STANFORD, Calif. – Chiney Ogwumike insists she thinks about games like this when she goes to bed at night, trying to figure out what Stanford could have done better.
"I would say it's a gut check," she said. "It's great to have this game super early, so people know what it's going to be like."
Ogwumike had 23 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots, and No. 4 Stanford withstood a tough season-opening test from Fresno State for a 72-61 victory Friday night to spoil the debut of new Bulldogs coach Raegan Pebley.
Joslyn Tinkle added 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks as the Cardinal extended their home winning streak at Maples Pavilion to 80 games dating to the start of the 2007-08 season.
Taylor Thompson scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out four assists for Pebley's pesky Bulldogs, who hustled to loose balls and the boards, and switched between aggressive man and zone defenses to keep the Cardinal off balance for much of the game.
Fresno State returning leading scorer Ki-Ki Moore scored 18 points to kick off her second season at Fresno State after transferring from Washington State.
Ta Nitra Byrd scored 14 for Fresno State. She made back-to-back baskets early in the second half to pull her team within 40-39, then Moore knocked down a tying 3-pointer at the 15:02 mark to make it 42 all.
Stanford answered with a 14-2 run, getting four points each from Tinkle, Amber Orrange and Toni Kokenis during the spurt. The Cardinal also switched to a zone during that stretch because "they were just ripping through and driving," coach Tara VanDerveer said.
VanDerveer is still learning how her team will play — and rebound — as she begins her 27th season on The Farm without departed No. 1 overall WNBA pick Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
Little sister Chiney is back as a determined junior leader. She shot 10 of 14 and also had two steals. Tinkle already had 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting, her three blocks, two rebounds and a steal 12:48 into the game. But Stanford went 1 for 16 from 3-point range and was outrebounded 44-41.
Stanford gave up 25 offensive rebounds.
"It was more physicality. We didn't match that inside," VanDerveer said. "Chiney got O-boards but we didn't keep them from getting O-boards. That's attention to detail, boxing out. I think our team will learn from this. We're lucky we didn't lose because of it but we will in the future if we don't correct it."
The Cardinal are picked to capture their 13th straight regular-season conference title after winning the inaugural Pac-12 last season, but they're clearly still a work in progress at this early stage.
While Stanford shot 49.2 percent from the field, the 1-for-16 on 3-pointers stood out as much as the rare rebounding disadvantage for this bunch.
"The good news is we really couldn't shoot any worse," VanDerveer said. "Some games you're not going to shoot well, and we didn't. We have excellent shooters. That's not my worry. Our defense is my biggest concern."
VanDerveer's teams have reached five straight Final Fours and posted five straight undefeated seasons at home. Connecticut comes to town Dec. 29, and could be trying to snap the longest current unbeaten run in the nation if Stanford keeps winning.
"Their adjustment to go zone slowed us down a little bit," Pebley said. "They realized if they were going to win this game they were going to have to change some things defensively."
The defending WAC champion Bulldogs shot 34.2 percent and were impressive on both ends in beginning their first season as a member of the Mountain West — and first under Pebley after she came from a successful nine-year tenure at Utah State in which she turned around the program.
Fresno State, which has made five straight NCAA tournament appearances, faced the first of four Pac-12 opponents this season.
The Bulldogs lost at home to Stanford 93-59 last season, going 13-1 at the Save Mart Center with that only loss coming to the Cardinal. The teams faced off for the fifth straight season and seventh in eight.
At Maples, Hall of Fame coach VanDerveer called for fans to wear orange and black to honor the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, and mascot Lou Seal showed up, too.
Stanford began the game 3 for 12 and missed its initial nine 3-pointers before Taylor Greenfield connected with 2:14 left in the opening half. The Cardinal also struggled to make stops on the defensive end.
"We attacked them very well," Moore said. "Their feet were slower and we played a fast tempo game they couldn't really keep up with."
Thompson's 3 2:33 before halftime pulled Fresno State within 27-25. The Cardinal led 34-29 at the break.
"We went into halftime with some hope, that 'we can beat this team,'" Pebley said. "Whenever you get an opportunity to play a team with such great tradition, on Stanford's home floor, especially on opening night, you're going to embrace that opportunity, not shy away from it. I know they're a team that is having a new identity."
Stanford junior guard Kokenis came off the bench to score eight points for the Cardinal after she started last season and part of her injury-shortened freshman year.
Stanford won its 12th straight season opener.