It’s been too easy for too long for Stanford.
Blowout win after blowout win. Absolute, utter domination on the home floor. Pac-10 teams barely putting up a fight.
But on Saturday at Maples Pavilion, Washington did that. They did more. They pushed Stanford, made the Cardinal sweat, made the starters play the whole game, made them wonder a little whether they might come out with another win.
And that, said coach Tara VanDerveer, is both a valuable and beneficial experience for her team.
“Sometimes you need a little bit of a wakeup call,” VanDerveer said Saturday following Stanford’s 62-52 win over the Huskies at Maples Pavilion.
It was the narrowest margin Stanford has experienced in Pac-10 play this season, the narrowest margin at Maples Pavilion since a 70-67 win over Arizona in March of 2009.
Let’s run through the streaks.
16 straight wins
50 straight wins over Pac-10 opponents
58 straight home wins
But third-ranked Stanford (22-2, 13-0) was far from at its best this day. Perimeter offense was practically non-existent (1-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc).
Two of the team’s “big three” struggled. Jeanette Pohlen and Kayla Pedersen were 0-for-14 from beyond the arc. The Cardinal shot 24 percent in the first half, finished with six field goals. Stanford finished shooting 36.5 percent for the game.
Washington (10-12, 5-8) was in the game until the final minutes, within two points with less than seven minutes to go. Kristi Kingma scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half, hitting 5 3-pointers that kept Washington in the game.
The Cardinal won because they dominated the offensive boards, because the Ogwumike sisters are glass cleaners, because while the Cardinal were far from perfect from the free-throw line (23 of 33), they were good enough given ample opportunity.
Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds. Chiney’s 21 points was a career-best. The sisters were responsible for 14 of Stanford’s 19 field-goals, 15 of Stanford’s 23 free throws.
The Cardinal head to Los Angeles in a few days for what looks to be the toughest weekend of the conference season, a Friday game against USC and Sunday’s showdown with second place UCLA.
Perfect timing, says VanDerveer.
“This helps us a lot more,” VanDerveer said. “This will get people’s attention…I couldn’t ask for a better situation for us to go to Los Angeles.”