Category archive: Stanford Cardinal

Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike talks about how well the Cardinal rebounded against Gonzaga in Monday's regional final victory over the Bulldogs.

Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen talks about advancing to her fourth consecutive Final Four and how the Cardinal's zone defense helped them against Gonzaga.

Gonzaga's Kayla Standish talks about how the Bulldogs must stop Stanford on the boards, and how their calm demeanor has helped them thus far.

Stanford's Kayla Pedersen talks about the experience factor for her and the Cardinal going into the Elite Eight, but also how the energy from their freshmen has helped.

Gonzaga's Katelan Redmon talks about getting a chance to play for a Final Four berth in her hometown, and what the Bulldogs will have to do to top Stanford.

Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike talks about her excitement in her first NCAA tournament and how she's trying to help Stanford make its fourth consecutive Final Four.

Stanford's Tara VanDerveer talks about the Ogwumike sisters' performance against North Carolina and facing Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen wasn't really sure what was off for her on Saturday, but something definitely was.

"I felt like I was getting really good looks, actually, and screens set for me," Pohlen said after the No. 1 seed Cardinal's close call against North Carolina in the Sweet 16. "The shots I was taking were usually ones where I was open. I didn't have anybody on me. I really don't have an explanation for it. I felt like I was pretty hot in practice and in shootaround."

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Jeanette Pohlen
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonPac-10 player of the year Jeanette Pohlen went 1-for-9 from the field Saturday.

But she was cold in the game, going 1-of-9 and missing all seven of her 3-point attempts in the Cardinal's 72-65 victory over the fifth-seeded Tar Heels. Stanford looked in peril of suffering an upset, but instead survived to face No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the Spokane Regional final.

"I'm going to keep shooting; I'm very confident in my shot," said Pohlen, who was the Pac-10 player of the year and has made 88 3-pointers this season. "I feel like we were running plays for me, so I know my team had confidence in me.

"This was one of those games where we obviously had to fight hard. I felt if we had made some of those 3s, it could have been a better game for us. At the end, though, people stepped up and we took care of the ball, made some big stops. To win the game like that against a very aggressive team that rebounds like that, without shooting the way we normally do, it kind of gives us confidence."

Pohlen finished with six points, four rebounds and three assists Saturday. She and the Cardinal met Courtney Vandersloot and Gonzaga at the beginning of this season, with the Cardinal winning 84-78 on Nov. 21. Vandersloot had 24 points in that game, Pohlen 19.

"I think it may help us that we've played them already, but it's also helped them that they've played us," Pohlen said. "Both teams have some familiarity with each other.

"We have to have a game plan not only for Courtney, but they've got some other great shooters as well. She distributes to people who can really knock down shots."

The Cardinal also will have to beware of putting Vandersloot on the line, as she was 12-of-14 there Saturday in the Bulldogs' 76-69 victory over Louisville.

"That's something that's helped me throughout the NCAA tournament -- getting the flow at the free throw line," Vandersloot said. "So I try to get there early.

"It does help a little that we've played Stanford. A lot of times in the NCAA tournament, you're not familiar with the other team. From the get-go, we hoped we might get the opportunity to play Stanford again."

Stanford's Tara VanDerveer talks about the Ogwumike sisters' performance against North Carolina and facing Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Last season, Stanford's heart-stopping victory on the way to the Women's Final Four came in the Elite Eight. This year, while it wasn't quite as dramatic as Jeanette Pohlen's coast-to-coast winning layup over Xavier, the Cardinal's 72-65 survival against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 was very tense.

This time, Pohlen -- who had an awful night from the field at 1-of-9 -- sewed up the victory with free throws in the closing seconds. But it was the Ogwumike sisters -- Nneka had 19 points; Chiney 16 points and 11 rebounds -- who primarily saved Stanford.

As anyone who has ever faced the Ogwumikes -- in a game, in practice, on a playground -- could tell you, if one sister doesn't get you, the other one probably will.

"Stanford is fortunate to have even just one of them, but with both of them there, they're going to win a lot of games," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "Even when you get a box-out on them, they're still just everywhere. And they can intimidate on defense, too, with how athletic they are."

Senior Kayla Pedersen also did her part, with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and a steal with 25 seconds left that helped the No. 1-seeded Cardinal advance to an Elite Eight matchup with No. 11 Gonzaga on Monday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

While Tennessee did get pushed in the second round against Marquette, Saturday's Stanford-UNC game really was the closest call any of the No. 1 seeds have yet faced in this tournament. It was a two-point game in the final minute, when Chiney Ogwumike made the play of the night for Stanford.

