Five days after letting Washington shoot an opponent season-best 46.9 percent, Stanford’s defense answered the bell by holding No. 15/21 Arizona State to an opponent-low 24.2 percent from the floor in the Cardinal’s 61-35 win at Maples Pavilion.
Stanford’s lead atop the Pac-12 table increased the three games with five to play after Friday night’s win, putting the Cardinal’s 14th straight conference crown in direct sight. The Cardinal (23-2, 12-1 Pac-12) can also clinch a bye into the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals with a win Sunday at noon against Arizona.
Arizona State (20-5) suffered just its fifth loss of the campaign but dropped into a three-way tie for second place in the Pac-12 at 9-4 alongside No. 22/22 California and USC.
The Cardinal defense was on point from the start Friday, holding Arizona State without a field goal for the opening 8:08. The Sun Devils missed their first 10 attempts from the field before Promise Amukamara hit a short jumper but by that time Stanford led 14-3, and the advantage would never get less than double digits.
The Sun Devils would manage just 12 points over the opening 20 minutes, matching Washington’s 12-point half on Dec. 28, 2007 as the lowest first-half output by a Pac-12 team against the Cardinal. Arizona State’s 35 points for the game were also just one past the all-time low for a Stanford Pac-12 opponent.
“This is the kind of game we need, we need to come out and be aggressive,” said Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball Tara VanDerveer. “This game more than any other, Amber really got on a mission. She was attacking, scoring really well. This is the Amber we know and love.”
Chiney Ogwumike and Amber Orrange staked Stanford to a 32-12 halftime lead by accounting for all but two of the Cardinal’s first-half points. Ogwumike, who had 18 points at the break, would finish the game with 20 to go with 13 rebounds over just 27 minutes for her 19th double-double of the year. Orrange, meanwhile, scored 12 points in the first half en route to a 14-point performance along with a career high-matching five steals.
“Last week we weren’t satisfied with our defense at all. Defense is a matter of will so we made the commitment to really play it hard,” Ogwumike said. “I told our team it was a chance to be reborn and start new, so I like the direction we’re going in starting today.”
“You’re not always going to play well offensively, or shoot well, but you can always control your attitude and effort, and how hard you play on the defensive end,” Orrange added.
Taylor Greenfield and Mikaela Ruef combined for Stanford’s first seven points of the half as the lead got to 24 at 39-15 with 17:12 to go. Ruef would finish the night with five points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Lili Thompson, who scored the Cardinal’s two first-half points not scored by Ogwumike or Orrange, added six in the second half to finish the night with eight.A six-point run with under nine minutes to play was culminated by a jumper from Ruef, extending the Cardinal lead to its zenith of 32 at 55-23 before the Sun Devils managed to outscore the Cardinal bench 12-6 the rest of the way.