Back Where It Belongs: No. 4/4 Cardinal Takes On No. 1/1 Connecticut In Final Four Action Sunday
April 2, 2008
No. 4/4 Stanford Cardinal (34-3, 16-2 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 1/1 Connecticut Huskies (36-1, 15-1 ACC)
STANFORD, Calif. - It has been 11 years in the waiting, but the Stanford women's basketball team is back in the Final Four for the seventh time in program history. From the snow of Spokane, the Cardinal will head to the warm sunshine of Tampa, Fla. for Sunday's 4 p.m. PT national semifinal matchup against the NCAA Tournament top seed and No. 1/1 Connecticut Huskies. Sunday's contest will be televised live on ESPN, with Mike Patrick on play-by-play, Doris Burke on color, and Holly Rowe handling sideline reporter duties. The contest will also be broadcast on 90.1 KZSU, with Jake Kelman handling play-by-play duties.
Last Time Out For The Cardinal
Stanford punched its ticket to its seventh Final Four this past Monday night with a 98-87 victory over Maryland in the Spokane Regional Final. Candice Wiggins was named the Spokane Region MVP after scoring 41 points in the victory over the Terrapins, while center Jayne Appel (16.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg over two regional contests) and forward Kayla Pedersen (13.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg) were named to the All-Region Team. JJ Hones hit on 9-of-16 shots from the floor Monday night, scoring a career-high 23 points to help lift the Cardinal into the national semifinals.
Final Four Format In Tampa
Four teams will take the court at the St. Pete Times Forum Sunday night, with a berth in Tuesday's national championship game on the line. Stanford and Connecticut will open Sunday's semifinal action on ESPN at 4 p.m. PT, followed by Tennessee-LSU at 6:30 p.m. PT. The winners will face off for the national title Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.
Against The 2008 NCAA Tournament Field
The 2008 NCAA Tournament draw turned up 10 of Stanford's regular-season opponents from this season, including a pair of No. 1 seeds in Connecticut and Tennessee. Stanford posted a 12-1 record against those teams, losing only to Connecticut. The Cardinal are 3-0 against California, 2-0 against Arizona State, and hold single wins over Baylor, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Rutgers, Temple, Tennessee, and Utah.
The Huskies (36-1, 15-1 Big East), the tournament's top overall seed, return to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2004 national title. Connecticut earned its trip to Tampa by defeating Rutgers, 66-56, in the Greensboro Regional Final this past Tuesday. The Big East regular-season and tournament champions, the Huskies will be making their ninth Final Four trip under 23rd-year head coach Geno Auriemma. Connecticut, which overcame season-ending injuries to start guards Mel Thomas and Kalana Greene earlier this season, is currently riding a 15-game winning streak heading into the Final Four, and is led on the court by the play of freshman forward Maya Moore (17.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg), sophomore center Tina Charles (14.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg), and junior guard Renee Montgomery (14.1 ppg, 3.95 apg).
All-Time Against Connecticut
Sunday's contest is the eighth all-time meeting between Stanford and Connecticut, and second this year. Stanford leads the overall series, 4-3, and the teams are 1-1 in NCAA Tournament meetings. Connecticut defeated Stanford, 87-60, at the 1995 Final Four, while the Cardinal collected a 76-59 victory in the 2005 regional semifinal. This year's first meeting came on Nov. 22 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the Huskies captured a 66-54 victory, dealing the Cardinal its first loss of the season.
All-Time Against The Big East
The Cardinal owns an all-time record of 15-5 against the current, 16-team incarnation of the Big East. Stanford is 2-1 this season against the conference, having defeated then-No. 3 Rutgers, 60-58, on Nov. 11, fallen to No. 1 Connecticut, 66-54, in the Paradise Jam on Nov. 22, then defeated Pittsburgh, 72-53, in the Sweet 16 in Spokane, Wash. on March 29. Stanford has only played seven of the current 16 Big East teams.
