Stanford to the Sweet 16

Tara VanDerveer

It took a while, but once Stanford found its groove, the Cardinal ran ninth-seed St. John's off the floor in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at Maples Pavilion.

Trailing 22-14 midway through the first half, Stanford used a staggering 57-15 run that spanned more than 24 minutes of game action to defeat the Red Storm.

Within that extended spurt, the Cardinal also manufactured a scoring run of 21-0 in the second half that ballooned Stanford's modest 48-37 lead into a dominant 69-37 advantage.

The Cardinal's size, length, and depth eventually wore down St. John's.

"We made shots early," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "We kind of got worn down. We came out and we were able to hang with them. Their depth and their length, a little combination of everything that they have really wore us down."

Stanford's size had the most tangible impact. After freshman guard Toni Kokenis suffered a first half injury, with the Cardinal light on guard depth, Stanford turned to a big lineup to defeat the Red Storm.

The 6-foot-plus combination of Jeanette Pohlen, Kayla Pedersen, Nneka Ogwumike, Mikaela Ruef, Chiney Ogwumike, and later Joslyn Tinkle, helped expand a 38-32 lead to 69-37.

Ruef and Tinkle, in particular, were somewhat unlikely sparkplugs for the Cardinal, combining to score 12 points and grab 11 rebounds.

"We've been saying that all along about this team in general that we have a lot of players that can step up and contribute on any given day," Jeanette Pohlen said.

On this night, several of Stanford's consistent contributors made a mark as well. The Ogwumike sisters were dominant on the glass, helping Stanford to a lopsided 41-25 advantage in rebounding. In the first half, when Stanford was cold shooting, the pair helped keep the Cardinal close to the Red Storm, and helped lead the eventual comeback.

Nneka Ogwumike finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting, and Chiney added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Pedersen added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Cardinal, who shot 53.4 percent for the game. Centhya Hart led St. John's with 15 points and five rebounds, and Da'Shena Stevens chipped in 11 points.

The secondary storyline in the Cardinal's win was the unblemished home record of Stanford's senior class of Pohlen, Pedersen, Ashley Cimino, and Hannah Donaghe. The quartet closed out an undefeated career in Palo Alto, 63-0, a remarkable accomplishment considering only a Tennessee team in the early 1990's can claim that feat, although this year's Connecticut squad can duplicate it as well.

"It's just weird to think we've never had that feeling of a loss while we've played at home," Pohlen said.

St. John's coach Barnes Arico took her praise a step further.

"They've played some great teams here and they've won some tremendous basketball games," she said. "To keep that level of play and that focus is really unbelievable."

The undefeated streak and tournament victory were marred by a pair of injuries to Stanford freshmen Ogwumike and Kokenis, however. In the first half, Ogwumike appeared to suffer a finger injury, while Kokenis rolled her ankle.

Even though Ogwumike returned to play and Kokenis returned to bench in the second half without the assistance of crutches, Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said both will receive "precautionary x-rays" to determine their availability moving forward.

Stanford will continue its postseason run next Saturday in Spokane, Wash., when the Cardinal play fifth-seeded North Carolina.


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