No. 3 Stanford beats Xavier 80-64 behind OgwumikeBy JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer Friday, Nov 25, 2011
CINCINNATI (AP)—Up by only a point at halftime, No. 3 Stanford went to its best option to blow open the game
The Cardinal got the ball inside to Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who dominated under the basket and scored a season-high 34 points Friday, leading the way to an 80-64 victory over Xavier.
The Cardinal (4-1) shook off a 10-point loss at No. 2 Connecticut on Monday and a slow first half against Xavier (1-3), which did a good job clamping down on the perimeter. The Musketeers couldn’t handle Ogwumike once she got going.
“I think maybe it was too much Nneka,” coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Stanford had a tough time shooting at UConn, making 37 percent from the field. The Cardinal was 1 of 10 from behind the arc in the first half against Xavier, which had a couple of brief leads and kept it close by containing Ogwumike.
The senior forward didn’t sense any hangover from the UConn loss.
“It almost seems people are more focused because of what happened,” she said. “What we learned is it shouldn’t take us playing the way we were on Monday to focus. It gives the young players perspective on what it’s going to be like if we want to get to where Stanford is used to being. I think the focus was totally fine.”
The focus at the start of the second half was Ogwumike, who made bank shots, hit a fadeaway jumper and had putbacks during a 19-5 run that put the Cardinal in control. She scored 11 of Stanford’s 15 points in the half and finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Nneka is a phenomenal basketball player,” first-year Xavier coach Amy Waugh said. “She’s an All-American who just plays so hard on every possession. We tried to limit her around the basket as much as we can, dare her to shoot some jump shots. She’s just very relentless and continued to go at us.”
Lynette Holmes led Xavier with 18 points.
The schools have played in each of the last three seasons, with Stanford winning all three. The series started with a memorable moment for both programs — Jeanette Pohlen’s layup at the buzzer giving Stanford a 55-53 win in the NCAA tournament regional finals in 2010.
Last season, the Musketeers visited Stanford with top player Amber Harris recovering from a concussion. Harris opened the game on the bench, and Stanford ran away to a 37-point win.
Xavier lost five of its top six players off last season’s Top 10 team and is retooling under Waugh. The Musketeers were coming off back-to-back losses at Mississippi State and Louisville, and were determined to give a better showing against the Cardinal.
Xavier kept close for a half by driving into the heart of Stanford’s defense and drawing fouls. The Musketeers made all 11 free throws in the first half, with Holmes going 7 for 7.
When Ogwumike asserted herself, Xavier was in trouble.
“They were very physical,” VanDerveer said. “They were very prepared for us. I don’t think we played particularly well in the first half, but that’s a credit to them. We struggled from the perimeter against them in the Elite Eight, too. Nneka really got things going.”