Back To The Final Four
Monday night's 98-87 victory over Maryland in the Spokane regional final punched Stanford's ticket to its seventh Final Four, and first since 1997. The win also made the Cardinal the first West Coast team to reach the national semifinal since 1997, and snapped the Pac-10's six-year, six-game losing streak in the Elite Eight round.
Final Four-less No Longer
Candice Wiggins, likely to go down as the greatest player in Stanford history, and one of the top college women's basketball players of all time, was taking no chances Monday night, putting her team on her shoulders and scoring 41 points to lead the way in Stanford's 98-87 regional final victory over Maryland. The victory ended three previous years of heartbreak for Wiggins and the Cardinal, and this weekend will mark her first career Final Four appearance.
Stanford's All-Time Performance In The NCAA Tournament
Stanford owns a 51-19 mark in NCAA Tournament play and is making its 21st consecutive appearance, and 22nd overall. One of the NCAA's most dominant postseason programs, the Cardinal has won a pair of national titles (1990 & `92), now appeared in seven Final Fours, 12 Elite Eights, and advanced to the Sweet 16 on 15 occasions. Stanford has reached the Regional Final round four times over the last five years, with last season being the only exception. Last year, the Cardinal, a No. 2 seed, defeated Idaho State by a score of 96-58 before falling, 68-61, to Florida State in the second round.
Stanford's NCAA Tournament Draw
The Cardinal began the NCAA Tournament on its home court for the 14th time in school history, owning a No. 2 seed for the third time in the last four years, and eighth overall. Stanford's road to its seventh Final Four started with victories of 85-47 and 88-54 in the first two rounds over Cleveland State and UTEP, respectively. At the Spokane Regional, the Cardinal reached the Elite Eight with a 72-53 victory over Pittsburgh before out-running and out-gunning top-seeded Maryland to a 98-87 victory that earned Stanford its seventh Final Four bid. As the Spokane Regional champion, the Cardinal will now go on to the Final Four in Tampa to face off with Connecticut, the Greensboro Regional champion, in Sunday's national semifinal.
Stanford Success Continues At Home For The NCAAs
Stanford has compiled a 22-4 overall record in NCAA Tournament games at Maples Pavilion after first- and second-round routs of Cleveland State and UTEP March 22 and 24. All-time, the Cardinal boasts a 301-32 (.904) record at home during VanDerveer's tenure. The Cardinal is 186-12 (.939) all-time against Pac-10 foes at home, and has won 98 of its last 105 games at Maples. Stanford's last loss in Maples was in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 19, 2007 to Florida State.
Ours Go To 11
For those who believe in signs, omens, and are generally superstitious, the prevalence of the number 11 throughout Stanford's memorable 2007-08 season has become a little more than just a coincidence. For starters, Stanford features senior guard Candice Wiggins, who wears No. 11, and has enjoyed a record-breaking year the magnitude of which has not been seen since the end of Kate Starbird's collegiate career in 1997, or, 11 years ago. Coincidentally enough, this season Wiggins broke Starbird's career scoring record, which had stood for 11 years, and matched her single-game scoring record, which likewise had previously stood unequaled for 11 seasons. At the team level, the number 11 becomes significant as well, with the Cardinal defeating Tennessee for the first time in 11 seasons, and, just like 11 years ago, the Cardinal is on its way back to the Final Four, where it has not been in, you guessed it, 11 years. Finally, the margin of victory in the contest that sent Stanford to this year's final score? That's right, 11 points (Stanford 98, Maryland 87).
Stanford Reigns Supreme At Pac-10 Tournament
The Cardinal captured its fifth Pac-10 Tournament title in the last seven years on March 10 with a 56-35 rout of California. Candice Wiggins, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the third time in her career, scored a game-high 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting (including 5-for-11 on three-pointers) in addition to grabbing four rebounds and making three steals. Freshman Kayla Pedersen scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Jayne Appel pulled down 14 boards of her own to help Stanford win the rebounding battle by a 46-38 margin. The Cardinal defense forced 16 California turnovers while holding the Golden Bears to just 35 points, a season-low for Stanford opponents. Stanford won all three of its tournament contests by at least 21 points, defeating Oregon State, 64-41, in the quarterfinals, routing UCLA by a score of 78-45 in the semifinal round, then clamping down on California to capture the tournament crown. Appel and Pedersen were named to the All-Tournament Team as Stanford claimed half of the six honors following the championship game.
