Stanford women oust South Carolina, move to Elite 8

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Stanford women oust South Carolina, move to Elite 8

FRESNO -- Dawn Staley tried having her South Carolina team defend Nnemkadi Ogwumike every which way from fronting the Stanford star, to double-teaming her, playing her straight up and pushing her out to the perimeter.

Nothing worked. No doubt, this was Nneka's night.

Ogwumike had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and top-seeded Stanford moved one win away from a fifth straight Final Four with a 76-60 victory over the No. 5 seed Gamecocks on Saturday night to reach the Fresno Regional final.

Now, Duke is all that stands in the way for Stanford to get to Denver.

Ogwumike shot 14 for 22 and made 11 of 12 free throws, and Toni Kokenis added 12 points and seven boards as the Cardinal (34-1) ran their school-record winning streak to 31 games with a hard-fought victory.

"I don't want any game to be my last, except for next weekend," she said. I play for my teammates. I play for my coaches. It's been one crazy journey. To be out there and know how bad teams want to beat us, that's motivation enough."

Markeshia Grant scored 14 points and made four 3-pointers and La'Keisha Sutton had 18 for scrappy South Carolina (25-10), which hung tough in its first regional semifinals since 2002 despite a significant height disadvantage.

Stanford will play Monday night against the second-seeded Blue Devils, who beat St. John's 74-47 in Saturday's first game at the Save Mart Center. The Cardinal have a large contingent of fans who made the three-hour drive from the Bay Area.

"Nneka just would not be denied," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

The Hall of Fame coach topped her former U.S. Olympic star, Staley. The two captured a gold medal together in the 1996 Atlanta Games, with VanDerveer taking a year off from Stanford to coach the Americans.

But it wasn't as easy as Stanford usually has it South Carolina's guards regularly answered on the offensive end after baskets by Stanford. The Cardinal received their biggest push since a 74-71 overtime victory over rival California at home in Maples Pavilion on Jan. 28.

"I thought we played as well as we could play considering who we were playing and the type of night Nneka Ogwumike said," Staley said. "My hat goes off to our players who fought so hard and gave all they had."

Nneka Ogwumike took over down the stretch, even playing with three fouls for the final 17:20.

She scored on a leaping layup off a reverse pivot with 9:23 left to put her team up 56-48. She hit one free throw with 8:54 to play, then drew a charge on Ashley Bruner moments later before scoring over Bruner for an 11-point lead of 59-48. Staley quickly called timeout.

South Carolina tried to mix it up defensively against Ogwumike to get her out of sync.

"Looking at the stat sheet it doesn't look like anything worked," Staley said. "She had a tremendous night. We made her work for every 39 of her points. When someone has it going on like that there's not much you can do but give her different looks."

Kokenis had a steal in the backcourt and drove the full length of the floor for a three-point play with 5:10 remaining to make it 68-54 and cap a 9-0 Stanford run.

Joslyn Tinkle banked in a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the first half with Stanford leading 36-30 despite getting points from only four players. Nneka Ogwumike shot 7 for 12, while the rest of the team went 7 of 20.

The Cardinal got a couple of scares with Chiney Ogwumike going down twice. She hit the ground awkwardly on her braced right knee on a first-half rebound attempt. She was undercut by South Carolina's Courtney Newton, but the sophomore stayed in the game after being helped up by her big sister.

With 15:11 remaining, she drove the lane and was bumped by Ebony Wilson. She lay on the ground in pain, grabbing to stretch her troublesome right knee while holding her sister's hand. Chiney Ogwumike sat down and iced the knee before returning less than a minute later.

"They were relentless inside. They outrebounded us, which isn't very common. It's something we'll have to watch tape about," Nneka Ogwumike said. "I knew in my heart we were going to win. I could see it in our eyes."

The talented Ogwumike sister tandem combined to score their team's first 10 points, and the Cardinal led by as many as 10 in the first half.

South Carolina advanced to the NCAA's round of 16 for the third time in program history and first under fourth-year coach Staley. And this group looked drastically different from the Gamecocks team that took a 70-32 whipping on Stanford's home floor in Maples Pavilion on Nov. 26, 2010. That day, Staley asked VanDerveer to spend a few minutes with the South Carolina players in the locker room after the Hall of Famer earned career victory No. 797.

