STANFORD (CBS / AP) — It’s not often Tara VanDerveer heads to the home locker room at halftime with Stanford sitting on a slim lead. This time of year, she’s fine with a little tournament test.
“At halftime I said, `This is great for us to play against this,'” VanDerveer said. “They have some very athletic kids.”
No match for the Cardinal’s crop.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 23 points and 11 rebounds, sister Chiney Ogwumike added 18 points and seven rebounds and second-ranked Stanford survived a slow start to roll past Pac-12 newcomer Colorado 68-46 on Thursday night.
Amber Orrange also scored seven points, including a three-point play to highlight a 19-2 run to open the second half that propelled the Cardinal (25-1, 16-0) to their 22nd straight win and 77th in a row at Maples Pavilion – the longest active home-winning streak in the nation. Stanford hasn’t lost anywhere since a 68-58 setback at Connecticut on Nov. 21.
“I think it was just kind of our mentality and our aggressiveness,” Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. “We realized what we needed to do against their pressure. We started attacking the basket and I think we started running the floor.”
Once Stanford started rolling, Colorado couldn’t keep up.
Chucky Jeffery had 13 points and 13 rebounds and Ashley Wilson scored nine points for the Buffaloes (16-10, 5-10), who were down only eight at the half. Colorado, which started the season 12-0 for only the third time in school history, has lost three straight and six of the last seven games.
For a change, Stanford’s start didn’t overwhelm its opponent.
On the Cardinal’s second possession of the game, Nnemkadi Ogwumike drove hard to the basket and delivered an elbow to Jen Reese’s left eye while protecting the ball. Reese, who was called for a blocking foul, tumbled hard to the floor and stayed there for several minutes, emerging with light tears streaming under her bruised left eye.
The Buffaloes showed they could take a punch.
They hardly let the Cardinal coast the way they do so often at Maples Pavilion, hustling for loose balls and contesting every shot, even if it meant fouling back harder. The Buffaloes built a 12-11 lead, but had three players – Brittany Wilson, Rachel Hargis and Meagan Malcolm-Peck – with three fouls in the first 15 minutes, relegating each to the bench.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t back down,” Colorado coach Linda Lappe said. “We weren’t intimidated.”
Stanford closed an ugly, physical first half ahead 26-18 behind Ogwumike’s strong inside presence despite shooting only 31.6 percent and committing 15 turnovers – seven by point guard Toni Kokenis alone. Colorado didn’t do much better, shooting 32 percent with 11 turnovers, but the sloppy play kept it close.
If only for a half.
The Cardinal came out sprinting and showing the typical tenacity of Hall of Fame VanDerveer’s teams following the break. The Ogwumike sisters each had a pair of high-driving layups and Orrange’s three-point play over Julie Seabrook with 16:29 remaining started highlighted the huge spurt that put Stanford ahead 45-20.
Stanford already has clinched the inaugural Pac-12 title, its 12th straight conference crown and 21st overall, but VanDerveer surely knows her teams can’t afford any early lapses if the program wants to return to its fifth straight Final Four – much less break the trend of those tearful plane rides home.
VanDerveer can earn her 700th victory at Stanford on Saturday against Utah. She would become the seventh Division I coach to reach the milestone at one school.
Not that anyone on The Farm is ready to rejoice – much.
Stanford also was presented the first Pac-12 regular-season trophy following the game, which the team clinched with a victory at Oregon last week. Chiney, who had a little foul trouble early in the game, was already sporting a fresh-minted championship T-shirt.
“I think we work really hard, and sometimes you have to stop and enjoy what you’ve done so far,” Chiney said. “As a team, little things matter to us.”