Record-Breaking Romp

Stanford annihilated the visiting Washington Huskies 112-35 and set school and Pac-10 records for largest margin of victory. Were the Cardinal that good? Were the Huskies that bad?

Stanford performed some heavy-duty taxidermy on the Washington Huskies on Thursday night. The Card eviscerated their hapless guests, stuffed them, and mounted them in the Stanford and Pac-10 record books on the bad end of the biggest margin of victory in school and conference history – 77 points. Washington only averages about 60 points per game. When the margin of victory is greater than your average score, it is not your night. Stanford scored the first 14 points of the evening, led by a hot start from RS junior G Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who opened the scoring with consecutive three-pointers. The Card sat comfortably ahead by 28 with about 10 minutes to go in the first half, trotted to the locker room with the scoreboard reading 62-15, and then let the bench carry the load en route to the 112-35 final score. Needless to say, everyone healthy played…a lot. The Stanford bench alone outscored the Huskies by 12. The whole affair was so stunning nobody really knew what to say afterwards. Never has a Pac-10 team been annihilated in a conference game quite like this. Stanford said they had wanted to come out aggressively. They did. The Card said wanted to show the 40-minute intensity and focus they will need in March and April. They did that too. All shell-shocked Washington wanted was to focus on their next game against Cal on Sunday. They can't – not yet. This one needs some heavy digesting, or maybe a stomach pump; it can't have gone down well for the Huskies.

How about some numbers? Stanford's previous record margin of victory was 73 points against Long Beach State in 1993. Number 2 in the record books was a 64-point win over San Diego State in 1990. The biggest previous Stanford win over a Pac-10 opponent, which was also the previous Pac-10 record for largest margin of victory between two Pac-10 teams, was a 58-point blowout of Washington State in December of 2007. A 77-point margin is the Godzilla of monster blowouts, one that like all good monsters probably could devour a major metropolis.

In this monster blowout, Stanford shot 40-70 (57.1%). The Card had their way inside and outside. Six players hit double figures and two others were close. Junior C Jayne Appel (10-12) topped the scoring with 21 points. Sophomore G Jeanette Pohlen had 16 points, senior F Jillian Harmon 14, RS junior G Rosalyn Gold-Onwude 12, freshman F Nnemkadi Ogwumike 10, and freshman C Sarah Boothe 10. The Card hit 14 out of 25 three-point shots (56%). Gold-Onwude was 4-5 from beyond the arc. Freshman G Lindy La Rocque hit 3-4 threes for her 9 points. Pohlen went 3-8 from distance. Freshman G Grace Mashore hit 2 threes in 2 tries, the first of which was both her first career basket at Stanford and the shot that hit the century mark for the Card on the night. The resulting cheer from the crowd was the loudest of the night. Mashore finished with 8 points.

Stanford also dominated on the glass, grabbing 55 boards to 27 for Washington. The Card snared 20 offensive boards on only 30 missed shots. Boothe hauled in 10 rebounds while Appel and Ogwumike had 9 apiece. The Card assisted on 32 of their 40 made baskets with Pohlen contributing 8 assists, Ogwumike 5, Gold-Onwude 4, and La Rocque 4. They swatted 8 shots, led by RS sophomore F Michelle Harrison's 3 blocks and Appel's 2. Harmon, Pohlen, and sophomore G Hannah Donaghe each had 2 steals. Oh yeah, the Cardinal shot free throws well too – they sank 18 of 21. And the Stanford D held the Huskies to 21% shooting for the game and forced 22 turnovers. What didn't the Card do well? Well they had 16 turnovers and a few avoidable fouls. Beyond that, we don't know. Maybe someone had a bad hair day or a wrinkled uniform. A 77-point margin of victory against a Pac-10 team is not to be nitpicked. It is like an artistic masterpiece that must simply be appreciated. The Card sculpted themselves a beauty.

The first player with the chisel had to be Ros Gold-Onwude, who has struggled somewhat this season getting readjusted to playing the point guard position. Her shooting had not really come around before Thursday against Washington, but other aspects of her game have been gradually falling into place. Against Washington, Gold-Onwude opened the game with some mean defense and some controlled yet aggressive play that allowed the offense to flow. All the good team-wide passing she helped produce may have led to her own shooting success. The entire team was in rhythm. No wonder they shot so well. The difference in the passing from the last game at Maples Pavilion against UC-Davis two weeks ago was striking. Gold-Onwude's hot shooting was a great bonus, but if "all" she does is run the point well, play her usual strong defense, and maybe knock down a three-pointer or two on occasion, Stanford benefits immensely. Smart play by Gold-Onwude is especially important with RS sophomore point guard Melanie Murphy, who has been backing up Gold-Onwude, sidelined with a sprained toe. There has been some thought recently about moving Jeanette Pohlen back to the point guard spot. Though Pohlen did an excellent job there against Washington, she can safely concentrate on the "2" if Gold-Onwude keeps up this level of play. Lindy La Rocque is also doing a very credible job at the point in deep relief.

Also once again very evident in this game was how important having Jillian Harmon healthy can be for the Cardinal. Harmon is having some of the best runs of a fine Stanford career this season. The only hiccups have been a couple of injuries that limited her in December. There were several very nice shots by Stanford players to savor from the stands in this game but we were fond of one sweet little fade-away by Harmon; it was just so smooth and confident. Couple her elevated confidence in her shooting with Harmon's versatility as the Stanford perimeter player most likely to drive the lane and wreak some havoc, and you have a motivated senior whose play is a necessary complement to the Card posts and outside shooters.

So how do we judge this demolition? How good (or bad) is Washington, which did have a couple of players injured or just returning from injury. Last week, Washington opened Pac-10 play at home with a solid win over rival Washington State. The Huskies (5-7) have some losses to mediocre teams like Weber State and Northern Colorado and they lost to Connecticut by a score of 109-51, but they did upset Florida State (13-4). CollegeRPI.com currently has the Huskies at #93, which is not good but not 112-to-35-level terrible either. The Sagarin rating system, which takes into account more factors than simple RPI calculations, has Washington at #172, which is comparable to #185 UC-Davis, a team that gave the Card a much better game two weeks ago (if a 35-point blowout can be called "much" better). So let's just say the Huskies are probably a second-tier Pac-10 team right now that had the misfortune to pull into Palo Alto on a night when everything clicked for the Cardinal. We suspect the score differential was more good Card than bad Huskies, though frankly Washington looked as helpless as any team we've seen roll through Maples Pavilion in recent years. But let's see how the Huskies fare against California this weekend before judging too harshly.

In this game, Stanford did basically everything right. They came out breathing fire, played tough defense, shot extremely well, and moved the ball crisply. With the entire available crew at guard playing well the Cardinal looked capable of challenging and beating anyone in the country. They finally put together a complete game and the unfortunate Huskies paid the price. The issues that challenged the Card as they navigated through a daunting schedule (rated #1 in difficulty according to CollegeRPI.com) appear to be improving rapidly now, evidenced by the road effort against Arizona State and now the domination of Washington at home. The decision-making was better. The offensive execution and passing were much better. The aggressiveness and intensity were heightened to levels appropriate for an aspiring title contender. The Card may not have permanently turned a corner - there is a long way to go yet and there will surely be further swings in their level of play - but you might say they have made their way around the bend and are now heading in the right direction at a sprint. Maybe the Huskies did not put up much of a fight, but against Washington the Cardinal showed what kind of team they can be.

For Don Anderson's photo gallery and slideshow from this game, click HERE.


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