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Ogwumike scores career-high 36 for Stanford women

AP - Sports
Ogwumike scores career-high 36 for Stanford women
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Stanford's Lili Thompson, right, maneuvers past Cal Poly's Kristen Ale during the first half of an NCAA …

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Tara VanDerveer has no doubts about who her regulars are at this early stage of the season: Chiney Ogwumike, Mikaela Ruef and Amber Orrange.

The rest? That's still trial and error to find the right combination for the Cardinal.

''I call it shopping,'' VanDerveer said. ''I'm shopping for players who are going to step up and make plays.''

Ogwumike scored a career-high 36 points, Ruef grabbed a career-best 14 rebounds, and No. 3 Stanford pulled its Hall of Fame coach closer to the 900-win club with a 86-51 victory over Cal Poly on Friday night.

Orrange added six points and four assists and Ogwumike also had 11 rebounds and three assists as the Cardinal bounced back from a 76-57 loss at top-ranked and defending champion Connecticut on Monday to win their home opener at Maples Pavilion.

''The UConn game was a great game for us, too, to understand the pace we have to play at,'' VanDerveer said. ''We'll keep coming back to that one all season.''

VanDerveer, in her 28th season at Stanford and 35th coaching overall, moved within four victories of becoming the fifth women's basketball coach to reach 900 wins.

The Cardinal (2-1) overcame a slow start to shoot 66.7 percent in the first half - 18 for 27 - and 57.1 percent for the game.

''A good bounce-back game and finally getting to play in Maples. It seems like we haven't been here for a while starting on the road,'' Ogwumike said.

Jonae Ervin had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Cal Poly (0-3), which won the Big West Conference tournament last season to earn an NCAA tournament berth. Molly Schlemer added 12 points and 12 rebounds and Ariana Elegado 13 points as the Mustangs were outrebounded 47-36.

Ogwumike proved too much to handle on both ends. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year notched her 61st career double-double and third in three games this season.

Ogwumike made nine of her 10 first-half field goals and wound up 15 for 19 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in 30 minutes. VanDerveer was able to mix and match to try different combinations as she continues to get to know her young team.

Bonnie Samuelson's 3-pointer at the 9:16 mark of the first half helped Stanford pull away and the Cardinal built a 41-25 halftime lead.

Ruef's improvements have earned her the praise of VanDerveer, who still hopes the 6-foot-3 senior forward will emerge as a regular double-digit scorer. She scored nine points and added seven assists and a steal.

''The difference is this is really my last year. I'm not coming back for a sixth,'' Ruef said. ''I hope this is what I can do every game. I like passing a lot.''

VanDerveer is still looking for more of her players to help carry a bigger load and take pressure off Ogwumike and Orrange.

Freshman Lili Thompson earned her first career start in place of Alex Green, who started the first two games but Thompson offers more of a scoring punch. She had six points and five assists.

Orrange, a junior point guard who averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 assists over Stanford's opening weekend, played 29 minutes as VanDerveer looks to limit her best players' minutes when possible in the preseason.

Ogwumike was whistled for her first foul on Stanford's initial possession after winning the tip and the Cardinal had three early turnovers before finding their groove.

''We played really aggressively,'' Cal Poly coach Faith Mimnaugh said. ''It got a little more physical as the game wore on. There's so much we can learn straight from Stanford. The rebounding was something where we were completely exposed.''

Stanford's biggest star is determined to get her team back to the Final Four after a two-point loss to Georgia in the Spokane Regional semifinal snapped the program's run of five straight Final Four appearances. The Cardinal are picked to win the Pac-12 conference for the 12th straight year after sharing the league crown with Bay Area rival California and watching the Golden Bears reach their first Final Four.

While the Mustangs went 0-2 to open the season at the Maggie Dixon Classic with losses to Duquesne and Harvard, Ervin averaged 21 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.5 blocks over the first two games. She didn't get as many good looks against Stanford, shooting 5 for 15.

The teams played for the first time since Stanford's 78-72 win on Dec. 12, 1980. The Cardinal lead the series 6-1.

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