Pride Of The Pac-10
Stanford captured its eighth consecutive Pac-10 regular season title, and 17th in the last 22 years, on March 2, the final day of the season. With a 74-52 victory at Washington State, the Cardinal, at 16-2 in Pac-10 play, clinched at least a share of the title, then became outright champions a few hours later when California fell, 74-66, at Washington. During the conference season, the Cardinal opened 2-2 after suffering a weekend sweep at UCLA and USC, but reeled off 14 straight wins to close the slate. Stanford won 11 Pac-10 games by at least 20 points, boasted a scoring margin of 20.3 points, and went 9-0 on the home court.
The Cardinal In The Polls
Stanford remained at No. 4 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Polls that came out on Monday, March 17.
Among The National Stats Leaders
The Cardinal is in the National Top 50 in quite a few categories through the games of March 16, including: scoring margin (+19.2 - fourth), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.31 - fourth), fewest turnovers per game (13.2 - sixth), assists per game (17.18 - 10th), FG percentage defense (35.5% - 13th), blocks per game (171 - 5.18 - 14th), scoring defense (55.2 - 15th), rebounding margin (+6.9 - 15th), FG percentage (45.5% - 16th), scoring offense (74.4 - 18th), and fewest fouls per game (14.6 - 31st). Individually, Jayne Appel's 58.6 FG percentage is 11th in the nation, and her 2.39 blocks per game are tied for 23rd. Candice Wiggins stands 17th with 19.3 points per game.
In The Pac-10 Rankings
Through March 31, Stanford, the only Pac-10 team left in the NCAA Tournament, led the Pac-10 in scoring offense (75.6 ppg), scoring margin (+19.9), FG percentage (45.9%), free-throw percentage (72.5%), assists per game (17.46), blocked shots (187 - 5.05 per game), turnover margin (+3.22), and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.33). The Cardinal sit second in opponents' points per game (55.7 ppg), opponents' FG percentage (35.3%), rebounding (41.4 rpg), and rebounding margin (+7.6). Individually, Candice Wiggins leads the conference in scoring (20.2 ppg), is second in steals (2.16 per game), and was third in free-throw percentage (81.9%). Jayne Appel leads the loop in FG percentage (59.3%) and blocks (84 - 2.27 per game), was second in rebounding (8.9 rpg), and fourth in scoring (15.0 ppg). Kayla Pedersen is third in rebounding (8.4 rpg), sixth in FG percentage (49.9%), and ninth in scoring (12.6 ppg), while JJ Hones leads the Pac-10 with a 2.64 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Stanford Dominates Pac-10 Honors
The Pac-10 announced its season awards March 6, and it was no surprise that Stanford dominated many of the honors. The Cardinal captured three of the four season awards, as Candice Wiggins became the first player to ever win three Pac-10 Player of the Year awards, Kayla Pedersen became Stanford's seventh Pac-10 Freshman of the Year (and fifth in the last nine years), and Tara VanDerveer garnered her ninth Coach of the Year honor. Additionally, Wiggins and sophomore Jayne Appel were named to the All-Pac-10 First Team, Pedersen was named to the third team, and Jillian Harmon and JJ Hones received honorable mention nods. Pedersen also earned a spot on the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team, while fellow rookie Jeanette Pohlen was named honorable mention. Appel, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Harmon, and Wiggins rounded things out by being named Pac-10 All-Defensive Team honorable mention.
34 Wins Ties Program Best
Stanford's 98-87 Spokane Regional Final victory over Maryland marked win number 34 in the school's fourth 30-win season in the last 11 years, and seventh overall. That win ties the program-best total of 34 wins, accomplished in 1996-97, the year of Stanford's last Final Four appearance. The Cardinal posted a 32-3 record in 2001-02 and 2004-05 and reached the regional round.
