There's always something to use as motivation, and Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer is the master of motivational manipulation.
Coming off what VanDerveer called "our worst night" of the Pac-10 season, a mere 10-point victory over Washington, the third-ranked Cardinal was challenged to respond.
Seniors Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen took the challenge to heart as Stanford turned a two-point lead at halftime into a 78-64 victory over the Women of Troy on Friday night, setting up another showdown with ninth-ranked UCLA.
The Bruins dispatched California and heads into Sunday's high noon, televised contest with only a loss to Stanford marring their otherwise best conference season in school history.
Stanford (14-0, 23-2) extended its conference record with its 51st consecutive win over a Pac-10 opponent. It also gave the Cardinal an automatic berth in the semifinals of next month's Pac-10 tournament.
"We wanted to get the bye in the tournament," Pedersen said. "We wanted it to be a blowout. We focused on the little things."
Much like Washington surprised Stanford in Maples, USC was looking for the same edge. The Huskies woke up the Cardinal, though, and the Women of Troy were left with Plan B.
"We knew it was going to be tougher the second time around," Pedersen said. "Everybody scouts everybody and everybody talks to everybody."
One thing that made it tougher for the Cardinal was the loss of forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who sprained her right ankle early in the second half and left the game after scoring 11 points.
Pohlen scored 19 and Pedersen added 17 to help pick up the slack. Chiney Ogwumike responded with 13 second-half points.
The Cardinal opened the second half with a 12-2 run, but USC got back within five points. It had a chance to get closer after VanDerveer was whistled for a rare technical foul. Two missed free throws meant a missed opportunity and Stanford pulled away.
Stanford coach Mark Marquess has been around long enough to know that luck plays an important part in any successful baseball season.
Scheduling its opening series in Houston now seems like a stroke of genius. While the Bay Area was playing aqueduct, the Cardinal was playing baseball in 70 degree weather.
Better yet, Stanford played winning baseball, beating host Rice, 5-3, Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
The good weather continues through the weekend in Houston, while rain and cold remain in the forecast for Saturday in these parts.
Ben Clowe had three hits and Justin Ringo hit his first career home run for No. 10 Stanford. Menlo School grad Kenny Diekroeger added a pair of hits, including a double.
Surprise starter Mark Appel went 5 2/3 innings before Scott Snodgress took over and earned the win with 3 1/3 innings of relief.
Stanford took a 3-2 lead in the seventh after first baseman J.T. Chargois dropped a groundout to short, allowing the inning to be extended . The error scored Clowe from third, before a double play ball gave Stanford its second lead of the night.
Ringo made it 5-2 in the eighth with a two-run shot down the right field line, making a loser out of reliever Chase McDowell.
Appel gave up two runs on eight hits in his time on the mound. He struck out four of the first seven batters he faced.
In a meeting between two of the teams in the country, seventh-ranked Stanford saw its best start in 11 years end with a 4-3 setback to Florida in the Round of 16 at the ITA National Team Indoors Championships in Seattle Friday.
Duke upset No. 2 USC, 4-3, on Friday, and meets Florida in Saturday's quarterfinal. Meanwhile, Stanford and Pac-10 rival USC square off in a consolation match.
The outcome of the match came down to a third set at No. 1 singles, between two of the nation's top-10 players in No. 7 Bradley Klahn of Stanford and No. 9 Alexandre Lacroix of Florida. After Lacroix won the first set 7-5, Klahn battled back to take the second set 6-4.
Trailing 2-1 in the third set, Lacroix won five of the final six games to claim the decisive set, 6-3.
Florida grabbed a 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point and later went ahead 3-1 following a 6-2, 6-4 victory from Sekou Bangoura over Ryan Thacher on court two.
But Stanford responded, as Greg Hirshman (7-6, 6-0) and Alex Clayton (7-6, 6-4) both notched straight-set wins to knot the match at 3-3 before Lacroix prevailed.
No. 18 Stanford needed extra innings to win one game after a home run shortened another contest.
The Cardinal opened the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic with a six-inning, 18-10 victory over Utah State and a 3-1, eight-inning win over Portland State Friday in Las Vegas.
Sophomore pitcher Teagan Gerhart earned wins in both games, in relief against the Aggies and with a complete game against Portland State. Gerhart (3-1) owns a 0.79 ERA with 26 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Cardinal was led by juniors Sarah Hassman and Ashley Hansen. Hassman went 5-9 with an RBI and five runs scored, while Hansen had four hits, including a double and a home run, and four RBI.
Gerhart and freshman Jaime Millwood also hit home runs for Stanford, Friday. Freshman Danielle Miller recorded a double and three RBI. Millwood's home run ended the game in the sixth.
Gerhart and Maya Burns each drove in a run in the top of the eighth inning to give Stanford the win in the nightcap.
Second-ranked Stanford improved on its best-ever start by beating host Arizona, 195.300-194.675, Friday night.
Sophomore Nicole Dayton and freshman Kristina Vaculik earned their first collegiate victories to highlight Stanford's performance as the Cardinal extended its season-opening winning streak to 14 straight.
However, Stanford's victory was tempered by an ankle injury suffered by fifth-year senior and all-arounder Allyse Ishino during the floor exercise. Ishino rolled her ankle and was unable to finish her routine, and was removed from the balance beam lineup. Coach Kristen Smyth said her staff is waiting on test results to find out the extent of the injury and how long she may be out.
Either way, Ishino, Shelley Alexander and Danielle Ikoma will be honored next week as Stanford celebrates its Senior Day with its final home meet of the season, Sunday, Feb. 27 against Arizona State at Maples Pavilion at 2 p.m.
Top-ranked Stanford opened play at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships Friday with a 4-0 win over No. 19 Arkansas in Charlottesville, VA.
Stanford (6-0) locked up the doubles point with wins on courts one and three, and then cleaned up at the middle spots of its singles lineup.
Freshmen Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs both collected their 18th win of the year before Mallory Burdette clinched the match with a 7-5, 6-2 win at the No. 2 position.
The Cardinal meets Michigan in Saturday's quarterfinal.