Stanford Advances To Sweet 16 With Win Over St. John's
By Michelle Smith
STANFORD, Calif. - Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen walked off the court together, each taking one last look around Maples Pavilion before they headed into the locker room.
Neither of them knows how it feels to lose on their home court in a Stanford uniform and now they never will. The Cardinal seniors closed out a 63-0 career mark at Maples and the Cardinal moved on to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament Monday night with a 75-49 second-round win over No. 9 seed St. John's.
The Cardinal will play No. 5 seed North Carolina in the regional semifinals on Saturday night at Spokane Arena.
But for now, it's time to reflect on an extraordinary accomplishment.
"In those last seconds, I thought about what we've done," Pedersen said. "As I was walking off, I took an extra look around. It was a very special feeling."
On a night when many of the higher seeds played to the final seconds to hold on to their victories, Stanford (31-2) went about it in a more dominant way, building a 38-30 halftime lead with a 24-8 run to close the first half and then adding to it.
Stanford outscored the Red Storm 37-19 in the second half and held them to just eight second-half field goals.
Junior Nneka Ogwumike paced Stanford's offensive surge with her outstanding play in the paint. She finished with 22 points, making 10 of her final 12 shots from the floor.
Pedersen added 14 points and eight rebounds and Chiney Ogwumike, celebrating her 19th birthday, ended up with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said she was "not worried" about Monday night's game.
"I didn't think about (losing)," VanDerveer said. "I knew Jeanette and Kayla wouldn't allow it."
The Cardinal did not get off to a great start, down by eight points early in the first half before Nneka Ogwumike led the comeback with a run of eight straight points. Mikaela Ruef came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer to give Stanford the lead at 27-26 and they never trailed again.
When St. John's tried to lock down Stanford's inside game, the Cardinal went to the perimeter, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half.
Stanford's seniors become the first class since the Chamique Holdsclaw-led class at Tennessee to finish their careers unbeaten at home. Connecticut's senior class may match that feat on Tuesday night.
"We've never had that losing feeling playing at home and I don't know what that would feel like," Pohlen said. "I'm sure it would be awful. And I'm glad I didn't have to experience that."
Stanford makes its fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and will play in Spokane Arena, where Pedersen and Pohlen earned their first Final Four trip as freshmen.
St. John's finished its season at 22-11. The Red Storm was led by Coco Hart with 15 points.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed our season came to an end, but it came to an end against one of the best teams in the country," said St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico. "They are an excellent team. We ran out of gas a bit and they killed us on the inside. Then we tried to take that away and they were able to knock down those threes."