The Record-Breaking Crusade Of Candice Wiggins
Heading into the final weeks of her collegiate career, senior guard Candice Wiggins continues to establish multiple career records in the Stanford and Pac-10 women's basketball annals. Currently, Wiggins is already the all-time Stanford leader with a career mark of 19.2 points per game, and on Jan. 31, 2008, against USC, she passed Kate Starbird's all-time leading total of 2,215 points to become Stanford's all-time leading scorer. Wiggins' 2,590 career points are also tops on the Pac-10 career scoring list, as she surpassed Lisa Leslie's previous mark of 2,414 points on March 2 at Washington State. Moving beyond the arc, Wiggins hit her 211th and 212th career three-pointers against Connecticut on Nov. 22, becoming Stanford's new all-time leader and breaking the previous record of 210 held by Vanessa Nygaard. Her 286th career three-pointer on March 31 against Maryland broke the Pac-10 career mark of 285 previously held by Arizona's Lisa Griffith (1997-2000). Currently, Wiggins has made 290 threes in her career. Additionally, on Dec. 18 at New Mexico, Wiggins passed Sebnem Kimyacioglu's all-time mark of 549 career three-point attempts, and currently holds the top mark with 743. At the charity stripe, Wiggins is the Stanford all-time leader with her 555 career free throws, having surpassed Val Whiting's previous tally of 481 on Jan. 31 against USC. She also currently sits fourth on the all-time free-throw percentage list with an 82.2% success rate, just over two percentage points behind Kelley Suminski's top mark of 84.3%. Finally, on the defensive end, Wiggins' 277 career steals through March 31 leaves her second on Stanford's all-time list, just three away from tying Sonja Henning's leading tally of 280.
Gladly Trading Snow For Sunshine And Sand
Stanford's trip to the Final Four and its appreciation of the sunny skies of Tampa will only be enhanced considering the road it took to get there. Having to travel far north to Spokane, Wash., the Cardinal endured snow flurries, chilling winds, and frosty temperatures, as well as a pair of game challengers in Pittsburgh and Maryland, in reaching the program's seventh Final Four, in sandy, sunny, tropical Tampa.
Wiggins Wills `Em
Senior guard Candice Wiggins has finally earned the chance to experience the glitz and glamour of the Final Four in her final season at Stanford. Wiggins has let nothing stand in the way of her path to the Final Four, leading the team in tournament play with 28.5 points per game and 13 three-pointers. She is grabbing 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 47.1% from the field. Wiggins also became the first player to record two 40-point efforts in a single NCAA Tournament, scoring 44 in the second round against UTEP, and 41 points in Monday's regional final against Maryland.
Not Content To Stand Around And Watch
Freshman forward Kayla Pedersen, after one of the finest seasons among the freshman class this year, has continued her outstanding play during the grinder known as the NCAA Tournament. Pedersen's maturity and talent have been boons to the Cardinal's Final Four run, as she is the only Stanford player averaging a double-double through the first four rounds with 11.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Pedersen demonstrated another aspect to her versatile bag of tricks, going a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc this past Monday against Maryland.
Banging Her Way To The Top
Center Jayne Appel has continued making her case as one of the top posts in the nation while on the big stage this March. Through the first four rounds, Appel is shooting 63.6% from the field and averaging 21.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while wearing down opposing post players with her physical play. Yet one overlooked improvement Appel has made this postseason is her success at the free-throw line. During the regular season, she shot a respectable 73.3% from the field, but in the tournament, Appel is shooting 84.2% (16-for-19) from the line, a key stat especially considering how many big postseason games tend to come down to making your free throws.
