Stanford played without last season’s Pac-10 player of the year, Nneka Ogwumike, and the Cardinal struggled a bit in its road game against the Utah women on Friday, but the No. 3-ranked Cardinal beat Utah 62-53 in Salt Lake City.
Stanford (2-0) did not disclose the nature of the injury to Ogwumike, who missed an exhibition game earlier this season with an ankle injury. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer told Associated Press after the game, “She’ll be back.” However, there was no definitive word on whether Ogwumike, a first-team preseason All-American, would play in Sunday’s road game against Gonzaga.
Based on the way the Cardinal struggled against Utah, the Cardinal may need Ogwumike to get past Gonzaga, which is unranked but right on the cusp of a top-25 ranking and has one of the nation’s best players in point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Plus, the Bulldogs are particuarly tough at their home gym in Spokane, Wash., where the crowd gets pretty raucous.
Apparently, Ogwumike’s status was uncertain until nearly game time on Friday.
“We had heard earlier today she might not play, so it was not a total shock,” Jeanette Pohlen told AP. “We responded really well. We all contributed. A lot of people stepped up.”
Sarah Boothe started in Ogwumike’s place, but the Utes stayed close through much of the game. The Cardinal had a one-point lead with 11 minutes left before a basket by Kayla Pedersen increased the margin to three. Stanford continued the lengthen its lead from there, expanding the margin to 15 points with 1:43 left.
In both games this season, the Cardinal did not pull away until late in the second half.
Pohlen led the Cardinal with 19 points, but she had just one assist and five turnovers, giving her 11 turnovers in two games.
Pedersen had 13 points and six assists, and freshman Chiney Ogwumike led the team in rebounding for the second straight game with eight to go along with 13 points.
Michelle Harrison, who played at Stanford last season before graduating and transferring to Utah for graduate school and her final season of basketball eligibility, finished with a team-high 14 points for the Utes (2-1). Players are allowed to transfer and play immediately if they have already graduated from their former college.
Stanford freshmen Sara James and Toni Kokenis combined to play 18 minutes and score one point.
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