No. 4 Stanford won its 80th straight home game in its season-opener against Fresno State on Friday, but the Cardinal’s 82-71 victory was certainly not the blowout Stanford usually gets on its homecourt.
Despite being unranked, the Bulldogs have an outstanding team, with four starters, including their top two scorers, back from a team that went 28-6 last season. And they gave Stanford all it could handle.
Friday’s game was tied five minutes into the second half, at which point Amber Orrange hit a jumper to start a 14-2 Cardinal run that put Stanford safely ahead.
“I would say it’s a gut check,” Chiney Ogwumike told reporters afterward “It’s great to have this game super early, so people know what it’s going to be like.”
Ogwumike had a game worthy of his status as a preseason Associated Press All-American as she collected 23 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots, while playing all 40 minutes. But she did not score during the Cardinal surge that put the game away.
Orrange, Joslyn Tinkle and Toni Kokenis had four points apiece during that seven- minute run that turned a 42-42 tie into a 56-44 lead with about eight minutes to go.
Although Stanford won, it has to be concerned with the fact that Fresno State got 25 offensive rebounds. Inside strength is typically the Cardinal’s strong suit, but there were concerns that Stanford might not be as potent on the interior with the departure of Nneka Ogwumike, and that fear came to fruition in the opener, as evidenced by the rebounding. Stanford was eighth in the country in rebounding margin a year ago, but was outrebounded 44-41 in its first game this season. The fact that Ogwumike played the entire game and Tinkle played 39 minutes indicates the Cardinal’s lack of depth up front.
Fresno State shot just 34.2 percent from the field, yet was able to stay in the game because of its rebounding.
The other concern for Stanford is perimeter shooting, which was the team’s biggest weakness a year ago. The Cardinal hit just 1 of 16 three-point attempts on Friday.
Taylor Greenfield, who started along with Ogwumike, Tinkle, Orrange and Sara James, got the only three-pointer of the game for the Cardinal, which missed all six of its three-point shots in the second half.
Tinkle finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Orrange had 14 points and five assists, but she shot just 6-for-15 from the field and also committed five turnovers.
Kokenis, who missed both exhibition games with an illness, was not in the starting lineup and played just 14 minutes while scoring eight points. It’s probably no coincidence that she was in the game when Stanford made it pivotal run, though.
See the boxscore here.