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UCLA women can’t keep up with Stanford in 67-53 loss

Based strictly on the margin of defeat, UCLA’s women’s basketball team narrowed the gap with Stanford on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.

Ninth-ranked UCLA’s 67-53 loss to the third-ranked Cardinal was not as bad as the 26-point blowout suffered by the Bruins last month.

But with the Pacific 10 Conference and NCAA tournaments looming in March, Sunday’s result was another reminder that the Bruins have a long way to go before they can join the nation’s elite.

“When you want to play with the big dogs, your big dogs have to show up,” UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell said after watching Stanford pull away in the second half. “That’s what’s separating us.”

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Stanford was without one of its top players, 6-foot-2 forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who suffered a right ankle sprain Friday night against USC. But it only seemed to inspire a Cardinal team that improved to 24-2 overall and 15-0 in the Pac-10 after shaking off any hint of an upset following a first half that ended with the score, 28-28.

Freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike stepped up in place of her older sister and scored a game-high 18 points and took 15 rebounds. Freshman guard Toni Kokenis scored 13 points and had three steals.

“Our babies grew up today,” Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said.

On a day when star guard Jeanette Pohlen made only three of 11 shots, junior Kayla Pedersen (13 points and 11 rebounds) and the freshmen led the way as Stanford extended its winning streak to 18 games.

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Meantime, UCLA (22-3, 12-2 in the Pac 10) must regroup and try to figure out a way to offset the Cardinal’s size.

Stanford only outrebounded the Bruins, 38-37, but the Cardinal got 18 first-half points from close range and held UCLA to only two.

UCLA did not help itself by missing numerous follows and open outside shots, a familiar script for the Bruins against the Cardinal. In January’s 64-38 defeat, UCLA made only 29% of its field-goal attempts. On Sunday, the Bruins made only 31%.

Senior guard Darxia Morris scored 14 points for the Bruins. Junior forward Jasmine Dixon scored 10 points and had 12 rebounds.

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UCLA has four Pac-10 games remaining before the conference tournament. The Bruins figure to meet the Cardinal again, possibly in the finals.

“We have the swagger,” Dixon said. “We just have to display it when it’s game time.”

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein


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