Leading national player of the year candidate Chiney Ogwumike scored six of her career-high 37 points during No. 5/4 Stanford’s 10-0 run to start the second half, and the Cardinal sent its seniors off with an 84-64 win over Washington State Saturday night at Maples Pavilion.
The Cardinal (28-2, 17-1 Pac-12), 14-time Pac-12 champion and the No. 1 seed at the Pac-12 Tournament for the 13th time, opens up the conference draw at Seattle’s KeyArena in next Friday’s quarterfinals, facing the winner of Thursday night’s UCLA-Colorado first-round contest.
Ogwumike recorded her 13th 30-point game and 22nd double-double of the season, grabbing 13 rebounds to go with her 37 points. Junior point guard Amber Orrange scored 20 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists in directing the Cardinal offense to 44.9-percent shooting in front of 5,628 fans.
“All we care about right now is that we’re progressing as a team, making sure our offense looks good, our defensive energy is there. It was just another game but at the same time it was a happy moment because we played well,” Ogwumike said about Saturday possibly being her last home game.
Ogwumike’s 37 points brought her career total to 2,580, and she will enter the Pac-12 Tournament needing just 50 points to eclipse former Cardinal All-American Candice Wiggins’ conference scoring record of 2,629 points.
Washington State took the momentum into the halftime break Saturday, as the Cougars scored twice in the final 23 seconds to cut its deficit to eight at 49-41. Lia Galdeira, who led the Cougars with 16 points on the night, scored a layup with 23 seconds left then made a steal and fed Alexas Williamson for another layup 11 seconds before the horn.
Stanford, however, took the momentum right back as the second half got underway. Ogwumike, who went into the break with 21 points and nine rebounds, scored the Cardinal’s first four points, then, after four straight from Orrange, capped the 10-0 run with another bucket in the paint to put Stanford ahead 59-41 and force a Washington State timeout.
“Washington State’s an excellent team, and we played them much better this time around. This was a special game for our seniors, I thought we worked very hard defensively,” Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball Tara VanDerveer said after the game.
Stanford got its lead to 20 after a Mikaela Ruef jumper with 11:51 to go, as Ogwumike came out of the game. Washington State used this opportunity to score five straight points, prompting Ogwumike back into the contest, but even then the Cougars got a 3-pointer from Taylor Edmondson and a free throw from Galdeira to pull to within 13 at 69-56 with 8:08 to go.
The Cardinal would slam the door on any comeback hopes right away, as Orrange hit a jumper on the next trip down, followed by another from Bonnie Samuelson, who had 10 points for her fourth double-figure scoring performance in the past five games. Ogwumike finished a 9-2 run with a pair of free throws to get the Cardinal back up by 20 at 78-58 with 4:18 remaining.
With 2:05 to go, Ogwumike and redshirt senior Mikaela Ruef came out for the final time to a thunderous ovation, followed by Sara James’ exit to another round of cheers with 47.9 seconds to go.
“I don’t like to get too sentimental, I just like to soak it all in,” Ogwumike said about the end of her final regular-season game at Maples Pavilion. “It’s a family environment [here]. You have so many people that have your back and it gives us confidence at this time of year.”Stanford is set to host an NCAA Regional from March 29-April 1, and if the Cardinal is still in the tournament at that time it’s seniors will get at least one more game at Maples Pavilion.