Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike's language skills are only exceeded by her ability to play basketball. She's an All-American player and an All-American scholar.
Ogwumike scored 23 points and recorded a team-high eight rebounds to help the sixth-ranked Cardinal open the NCAA women's basketball tournament with an 81-62 victory over South Dakota at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa on Saturday night.
Second-seeded Stanford (30-3) meets dangerous 10th-seeded Florida State in the second round Monday. The Seminoles upset host and seventh-seeded Iowa State, 55-44, in another first round game.
"We're excited about the contributions we got tonight," Ogwumike said. "We're going to let that marinate for 15 minutes and then really delve into Florida State. Crowds can be a factor but we'll very focused on playing Stanford basketball. Everybody, even 'benergy,' bench energy, will be focused on playing their role."
Florida State (21-11) eliminated the Cardinal from the NCAA tournament in Maples Pavilion seven years ago. That turned out to be the last loss before Stanford went on an 82-game home winning streak.
The Cardinal needs a victory to come back and play its regional games at home.
"Our team is on a mission coming here," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It's not a secret we want to go back to Stanford and play at Stanford."
Ogwumike's first points moved her past Candice Wiggins to become the Pac-12's all-time scoring leader.
"It was fun," Ogwumike said. "My family really cherished it. I was glad to have my sisters, mom and dad there. But I have the most unselfish teammates. They live for me more than they live for themselves. Just to be able to play with them is a great experience. I can't take anything for granted playing with such a great group of girls."
Bonnie Samuelson came off the bench to score 18 points, all on 3-pointers, Lili Thompson added 11 and Amber Orrange scored 10, to go with nine assists.
"We know Chiney is going to get a triple- and double-teamed every game and we need to help relieve that pressure on her by hitting our shots from the outside," Samuelson said. "I just try to catch and shoot and hope it goes in, and tonight it did."
Senior Mikaela Ruef left the game just before halftime when she hit her head diving for a loose ball. She did not return.
"Injuries happen and we have to keep going," Ogwumike said. I was proud of the way Taylor (Greenfield) was able to play the four position and Bonnie was stretching people out. When things change, we have to have people step up and people came and filled in that gap."
VanDerveer said Ruef, who averages 9.5 rebounds a game, was held out as a precaution and that she is fine and should be able to play Monday.
South Dakota made four of its first five shots, forced Stanford into a shot-clock violation and led, 13-12, in the early going.
Ogwumike hit a jumper to start a 19-4 spurt that put the Cardinal ahead, 31-17, and that was as close as the Coyotes came.
Stanford outscored South Dakota, 46-14 in the paint, and held a 31-13 advantage in bench scoring, with Samuelson doing most of the damage.