No. 13 Stanford Blasts USC 73-44

Box Score

March 5, 2006

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Stanford moved one step closer to another automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Brooke Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds and the 13th-ranked Cardinal advanced to the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament with a 73-44 victory over Southern California on Sunday night.

Krista Rappahahn added 14 points with four 3-pointers and Candice Wiggins - Stanford's sophomore two-time Pac-10 player of the year - had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Cardinal's seventh straight win over USC.

Top-seeded Stanford (23-6) eliminated the Women of Troy in the semifinals for the second straight year and advanced to play Monday night for the tournament title against UCLA, which shocked No. 11 Arizona State 60-59 in Sunday's early game and also beat the Cardinal once during the regular season.

Stanford has reached the tournament final in all five years of the event's existence, winning the past three after losing the inaugural championship game to Arizona State in 2002.

The Cardinal won their fifth straight overall and 10th in 11, beating the Women of Troy for the third time in as many meetings this season. USC (18-11) has lost 24 of 27 to Stanford and hasn't beaten the Cardinal since a 59-56 win on Jan. 25, 2004, in Los Angeles.

The Women of Troy led 37-32 at halftime of last year's semifinal meeting with Stanford in the conference tournament but couldn't hold it.

Smith had 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists by halftime a night after finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and two steals in a 77-50 quarterfinal win over Arizona.

The Cardinal, headed to their 20th straight NCAA tournament, used crisp ball movement to find open shots both inside and on the perimeter to fluster USC's man defense and quickly turned the game into a rout.

Eshaya Murphy reached double digits for the 23rd straight game with 14 points to lead the cold-shooting Women of Troy, but she went 0-for-8 from behind the arc after making a career-high five 3s in a 70-67 win over Washington on Saturday night.

Wiggins scored six straight points during one first-half stretch when Stanford pulled away and Rappahahn hit consecutive second-half 3-pointers for the Cardinal, who will try for their fourth straight conference tournament title after winning a school-record sixth straight Pac-10 regular-season championship.

Stanford made only 11 of its first 32 shots but USC started 5-for-27 and missed 10 of 11 3-pointers in the first half to fall behind 40-19 at the break. The Cardinal had a 36-21 rebounding edge by halftime.

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