Stanford’s No. 6-ranked women’s basketball team doesn’t need outside help to beat Utah at Maples Pavilion. After all, Utah came into Friday’s game against the Cardinal with an 0-15 alltime record against Stanford, and, despite its consecutive home losses to UConn and Cal earlier this season, Stanford very seldom loses on its homecourt.
But Stanford got some assistance anyway – first from the weather, then from happenstance – as the Cardinal breezed to a 65-44 victory that improved the Cardinal’s record to 17-2 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12, keeping it tied for first place with No. 7 Cal, which beat barely beat No. 20 Colorado 59-56 in Berkeley on Friday.
Things were made difficult for the Utes because an ice storm delayed their arrival into the Bay Area until 2 p.m. Friday. Then things got tougher for Utah when, after the Cardinal scored the first seven points and took a 16-5 lead, Taryn Wicijowski, the Utes’ second-leading scorer and rebounder, tore her anterior-cruciat ligament, putting her out for the game and the season.
That made it easy for Stanford, which never led by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way while improving to 16-0 against the Utes.
It was not an entirely satisfying game for coach Tara VanDerveer, though. Although Stanford’s two inside players — Chiney Ogwumike and Joslyn Tinkle — had productive games, VanDerveer did not get what she wanted from her perimeter players.
“I’m really glad Chiney and Jos came to the game tonight; otherwise, it would have been really tough,” VanDerveer said. “We’re working really hard to get more people involved, and we really struggled from the perimeter.”
Ogwumike had 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Tinkle added 16 points and eight boards while shooting 7-for-9 from the field. She also made her first three-point shot of the evening to give her nine straight made three-pointers after going 8-for-8 from long range over the previous two games against UCLA and USC last week. She finally missed a three-pointer Friday and finished 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, but that was still the best outside shooting for the Cardinal, which, other than Tinkle, was 1-for-7 on three-pointers.
The three starting guards – Sara James, Toni Kokenis and Amber Orrange – combined for just 13 points on 5-for-22 shooting. Plus Orrange, the sophomore point guard with so much talent, did not have a single assist in her 28 minutes of court time.
VanDerveer has been coaxing Orrange to be more aggressive offensively, and the Cardinal will need more production from her in Sunday’s home game against Colorado, a 4 p.m. game that will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Stanford handled Colorado easily in Boulder, Colo., earlier this season, but the Buffaloes nearly upset Cal on Friday. Colorado led Cal by 11 points in the final minute of the first half, and still held a lead with seven minutes left in the game. A missed layup with 20 seconds left prevented the Buffaloes from tying the game as they lost by three.
Stanford’s defense continues to be superb. Utah shot just 25 percent from the field, and, for the season, the Cardinal is limiting opponents to 32.1 percent shooting, which ranks third in the country.
However, VanDerver wants to get more out of her offense. After scoring at least 69 points in each of its first nine games – including 71 against Baylor – the Cardinal has been held under 66 points in six of its past 10 games. Scoring typically goes down during conference play, when opponents are more aware of teams’ tendencies and the pace tends to slow. But the Cardinal is averaging just 69.8 points this season, which would be the lowest for Stanford since the 1986-87 season, when the Cardinal went 14-14 in VanDerveer’s second season as head coach.