STANFORD -- Starting guard Lili Thompson doesn't feel like a freshman after arriving on campus in the summer.
She and her class aren't playing like freshmen, either, as they underscored Saturday in sixth-ranked Stanford's breezy 73-45 victory over Gonzaga in a non-conference game at Maples Pavilion.
Senior All-American Chiney Ogwumike had 19 points and seven rebounds as the Cardinal won its seventh in a row with the kind of contributions coach Tara VanDerveer envisioned with a strong freshman class.
Freshman forward Kailee Johnson of Portland had 11 points and a team-best eight rebounds as Stanford opened a three-game homestand that includes a showdown next Saturday against No. 3 Tennessee.
Finally, freshman Erica McCall of Bakersfield had five points and seven rebounds to help Stanford end the Bulldogs' six-game win streak in front of a crowd of 3,760.
The five-member class of 2018 attended summer school and traveled with the team to Italy in August. It has made the debut much smoother.
"We've been here for a long time," Thompson said.
So far, the Stanford freshmen have room to grow behind standouts Amber Orrange and Ogwumike. Orrange, a junior point guard, scored 10 points Saturday while calmly making all three of her baskets as time expired on the shot clock.
VanDerveer repeatedly has said the Cardinal (8-1) needed plug-and-play freshmen to be successful after the school's consecutive Final Four streak ended at five last season.
The returning players have helped smooth the transition.
"It's not just the coaches pushing us," the 5-foot-7 Thompson said. "The team pushes itself. I've never had that before."
All signs point to a promising season as the players returned from a two-week break Saturday after finishing the fall quarter.
For the first time this season the players are healthy, with senior Sara James back from a leg injury and starting like last season. Also, juniors Taylor Greenfield (foot) and Erica Payne (knee) made their first appearances of the season.
The freshmen have filled the void of their absences. Now VanDerveer and her staff has to figure out a stable of eight or nine players they will use with the Pac-12 Conference season opening in two weeks.
"We're a month away from really knowing what our rotation is," said VanDerveer, who won her 902nd game Saturday.
The coach promised she won't use 15 players "where I call it 'deli basketball' with people going in and out."
Whatever the combo platter, the Cardinal should be vastly different than the team that fell 76-57 to top-ranked Connecticut on Nov. 11.
Despite looking a little rough in the first half, Stanford had no trouble dispatching No. 23 Gonzaga for the sixth time in six all-time meetings. The Cardinal held the Bulldogs (8-2) without a 3-point basket in 14 attempts while also outrebounding the West Coast Conference powerhouse by 10.
The Cardinal also limited leading scorers Haiden Palmer and Lindsay Sherbert -- a Cal transfer -- to a total of seven points. The shutdown defense didn't surprise Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves.
"They try to take away your strengths and most of the time they do," he said. "That's just great coaching and a commitment to what they are trying to do."
VanDerveer, who was honored after the victory for becoming the fifth women's coach in history to win 900 games, likens her team to an orchestra. The piano-playing coach said Ogwumike "is our concertmaster, Amber is on the drums, keeping a beat for us, but everyone is going to have a solo on different nights."
That includes the freshmen, who made music Saturday.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
New Mexico (4-4) at Stanford (8-1), 7 p.m. Pac-12 Networks