Stanford Tops USC To Advance To Championship Game

March 6, 2005

Final Stats

AP Sports Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Coach Tara VanDerveer wanted Stanford to play withmore energy, and the Cardinal had no choice.

Kelley Suminski scored 17 points, making three key 3-pointers that put herteam ahead for good, and No. 2 Stanford held off a determined SouthernCalifornia squad 73-69 Sunday to advance to the Pac-10 tournament title game.

Candice Wiggins scored nine of her 24 points in the final 6 minutes, andadded 12 rebounds and five assists as the Cardinal survived for their 19thstraight victory despite being outhustled for much of the game and dominated inthe paint. A loss might have cost them a No. 1 seed into the NCAA tournament.

Wiggins made two free throws with 33.6 seconds left, then tossed the ballinto the air after the final buzzer and hugged her teammates.

Stanford (28-2) will try to win its third straight Pac-10 tournament titleMonday night against Arizona State, a 54-47 winner over second-seeded Oregonearlier Sunday.

Eshaya Murphy had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Chloe Kerr scored 14 forsurprising Southern Cal (19-10), the tournament's fourth seed after beingpicked to finish seventh in the Pac-10.

USC led by as many as eight points twice against the Pac-10 champions, whowon their conference games by an average of 24.9 points. Suminski madeback-to-back 3-pointers for Stanford that tied the game at 54 with 10:23remaining, then the Cardinal relied on their seniors to stay composed the restof the way against an inexperienced opponent.

Perhaps it was a tad bit refreshing - not to mention downright nervewracking- for the Cardinal to be challenged for a change. When Kristen Newlin, whofinished with 14 points and eight boards, scored and was fouled 10 minutes intothe game, the players on the Cardinal bench jumped to their feet to celebrate.

And that excitement lasted all game.

Especially after USC freshman Camille LeNoir banked in a 3-pointer from justinside the midcourt line at the halftime buzzer to give USC a 37-32 lead - thefirst time Stanford trailed at the break all season.

The Cardinal's 30.8 percent shooting for the opening 20 minutes was theirworst first half all season and their second worst for any half. They haven'tbeen pushed like this since their last defeat, 62-58 at Oregon on Dec. 29.

LeNoir hit another 3 early in the second half, but limped off with aninjured left ankle moments later. She returned after being taped.

Stanford regained the lead on Susan King Borchardt's 3-pointer with 17:23left that capped a 10-0 run, but USC again had an answer.

Top-seeded Stanford was dissatisfied following its 81-40 victory over rivalCalifornia on Saturday night and had a long list of things it wanted to dobetter in the next round.

The Cardinal had their sloppy moments Saturday, but appeared more focusedfrom the first tip a day later. Wiggins blocked a shot by LeNoir on the game'sfirst possession, but energized USC never let Stanford pull away.

VanDerveer, who coached the 800th game of her career, missed the insidepresence of scrappy senior forward T'Nae Thiel, sidelined until at least thefirst round of the NCAA tournament with a partial fracture in her left foot.

The Cardinal missed 10 of their first 14 shots, and were outshot for thefirst time all season (45.2 percent to 39.1 percent).

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