Stanford women beat Duke 81-69 to reach Final Four

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Stanford women beat Duke 81-69 to reach Final Four

BOX SCORE
FRESNO -- Nnemkadi Ogwumike hoisted the regional championship trophy high into the air with both arms and showed it off for all the Stanford fans to see.Not quite a Mile High. She hopes that comes next.Ogwumike will end her sensational senior season right where she has the rest: at the Final Four. In Denver this time.Ogwumike made it happen on both ends of the floor with 29 points and nine rebounds Monday night despite constant double-teams, sending top-seeded Stanford past No. 2 seed Duke 81-69 in the Fresno Regional final for the Cardinal's fifth straight Final Four berth."This started before I even came to Stanford. I always wanted to be part of the culture," she said. "This never gets old. Not a lot of teams get to say that they've gone. For me to get to say I've been on four times, that's a lot to ask for."Little sister, Chiney, did plenty to seal the Denver trip, too - along with everybody else. Chiney Ogwumike grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 12 points and freshman Amber Orrange came through with 13 points and four assists as the Cardinal extended their school-record winning streak to 32 games.They all hope there will be one more piece of hardware to haul home to The Farm before Nneka Ogwumike is through.Bring on Brittney Griner and unbeaten Baylor (38-0)."We would love to hoist that trophy up a mile high," Chiney Ogwumike said. "Coach is like, anything's possible, you never know, don't count us out.'"RATTO: The Van Derveer Era defines 'The tedious monotony of victory'
Stanford (35-1), looking for the program's first national title since 1992, will play Sunday night against the Lady Bears at the Pepsi Center."We don't get the chance often to be an underdog and totally overlooked," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.Chelsea Gray had 23 points, four rebounds and four assists and Shay Selby scored 11 in her final college game for Duke (27-6), which fell short of reaching the program's first Final Four since 2006. The Blue Devils never got clicking on offense the way they had in their three NCAA wins."It was a good run," SeIby said. "I think this one probably hurt the most. When you're a sophomore or junior, it's, Oh, you have next year.' I have no next year. Hopefully I can say I left something with them that will help them for next year."The projected No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Nneka Ogwumike scored in the paint, on the perimeter, on leaping putbacks and even by knocking down a pretty 10-foot turnaround jumper late in the first half as the Cardinal built a comfortable 40-25 lead at the break."It was unfortunate for us. We tried to defend the inside and the outside. They hit some nice shots," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.Stanford boasted a strong rooting section that made the three-hour trip from the Bay Area to the Save Mart Center, including Cardinal football coach David Shaw and his wife, Kori. The couple sat alongside former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.In a matchup dubbed "nerd on nerd" by Chiney Ogwumike for the schools' rigorous academic standards, Stanford's smart girls aced their latest final. But this group has its sights set on winning two more to make good on the most important test and give Hall of Fame 26th-year coach VanDerveer another long-awaited championship.Just as she has wanted all season during a challenging schedule featuring games with Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas and Xavier, VanDerveer got contributions from most everybody in a balanced effort.Joslyn Tinkle knocked down two 3-pointers in the opening five minutes and also made an early steal, then hit another 3 with 4:26 left that put Stanford ahead by 13. She finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.On Saturday, Nneka Ogwumike almost single handedly carried the load, scoring 39 points in a 76-60 regional semifinal win over South Carolina."What I really liked about this game is we got contributions from different people," VanDerveer said.Gray, with another 50 or so family and friends cheering the guard who grew up about 75 miles north in Stockton, converted a three-point play with 10:46 remaining to pull Duke within 52-44, but the Cardinal answered yet again. Toni Kokenis rolled in a 3 on the other end.Selby, who had a quiet night until midway through the second half, made a three-point play with 9:48 to go to keep her team close. But Duke missed three key scoring opportunities the next time down.The Blue Devils switched to a zone in the second half after that same move worked so well in a 74-47 rout of St. John's, but Orrange and Kokenis successfully drove and dished - and they also handled Duke's trap press. Kokenis had eight of Stanford's 21 assists."First, we allowed them to get 81 points. We're not going to beat a team if it doesn't start on defense," Gray said. "They're a very strong group. If one doesn't have the shot the other one is looking for them."Elizabeth Williams, Duke's star 6-foot-3 freshman playing with a stress fracture in her lower right leg, quickly scored to make it 48-39. She scored 12 points while playing much of the game in foul trouble.Stanford got a scare with 6:51 left in the first half when Nneka Ogwumike scored on a drive to make it 30-16 and then turned into Kathleen Scheer's right elbow. She briefly went down and took a seat for all of 1:23.Stanford began the game 7 for 11 and had assists on each of those baskets, and the Cardinal limited Duke to one attempt thanks to Chiney Ogwumike's six rebounds in the opening 8 12 minutes. Stanford held a 9-3 rebounding advantage after getting outboarded 38-36 against South Carolina two nights earlier. That became a focus for both teams in this game.Duke was held to just 39.7 percent from the field, going 3 for 14 from 3-point range. That was a big change for a Blue Devils team that had shot above 50 percent in the first half of its previous six games, and went 53.7 percent overall Saturday night to follow up its season-best 65.6-percent performance from the field in a 96-80 second-round win over Vanderbilt in which they dished out 28 assists.

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

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AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

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USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.