With 40 seconds left and Stanford up just 67-65, Nneka missed a shot inside, but Chiney grabbed the rebound and scored, getting fouled in the process. She missed the free throw, but Stanford still had a four-point lead.

"I always have faith that Chiney is there," Nneka said. "She's very aggressive in every way she can possibly be on the court. I'm just really glad she got that, because it changed the dynamic of the game."

She's right -- even though it was the final minute. With that play, the game went from a feeling of "Wow, Stanford could lose this," to "the Cardinal are in control now."

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Chiney Ogwumike
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonFreshman Chiney Ogwumike tallied 16 points (on 8-for-14 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Both Ogwumike sisters -- who were a combined 15-of-32 from the field -- asserted themselves inside at crunch time.

"I definitely felt like I was shooting 3-pointers from the block because it's hard to get the accuracy down in between everybody's arms," Nneka said of the Tar Heels' swarming defenders. "It's like their arms go forever. Really, it was difficult.

"They were fighting hard, and we couldn't extend the lead. I guess you could say that I felt I needed to do a little extra in the closing minutes. But at the same time, I wasn't trying to do too much -- because sometimes then you get crazy and out of control."

Those are adjectives that are sometimes used to describe the Tar Heels' style of play, but give them credit for this effort. In her final college game, guard Italee Lucas had 22 points to lead UNC (28-9). Fellow senior Jessica Breland didn't fare as well. She had just two points on 1-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds.

Every season, North Carolina is loaded with great athletes. Whether they are all very good basketball players is sometimes another story.

But this year's Tar Heels team grew in its basketball ability as the season went along. It might not have seemed like it when the Tar Heels lost their last four games of the regular season, but it became obvious as they advanced to the ACC tournament title game, which they lost to Duke.

Anyone who saw the things the Tar Heels were capable of doing knew they would not be an easy out in the NCAA tournament. And they weren't. While most folks in North Carolina likely were asleep -- the game started around 11:30 p.m. on the East Coast -- and dreaming of Sunday's Elite Eight men's game between the Tar Heels and Kentucky, the UNC women came close to earning their own regional final berth.

Of course, it has always been like this for the Tar Heels women. Even more than at most schools with a hugely popular and successful men's team, the UNC women are typically lost in that large shadow. Plus, the UNC women fell short in recent years on attempts to win their second NCAA title. The Tar Heels might well have been the best women's team in the country in 2006, and perhaps in 2007, too. But both seasons, they lost in the semifinals of the Final Four to the eventual national champion (Maryland, Tennessee).

Saturday, the Tar Heels did a lot right, but when it came down to the final minute-plus and executing, the Cardinal did that better.

"I was hungry. I wanted it so bad, not just for me, but my teammates," Lucas said. "And we were so close. In the last two-minute stretch, it was in our hands."

In the second semifinal of the night at Spokane Arena, the biggest cheers came when Gonzaga's players took their seats to watch Stanford-UNC following their victory over Louisville. Those folks will be back to cheer for the Bulldogs on Monday against Stanford. The Cardinal won at Gonzaga, 84-78, on Nov. 21, so these teams have familiarity with each other.

By contrast, Stanford and North Carolina had not faced each other since the 1995 NCAA tournament. But those who thought this would be a cruise for the top-seeded team against the No. 5 seed Tar Heels were wrong. Stanford really had to sweat for this one.

After Stanford's big victory over UConn on Dec. 30, the Cardinal didn't face many challenges save a comeback win over UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament title game. That is, until Saturday, when the Tar Heels' rebounding was a big factor, as expected.

"They're a very big team, they're very aggressive," Pedersen said. "They're very scrappy. They rebound really hard. They send four to five people to the offensive boards, and that's tough to deal with."

Indeed, UNC did outrebound the Cardinal 50-47. And the Tar Heels' defense used their quickness and physicality to really disrupt Stanford's offensive flow. The Cardinal entered Saturday averaging 80 points per game, and were shooting 49.4 percent from the field. Against UNC, they shot just 36 percent (27-of-75).

Another key issue for Stanford was the struggle from 3-point range, particularly for Pohlen. As a team, the Cardinal were 4-of-21 from behind the arc, with Pohlen 0-for-7. But she did make the big free throws with 16 seconds left.

