Stanford Advances to National Championship Game With 82-73 Win Over UConn

April 6, 2008

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The bigger the stage, the better Candice Wiggins performs.

Wiggins continued her electrifying run through the NCAA tournament, scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while getting some timely help from Kayla Pederson and JJ Hones as Stanford shocked Connecticut 82-73 in Sunday night's national semifinals.

Back in the Final Four for the first time in 11 years, the Cardinal (35-3) avenged an early season loss to the Huskies (36-2) and advanced to Tuesday night's title game, where they'll put a 23-game winning streak on the line against Tennessee or LSU.

'This is my last time with this group,' Wiggins said. 'We didn't want the season to end. That's what's driving us.'

Wiggins, the first player to have two 40-point performances in the same NCAA tournament, finished five assists shy of the first triple-double in women's Final Four history.

She didn't shoot particularly well, going 7-for-19, but made two huge 3-pointers to help Stanford pull away for good after UConn trimmed a seven-point halftime deficit to 47-46 and appeared to be taking control.

Down the stretch, the Cardinal's lone senior starter got lots of help from her supporting cast.

Hones hit a deep 3-pointer to put Stanford up 10 with 3:20 to go, then Pederson answered a 3-pointer that drew UConn within 71-66 with a long jumper of her own to send Cardinal fans into celebration mode.

'We ran with them and we ran on them. That's their game,' Stanford's Rosalyn Gold-Onwude said. 'This is amazing. You saw after we got to the Final Four, everybody was crying. This time, we're happy, but we're also very focused.'

Pederson finished with 17 points, and Jayne Appel added 15. Maya Moore led UConn with 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting.

UConn won an earlier meeting in November, but both teams made significant changes during the last four months of the season.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer tinkered with her team's triangle offense following the 12-point loss, which showed the Cardinal exactly what type of team it needed to become if it hoped to be able to keep pace in a rematch.

UConn made adjustments after losing starting guards Mel Thomas and Kalana Greene to season-ending knee injuries that forced the Huskies to rely more heavily on Moore, Montgomery, Tina Charles and Ketia Swanier.

The changes VanDerveer made - basically modifying her offense to revolve around two post players rather than one - increased the production of Wiggins' supporting cast.

'We needed them to miss some shots, and they didn't,' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. 'Every shot they missed in the Virgin Islands, they made today. Every one.'

UConn trailed 40-33 at the half, however that wasn't necessarily a bad omen because the Huskies were 4-0 when trailing at the break before Sunday night. They looked as though they might have another comeback in them when Renee Montgomery hit a 15-foot jumper and Charde Houston followed with a layup to trim Stanford's lead to one.

That's when Wiggins, who had 44 points in a second-round victory over Texas-El Paso and 41 against Maryland in the Spokane regional final, took over.

The 5-foot-11 guard grabbed all 13 of her rebounds on the defensive end and went 8-for-9 from the foul line, including four in the final 1:21 to help put the game away.

UConn, in the Final Four for the first time since winning its fifth national title in 2004, struggled to get the ball to Moore early. The freshman All-American was held to six points in the first half and struggled from beyond the 3-point line trying to get the Huskies back in it.

Moore was 3-of-11 from behind the arc, and Montgomery was 1-for-9 on the way to scoring 15 points. Swanier had 13 points, and Houston added 10 for UConn.

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