STANFORD—Dawn Staley invited Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, her former Olympic coach, across Maples Pavilion to the visiting locker room to give a pep talk to the South Carolina team.
As it went, VanDerveer’s message was much like the one Staley had just shared herself after a Cardinal rout.
“She talked about doing what you do well,” Staley said. “Sometimes when you hear it from somebody else, it gives validity to what you’re trying to do.”
Jeanette Pohlen hit four 3-pointers on the way to 14 points, Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 10 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes and Stanford (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) beat Staley’s Gamecocks 70-32 on Friday.
The victory moved VanDerveer (797-195) within three victories of joining the elite 800 club. Stanford’s 25th-year coach is trying to become the fifth women’s coach to do it, with Division II Bentley’s Barbara Stevens sitting at 795 victories heading into a game Sunday. VanDerveer is 645-144 at Stanford.
Stanford (4-0) shot 53.1 percent and went 8 for 19 from long range, returning home to Maples after a hard-fought 84-78 victory at Gonzaga last Sunday.
“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Pohlen said. “We have a lot of really athletic players who can contribute offensively and defensively. We’re trying to put it all together.”
The Cardinal will get another chance when they’re home again Sunday against Texas (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) for a nationally televised game.
Ieasia Walker scored eight points to lead cold-shooting South Carolina (2-3). Ashley Bruner, with a 9.3 points average coming in, missed all five of her shots in the first half and was held to two points on 1-for-10 shooting for the overmatched Gamecocks.
Kayla Pedersen had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Joslyn Tinkle added 10 points with six boards for Stanford. Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka’s freshman younger sister, added nine points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
She is a key new piece on an experienced team that has made three straight Final Four trips, finishing runner-up to Connecticut last season with a 53-47 loss—after leading 20-12 at halftime—and is picked to win an 11th straight Pac-10 title.
There are 11 returning players after the Cardinal completed their first unbeaten run through the Pac-10 schedule since 2002 last season. That loss to UConn in the title game is fueling both VanDerveer and her players this season.
In fact, Stanford’s only two losses last season were to UConn. The Huskies visit Maples Pavilion on Dec. 30 in another highly anticipated non-conference matchup between the nation’s elite programs.
Better 3-point shooting has been a focus of VanDerveer’s with this group—and the Cardinal are showing they have several threats from beyond the arc.
“I think that’s going to be a real key for us because our post game is so good,” VanDerveer said. “We have extremely capable shooters.”
The Gamecocks, playing without senior guard Samone Kennedy because of a right toe injury, began the game 4 for 17 to Stanford’s 11 of 16. The Cardinal held a 40-30 rebounding edge.
Stanford hit three straight 3-pointers during a first-half run, including two 3s in a row by Pohlen, to turn a 9-6 lead into a 20-8 advantage. South Carolina went four minutes without scoring during that stretch and it quickly became a rout, with the Cardinal leading 35-11 at halftime.
“That was a big game changer,” Pedersen said of the run.
The game marked just the third matchup between the schools—all of those in the last five seasons—and Stanford had won both previous times. Staley played for VanDerveer on the gold-medal winning 1996 Olympic team. The two women shared a hug after the final buzzer.
“This is a great trip for us,” Staley said. “Our players needed to see that cohesion, a Final Four team. There’s another style of play and championship behavior.”
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