'Point'-ing The Way
Sophomore JJ Hones, playing in her first NCAA Tournament after missing last postseason with a knee injury, has unleashed a two year's worth of anticipation this March, scoring 8.3 points and dishing out 4.25 assists a game heading into the Final Four. Monday against Maryland, Hones turned in a career performance, shooting 9-for-16 (and hitting four three-pointers) on her way to a career-best 23 points, and dishing out four assists. As Stanford's point guard, Hones is emerging among the nation's best, sporting a Pac-10 leading 2.64 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Don't Leave Us Alone
If Stanford's victories in the regional round proved one thing, it is that when an opposing squad pays too much attention to Candice Wiggins, guards Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and JJ Hones will be major factors in that team's undoing. While Pittsburgh keyed on Wiggins, holding her to just 14 points, it provided Gold-Onwude with room to operate, which she took advantage of to the tune of 15 points (on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 on threes) and six rebounds. Monday against Maryland, while the Terps tried their best to contain Wiggins, who scored 41 points despite the attention, Hones broke through with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including nailing four treys.
Stanford's Budding Hollywood Starlet?
Sophomore guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude has impressed with not only her play during the NCAA Tournament, but also with her personality and, in Spokane, her newfound Hollywood connections. While staying at the Davenport Towers Hotel in Spokane, Gold-Onwude and the Stanford team had the chance to meet Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., who was staying at the hotel while shooting a film. With the same fearlessness that has her adding 6.8 points per game, shooting 46.7% (7-for-15) from behind the arc, and inspiring the squad with her hustle and defense during the tournament, Gold-Onwude chatted up Gooding and demonstrated her cool by grabbing a Filet-O-Fish for the celeb, then telling Gooding when he offered to pay her back for the sandwich, 'Don't sweat it Cuba, it's on me.'
Wiggins Reeling In The Postseason Honors
National postseason recognition has already begun finding its way to Candice Wiggins, as the senior guard became Stanford's first four-time Associated Press All-American on Tuesday. Wiggins was named to the AP's All-America First Team, and has already been named to both Sports Illustrated's and ESPN.com's All-America Teams. She is also one of 40 finalists, along with teammate Jayne Appel, for the WBCA's State Farm All-America Team. The senior from San Diego is a finalist for the prestigious Naismith Trophy, given to the top collegiate women's basketball player in the nation, the John R. Wooden Award, and the Wade Trophy, which will all be annoucned this weekend in Tampa.
Closing In On Yet Another Scoring Record
With her 41 points in Monday's win over Maryland, senior guard Candice Wiggins increased her season scoring tally to 748 points, just five behind Kate Starbird's single-season school record of 753. Wiggins recorded her second career 700-point season, and just the third in Stanford history, last Saturday with 14 points against Pittsburgh. The first 700-point season for Wiggins came in her sophomore year of 2005-06, where she scored 740 points (21.8 ppg). Wiggins, already the Stanford and Pac-10 all-time leading scorer, now has 2,590 career points through Monday's contest.
Stanford's offensive fireworks in this year's tournament mark the first time since the 1997 Tournament that the Cardinal had scored at least 80 points in three games. This year marks only the fourth time that Stanford had done this, with the other three occasions being the NCAA Tournaments of 1990, `95, and `97 (four times). Stanford won the national title in 1990, and reached the Final Four, falling in the national semifinals, in `95 and `97.
Perfect At Home
March 24's 88-54 victory over UTEP in the second round of the NCAA Tournament completed Stanford's first undefeated home season since going 11-0 at Maples in 2004-05. That mark had been Stanford's last unblemished record at Maples since posting undefeated home marks in each of the three seasons from 1994-97. Stanford posted a 15-0 at home in 2007-08, and won 13 of those games by at least 20 points. Monday's win gave Stanford an average margin of victory of 28.2 points on its home court this season.
A Link To The Championship Past
First-year assistant coaches Bobbie Kelsey and Kate Paye returned to their Stanford roots prior to this season, as both were freshmen on the Cardinal's 1992 national champion squad. Reuniting with head coach Tara VanDerveer and associate head coach Amy Tucker, Kelsey and Paye bring with them a championship mentality and yet another embodiment of Stanford's pride and championship tradition. The duo's experience and insight has been a major factor in Stanford's 34-3 mark this season.