31-4, 19-0 Home

Cardinal pull away late to move on to Sweet 16

SAN DIEGO -- The post-Candice Wiggins era at Stanford is all about size and strength, which has carried the Cardinal within two wins of a return trip to the Final Four.

Freshman Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated inside with career highs of 27 points and 13 rebounds to lead the No. 2-seeded Cardinal to a 77-49 win over San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday night.

The next road trip for second-ranked Stanford, which has won 18 straight games, will be across San Francisco Bay to Berkeley for a regional semifinal matchup against third-seeded Ohio State on Saturday.

The Cardinal (31-4) are trying to get back to the Final Four after losing the national championship game last year to Tennessee, 64-48. That was the final college game for Wiggins, Stanford's All-American guard.

San Diego State made a game of it for almost eight minutes but simply couldn't overcome Stanford's powerful inside game led by Ogwumike, a 6-foot-2 forward, and 6-4 center Jayne Appel, the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

"Jayne or Neka, either one, we weren't trying to go to one versus the other," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "And I think it's really exciting seeing Neka have a breakout game like this. It was good in a way. She played so poised and she was so effective especially because Jayne was not that effective.

"Neka really stood out and had a fabulous game."

Ogwumike rarely missed Monday night. She was 8-of-10 from the field and 11-of-13 from the line. Her previous career-highs were 19 points against Fresno State on Dec. 13 and 12 rebounds at Tennessee on Dec. 22.

Appel had 12 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 6:42 left. Jillian Harmon scored 12 and Jeanette Pohlen 11 for the Cardinal. Stanford outrebounded SDSU 49-24.

"Stanford is a great team, a great champion," SDSU coach Beth Burns said of the Pac-10 regular-season and tournament champion Cardinal. "They almost seem machinelike at times. They're expressionless and exquisite in their precision, if you will.

"I thought we did as well as we could in a lot of aspects of the game," Burns said. "But we really had no answer for Neka. Usually you are challenged when you can't guard any of their bigs one-on-one. We certainly exposed ourselves and she's such a fabulous athlete. It's remarkable to think she's just a freshman."

No. 10 seed San Diego State (24-8) had been undefeated in 15 games at Cox Arena this season and saw its overall home winning streak of 17 games snapped. The Aztecs (24-8) have never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Jene Morris scored 14 points for the Aztecs and Quenese Davis had 13.

The Aztecs were able to keep up with the Cardinal for about 8 minutes, thanks to Morris and Davis, who each hit a 3-point shot. Davis' two free throws tied the game at 16 with 13:54 left.

After that, it was all Cardinal.

Stanford, which already was establishing its inside game, quickly jumped ahead 24-16, with Appel scoring inside, on a jump hook from the baseline and making two free throws, along with a steal and layup by Harmon.

VanDerveer said SDSU was aggressive and worked hard, "But I thought our size bothered them."

Davis stole the ball and fed Morris for a layup, but Stanford scored the next seven points to take a 31-18 lead. Ogwumike had a three-point play and grabbed the ball after she had a shot block and put it in.

Leading 38-26 at halftime, Stanford blew it open by making the first four baskets of the second half, three by Harmon

SDSU forced 20 turnovers.