2014 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals: Stanford pulls away from CU in second half
SEATTLE – Seeking its eighth consecutive Pac-12 Women’s Tournament title, the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal rebounded from poor shooting in the first half to rout the No. 9 seed Colorado Buffaloes, 69-54, in Friday’s quarterfinals at Seattle’s KeyArena.
Not much worked for the Cardinal until Pac-12 Player of the Year Chiney Ogwumike (19 points, 11 rebounds) and freshman guard Lili Thompson (16 points) got it rolling.
Trailing 28-24 just 90 seconds into the second half, Stanford (29-2, 17-1 Pac-12) started playing like the team that only lost two games during the regular season. Running a disciplined motion offense, cuts became sharper and better screens were set. They started knocking down open shots.
Ogwumike sparked a 17-2 run by making a mid-range jumper, then a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions, giving the Cardinal the lead for good.
“It was absolutely not designed, but coach Tara (VanDerveer) always through the year said ‘Chiney, don’t let your shot be an afterthought,’” said Ogwumike after she tied her sister Nnemkadi for first in Pac-12 Tournament history with her seventh career double-double.
“It’s sort of like 'YOLO' a little bit. It’s the end of the year. You only live once… it was fun. If they’re going to take away the inside I have to diversify my game,” Ogwumike said.
[Related video: Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike on quarterfinal win over Colorado]
Thompson, who entered averaging 7.3 points and 2.9 assists per game, followed the next three possessions by going coast-to-coast for a layup, knocking down a pull-up three, then drawing an and one with a smooth runner through the lane.
When forward Bonnie Samuelson knocked in a thee-pointer from the left wing to give Stanford a 41-30 lead with 14:46 remaining, it was pretty much over. The rout was on. The Cardinal outscored Colorado 48-31 and outshot the Buffaloes, 46.7 percent to 38.2 percent, in the second half.
“I thought we lost our focus to start the second half,” said Colorado coach Linda Lappe. “ We talked about that at halftime -- making sure that we were going to put two halves together and play well. You have to play well for 40 minutes to beat Stanford. When you start making mental errors, they really take advantage of that, and you could see that was knocking down some open shots, and a few fouls with times that we just weren't in the right position.”
[Related video: Tara VanDerveer talks about the Cardinal's second-half surge]
But it didn’t click right away for Stanford. The Cardinal began 4-of-16 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range, yet only trailed 10-9 midway through the first half. Thompson finally bucked the team’s shooting woes when she drained a three-pointer from the top of the key while being fouled. She made the free throw to cap a 9-0 run that gave the Cardinal the lead at 13-10.
From there, the teams traded buckets until Colorado guard Brittany Wilson made her third of four threes with 43 seconds left in the first half to give the Buffaloes a 23-21 lead that would stand entering the break.
Through 20 minutes, both teams looked incapable of finding an offensive rhythm. Stanford shot 27.6 percent (8-of-29) while Colorado came in at 24.1 percent (7-of-29). Ogwumike, meanwhile, made just two of six shots and one of four free throws on her way to six first-half points.
For the Buffaloes, who lost 87-77 to Stanford earlier this season, the game didn’t start like most expected. At least not for Brittany Wilson.
The senior shooting guard knocked down two three-pointers from the top of the key to help Colorado build a 7-4 lead before the first television timeout. Colorado’s Lauren Huggins then made a high-arcing three to give the Buffaloes a surprising 10-4 cushion. On the ensuing possession, Ogwumike scored her first bucket with a reverse and one, then made the free throw to bring the score to 10-7 with 13:33 left in the first half.
Colorado post Arielle Roberson added a career-high 17 rebounds and eight points, but it wasn’t enough to upset a Stanford team expected to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think this is the best preparation for the NCAA Tournament,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.
The win advances Stanford to Saturday’s seminfinals, where they’ll face the winner of Arizona State/USC, at 6 p.m. PT in a game televised on the Pac-12 Networks.