Sun Devils Fall In Pac-10 Tournament Final

March 7, 2005

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Stanford was forced to get defensive in the Pac-10tournament title game. Fortunately, that might be what the Cardinal do best.

Tournament MVP Candice Wiggins had 16 points and seven rebounds, and No. 1Stanford won its 20th straight game and third straight conference championship,beating Arizona State 56-42 Monday night.

Brooke Smith scored 10 points and Susan King Borchardt added nine for theCardinal (29-2), who ascended to the top spot in the AP Top 25 earlier in theday for the first time since December 1996.

But the Pac-10's top two defensive teams played a ugly game worthy of itsbilling. Stanford was held to its lowest point total of the season by theexcited Sun Devils (22-9) - but Arizona State made 18 turnovers and just 31percent of its shots in its lowest-scoring game of the year.

After grinding out its third defense-dominated victory over Arizona Statethis season, coach Tara VanDerveer's squad is headed for the NCAA tournament onits longest winning streak since 2001-02.

Kristen Kovesdy had 10 points and seven rebounds for Arizona State, whichhad its five-game winning streak snapped in a frustrating night filled withmissed layups and wasted offensive rebounds. The Sun Devils still will get anNCAA bid, but missed the chance for their second title-game upset of Stanfordin four seasons.

Arizona State upset Stanford in 2002, but the Cardinal have won the lastthree Pac-10 tournaments in front of their home fans in San Jose.

The second half was rugged, but Wiggins still provided her share ofhighlights while adding another accolade to her incredible freshman year. ThePac-10's player of the year is only scratching the surface of her potential,but she made countless small plays to turn the tide in the second half.

Stanford has won by an average of more than 23 points per game during itsstreak - but one day after surviving a rare test in a 73-69 semifinal victoryover Southern California, Stanford again came out a step slower than normal.

Arizona State beat the Cardinal to most loose balls and got 15 more shotsthan Stanford in the first half - but Stanford has perhaps the best defensiveteam in school history, holding its opponents to school-record lows in pointsand shooting percentage this season.

The Cardinal's defense took control late in the first half, holding ArizonaState to two points in the final 5:56 - though the Sun Devils helped out bymissing two layups.

Arizona State couldn't get closer than six points in the second half - andwith little effective inside play, the Sun Devils got just two free throws allnight.

Wiggins made a layup with 54 seconds left and celebrated with a raised fistas she got back on defense - and then blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound onthe other end, essentially clinching the win.

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