Wiggins Leads Cardinal into NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
March 24, 2008
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - On a night when nearly an entire arena celebrated Candice Wiggins' remarkable college career, she gave them a record-setting performance to cheer about.
Stanford's beloved superstar scored a school-record tying 44 points in her last game at Maples Pavilion on Monday night, leading the second-seeded Cardinal past UTEP 88-54 and into the NCAA tournament's round of 16.
It was the third most points scored in women's tournament history and the most since Sheryl Swoopes had 47 in the 1993 championship game for Texas Tech. Lorri Bauman of Drake has the all-time record of 50, set in 1982 against Maryland.
Wiggins took the ball to the basket from every which way. She hit long 3s and hit the floor. She blocked shots and blocked out. She found her teammates with pretty passes, too. She shot 15-for-27 with six 3-pointers, had 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block - and the place was rockin' with 5,530 fans for her fabulous farewell. Her performance tied Kate Starbird's school record and was the highest scoring tournament game ever by a Stanford player.
If her latest gem wasn't enough to finally put last year's shocking second-round loss to Florida State in the past, a trip to the Spokane Regional should do the trick. Wiggins has her heart set on traveling to Tampa, Fla., for the Final Four before turning her attention to next month's WNBA draft.
First, Stanford (32-3) will play Saturday against sixth-seeded Pittsburgh, a 67-59 winner over No. 3 seed Baylor earlier Monday. The Cardinal have 20 straight victories and need just four more for Wiggins to go out with the national title she has coveted since arriving on The Farm four years ago. The Cardinal haven't won it all since 1992 and are trying to advance to their first Final Four since '97.
Stanford won this one with the kind of unselfish play that has defined this team.
Wiggins' 24-point first half followed a similar performance Jayne Appel - who scored 29 of her career-high 33 points in the opening half of Stanford's first-round rout of Cleveland State. Appel did her part again Monday, getting 20 points on 9-for-9 shooting, five rebounds and six assists. Kayla Pedersen added 11 points and 11 boards.
After Wiggins' 3-pointer with 16:42 to play gave the Cardinal a 51-31 cushion, Wiggins backpedaled while shaking her head as if even she was impressed. UTEP quickly took a timeout, but by then it was too late.
This was Wiggins' night all the way. She topped her previous NCAA-best performance of 34 points from 2006, against Florida State. She sat down to roars with 3:03 left.
The Pac-10's all-time scoring leader ran out to a loud standing ovation during pregame introductions. Before that, she had a loud pregame message of her own for the team.
In a hallway just off the court, Wiggins' teammates surrounded her and heard their leader scream: 'They're not going to give it to us on our home floor! We've got to take it! I see a different looking team than the one that lost in the second round last year! We're going to win this game!'
Izabela Piekarska had 17 points and eight rebounds for NCAA newcomer UTEP (28-4), which had won 24 of its last 25 games. The Miners shot 29 percent and never found a groove on either end against the inspired Cardinal.