AMES, Iowa -- Stanford is halfway home.
With Chiney Ogwumike leading the way, as usual, the Cardinal opened the NCAA women's tournament with an 81-62 victory over gritty South Dakota at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday night. They need another win Monday against Florida State to play in the Sweet 16 on its home court at Maples Pavilion.
"Our team is on a mission coming here," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It's not a secret we want to go back to Stanford and play at Stanford."
Ogwumike scored 23 points to become the Pac-12's career scoring leader, and second-seeded Stanford (30-3) used a couple big runs to pull away from No. 15 South Dakota.
"It was very disappointing for us to not win the Pac-12 tournament. It was disappointing in some respects to not be a 1 seed," VanDerveer said. "But every disappointment is a blessing. We've got to turn that around to something very positive for our team, and I think we have."
Stanford kept all the Coyotes under wraps except Australian guard Nicole Seekamp, who made 9 of 13 shots and finished with 22 points.
"She showed that she's a special player," South Dakota coach Amy Williams said. "She can find ways to be pretty spectacular even against a great team and the length we're really not used to seeing. I think Nicole really showed she can be aggressive. That mid-range jumper she has is pretty tough to defend."
The loss by the Summit League's Coyotes (19-14) dropped No. 15 seeds to 0-82 all-time in first-round games.
South Dakota made 4 of its first 5 shots, forced Stanford into a shot-clock violation and led 13-12 5 1/2 minutes into the game.
Stanford took over from there. Ogwumike hit a go-ahead jumper to start a 19-4 spurt that put the Cardinal up 31-17. A 17-5 run spanning the halves made it 48-27. The Cardinal led by as much as 25.
"It's always great to be up on a big team," Seekamp said. "I guess that shows we can play with bigger teams. We just have to play like that the whole game rather than have setbacks."
Bonnie Samuelson scored 18 points and matched her career high with six 3-pointers for the Cardinal. Lili Thompson added 11 points, and Amber Orrange had 10 points and nine assists.
"We know Chiney is going to get a triple- and double- every game and we need to help relieve that pressure on her by shooting outside," Samuelson said. "I just release the trigger and hope it goes in, and tonight they did."
The Cardinal lost forward Mikaela Ruef with 5 minutes left in the first half after she hit her head during a scrum for a loose ball. VanDerveer said Ruef was held out as a precaution.
Ruef is her team's second-leading rebounder, at 9.5 a game, and had six when she went out. Ogwumike led Stanford with eight rebounds, three of her teammates had at least five, and the Cardinal held a 41-30 edge on the boards.
"When things change, you just have to have people step up," Ogwumike said. "I was proud so many people filled the gap. We got rebounds all up and down the lineup."
Stanford is in the tournament for the 27th straight year and trying to reach the Final Four for the sixth time in seven seasons. South Dakota, which started its transition from Division II to I in 2007, was in the tournament in its second year of eligibility after winning the Summit League tournament.
The Coyotes couldn't overcome the physical mismatches. Stanford outscored the Coyotes 46-14 in the lane and held a 31-13 advantage in bench scoring.
Polly Harrington, who played in the 2011 tournament for Louisville, scored nine points before fouling out with 7:36 left. Coyotes fans chanted "Polly, Polly" as she went to the bench.
Williams liked that her team didn't back down against one of the sport's blue-blood programs.
"I thought it was the Coyote way," Williams said. "I thought our kids scratched and fought for 40 full minutes. I couldn't be more proud."
Ogwumike, the Pac-12 player of the year, passed former Stanford great Candice Wiggins as the conference's all-time scoring leader. Ogwumike now has 2,652 points.
"I have the most unselfish teammates," she said. "They look for me more than they look for themselves. I can't take a group of girls like that for granted."