The Associated Press
STANFORD, Calif. — Tara VanDerveer sent her players home for a short holiday break with a scouting report DVD. Her players sure showed up as if they’d studied the film and then some.
Bring on unbeaten Connecticut.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 23 points and 11 rebounds and No. 9 Stanford pulled off a surprising rout of fourth-ranked Xavier with an 89-52 victory Tuesday for its 51st consecutive home win.
What a tune-up for Thursday’s highly anticipated showdown with top-ranked UConn.
“This was a real important game for our team,” VanDerveer said. “I’m really proud of how everyone prepared. Everyone really knew what we needed them to do and they came out and did it.”
Jeanette Pohlen added 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals, and Kayla Pedersen had 14 points for the Cardinal (8-2), who beat the third-seeded Musketeers in the Sacramento Regional last March when Pohlen drove the length of the floor in 4.4 seconds and scored the game-winning layin as time expired for a 55-53 victory. That win sent Stanford back to its third consecutive Final Four. The play was shown over and over again on the highlight reels.
This game lacked any such drama.
Amber Harris had 18 points and nine rebounds for cold-shooting Xavier (10-2), which lost its second consecutive game after a 10-0 start.
Special Jennings had 12 points and Ta’Shia Phillips grabbed 12 rebounds for the overmatched Musketeers, who were coming off a 46-45 defeat at Duke on Dec. 21 for their first loss of the season. They committed 30 turnovers and shot 38 percent in that game, then didn’t look much better in shooting 30 percent against Stanford.
“They won that game in the first four minutes. They came out with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity and we were kind of on our heels,” Jennings said. “We just didn’t show up today. I don’t know what else to say. We did not play the way we are capable, and the way we are known to play.”
The Cardinal came out with energy on both ends of the floor in their first game since VanDerveer became the sixth women’s coach to get 800 wins with a 100-45 victory against former Stanford stars turned coaches Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding at San Francisco last Wednesday.
Next up: UConn on Thursday night at sold-out Maples Pavilion. It’s a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship won 53-47 by the Huskies after Stanford led 20-12 at halftime.
“It’s coming and we’re very excited,” VanDerveer said. “This is December and I think we’re really making great progress. For us to have played who we’ve played, I feel like we’ve played a brutal schedule. With the exception of USF we’ve had to work really hard, and I think that will pay off for us Thursday and pay off for us in the Pac-10. Our team will be focused. They will be ready. I know they will have a great effort and we will learn more about our team.”
The Cardinal are the last team to beat the Huskies, in the 2008 national semifinals in Tampa, Fla.
UConn was set to play later Tuesday at Pacific in Stockton going for its 90th straight victory in what was expected to be a lopsided warm-up for the game with Stanford.
“Today we came out and we were so focused and we were very aggressive,” Pedersen said. “We’re going to have to be even more aggressive than we were today. Going into halftime we’re going to have to keep the momentum and come out in the second half and be the aggressor.”
Stanford held a 44-41 rebounding advantage against the imposing front line featuring the 6-foot-6 Phillips and 6-foot-5 Harris – who combined for 34 rebounds in the loss to Duke. But Harris, the team’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, wasn’t in the starting lineup Tuesday after sitting out Monday’s practice as a medical precaution after she was hit against Duke and suffered concussion-like symptoms. Harris checked in at the 16:26 mark, started the second half and wound up 6 for 11 from the floor.
Freshman Chiney Ogwumike added 10 points, five rebounds and four steals for Stanford, which committed only eight turnovers while forcing 17. Xavier missed its first 10 field-goal tries before Katie Rutan hit a 3-pointer at the 13:49 mark of the first half. The Musketeers went 2 for 18 from 3-point range in the game and began 5 for 21 to fall behind 37-24 at halftime. Phillips didn’t score her first points until a basket with 7:11 left in the opening half.
Last season’s meeting in the NCAA tournament was the only other matchup between these programs.