W. Basketball: Stanford eases into Sweet Sixteen

March 22, 2010, 9:26 p.m.
W. Basketball: Stanford eases into Sweet Sixteen
Redshirt senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude rises for one of her seven three-pointers in Stanford's 96-67 rout of Iowa. Gold-Onwude made all six of her attempts from beyond the arc in the first half on her way to 26 points in her final game at Maples Pavilion. (MASARU OKA/Staff Photographer)

On Monday night, the Cardinal continued where it left off on Saturday, defeating the Hawkeyes 96-67 to head into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

The game was effectively sealed by halftime when No. 1 seed Stanford (33-1, 18-0 Pac-10) led No. 8 seed Iowa (20-14, 10-8 Big Ten) by 27 points, 61-34. At this point a computer glitch on the NCAA website ominously showed the result as final. The 61 points are the most the Cardinal has scored in a half all year.

Redshirt senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was the star performer in her final game on Maples hardwood, firing the team up in the huddle just before tipoff, then setting a career high of 26 points to lead the Cardinal. Gold-Onwude shot 7-9 on three-pointers, including 6-6 in the first half.

“Nneka [Ogwumike], Jayne [Appel] played very well, our whole team played well,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “But this was Ros’s night.”

For a team that struggled a little early in the season with injuries to its guards, the first two rounds have been a great step forward for the Cardinal. Both starting guards were standout players over the weekend.

“Ros [Gold-Onwude] plays great defense,” VanDerveer continued, “and tonight’s game she had a lot of assists and she was on fire, and I hope she builds on it. All of our guards have been playing really well from the Pac-10 Tournament through this tournament.”

Iowa defended hard right from the opening, but Gold-Onwude hit a three on her very first shot before running back down the court to get the first board to give the advantage to her team. The Hawkeyes, though, refused to give in, battling hard for the initial five minutes to keep the Cardinal lead to only two points.

“We’ve had some great games this season,” VanDerveer said, “but we definitely got out of the blocks fast tonight. I thought our defense [was] good, we really wanted to block down on No. 2 [sophomore guard Kamille Wahlin] and No. 24 [freshman guard Jaime Printy]. [No.] 21 [junior guard Kachine Alexander] was a tough matchup for us, we struggled with her a little bit, but we were willing to give those shots by trading the twos for the threes.”

The defensive pressure began to show, as Gold-Onwude kept Wahlin, whose average was 14.5 points per game, to zero in the first half. Apart from the game’s top scorer, Alexander, who scored 27, none of the Hawkeyes got into double figures.

In comparison, all of the Cardinal starters made it there. Sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike came close to Gold-Onwude with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists of her own, just one rebound shy of another double-double.

“She’s beautiful to watch,” said Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder of Ogwumike. “This place should be sold out every single game just to watch her. She’s a physical specimen. You can’t box her out. We were trying our hardest to box her out. She just floats over the top of you and it’s clean because there is no contact.”

Also playing her last ever game on campus, senior center Jayne Appel put in a solid performance, but to be safe she was brought out early with the contest effectively over. As one of the best players ever to have graced the hardwood of Maples Pavilion, she set many records in her time at Stanford, but she still made it clear what Gold-Onwude’s play meant tonight.

W. Basketball: Stanford eases into Sweet Sixteen
Sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike continued her impressive season with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Stanford's 96-67 win over Iowa. Ogwumike and the other four Cardinal starters reached double figures in points, something only one Hawkeye player, Kachine Alexander, managed to do. (KYLE ANDERSON/The Stanford Daily)

“It was huge,” Appel said. “We depend on Ros for defense. She’s our No. 1 defensive stopper. Everyone is aware of that. So, with Ros hitting big shots for us, one after another, after another, everyone was feeling energy off each other. It keeps building, and it’s hard for the other team to stop. That’s kind of what happened tonight.”

Though the Iowa band and cheerleaders did their best to encourage their players, the partisan crowd seemed to play a crucial role in pushing the Card into the next round, and perhaps further.

“I feel really special and happy right now,” Gold-Onwude said, “and the fans made me feel very nice tonight, and I thank them for elevating me and my teammates as well.”

Now Stanford leaves campus behind and must do its best to keep that fire burning. At the very least they will have Gold-Onwude’s “Fire and Brimstone” speeches in the pre-game huddle to inspire them.

“Tonight, I told Nneka, Jayne and Kayla [Pedersen] they were unstoppable,” Gold-Onwude said. “I told Jeanette that you’re as good as you believe you are, and that our destiny’s in our hands.”

On Sunday, in the first round, Connecticut sent out its own message. All of the other No. 1 and No. 2 seeds had crushed their opposition by more than 30 points, but UConn’s 95-33 annihilation of Southern University showed everyone what they will have to beat to take down the Huskies.

With this game, Stanford answered back. Although VanDerveer brought players off the bench, which may have allowed the score to be closer at the end, the first half performance was what counted.

The Cardinal will now face No. 5 seed Georgia, who defeated No. 4 seed Oklahoma State 74-71 in overtime Monday night, in the regionals at Sacramento next weekend.

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