When the Stanford women's basketball team needed to respond to a bit of adversity, it was no surprise when Nnemkadi Ogwumike ended up with the ball.
Ogwumike scored 19 points and had 15 rebounds as the fourth-ranked Cardinal overcame a struggle with host USC to open the Pac-12 season with a 61-53 victory Thursday night.
Chiney Ogwumike added 12 points and 13 rebounds for Stanford (1-0, 10-1), which plays at UCLA on Saturday at 2 p.m. Toni Kokenis added 15 points and three steals.
The Women of Troy grabbed the momentum and got the home crowd excited when they took a 44-43 edge with 10:28 remaining to play in the contest.
"We knew USC was going to give us a really tough game," Kokenis said. "They made it difficult for us to score. We kept fighting and got some loose balls. We got some key stops defensively that really helped us in the end."
Nneka Ogwumike helped quiet the crowd by scoring five unanswered points in giving Stanford the lead for good. The outcome remained in doubt but when Ogwumike was on the court, the Cardinal felt in control.
USC missed six straight shots and turned the ball over three times during a 6:13 span that gave the Cardinal a 10-point edge after an 11-0 run, in which Ogwumike scored seven of them.
The Women of Troy, though, recovered from a double-digit deficit twice before the final buzzer sounded and Stanford was able to breathe easier.
The game was a sober reminder for the Cardinal that there is no taking it easy during conference play.
"We had to win ugly," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I was really proud how our team battled when we were missing shots that we ordinarily make."
Stanford won despite shooting less than 38 percent from the field and making under 60 percent of its free throws.
"It says here I made seven. I felt like I missed 60," Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. "It's all about that extra work in practice and being focused, that's a huge thing."
Stanford came into its league opener with wins over ranked Tennessee and Texas. The Cardinal rolled through conference play undefeated last season on their way to a Final Four appearance.
USC made the Cardinal work for the win as it was a three-point game for much of the second half. USC took its only lead of the half on a 3-pointer by Ariya Crook.
"They defended well," Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. "They made it difficult for us to execute our offense."
Stanford struggled with turnovers and at the free throw line, making just 8 of 16 in the half.
"The sisters came down and took it to another level," Corral said.