And Stanford had only seven turnovers, preventing the Tar Heels from getting many easy baskets.

So Stanford was able to breathe a sigh of relief after this one. Now comes a Gonzaga team that might be seeded 11th, but is playing very well and will have the loud crowd behind them.

But Stanford, after such as scare from the Tar Heels, has to be glad to have the opportunity to face that.

"The matchup is going to be a challenge," Nneka Ogwumike said of meeting the Bulldogs. "They have a lot of fine shooters, and I think it's going to be up to our aggressive defense, taking care of the ball and hitting shots. Because tonight we didn't shoot too well."

Yet when the Cardinal most needed a basket, they got one.

Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike talks about the challenge of rebounding against a team such as North Carolina and about how the Cardinal is playing right now.

North Carolina senior Jessica Breland talks about her strength being back more after sitting out last season, and how well the Tar Heels will need to rebound against No. 1 seed Stanford.

Italee Lucas, a native of Las Vegas, talks about being on the West Coast for the NCAA tournament in her senior season, and how the Tar Heels came back after losing four in a row to end the regular season.

Sixteen teams are perfect in the women's NCAA tournament so far. But in the Women's Tournament Challenge, there are no perfect brackets.

Only one bracket correctly picked the Sweet 16, and that was after going 31-for-32 (the only incorrect game was Marquette over Texas) in the first round.

Two users got each first-round pick correct and then missed just one game in the second round.

The most popular result for the Sweet 16 was a bracket that had 10 of the 16 teams in the regional semifinals correct. Brackets with 26 of 32 teams correct were the most popular result after the first round.

A look at each region:

Spokane

• Just 0.65 percent of entries had Xavier to win the national championship.

• Meanwhile, 66.4 percent of brackets had Louisville meeting Xavier in the second round, but only 13 percent believed Louisville would win the matchup, while 3.3 percent of users have Louisville in the Elite Eight and 0.3 percent have it in the Final Four.

• UCLA, the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Regional, was predicted by 76 percent of brackets to make the Sweet 16, 34.5 percent to make the Elite Eight and 4.5 percent to win its region. Only 9.3 percent of users had Gonzaga making it this far, and only 1.8 percent have the team in the Final Four. While 31.3 percent overall predicted the matchup between Gonzaga and UCLA, 26.7 percent had Gonzaga winning.

• One percent of entries had Louisville and Gonzaga playing against each other in the third round, and 63.1 percent of those predictors had Louisville winning.

• Just 0.5 percent of entries predicted that Stanford, UNC, Louisville and Gonzaga would make the Sweet 16.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Stanford vs. Gonzaga: 2.4 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 83.7 percent of those entries predicting Stanford wins
• Stanford vs. Louisville: 2.6 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 93.1 percent of those entries predicting Stanford wins
• UNC vs. Gonzaga: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 66.6 percent of those entries predicting UNC wins
• UNC vs. Louisville: 0.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 75.5 percent of those entries predicting UNC wins

Philadelphia

• 19.1 percent of entries predicted that UConn, Georgetown, Duke and DePaul would make the Sweet 16 out of this region.

• 98.6 percent of brackets had UConn in the Sweet 16, 96.3 percent in the Elite Eight and 89.6 percent in the Final Four. 51.5 percent of brackets have UConn winning it all.

What does that mean? Not good things for Georgetown: 29 percent had Georgetown advancing to the Sweet 16, but only 0.6 percent have the Hoyas making it any further. 28.7 percent of entries predicted this matchup against UConn, but only 1.5 percent have Georgetown ousting the No. 1 seed. Only 73 brackets predicted Georgetown as national champion.

• 68.6 percent of entries predicted Duke facing off against DePaul in the Sweet 16, and fans stuck with the No. 2 seed at a clip of 76.1 percent. Only 6.5 percent have Duke making the Final Four. DePaul was predicted by 72.2 percent of brackets to make the Sweet 16, 18.6 percent to make the Elite Eight and 1.2 percent to make the Final Four. It is the lowest No. 3 seed in that regard (all the other No. 3 seeds received at least 3.3 percent). But DePaul was the only No. 3 seed to survive.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• UConn vs. Duke: 72.8 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 92.6 percent of those entries predicting UConn wins
• UConn vs. DePaul: 18 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 94.9 percent of those entries predicting UConn wins
• Georgetown vs. Duke: 0.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 73 percent of those entries predicting Duke wins
• Georgetown vs. DePaul: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 65.2 percent of those entries predicting DePaul wins

Dayton

• 23.9 percent of entries had Tennessee, OSU, ND and OU in the Sweet 16.

