Cardinal Picks Up Pac-10 Championship

March 11, 2003


AP Sports Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Somehow, a makeshift scouting report on Stanford showed up in the Cardinal locker room before Monday's Pac-10 tournament title game.

'Great shooter,' the report said next to one name. 'Knocks down 3s,' it said by another. Coach Tara VanDerveer left it there, then went to eat.

Her players took the words to heart. Tournament MVP Nicole Powell scored 13 of her 19 points in the first eight minutes as No. 9 Stanford opened up an early lead to defeat 21st-ranked Arizona 59-49 and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

'They hear criticism so much from me, it was nice for them to hear good things being said about them from other people,' VanDerveer said of the mysterious report, author unknown. 'Just a little reminder helped.'

Stanford (26-4) was determined to win Monday after losing to Arizona State in the title game in last season's inaugural conference tournament despite going 18-0 in Pac-10 play.

'I think they were a team on a mission because of a year ago,' Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini said. 'Nicole is a great leader and gives her team a lot of confidence, but she's not their only weapon.'

Dee-Dee Wheeler led No. 3 seed Arizona (22-8) with 13 points. Stanford mixed up its defense to make it difficult for 6-foot-5 freshman of the year Shawntinice Polk to get the ball inside. Polk finished with a season-low five points, 12 below her average, to go with nine rebounds. It was just the second time in 30 games Polk didn't score in double figures. Polk missed two shots from close-range in the final two minutes.

Wheeler was helped off the court with 8:31 left after being injured in a scramble for the ball but later returned. She helped Arizona regain some momentum with her hustle plays and driving lay-ins late in the game.

Arizona had won six straight games, including 79-64 over Stanford on Feb. 27 in Tucson. The streak was the school's longest since winning seven straight two years ago.

Natalie Jones and Julie Brase hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Wildcats within 43-39 with 14:07 left, but Sebnem Kimyaciolgu hit a 3 on the other end as Stanford weathered each Arizona threat.

Nicole Powell goes up for a shot over Arizona's Krista Warren in the first half. Powell was named the tournament MVP for the second straight year.

In the Wildcats' first 23 possessions, Polk had only eight touches, and just four near the basket. And she only got one shot thanks to tough pressure by Trotter.

All-tournament selection Kelley Suminski added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Stanford, which made 13 of its first 22 shots (59 percent) and shot 53.8 percent to take a 35-24 halftime lead.

Suminski's 3 with 3:12 left in the half gave Stanford a 20-point lead, 33-13, but Arizona used an 11-2 run in the final three minutes to get within 11 at halftime.

Stanford moved the ball quickly around the perimeter to find open shots against Arizona's zone defense, which allowed the Cardinal five 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes to fall behind 23-9.

'We showed a lot of youth tonight. From the beginning of the game we were back on our heels because Stanford was hitting some great 3-pointers,' Bonvicini said.

The Wildcats switched to player-to-player defense and started pressing to try to slow down Stanford, but it wasn't successful.

Stanford jumped out to an 11-2 lead but allowed Arizona, the conference's best rebounding team, to get several second-chance opportunities on offense early in the game. Stanford is the second-best rebounding team in the Pac-10.

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