No. 4 Stanford Cruises to Fifth Straight Pac-10 Championship
March 10, 2008
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Wow, did Candice Wiggins ever wrap up her Pac-10 career in style.
Wiggins produced her own 13-0 run in the first half and finished her phenomenal conference career with 30 points, leading No. 4 Stanford past rival and eighth-ranked California 56-35 Monday night for the Pac-10 tournament title and an automatic NCAA tournament berth.
The three-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and fan favorite, Wiggins shot 12-for-23 with five 3-pointers, and had three steals and four rebounds. She bounced back splendidly from one of her rare off days on offense a day earlier and was chosen tournament MVP. Top-seeded Stanford won its 18th straight game and will take that momentum into the NCAA tournament on its home floor at Maples Pavilion later this month.
And the Cardinal (30-3) have to be counting on finally being rewarded with a No. 1 seed.
Wiggins had 19 points in the first half on 7-of-12 shooting in just 14 minutes. That's after the senior star shot 6-for-21 and missed all six of her 3-point tries in a semifinal rout of UCLA on Sunday.
When she hit a 3 with 13:40 left Monday, Wiggins jumped and threw her arm in the air in delight. After scoring on a pretty pass from Jayne Appel with 11:07 to go, Wiggins extended her arm to point at her teammate with her tongue hanging out. She made a driving layin and was fouled with 8:52 to go, slapping both hands on the floor in celebration after falling over Alexis Gray-Lawson.
She sat down for good to a standing ovation with 4:17 left and acknowledged the crowd.
Cal's Devanei Hampton, who topped Wiggins as last year's Pac-10 Player of the Year, struggled yet again, going 2-for-15 with only five points. No one scored more than six points for the Golden Bears (26-6) in their first Pac-10 tournament final, and they were outrebounded 46-38. Ashley Walker went 1-for-6 with two points, scoring for the first time with 6:16 left.
Stanford beat its rival for a third straight time this season and now gets to host the first and second rounds on The Farm on March 22 and 24. The Cardinal have made a strong case for the top seed out West.
They would like nothing more than to ride Wiggins all the way to the Final Four.
Confetti sprayed from the corners of the court at HP Pavilion after the final buzzer, a celebration of the success both top-10 programs have had this season. And what a way for this event to leave Northern California: with two Bay Area rivals both headed to the NCAAs. The conference tournament moves to Los Angeles for two years starting in 2009 after six years in San Jose and one in Eugene, Ore.
Still, HP Pavilion was only about half full for the final.
Third-year coach Joanne Boyle turned down Duke last year to stay put and build the Bears program. Her mother, Joan Boyle, sat in the stands holding a blue 'Go Bears' placard, but that wasn't enough for inconsistent Cal to pull off the upset. The Cardinal have the experience, with Stanford reaching the tournament title game in all seven years of the event's existence.
Appel had 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks for Stanford. The sophomore center swatted her tournament-record ninth shot in three games when she blocked Hampton midway through the first half and finished with 12. Appel did a great job defending and fronting Hampton and had already pulled down five rebounds 10 1/2 minutes into the game.
The Bears were 2-for-20 at one point and trailed 36-15 at halftime for their second-lowest first half of the season. Cal fell behind 31-8 on Wiggins' 3 at 4:58.
U.S. soccer World Cup winner Brandi Chastain sat along one baseline and 1996 Olympic gold medalist and former Stanford guard Jennifer Azzi also attended.