Oklahoma was the biggest surprise, selected by only 35.8 percent of entries to make the Sweet 16. 87.9 percent of entries had the second-round Oklahoma versus Miami matchup, but only 39.2 percent had Oklahoma with the upset. And 3.7 percent of users predicted Miami to make the Final Four; the upset disrupted 17.5 percent of brackets who had the Hurricanes in the Elite Eight.

• Users predicted that it would be a no-brainer that Tennessee would advance to this point: 96.6 percent of users had Tennessee going at least two rounds. Now, Tennessee faces Ohio State in the Sweet 16, a common matchup selected by 72.4 percent of users. 88.1 percent have Tennessee advancing from that matchup and a total of 86.6 percent of brackets have the Lady Vols in the Elite Eight. 65.7 percent have Tennessee in the Final Four. Ohio State makes the Elite Eight in only 9.7 percent of brackets and the Final Four in 4.3 percent.

• Despite the early-round confidence in Tennessee, it is the least-selected No. 1 seed to make the Final Four (Stanford: 79.5 percent; UConn: 89.6 percent; Baylor: 78.3 percent).

• Only 33.1 percent of entries predicted a Notre Dame-Oklahoma matchup; 76.3 percent of those users have Notre Dame advancing and 70 percent out of all brackets have the Irish in the Elite Eight. 21.9 percent have Notre Dame in the Final Four, the most of any of the No. 2 seeds by a large margin. Oklahoma was predicted to make it to the Elite Eight in only 9.7 percent of brackets, while 2.1 percent believed it could make the Final Four.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Tennessee vs. Notre Dame: 61.9 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 73.1 percent of those entries predicting Tennessee wins
• Tennessee vs. Oklahoma: 8.1 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 81.8 percent of those entries predicting Tennessee wins
• OSU vs. Notre Dame: 6.5 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 63.8 percent of those entries predicting Notre Dame wins
• OSU vs. Oklahoma: 1.1 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 65.3 percent of those entries predicting Ohio State wins

Dallas

• Just 6 percent of entries predicted that Baylor, Green Bay, Georgia and Texas A&M would all make the Sweet 16.

• Michigan State was heavily favored to advance over Green Bay, according to our users, who had MSU in 61.9 percent of brackets and Green Bay in only 34.3 percent of brackets. 4.3 percent of brackets had MSU making the Elite Eight and 2.1 percent had it in the Final Four.

• 33.8 percent of entries had Baylor versus Green Bay in the Sweet 16. Almost all of them, 92 percent, have Baylor advancing to the Elite Eight. Overall, 91.1 percent of the brackets have Baylor in the Elite Eight and 78.3 percent have the Lady Bears in the Final Four. Green Bay is predicted by only 1.8 percent of brackets to make the Final Four.

• 21.6 percent of brackets had No. 6 seed Georgia in the Sweet 16, and 17.3 percent of all brackets had it facing Texas A&M in the next round. 82.7 percent of those predicting the matchup have Texas A&M advancing, but that is no surprise, as 63 percent of all users have A&M in the Elite Eight and 11.6 percent have it in the Final Four. Just 0.5 percent have Georgia in the Final Four.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Baylor vs. Georgia: 4.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 91.7 percent of those entries predicting Baylor wins
• Baylor vs. Texas A&M: 58.7 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 83.9 percent of those entries predicting Baylor wins
• Green Bay vs. Texas A&M: 1.8 percent of entries predicted the matchup, with 56.1 percent of those entries predicting Green Bay wins
• Green Bay vs. Georgia: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 64.4 percent of those entries predicting Green Bay wins

Most popular championship game matchups

• 31.1 percent have UConn versus Stanford in the final, with 70 percent of those entries with UConn winning
• 35.3 percent have UConn versus Baylor in the finals, with 66.9 percent of those entries with UConn winning

Least popular

• Two entries had Georgetown facing off against Gonzaga in the final
• Five entries had Oklahoma facing off against Gonzaga in the final

Stanford successfully protected Maples Pavilion for the 63rd time in a row Monday. Next, the Cardinal's objective will be to protect the glass and their style of play.