The Gamecocks beat six ranked opponents this season but couldn't pull off the upset this time.

"I think we were a resilient group just coming in four years ago from our 10-18 season to the Sweet Sixteen," Sutton said. "I definitely feel this is something special at the University of South Carolina. I definitely think we'll be back every year from now on."

VanDerveer eliminated Staley from the NCAA tournament again. The Cardinal beat Staley during her college career at Virginia in the NCAA semifinals in both 1990 and '92, and Stanford went on to win it all both times. But VanDerveer's teams haven't captured a title since '92.

Likely WNBA No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumike hopes to do her part to change that.

"Whoever has the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, they're going to get a nice solid player who's going to help them right away," Staley said.

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

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No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

BOX SCORE

MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.

Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.

Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.

The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.

Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.

Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.

Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.

The Gaels led nearly the entire way.

Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.

Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.

Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

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Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Oregon survived its Bay Area trip by the slimmest of margins.

Jordan Bell scored on a putback with 14 seconds left to give the sixth-ranked Ducks their second straight nail-biting victory in a rare Bay Area sweep as Oregon beat Stanford 75-73 on Saturday.

"It stresses Coach out," guard Dylan Ennis said. "It shows us that we can just get gritty, get down and get the win. ... Hopefully if we're down like that again we can fight back and do the same thing."

Bell's game-winner followed Dillon Brooks' last-second, tiebreaking 3-pointer three nights earlier at California to give Oregon (26-4, 15-2 Pac-12) its second sweep of its conference Bay Area rivals since 1976. The other came two years ago.

Tyler Dorsey scored 15 points to lead Oregon, while Brooks added 14.

"It's been a tough road trip for us, two close games," coach Dana Altman said. "That's life on the road. We found a way."

Reid Travis had 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for the Cardinal (14-14, 6-10), but committed a turnover on the final possession to end any comeback hopes on senior day that honored Christian Sanders, Marcus Allen and Grant Verhoeven.

"There's a little extra when you see guys like Christian, Marcus and Grant shedding tears when they're getting called up," Travis said. "It's the last time they get to compete on this court. ... Just looking at that, there's no choice but to be motivated."

Stanford trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half but battled back to tie the game five times in the second half. But it took until that fifth equalizer for the Cardinal to take their first lead since being up 9-8 early in the first half.

Travis' jumper in the lane made it 71-69 with less than 3 minutes left but the lead was short-lived as Brooks hit a jumper at the other end to tie it.

The game was tied at 73 when the Ducks managed four offensive rebounds on one possession before finally converting on Bell's shot with 14 seconds left. It capped a wild sequence that started when Ennis shot an airball on a 3-pointer. Payton Pritchard caught the ball in the air and shot it to the rim before the shot clock expired. Bell was there to put back the second miss for the game-winner.

"It was going so fast I don't even know what happened," Altman said.

Travis lost the ball in the paint at the other end to seal the victory for Oregon.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks capped a 7-1 February with just their second road sweep of the conference season as they peaking at the right time of year. Their only loss in that span came on a late 3-pointer by Lonzo Ball in an 82-79 loss at UCLA. Oregon has one more road game left to finish the regular season at last-place Oregon State, and remains in contention for a Pac-12 title and a top two seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford: The Cardinal were unable to follow up home wins against California and Oregon State when faced by tougher competition from the Ducks. That has been an issue all season for Stanford, which fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents.

THEY SAID IT

"Something hit my elbow. It might have been the wind, but I don't shoot airballs on game-winners." - Ennis.

POUND THE BOARDS

Oregon had just eight rebounds for the entire first half before getting the four offensive boards on the final possession of the game. The Ducks were outrebounded 37-25 for the game but were outscored by only four points on second-chance opportunities.

CEREMONIAL DAY

Stanford also held a halftime ceremony for former coach Mike Montgomery, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this past November. Montgomery is the winningest coach in school history with 393 of his 677 wins coming for the Cardinal.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Stanford: Visits Colorado on Thursday.