Stanford retained its solitary hold on first place in the conference, improving to 8-0 in Pac-12 play and 19-1 overall with its 18th straight win. USC fell to 14-7 overall and 7-2 in conference, and had its season-high four-game winning streak snapped.
Five Cardinal players scored in double figures Monday, the second time this season the team has pulled the feat. National player of the year candidate Chiney Ogwumike led the way with 30 points, her 10th 30-point effort of the year, and 16 rebounds while Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson each scored 12 points, Mikaela Ruef 11 and Karlie Samuelson 10.
“It’s very big for our team,” Ruef said about the team’s scoring versatility this season. “I think what happened last year was we depended too much on Chiney. Chiney still had 30 points today but with five players scoring in double figures it takes some of the pressure off of her.
“If we have other people scoring, [opponents] can’t really double off of other guards, or me,” Ruef added.
Ruef began the game’s pivotal run for the Cardinal Monday, hitting a layup with just over nine minutes to go in the first half get the Cardinal lead to five at 25-20 and start a 14-0 run that encompassed 4:38. Ogwumike and Ruef combined for nine points during the run, with Ruef netting four, and Alex Green capped it off with a 3-pointer to break the game open at 37-20.
“I really liked our team effort. I thought this was a great game for Mikaela with a double-double, something I think she’s honestly capable of every night,” said Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball Tara VanDerveer. “Her rebounding and defense was very heady on Cassie [Harberts].”
Stanford’s defense lived up to its end of the run as well, holding USC scoreless for 6:04 and without a field goal for 7:06. Ruef’s defense on Trojan forward Cassie Harberts was key to Stanford’s big first-half lead, as she limited Harberts, who entered the game averaging 15.7 points, to just five on 2-for-5 shooting over the opening 20 minutes. Harberts would score 17 points in the game, 12 coming in the second half with the game already decided.
Ariya Crook, who led the Trojans with 18 points, hit a pair of free throws to break the USC drought, and Alexyz Vaioletama hit a triple to get the Trojans back to within 12 at 37-25.
The USC optimism was short-lived, though, as Ruef drained a long 3-pointer with 1:05 to go and Ogwumike scored inside in the final minute to push Stanford ahead by 18 at the half at 46-28.
“[Against UCLA Friday] Coach said we waited until we got a bloody nose before we joined the fight, so this game we knew we had to be more aggressive from the get-go,” Ogwumike said.
Orrange scored the first four points of the second half for Stanford to up the lead to 20, and the two teams stayed about level over the half’s first eight minutes. But nine straight points from the Cardinal, fueled by five points from Ogwumike and four from Karlie Samuelson, put the Cardinal ahead by 28 at 73-45.
“We just had a lot of different people contribute, Amber had a good game, I thought Lili had a good game. Five people in double figures is great,” VanDerveer said.