That's because No. 5 seed North Carolina will try to get the Cardinal into an up-and-down battle of possessions in their Spokane Regional semifinal on Saturday. It's not that Stanford can't win that way, but the Cardinal would prefer to do it with a more disciplined and controlling offense. Also, the Tar Heels hit the boards hard from all positions, and Stanford will have to counter that.

Spokane Regional No. 1 seed Stanford got off to a bit of a slow start against St. John's in Monday's second round, but then floored it. Stanford left the Red Storm in a cloud of dust, surging to a 75-49 victory behind Nneka Ogwumike's 22 points.

Kayla Pedersen & Jeanette Pohlen AP Photo/Paul SakumaKayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen never lost at Maples Pavilion in their careers. Stanford has won 63 straight there.

Meanwhile in Albuquerque, N.M., the Tar Heels committed 22 turnovers to No. 4 seed Kentucky's eight, but were the far more successful attacking team. North Carolina was 27 of 30 from the foul line in an 86-74 victory.

The Tar Heels have been a little all over the map in the last month, losing four in a row to end the regular season, then making the ACC tournament title game where they fell to rival Duke, and now advancing to the Sweet 16.

Senior Jessica Breland had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Heels, who also got 22 points and seven rebounds from guard Italee Lucas.

If there's one thing that's usually consistent with North Carolina, it's how relentlessly the Tar Heels rebound. Monday, they walloped Kentucky on the boards, 52-23. Along with Breland, two other Tar Heels snagged 10 rebounds against the Wildcats: guards Krista Gross and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.

That will be a concern for Stanford, but coach Tara VanDerveer's team has the personnel to be big on the glass, too. Freshman Chiney Ogwumike led Stanford with 12 rebounds against St. John's.

Kayla Pedersen and Chiney Ogwumike average 7.8 rebounds this season, while Nneka Ogwumike is at 7.7. Against North Carolina, the Cardinal might also need some help on the boards from Joslyn Tinkle, who had seven rebounds off the bench Monday.

The last time Stanford's women lost a game at Maples Pavilion was in the 2007 NCAA tournament. The Cardinal were host for early-round games then, but that advantage didn't help Stanford in a second-round matchup with Florida State.

The Seminoles won that game, but disappointed as Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer was, she knew she had a couple of very good recruits coming in the next season. Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen have been all she expected and more.

The Cardinal senior duo is trying to take Stanford to its fourth consecutive Final Four appearance, and started that 2011 journey Saturday with an 86-59 victory over UC Davis.

It was the 62nd consecutive win at Maples for the Cardinal, the No. 1 seed in the Spokane Regional. Pedersen and Pohlen can close out their Stanford careers without a loss at home if they can defeat No. 9 St. John's in Monday's second round.

Pedersen and Pohlen each scored 11 points, and they combined for 15 assists against UC Davis. Leading the way for Stanford was junior Nneka Ogwumike with 22 points, and freshman Chiney Ogwumike had 10 points.

Stanford has quite a legacy of superstars from various eras. Where Pedersen and Pohlen eventually are placed on that pantheon likely will depend on whether they can help the Cardinal win the program's third NCAA title, but first since 1992.

Two other players who could be very important in that quest are junior starter Lindy La Rocque, who had 14 points, and freshman Toni Kokenis, who scored 11 off the bench Saturday. Those two combined for seven 3-pointers, part of Stanford's 13-of-22 barrage from behind the arc.

Kokenis had a season-best 17 points a week ago in Stanford's victory over UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament final. She made two 3s in that game and seems to be finding her range at the right time for the Cardinal.

Pedersen and Pohlen will be glad for all the help they can get.

Conference tournaments are wrapped up and all 31 automatic NCAA tournament berths are spoken for. So what can we expect on Selection Monday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)? Charlie Creme crunched the numbers for his final Bracketology. Here, he gives us the top eight teams in order, tells us why UCLA got a No. 2 seed over Notre Dame, and explains why three teams on the bubble didn't make the cut in his last projection.

Monday's top-25 results -- Duke's loss to North Carolina and Tennessee's victory over Kentucky -- helped make the picture pretty clear as to which teams would be No. 1 seeds if the bracket were released today. But the top seeds aren't drawing the biggest debate in Bracketology lately. A lot of eyes are on the Big 12, which is looking at just four tournament-worthy teams right now.

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