COLUMBIA, S.C. — Chiney Ogwumike had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Mikaela Ruef had a tiebreaking basket with 53 seconds left and No. 1 Stanford held on to beat No. 21 South Carolina 53-49 on Wednesday night.
The Cardinal (10-0) came cross-country to face the rising Gamecocks (10-1) and found themselves in a tough matchup. The game was tied at 45-all with 1:14 to go after Aleighsa Welch's foul shot. That's when Ruef drove left and put up a shot that barely caught the rim and fell in for the lead.
South Carolina had a chance to tie on its next possession, but Ieasia Walker made just one of two foul shots. Walker's 3-pointer with 3 seconds left pulled the Gamecocks to 51-49 but that was as close as things got
Tami Kokenis had 15 points for Stanford, including six foul shots in the final minute to keep control.
Amber Orragne scored 11 points and Joslyn Tinkle had seven blocks for Stanford.
Welch had 17 points to lead the Gamecocks, who fell to 0-9 all-time against No. 1 opponents. Not that South Carolina made it easy on the Cardinal, who shot just 40 percent and committed a season high 18 turnovers.
Stanford opened 10-0 for the third time in school history and for the first time since 1991-92.
It was a matchup of coaching friends Tara VanDerveer of Stanford and Dawn Staley of South Carolina. Staley credits VanDerveer with teaching her to be a student of the game when Stanford's coach was leader – and Staley the star point guard – of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
VanDerveer's gotten the better of things since Staley arrived at South Carolina five seasons ago, winning all three previous games including a 76-60 decision in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 last March.
Stanford started its final pre-Pac 12 Conference stretch with a cross-country trek to take on Southeastern Conference opponents in South Carolina and No. 10 Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday.
After that is the Cardinal's showdown with No. 2 Connecticut on Dec. 29 before opening league play.
The Gamecocks didn't make it easy on Stanford. In front of a large, boisterous crowd at Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina's defense dug in against its top-ranked opponent.
Stanford had scoring droughts of four and five minutes in the opening half and committed 11 turnovers, nearly matching their 11.9 average per game this season in the first 20 minutes.
But Stanford kept control because of its height – it featured seven players 6-foot-2 or taller to just two for South Carolina – under the boards. The Cardinal outrebounded South Carolina 26-14 and put up seven blocks, six by Tinkle, in the opening half.
The Gamecocks shot 8 of 33 (24.2 percent) from the field, struggling to get clean looks against among Stanford's sea of long, waving defensive arms.
Ogwumike had a bucket and two foul shots and Orrange a driving layup just before the buzzer to take a 24-19 halftime lead. Still, it was the team's lowest scoring half of the season.