STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — The game was less than 12 minutes old Saturday night, and Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike already had 15 points against Washington State.
The Cougars had to know they were in trouble.
Ogwumike finished with a career-high 37 points, leading No. 5 Stanford to an 84-64 victory as the Cardinal improved to 57-0 all-time against Washington State.
“I think that we’re at a point in the program where our kids believe they can beat Stanford where the first four or five years they didn’t believe it,” Washington State coach June Daugherty said. “We don’t come in fearing them. In the past our kids were pretty nervous to play against them. They come in excited about the opportunity and the challenge. That speaks volumes about the seniors in our program and how far they’ve brought this program along.”
Lia Galdeira led the Cougars (15-15, 9-9 Pac-12) with 16 points, and Tia Presley and Sage Romberg scored 10 apiece. Amber Orrange scored 20 points for Stanford, making 7 of 9 shots from the field and grabbing eight rebounds. Bonnie Samuelson added 10 points for the Cardinal.
Stanford (28-2, 17-1 Pac-12) last week clinched the Pac-12′s regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament at Seattle. The Cardinal earned a first-round bye and will open play Friday. Stanford hosts an NCAA tournament regional later this month, so there’s a chance that Ogwumike will play again on her home court.
Washington fell into sole possession of seventh place in the Pac-12 and will meet Oregon on Thursday in a first-round game with the winner advancing to play No. 18 California.
In a Jan. 11 game at home, WSU led Stanford by one point with under 9 minutes left and gave the Cardinal a scare before falling 77-69.
“Last time we felt we were in the game the whole time, so I feel we definitely believed we could win the game,” Romberg said. “And so we went into it with that mentality, because what other mentality are you going to have? It’s important to have confidence going into the game. We had to go into it thinking we had a chance. We just wanted to try our best and play hard.”
Ogwumike grabbed 13 rebounds, shot 14 of 23 from the field and made 9 of 10 free throws.
“In my opinion, she’s the National Player of the Year,” Daugherty said. “And the reason is, she does more for her team than anybody else in the country. You take her 30 points away or even her average of 25 a game away, I’m not sure Stanford’s record is anywhere close to where it is right now. She’s just so explosive and quick that you try to play her for the drive. At the beginning of the game she was just rip squaring and going by us so quick It’s really tough to even help in those situations.”
Ogwumike set her previous career high against Cal Poly this season and matched against Washington State on Jan. 11. Ogwumike increased her career scoring total to 2,580, leaving her just 50 shy of breaking ex-Stanford star Candice Wiggins’ Pac-12 record of 2,629. She broke the Pac-12 career rebounding mark earlier this season and now has 1,482.
“Honestly, this sounds horrible, but I don’t care about scoring, career highs or whatever,” Ogwumike said. “I just care about doing enough to get a win. I always say, if I score two points and we win, I’m perfectly fine. I just do what I have to do to win as a team.”
Ogwumike nearly had a double-double by halftime, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds, as Stanford built a 49-41 lead.
“I thought we fought hard the whole game,” Romberg said. “Chiney is really active all the time, and she’s a really good player. It’s always tough when we have to play against her, and it was her Senior Night. She was playing really hard out there, but we kept fighting, which was important.”
Ogwumike shot 7 of 13 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line in the first half, dominating the Cougars inside.
Stanford opened the second half with a 10-0 run, building a 59-41 lead.
Ogwumike ignited the surge with a spinning layup then scored again with a left-handed hook shot. Orrange drained a jump shot then scored on a driving layup. Ogwumike capped the run with a fast-break layup after Lili Thompson’s steal and assist with 15:29 left in the game.