoring home sweep of the Oregon teams, the Women of Troy will look to ride their momentum into their game against the Cardinal.

Stanford must be defensively focused and prepared in this matchup as well, as the Trojans have proven they can light up the scoreboard. Following the lead of dominant senior forward Cassie Harberts, USC scored 109 points in a landslide victory in its last contest against Oregon. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, Harberts has reached new heights this season, recently cracking into USC’s storied top-10 all time scoring list.

While the two conference games against UCLA and USC will require tenacity on the defensive end of the court, recent performances show that Stanford will be up to the challenge. Ogwumike is posting another dominant, All-American-caliber season and Orrange was recently named a candidate for the Nancy Lieberman Award, bestowed each year on the nation’s best collegiate point guard.

The Ogwumike-Harberts matchup should be a fun one to watch as the conference’s two best forwards battle it out. If the other players on the Cardinal squad can continue to handle their defensive duties and help carry the scoring load, however, the Cardinal’s win streak should increase to 19.

The Cardinal will host UCLA at Maples at 8 p.m. on Friday and USC at 6 p.m. on Monday.

Contact Lauren Lockett at llockett ‘at’

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