Stanford Overwhelms Gonzaga, Advances To Final Four
By Michelle Smith
SPOKANE, Wash. - A loud, hostile crowd wasn't going to deny Stanford a fourth straight trip to the Final Four. Neither was the team all those folks were rooting for - the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Stanford dominated the upstart Zags in the post, hit big shots and led nearly from start to finish, winning the NCAA Spokane Regional Final, 83-60 Monday night at Spokane Arena.
It was a full-circle finish for Stanford's senior class, who won in Spokane to earn their first Final Four trip back in 2008.
"We feel on top of the world right now, going 4-for-4 and Nneka is 3-for-3," said Stanford senior Kayla Pedersen.
"Going to the Final Four every year, it's a dream for people and some people don't even get that close," said senior Jeanette Pohlen. "I'm just really proud of how we stepped up and how people made huge plays in the second half and how we rebounded. We really owned the glass tonight. I'm just really proud of how people stepped up."
Stanford (33-2) heads to Indianapolis to face the winner of Tuesday night's Dallas Regional final between Texas A&M and Baylor. No. 2 seed Notre Dame was the first team to join the Final Four field Monday night, knocking out top-seeded Tennessee.
Monday was another big night for the Ogwumike sisters with Nneka Ogwumike, named the regional's most outstanding player, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman Chiney Ogwumike, who saw her time limited by foul trouble in the first half, ended up with 18 points and 15 rebounds. The Ogwumike sisters out-rebounded Gonzaga 26-25. Stanford's rebounding advantage was 49-25.
Pohlen, who broke the school and Pac-10 records for 3-pointers in a season, hit 5 of them in the game and finished with 17 points, while fellow senior Pedersen finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, putting her six away from the Pac-10 rebounding record that belongs to former teammate Jayne Appel.
Stanford hit 57.4 percent of its shots on the game and made 12 three-pointers.
The Cardinal weathered a hot start by Gonzaga star point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who had 21 points in the first half. Vandersloot finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and two steals, closing her brilliant college career.
But Stanford's zone defense made things more difficult in the second-half for the Bulldogs, who shot 8 of 34 from the field in the second half.
"We just didn't have as many driving lanes and if you're not knocking down shots, you saw the shots we were getting, those were make-able baskets. We just didn't make shots," said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves.
Stanford went from a 47-38 halftime lead straight into a 14-2 run to open the second half and led 61-40 with 13:17 to go.
"They were just better than us, stronger than us and tougher than us today," Vandersloot said.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who was named the Division I coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association on Monday afternoon, said she told her team that one way or another, history was going to be made on Monday night.
"Let's be on the good side of it," VanDerveer said. "I just believed in this team. We worked hard…I just have to wake up tomorrow and pinch myself I'm so happy for this team."