No. 6 Cardinal Claims Pac-10 Title With 62-55 Win Over No. 8 Arizona State

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Candice Wiggins is healthy and headed back to the NCAA tournament.

Wiggins scored 20 points and No. 6 Stanford staved off a late rally to beat eighth-ranked Arizona State 62-55 in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament Monday night, giving the Cardinal an automatic NCAA bid.

Wiggins, coming off a career-high and tournament-record eight 3-pointers in a semifinal win over Southern California, had another big night. She shot 6-for-14 with two 3s and made all six of her free throws in Stanford's ninth straight victory and third in as many tries this season against Arizona State. The two-time Pac-10 player of the year, who missed the final two conference games with a hamstring injury, was named tournament MVP.

Briann January hit two free throws for Arizona State with 1:20 remaining, then stole the ball moments later and was fouled. She made two more free throws at 1:12 that pulled the Sun Devils within 56-53. Wiggins converted two free throws with 48 seconds to play, had a key blocked shot with just under 30 seconds remaining and then a steal that sealed it.

Pac-10 freshman of the year Jayne Appel added 17 points and 15 rebounds for Stanford (28-4) after being held to one point and three boards in nine minutes a night earlier because of foul trouble.

Emily Westerberg scored 12 points and January added 11 for the cold-shooting Sun Devils (28-4), who threatened late after trailing by as many as 19 in the second half but ultimately saw their nine-game winning streak end. Arizona State's only loss this season not to Stanford came to now-No. 4 Tennessee, 83-74 on Nov. 19.

'We knew we were going to claw to the end,' Arizona State's Jill Noe said.

The Cardinal have won seven of the last eight meetings in the rivalry.

Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne, a former Stanford player who played three seasons for Tara VanDerveer, will take her team to an eighth straight postseason appearance - and third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

'We just didn't rebound well enough,' Turner Thorne said. 'Despite our shooting woes, to me it was about the boards. If we could have controlled the boards, we would have won the game, and we didn't. We need to use this game to regroup, get a little bit of rest and get ready for the NCAAs.'

Stanford, headed to its 20th straight NCAA tournament, hosts the first and second rounds at Maples Pavilion on March 17 and 19 and has its sight on reaching the program's first Final Four in 10 years.

Brooke Smith had 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists and Jillian Harmon added 10 points for Stanford.

Kristen Newlin grabbed five rebounds in the opening seven minutes and finished with nine as Stanford held a 45-32 advantage on the boards. The Cardinal, winners of a school-record seven straight Pac-10 regular-season titles, won their fourth conference tournament championship in the event's six-year existence after losing to UCLA last year.

With Arizona State focused on its interior defense, Wiggins caused the Sun Devils problems from everywhere.

'She's a tremendous player and can score in all aspects,' guard Reagan Pariseau said. 'We tried to contain her and came up a bit short.'

Stanford shot 16-for-32 from 3-point range in its first two tournament games but hardly needed to shoot from long range this time, creating plenty of chances in the paint and having no problems with Arizona State's full-court press.

Arizona State's poor shooting - 34 percent - and rebounding struggles kept the Sun Devils from staying in the game.

The Sun Devils used an 8-3 spurt to pull to 20-17 on a jumper by Kate Engelbrecht with 7:06 remaining in the first half, then Stanford answered with a 14-0 run that made it 34-17. Appel scored eight during that span and Wiggins had four. Westerberg hit two free throws with 21.6 left in the half to end a drought of nearly seven minutes.

Arizona State opened the game 8-for-29 and missed its first five 3-pointers while also allowing Stanford to control the boards.

Stanford freshman JJ Hones will undergo surgery Thursday to repair torn ligaments in her left knee sustained early last month against California.

The Cardinal beat the Sun Devils in both previous meetings this season - 77-71 on Dec. 30 and 73-65 in overtime Jan. 27. Wiggins scored 21 and 30 points in those games.

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