One Year Later: No. 2/2 Stanford, No. 1/1 Connecticut Clash Again At The Final Four
April 1, 2009
Final Four - NCAA Tournament National Semifinal
No. 2/2 Stanford Cardinal (33-4, 17-1 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 1/1 Connecticut Huskies (37-0, 16-0 Big East)
90.1 KZSU & kzsulive.stanford.edu (Jake Kelman - Play-by-Play)
STANFORD, Calif. - For the second year in a row, the Stanford Cardinal will be one of the last four teams standing, as it goes for national title number three at its eighth Final Four this Sunday, April 5, at 6:30 p.m. PT against the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. The meeting will be the second straight between the schools at the Final Four, as Stanford captured last year's national semifinal meeting, 82-73 in Tampa. Sunday's game will be televised on ESPN, with Mike Patrick calling the action, Doris Burke on color and Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe reporting from the sidelines. The contest will be broadcast over the airwaves on Westwood One radio, as well as on 90.1 KZSU, where Jake Kelman will call the action.
Last Time Out
The Cardinal punched its ticket to the eighth Final Four in program history following Monday's 74-53 victory over Iowa State in the Berkeley Regional Final. Jayne Appel was named the MVP of the regional after scoring a school-record 46 points on 19-for-28 shooting and grabbing 16 rebounds. Appel, who averaged 35.5 points and 13.5 rebounds over the weekend, was joined on the All-Regional team by senior Jillian Harmon and sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen.
The Connecticut Huskies (37-0, 16-0 Big East) entered the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed, and have held the top spot in both national polls all season. The Huskies, with Geno Auriemma in his 24th season at the helm, are looking for their sixth national title and first since 2004 at this weekend's Final Four. Connecticut is led on the court by the play of a pair of Wade Trophy finalists in Maya Moore (19.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Renee Montgomery (19.2 ppg, 5.11 apg).
All-Time Against Connecticut
Stanford leads the all-time series against Connecticut, 5-3, and is the last team to have beaten the currently undefeated Huskies. That victory, by an 82-73 score, occurred April 6, 2008, in the national semifinals at the Final Four in Tampa. Stanford is also 2-1 against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament.
In The National Polls
Stanford came in at No. 2 in the final regular-season editions of both the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll.
A Look At The National Stat Leaders
Stanford was ranked in the national top 50 in 10 statistical categories through April 1: rebound margin (+13.6 - first), assists per game (18.9 - second), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.26 - second), scoring margin (+21.4 - second), field-goal percentage (47.4 - second), points per game (76.5 - seventh), field-goal percentage defense (34.8 - 12th), scoring defense (55.1 - 20th), blocked shots per game (4.8 - 29th), fewest turnovers per game (15.0 - 31st) and fewest fouls per game (15.4 - 43rd). Individually, Jayne Appel is in the top 50 of one category: field-goal percentage (61.0 - fifth). Jeanette Pohlen is 26th in the nation with a 1.81 assist-to-turnover ratio and 49th with 2.3 three-pointers per game.
Stanford Rankings In The Pac-10
Stanford leads the Pac-10 in ten statistical categories through April 1: scoring (76.5 ppg), scoring margin (+21.4), field-goal percentage (47.4 percent), field-goal percentage defense (34.8 percent), rebounding (43.9 rpg), rebounding defense (30.3 rpg), rebounding margin (+13.6), blocked shots (4.8 per game), assists per game (18.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.26). Individually, Nnemkadi Ogwumike (63.0 percent) and Jayne Appel (60.6) are 1-2 in field-goal percentage. Appel also leads the conference in blocked shots (1.87 bpg), and is second in scoring (15.9 ppg) and in rebounding (9.2 rpg). Jeanette Pohlen is second in the Pac-10 with 2.2 three-pointers per game and a 1.73 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Stanford In The NCAA Tournament
Stanford is 56-20 all-time in the NCAA Tournament over 23 appearances. The Cardinal's first NCAA Tournament was in 1981-82, when it fell 82-48 to Maryland in opening-round action at College Park, Md. Since then, the Cardinal disappeared from the postseason until 1987-88, which has begun a streak of 23 consecutive appearances in the Big Dance. Over that run, Stanford has captured a pair of national titles (1990, `92), been to the Final Four eight times (1990-92, `95-'97, 2008-09), reached 13 Elite Eights, and 16 Sweet Sixteens. Stanford has also reached the Regional Final five times over the past six seasons.
