No. 1 seed Stanford pulls away for win over UNC

Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike (13) smiles as she leads Jeanette Pohlen, left, and Toni Kokenis off the floor after the team beat North Carolina in an NCAA women's college basketball tournament regional semifinal, Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Spokane, Wash. Stanford won 72-65. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
March 27, 2011 7:59:19 PM PDT
Nnemkadi Ogwumike was out of the play and unaware of what was taking place after the Stanford star missed in the lane with less than a minute ago.

She wasn't surprised to learn her sister Chiney had come up with another big play for the Cardinal.

When Stanford needed its sister act the most Saturday night, Chiney and Nnemkadi Ogwumike came through.

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.

"This is one of those classic survive and move on," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

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. And all of them were needed on a night Stanford could never pull away from the Tar Heels.

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. Now comes Part II, but with a lot more at stake.

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.

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.

"Jessica didn't have a good game and that was a major factor," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "Jessica had her normal game, we would probably be real happy campers right now. And I'm not blaming it on her, but I just want you all to know that that was a very unusual thing for her as far as her offensive output there."

Two of the most storied programs in college hoops and two of the most successful coaches -- Hatchell and 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 while the Tar Heels made mistakes.

"They are really great kids and great athletes and they play hard," Hatchell said. "(It's) just so hard to keep them off the boards. It was amazing that (Nnemkadi) didn't have any more rebounds than she had, but her sister made up for that."

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.

Nnemkadi was unaware of what had happened until she turned around "and saw (Chiney) sliding on the floor."

"I wasn't surprised at all. That's a characteristic of Chiney," Nnemkadi said.

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. Pohlen missed eight of her nine shots and finished with just six points. Over her last four games, Pohlen is shooting 26 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.

"That last two minutes I think, just careless mistakes," North Carolina guard Cetera DeGraffenreid said. "We threw the ball away when we shouldn't have, missed defensive assignments that got them wide-open layups."


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