Stanford's January visit to Tucson snapped Arizona's home winning streak at 34. Arizona's February visit to Palo Alto pushed the Cardinal's Pac-10 home winning streak to 34. The similarities between the two games end right there, however. In their first matchup with the Arizona Wildcats, Stanford had to claw back from a six-point second-half deficit to reach the 78-66 final margin. Thursday night at Maples, Stanford never trailed, led by double digits for the last 32 minutes, and cruised to a convincing 91-74 victory.
The Wildcat team Stanford saw today was not the same team the Cardinal battled a month ago. Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini benched the team's top two scorers, center Shawntinice Polk and guard Dee-Dee Wheeler, for unspecified violations of team rules. Polk sat the first three minutes, Wheeler sat the entire first half, and the Wildcats appeared hapless without their two stars. Even with Wheeler and Polk, Arizona appeared heavily distracted by their off-the-court issues, as their intensity noticeably waned when the game got out-of-hand. The Wildcats played incredibly sloppy ball while the result was still in doubt, committing 25 turnovers and 24 fouls on the night.
Without Wheeler and Polk, Arizona turned the ball over on 10 of their first 13 possessions and Susan King Borchardt scored five in a row to spearhead the Cardinal to a quick 9-2 lead. Polk then checked into the game but, unlike the Tucson contest a month prior, was contained by the Stanford defense in the first half, scoring only six points in the first 20 minutes. The Cardinal shot 54% on the half, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and took a 46-24 lead to the locker-room
The second half saw uncharacteristically poor play from both squads. The Card scored 45 second-half points, many coming off Wildcat turnovers and fouls. However, Tara VanDerveer's squad also allowed an astronomical 50 in the second stanza. By means of comparison, the Card came into the game yielding an average of 55 points – in an entire ballgame. In the Cardinal's defense, Wildcat guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was playing on fresh legs, the result had been decided long ago, and bench players saw lots of playing time. Nonetheless, many of the 50 points came off open, uncontested shots, as the Wildcats shot 64% on the half. On a positive note, nine Cardinal reached double-digit minutes (Borchardt – 32, Candice Wiggins – 30, Kelley Suminski – 28, T'Nae Thiel – 28, Brooke Smith – 22, Sebnem Kimyacioglu – 18, Azella Perryman – 17, Kristen Newlin – 12, Krista Rappahahn - 10) and four (Wiggins – 20, Borchardt – 17, Smith – 13, Perryman - 10) reached double-digit points.
After a day of rest, the #2/#4 Cardinal will face Arizona State in a televised tip, high noon Saturday. Like the Wildcats, the Sun Devils are not only a physical team, but also capable of shooting with great accuracy, hitting 42% on the season. Three double-digit scorers lead the Sun Devils, Emily Westerberg (12 ppg, 5 rpg), Kristen Kovesdy (11.3 ppg, 61.5% FG) and Kylan Loney (10.2 ppg, 35.6% 3PT). Stanford managed to shut down all these threats when they handed the Sun Devils a 68-57 defeat a month earlier in Tempe and the Card will look to do the same at Maples on Saturday, when they will seek their 12th consecutive victory.
The Card will not be at full-strength for Saturday's tilt. Eziamaka Okafor's torn Achilles will sideline her for the season. A broken right hand threatens to end Jessica Elway's season as well. Cissy Pierce's right hand is lacerated, so the freshman guard was inactive for the Arizona game. She's day-to-day going forward.
Daniel Novinson is a freshman at Stanford University. He's broadcasting women's basketball on KZSU - listen along at kzsu.org or 90.1 FM. Daniel welcomes any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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