By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
There's something about the way Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer prepares her women's basketball team after its been knocked around a little bit. There always seems to be a point in the season where VanDerveer gets made as hell and won't take it any more.
The latest example came in the form of a surprisingly lop-sided victory on Tuesday afternoon against a team that many feel will contend for a spot in the Final Four.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 15 of her 23 points in the first half and had 11 rebounds as the ninth-ranked Stanford women's basketball team returned from a miserable road trip to beat visiting Xavier, 89-52, Tuesday afternoon.
"This was an important game for our team. It was a statement game," VanDerveer said. "I am proud of the way we prepared for it. Xavier has already shown they are a top team."
Stanford lost by 20 points at DePaul and fell to host Tennessee in overtime before finally beating USF to give VanDerveer her 800th coaching victory.
Jeanette Pohlen added 19 points, a season-high nine rebounds and six assists. There was no need for any of her last-second heroics in the convincing victory that should settle some of the doubts that surfaced last week.
"I think everybody here understands we could have played better," Pohlen said of last year's game with the Musketeers. "We saw things we needed to fix. Their go-to is the inside game and that's what we focused on first and foremost."
The rematch of last year's regional final at Arco Arena in Sacramento was not as competitive as Stanford handed the fourth-ranked Musketeers (10-2) their second straight setback.
"They beat us in every aspect of the game," Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. "They did a good job of keeping us off the block and doubling the post. We never, at any point, matched their intensity and toughness. We were bad today. We didn't handle adversity very well."
The Cardinal (8-2) faces another strong opponent Thursday when top-ranked Connecticut comes to town with its historic 90-game winning streak intact.
"They do a lot of great things really well," Pohlen said. "We have to defend them and create some mismatches. We want to go out and protect our home court and get the 'W.' We want to show the country what we can do."
Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (on ESPN2) in a rematch of last year's NCAA title game. The Huskies haven't lost since dropping the national semifinal game to Stanford in 2008.
"UConn has a special team, a group of special players and they know how to win," McGuff said. "I don't know that I would bet against them but Stanford plays well at home and this can be a tough environment. It should be entertaining."
"You're going to see, arguably, one of the best college players to ever play the game," she said of Huskies' Maya Moore. "We're making great progress and we'll learn more about our team win or lose."
Kayla Pedersen added 14 points and Chiney Ogwumike had 10 for the Cardinal, which won its 51st consecutive home game.
"We'll need to know our scouting report even better on Thursday," Pedersen said. "We need to be able to quickly assess who goes where in certain situations. We have to keep the momentum."
Stanford took control against Xavier with a 19-6 run to open the second half, taking a 56-30 advantage when Lindy La Rocque hit a 3-pointer with 14:31 remaining to play.
Senior forward Amber Harris did not start for the Musketeers as a result of some concussion-like symptoms she developed after hitting a hit during their loss at Duke. She still finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Xavier went scoreless for over six minutes to start the contest, although the Cardinal didn't exactly pull away after scoring the first seven points.
"As far as I am concerned they won the game in the first four minutes," Xavier guard Special Jennings said. "They came out with a lot of energy and intensity and we were caught on our heels. We just did not show up to play."
Stanford did make a run later, though, and went up, 23-10, with 8:18 left in the first half after Pohlen sank a pair of free throws. The Cardinal eventually led by as many as 15 before settling for a 37-24 edge at the intermission.