By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Chiney Ogwumike continues to show why she just may be the best women's basketball player in the country this year.
Sara James continues to make contributions, earning a spot in the starting lineup after another impressive effort.
Stanford continues to gravitate toward success, displaying all the attributes of a championship team despite two humiliating losses.
Ogwumike took over the game in the final three minutes. That's just about the time USC made its final run and quickly closing the gap to within five points.
The Pac-12's leading scorer and second-best rebounder made sure the sixth-ranked Cardinal came away victorious Sunday, 75-66, over visiting USC in Maples Pavilion.
Stanford (5-1, 16-2) once again has a share of first place in the conference standings with Cal.
Ogwumike scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in the final three minutes, personally halting the Women of Troy's advance. Overall she scored 29 points and had 16 rebounds.
"Chiney is an All-American and she played like one," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Held to six points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Ogwumike bolted out in the second half, making 9-of-12 shots to insure Stanford's survival.
USC pulled to within 66-61 with 2:42 remaining to play.
"We missed a lot of layups and free throws," VanDerveer said. "And their quick guards took us off the dribble. We also turned the ball over and that gave them the ball."
Once the Cardinal began getting Ogwumike the ball again, the team relaxed and re-established itself.
"My teammates did a great job of finding me," Ogwumike said. "We also had better ball movement and got it inside."
Joslyn Tinkle added 15 points, including a 3-of-3 effort from long range, while James and Amber Orrange each added 13 for the Cardinal, which has won five of six overall.
"Since day one when I got here, Sara James is the most competitive person I've played with or against at Stanford," Ogwumike said. "She values her time on the court and goes extremely hard. She does not have a soft bone in her body. She's aggressive everywhere."
Which is good, considering the 5-foot-10 junior was up against a front line that included players standing 6-4, 6-2 and 6-1.
"I like battling big people," James said. "It's just a matter of will and I think I can win every time."
VanDerveer also likes what she sees from James.
"Sometimes the big lineup is not what I like," she said. "We can't run the floor. Sara runs the floor. She's worked her way into the starting lineup and she's going to expand her role and play more at the two."
Stanford opened a 19-point edge in the first four minutes of the second half and then watched a fierce Trojans' rally.
"After one timeout we went back to a triangle, where we're more comfortable," said Ogwumike, who was two points and three rebounds shy of matching her career highs. "I had turned the ball over, which is not good when a team is making a run at you. We already have one loss in the conference. We're not trying to get another."
The Cardinal hosts Utah on Friday at 7 p.m. and Colorado on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Buffaloes are one of four teams tied for third place, with USC, UCLA and Washington. The conference race is far from decided.