Nicole Powell's 37 Points Leads No. 2 Stanford To Championship Game

March 3, 2002

Eugene, Ore. - Nicole Powell is in one of those can't-miss grooves, andStanford is setting itself up as one of the favorites to win the nationalchampionship.

Powell scored 27 of her career-high 37 points in the first half as thesecond-ranked Cardinal advanced to the title game of the Pac-10 tournament witha 71-55 victory over Oregon State on Sunday.

'Nicole was kind of the life jacket, keeping everybody afloat for the wholefirst half,' coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Powell, the conference player of the year as a sophomore this season, didmost of her damage the last 6:47 of the first half. She scored 17 points duringa 21-4 run, and her third 3-pointer in the stretch came at the halftime buzzerto give Stanford a 37-19 lead.

'The first half, I was kind of feeling it,' said Powell, who also had 14rebounds. 'Just hitting some good shots. They were kind of flat when they leftmy hand, but they were going in.'

The Cardinal (30-1) won two national titles and advanced to the Final Fouron four other occasions between 1990 and 1997, but they failed to make it outof the NCAA's second round the past four years.

Stanford has been untouchable this season, however, sweeping all 18regular-season Pac-10 games for the fourth time in school history. They've wonthe first two games of the inaugural conference tournament by a combined 51points.

'Stanford's always been a strong team, and this year it seems like theycan't do anything wrong,' Oregon State center Ericka Cook said. 'I'm amazedat how they're playing. Stanford stands out compared to everyone else.'

The Cardinal will play third-seeded Arizona State, which defeated Oregon64-58, in Monday night's championship game.

Freshman Juleen Smith had 26 points and nine rebounds, both season highs, tolead Oregon State (16-14). All-conference guard Felicia Ragland scored 15points on just 5-of-21 shooting.

The Beavers, who lost all three games to Stanford this season by a total of75 points, shot just 29 percent and were outrebounded by the much biggerCardinal 50-36.

The Beavers had an early 6-3 lead and were within 16-15 when Powell hit a3-pointer to start her flurry.

'I thought we did a decent job in the first 15 minutes, but then NicolePowell got in that unconscious zone she can get in and couldn't miss,' OregonState coach Judy Spoelstra said. 'We had a hard time containing her.'

Stanford let a 23-point lead slip to eight midway through the second half.Smith hit two 3-pointers and two layups, the last one coming off a clean stealby Leilani Estavan, to cut the deficit to 47-39.

The Cardinal slowly rebuilt the lead, however, and Bethany Donaphin scoredthe last four points of a 10-0 run to make it 57-39 with just under sevenminutes to go.

Powell surpassed her previous career high of 36 points - set against USClast month - on a pair of free throws with 1:46 left. She then left the gamewith her team leading 65-46.

No other Stanford player scored in double figures, but Donaphin had 12rebounds, and T'Nae Thiel added 10.

All-league forward Lindsey Yamasaki watched her second straight game fromthe sideline after having her appendix removed last week. She is expected to beback for the start of the NCAA tournament.

By LANDON HALL
AP Sports Writer

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