All-Time Against The Big East In The NCAAs
Sunday's national semifinal game against Connecticut will be the fifth time that Stanford has faced off against a school from the current 16-team Big East in NCAA Tournament action. The Cardinal is 3-1 against the Big East in previous NCAA Tournaments, and Sunday's contest will be the third meeting with Connecticut. Against the Big East schools in the NCAA Tournament, Stanford is 2-1 against Connecticut and 1-0 against Pittsburgh. Two of Stanford's three wins against the Big East in the Dance came last season, with victories over Pittsburgh and Connecticut in the regional semifinal and national semifinal rounds, respectively.
Stanford And Connecticut At The Dance
Sunday's matchup between the nation's top two teams, according to the national polls, will be the fourth meeting of the schools in the NCAA Tournament, and third at the Final Four. Connecticut captured the first of the previous three meetings, scoring an 87-60 victory at the Final Four in Minneapolis on April 1, 1995. The teams next met in the Big Dance at the 2005 regional semifinal in Kansas City, with the Cardinal coming out on top, 76-59. In the most recent meeting, at last year's Final Four in Tampa, Stanford eliminated Connecticut with an 82-73 victory behind Candice Wiggins' 25-points, 13-rebound, five-assist effort.
After averaging 13.5 points and 11.0 rebounds over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, junior center Jayne Appel put it into another gear at last weekend's regional, averaging 35.5 points and 13.5 rebounds over the victories against Ohio State and Iowa State. Against the Cyclones in the regional final, Appel scored a school-record 46 points (on 19-for-28 shooting) in addition to grabbing 16 rebounds en route to being named the Berkeley Regional MVP. The 46 points also marked the fourth-best scoring performance ever in a men's or women's NCAA Tournament contest.
A Rebounding Point?
Sophomore point guard Jeanette Pohlen earned a spot on the Berkeley All-Regional Team after averaging 7.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.00 assists over the weekend. While Pohlen's scoring and passing success was no surprise, it was her two career-high efforts of 10 rebounds in each of the two victories that reinforced her tenacity and all-out style of play as well as helping Stanford win the weekend rebounding battle by a combined 89-40 margin.
Pardon Me, I'll Grab That
Much of Stanford's success this season is owed to its dominant rebounding. Against Iowa State, Stanford broke the previous team single-season rebounding record of 1,609 (set last season), and currently has grabbed 1,624 rebounds on the year. Also set to be a new team single-season record is Stanford's +13.6 rebounding margin.
She Wants To Play Two
Senior guard/forward Jillian Harmon sees the end of her collegiate career on the horizon, and would like nothing more than to end her time on The Farm with a national title. Harmon has done all she can and more to get Stanford to this point, averaging 9.8 points and 3.25 assists per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and primarily on the perimeter.
Who's It Gonna Be Today?
A quick glance at Stanford's overall stats shows four of its five starters with scoring averages in double digits, and the fifth starter (Jillian Harmon) just a shade under that at 9.8 points per game. While giving opposing teams fits in trying to determine who to try and stop, the starting five of Jayne Appel, Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Kayla Pedersen, Harmon and Jeanette Pohlen has combined to score 2,122 of Stanford's 2,829 points (75.0%) and shoot 51.0 percent from the field (821-for-1,610).
While Stanford is ranked second nationally with 19.0 assists per game, that figures represents the selfless team play that has helped lead to the Cardinal's success this season. Four players have passed out at least 90 assists this season, while a fifth, Kayla Pedersen, is at 82. Last weekend in Berkeley, this style of play was evident as Pedersen and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude set new career highs with eight assists against Iowa State, and averaged 6.00 and 5.50 assists, respectively, over the two contests.
Learning And Executing
Freshman Nnemkadi Ogwumike has worked and battled alongside Jayne Appel all season, and that apprenticing has paid off well for Ogwumike, who is averaging 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 66.7 percent during the NCAA Tournament. Playing at the '4' right next to Appel has allowed Ogwumike's impressive athleticism and agility to nicely complement Appel's strength underneath, and has freed Jayne up to be able to get out on the break.
How's She Going To Hurt You?
One of the most versatile players on Stanford's roster, sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen seems to find a different way to put up impressive numbers each night. Her tournament line of 6.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.25 assists per game demonstrates a key contribution to the team's success, but a closer look at each game's box score shows Pedersen's diversified portfolio of talent. Whether it is grabbing nine rebounds in each of the first and second-round games, passing out seven assists against San Diego State then bettering that with eight against Iowa State, or scratching together a line of six points, five rebounds and four assists against Ohio State, Pedersen quietly provides a large portion of the glue to Stanford's overall success.
Winning Going Away
Of Stanford's eight roads to the program's Final Four appearances, this year's marks the second time that the team has won at least three of the first four games by at least 20 points. This year's squad just missed matching the 1996-97 team's feat of winning the first four games by at least 20 points.