Appel answers call for Cardinal

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Things are going so well for second-ranked Stanford these days that even the Cardinal's least favorite place in the world feels like home.

Playing an NCAA tournament regional semifinal Saturday against Ohio State inside the confines of Haas Pavilion, home of hated rival California, Stanford rolled 84-66 for its 19th consecutive victory, a streak that began after a loss to the Golden Bears inside this same building.

Seventeen of those victories, by the way, came by 11 or more points, though the 18-point margin over the Buckeyes busted a streak of five postseason wins by 20 or more points.

Stanford led by only two -- 37-35 -- at halftime, but then junior center Jayne Appel took over, scoring 18 of her game-high 25 points after the break.

"The difference was Jayne in the second half," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We went to her in the second half, and she delivered."

The Buckeyes couldn't stop Appel, and they also couldn't respond on the other end. After shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the first half, they went 9-of-30 (30 percent) in the second, including a miserable 1-of-7 from 3-point range.

Ohio State's star post presence, Jantel Lavender, picked up her fourth foul with 13 minutes left, and that left the Buckeyes almost helpless inside. Players took turns feeding Appel. Four Cardinal players finished with three or more assists.

Still, the Buckeyes made a run. They cut the deficit to four and had possession with five minutes left but turned the ball over. Stanford responded with an 8-2 run, and the lead was again 10 with 2 minutes, 43 seconds remaining.

Game over.

Last year, Stanford rode a 23-game winning streak into the finals against Tennessee. But the Cardinal began this season with a huge void left by the departure of All-Everything guard Candace Wiggins.

It doesn't seem as though they've lost a step.

"It was decided [in the preseason] that we weren't going to be satisfied unless we went back to the Final Four," Appel said.

The Cardinal will play Iowa State on Monday for that opportunity.

Ted Miller covers college sports for ESPN.com. Check out his Pac-10 football blog.