Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike, left, finished with 26 points, seven… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
Stanford usually rules the Pac-12 Conference in women's basketball.
UCLA might be getting closer, but Sunday at a Pauley Pavilion filled mostly with enthusiastic fathers and daughters on a day set aside for them, the 15th-ranked Bruins fell to the league-leading and fourth-ranked Cardinal, 68-57.
The Cardinal, 24-2 overall and 13-1 in conference, has lost to only Connecticut and California and is tied with the Golden Bears, who beat USC, 72-64, on Sunday at the Galen Center, atop the Pac-12. UCLA (19-6, 10-4), is in fourth, half a game behind Washington, which plays at Oregon State on Monday.
UCLA Coach Cori Close said after the Bruins' second straight defeat (they lost to Cal on Friday) that she respects Stanford and plans to use that respect for something more.
"They set the bar," Close said. "It's at a place we're trying to rise to. Our team left it all on the court today and I have great hope for the Pac-12 in general going forward."
Stanford, which has two national championships, 25 straight NCAA tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and 21 conference titles under Coach Tara VanDerveer, has set the standard on the West Coast for more than two decades.
"UCLA has an excellent team," VanDerveer said. "It's an [NCAA] tournament team. They are very physical. They are for real."
VanDerveer listed Washington and Colorado as NCAA teams along with Stanford, Cal, Washington and UCLA. "This has become a very competitive league," she said. "We beat each other up."
Maybe they beat each other up, but Stanford and now Cal do most of the beating.
Chiney Ogwumike had 26 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Stanford.
UCLA's Kari Korver had to go to the hospital, probably for stitches, Close said, after she was hit in the nose in the second half.
Redshirt senior forward Alyssia Brewer, who had 10 points and seven rebounds for UCLA, said the Bruins are after what Stanford has achieved. "Sustained excellence," Brewer said. "Excellence every night."
Atonye Nyingifa, a redshirt junior forward from Torrance who led the Bruins with 12 points, said it's just a matter of belief. "You need to take the court and know you can win," she said. "We do that now."
The Bruins are eager for another chance to play Stanford, maybe at the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle next month. "Getting them again would be great," Brewer said.
But next is USC back to back — at the Galen Center on Tuesday and at Pauley Pavilion next Sunday.