W. Basketball: Stanford routs Georgia to advance

March 27, 2010, 9:06 p.m.

Stanford erased an early deficit to crush Georgia 73-36 in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament Saturday in Sacramento.

On a day when fellow No. 1 seed Tennessee was knocked out of the tournament by Baylor, the Cardinal (34-1, 18-0 Pac-10) was sitting four points behind the Lady Bulldogs (25-9, 9-7 SEC) with almost five minutes gone in the first half.

But from here on in it was all Stanford. Georgia scored just seven more points in the first period to the Card’s 33. Redshirt junior guard JJ Hones hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to put her team ahead 37-15.

The second half was more of the same and the 36 points that the Lady Dogs managed to score against Stanford was the lowest that any team has scored against the Cardinal in the history of its participation in the NCAAs.

Stanford’s big three of senior center Jayne Appel, junior forward Kayla Pedersen and sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike completely dominated the paint. The Cardinal scored 42 of its points there, more than Georgia’s total from anywhere on the court. Missed shots were scooped up off the boards 59-33 in the Cardinal’s favor, and it was clear that the Bulldogs struggled to contain Stanford’s size.

Both Pedersen (13 points and 15 rebounds) and Ogwumike (11 points and 11 rebounds) achieved double-doubles, while two other teammates, Appel (17) and junior guard Jeanette Pohlen (12), reached double figures in points. In contrast, not a single Georgia player scored more than eight.

Always involved in the game, Pedersen was a key player in the center of the Stanford team. At one point in the second half, showing her presence and fighting spirit, she dived onto the floor through a crowd of Georgia players to trap a loose ball on the ground and stifle a Bulldogs attack.

Appel did not appear to be suffering from the sprained ankle that has kept her minutes down in recent weeks, but after scoring 17 points in her 24 minutes, it was a sensible move to rest her. There may still be three games left in this season and the Cardinal will need her in every one.

Though soundly beaten by the final buzzer, the Lady Dogs did put up a slightly stronger performance in the second half. At times they managed to stifle the Cardinal offense, forcing back-to-back turnovers, but even Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer’s bench players proved too good for them in the end.

With six minutes left, the remaining starters were brought out of the game and the substitutes received playing time.

An important part of Stanford’s play was the incisive and accurate passing that has broken down defenses throughout this season. This led to 19 assists, showing how unselfish the players are.

After picking up a concussion much earlier in the season, redshirt junior forward Michelle Harrison got another nasty strike to her head. A Georgia player’s arm struck her in the face as she was defending her own basket and she went down with a cut above her eye, but appeared otherwise unhurt.

Hones’s 17 minutes and eight points, on the other hand, were great news for the Cardinal. Having spent most of the last few months unable to practice due to her knee injury, she is now managing to put in a few minutes outside of games, and this will give VanDerveer more ability to switch things up from the bench.

In the regional final on Monday night, the Cardinal women will now face No. 3 seed Xavier, who defeated Gonzaga 74-56 in the second game of the night.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on No. 1 seeds Nebraska and Connecticut tomorrow as they play their Sweet Sixteen games.

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