Stanford pulls away, keeps Final Four berth alive
SPOKANE, Wash. — When Stanford needed its sister act the most, Chiney and Nnemkadi Ogwumike came through with exactly what the Cardinal needed.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike and her freshman sister, Chiney, scored 12 of Stanford's final 15 points and the top-seeded Cardinal held on in the final minute for a 72-65 win over No. 5 seed North Carolina on Saturday night in the Spokane Regional semifinals.
Stanford (32-2) kept alive its hope for a fourth straight Final Four trip — a string that started four years ago on this floor in Spokane — thanks to its talented sister duo who made up for an off night from Pac-10 player of the year Jeanette Pohlen.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the Cardinal with 19 points while Chiney, the Pac-10 freshman of the year, added 16. Pohlen missed eight of her nine shots and finished with just six points.
The Cardinal's road to Indianapolis and the Final Four now intersects with hometown favorite, 11th-seeded Gonzaga on Monday night in the regional final. Gonzaga beat No. 7 seed Louisville 76-69 in Saturday's first game to reach its first Elite Eight.
Stanford and Gonzaga met earlier this year on the Bulldogs' home floor with Stanford holding on for an 84-78 victory.
Italee Lucas led North Carolina (28-9) with 22 points and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 14 off the bench, but the Tar Heels were hampered by a tough night from forward Jessica Breland, the Tar Heels' second-leading scorer. Breland made just one of 13 shots, missed both of her free-throw attempts and finished with just two points, 10 below her season average.
Two of the most storied programs in college hoops and two of the most successful coaches — North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer — met for just the second time in the history of the two schools, the last meeting coming 16 years ago in an NCAA regional semifinal.
The result is what you'd expect with the Tar Heels and Cardinal involved — a tight matchup that came down to the final possessions.
But it was the Ogwumikes making the plays when the Tar Heels went cold.
Tied at 59 with 4:35 left, Nnemkadi scored consecutive baskets to push the Cardinal ahead by four. She scored with 3:08 remaining, then saw her sister come up with a big bucket in the lane with 1:59 left after North Carolina had pulled even at 65.
It was still a one-possession game with under a minute remaining when Nnemkadi Ogwumike missed in the lane, but Chiney grabbed the offensive rebound and scored while being fouled with 39.7 seconds left to put the Cardinal up 69-65. North Carolina committed a turnover on its next possession, one of four they committed in its final five possessions and Pohlen knocked down three free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Stanford has won 26 straight overall, the second-longest streak in school history. A win Monday night will match the longest streak by a Stanford team. Kayla Pedersen added 15 for Stanford, which won despite matching its season low and shooting just 36 percent.
Chay Shegog added 13 for North Carolina, who rallied from a seven-point deficit early in the second half but only once took the lead on Lucas' basket with 6:51 left. North Carolina went the final 3:42 without a field goal.
Gonzaga 76, Louisville 69
At Spokane, Wash., Courtney Vandersloot had 29 points, seven assists and seven steals, Janelle Bekkering scored eight of her 15 points in the final 4:01 and No. 11 seed Gonzaga advanced to the Spokane Regional final.
Playing less than two miles from the school's campus, the Bulldogs sent the blood pressure rising for the 10,000 or so hometown fans in attendance after nearly squandering all of a 20-point second half lead. But Gonzaga scored 10 of the final 17 points after Louisville had pulled within 65-62.
Gonzaga (31-4) became the lowest seed in NCAA history to reach the Elite Eight.
Shoni Schimmel led Louisville (22-13) with 18 points, but didn't find her shot until midway through the second half, missing 12 of her first 13 shots.
Tennessee 85, Ohio St. 75
At Dayton, Ohio, Shekinna Stricklen scored 20 points and touched off a critical 11-3 second-half run to power top-seeded Tennessee past Ohio State in an NCAA regional semifinal.
The Lady Vols (34-2) won their 25th consecutive game, but trailed for much of it and only took control with their charge in the final minutes.
Meighan Simmons added 18 points and Kelley Cain had 16 for Tennessee, pursuing a ninth NCAA title. The Lady Vols meet Notre Dame in the regional championship game Monday night, with a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis on the line.
Samantha Prahalis had 22 points for Ohio State (24-10), which had won its last 11.
Notre Dame 78, Oklahoma 53
At Dayton, Ohio, Brittany Mallory scored a season-high 20 points Saturday, and Notre Dame's defensive pressure took its toll in a victory over Oklahoma that sent the second-seeded Fighting Irish to the regional final.
Notre Dame (29-7) will play top-seeded Tennessee on Monday.
Nicole Griffin scored 18 points for Oklahoma (23-12), which reached the Final Four each of the last two years. Notre Dame's go-for-the-ball pressure crumpled the Sooners' guard-driven offense, which had only eight field goals and 14 turnovers in the decisive first half.