Sports

Stanford women open defense of Pac-12 tourney title

With the No. 1 seed in hand, the fourth-ranked Stanford women's basketball team heads to the scene of its only conference loss to open the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Cardinal (28-2) is in Seattle, Wash., as the odds-on favorite to repeat as tournament champion. The Feb. 9 loss to Washington has either been forgotten or is being used as a reminder to pay attention.

Pac-12 Player of the Year Chiney Ogwumike often takes time to remind herself and teammates, which also include all-Pac-12 selection Amber Orrange and all-freshmen pick Lili Thompson, that playing hard takes care of results.

"Honored to be named Pac-12 POY & DPOY for 2nd year in a row!" Ogwumike tweeted. "I have the best teammates & coaches! Excited for the best month of the year!"

Results are what drive Ogwumike, though it's more about the team winning than her own statistics, which are certainly impressive.

The senior leads the conference in scoring (27.0) and ranks third in the country. Her 12.1 rebounds per game are eighth in the nation, second in the Pac-12, and she is third in the country in field-goal percentage at 62.2. She is the only player in the country to rank in the top 10 in all three categories.

Ogwumike became the Pac-12's all-time leader in rebounds and is within 49 points of tying the all-time scoring record (currently held onto by former Stanford great Candice Wiggins).

Ogwumike, who also has 54 blocked shots, was voted Pac-12 Player of the Week for a record nine times this season. She scored at least 30 points in 13 games and 28 in 16, leading the Cardinal in scoring in all but two games.

"With regard to basketball, my defining moments have not come during my triumphs but rather my struggles," Ogwumike wrote in a blog for ESPNW. "No matter how hard you try to spruce it up, it doesn't matter: Losing sucks."

Orrange averages 10.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds. She also carries an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.1-1.

"Her work ethic is really special," hall of fame coach Tara VanDerveer said. "A lot of it is just keeping her poised and keep playing hard every game."

Thompson averages 7.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game. She started 26 games this year, shooting 42.5 percent on 34 of 80 from long range.

VanDerveer recorded her 900th career victory earlier this season to become the fifth women's basketball coach in NCAA history to reach the milestone. She was also voted (by her fellow coaches) as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the 14th time.

Mikaela Ruef has developed into a potent inside threat, especially on the boards. She averages 9.5 rebounds and 6.9 points. She's also second on the team with 3.1 assists per game.

Eight other players have started at least one game, giving the feeling of depth along the Cardinal bench. Freshman Karlie Samuelson has logged the most minutes, while older sister Bonnie Samuelson, Taylor Greenfield, Erica McCall, Sara James, Kailee Johnson, Alex Green and Briana Roberson have all seen plenty of action.

The sixth-seeded Huskies (17-12) and Stanford, winner of six straight, can only meet in the championship game. Washington must win three games in three days to reach the final contest. Stanford has an extra day off.

Stanford opens play Friday at noon against No. 9 Colorado, which upended No. 8 UCLA, 76-65, on Thursday in the tournament's first game.

The top four seeds likely will advance to the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome in Seattle. USC and Washington will need to win a game or two for stronger consideration.

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