Stanford storms to Final Four -- 83-60 over 'Zags


Stanford storms to Final Four -- 83-60 over 'Zags

March 28, 2011STANFORD PAGE

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Facing a deafening, unfriendly crowd in a hostile and perhaps unfair setting, along with the little blond point guard who had yet to bestopped, the Stanford Cardinal emphatically showed they're still thepowers of the West Coast.

A fourth straight Final Four makes that point impossible to debate.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated the inside with 23 points and 11 rebounds,sister Chiney chipped in 18 points and 15 boards, and the top-seededCardinal ended the surprising run of Courtney Vandersloot and Gonzaga83-60 in the Spokane Regional final on Monday night.

After two years of playing with her sister in the stands watching,Nneka's now bringing Chiney along to the national semifinals after theduo overwhelmed and overpowered the 11th-seeded Bulldogs, who wereplaying about a mile and a half from their campus.

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"This whole weekend she's just been talking about, 'Nneka, I don't know what it really feels like because the last two times I went I was in the stands," Nneka Oguwmike said.

"I was just trying to help her just let her know how exciting it was. ... I think she has so much fight in her that she was just determined to take this team as far as they could."

The Ogwumikes were relentless from the start when Nneka powered through the Gonzaga defense for a layup on the opening possession. When Chiney missed, Nneka was there to clean it up, and visa versa. The size and strength of Stanford was simply too much for the Bulldogs, and their more than 11,000 hometown fans, to overcome on this night.

"They're just a unique combination of strength, obviously skill, but the quickness with which they attack the ball on the boards is phenomenal," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. "We're not there yet to be able to matchup with these kinds of teams that just have that kind of strength and athleticism inside."

For Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen and Kayla Pedersen, Monday night's victory completes a perfect career in reaching the Final Four in every season of their time at Stanford, a run that began by winning the 2008 Spokane Regional final behind Candice Wiggins.

Stanford (33-2) won its 27th straight to match the longest streak in school history and will face the Baylor-Texas A&M winner in the national semifinals on Sunday night.

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"Their hunger is intense, they play every possession hard and we had to match that," Chiney Ogwumike said. "That hunger to win and get every possession was the difference."

Vandersloot did her best to carry Gonzaga (31-5) for a half before the Bulldogs wore down in the final 20 minutes under a bevy of missed shots and a befuddling Stanford zone defense. Vandersloot, who came in averaging 30.7 points and 10.3 assists in the tournament, finished with 25 points and nine assists, including 18 straight Gonzaga points during a 9-minute stretch of the first half.

But Stanford managed to harass Vandersloot in the second half and limited her to just four points. Her stellar college career ended when she checked out with 1:14 left to a standing ovation and a wave to the crowd after leading Gonzaga to upsets of Iowa, UCLA and Louisville to reach the first Elite Eight in school history.

"I was obviously very disappointed that we lost the game," Vandersloot said. "But I couldn't help but enjoy that 10 seconds it was to walk off and hear the fans cheering and I know that deep in my heart they love us and are just as proud of us had we won that game."

Had Gonzaga won, they would have become the first team from West of the Rockies not named Stanford to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988.
Instead, it's Stanford going to the Final Four for the 10th time.

It helped that Pohlen broke out of her recent shooting slump by five 3-pointers and finishing with 17 points. Lindy La Rocque, averaging less than four points on the season, scored 11, including pair of key 3-pointers in the first half when the Ogwumikes were getting plenty of help from their teammates.

Then the sisters took it upon themselves at the start of the second half to make sure there wouldn't be one more Gonzaga upset. They scored 14 of Stanford's first 16 points to start the half, with Nnemkadi twice ripping away rebounds on Chiney's misses. They combined for 11 offensive rebounds and 26 rebounds total more than Gonzaga's total of 25. Stanford outrebounded Gonzaga by 24.

It helped that the Bulldogs couldn't solve Stanford's zone defense at the start of the second half, missing 11 of their first 12 shots to start the half and shooting just 24 percent the final 20 minutes as their Final Four hopes clanged away.

VanDerveer planned to play just a few possession in the zone until Gonzaga started hitting from the outside. Stanford stayed in the defense the entire second half. They also limited Gonzaga to just four fast-break points.

"We knew what they were looking for and we dodged some bullets that they missed some shots that I think they probably ordinarily made," VanDerveer said. "But this is a very big stage and they've never been on it before and it might change just a little bit of the release. I think we were fortunate."

Kayla Standish added 17 for Gonzaga and Katelan Redmon scored 13. The Bulldogs had gone 29-1 since losing at home to Stanford back in November, their only loss in the city of Spokane in the last two seasons.

Until Stanford solved them again on Monday night.

"Going to the Final Four every year, it's a dream for people. Some people don't even get that close," Pohlen said. "I'm just proud how we stepped up and how people made some huge plays in the second half."

David West is coming up big for the Warriors

David West is coming up big for the Warriors

OAKLAND -- David West is as much a cleanup man as he is a basketball player.

The veteran power forward, masquerading as a center for the Warriors, cleans up behind teammates, cleans the clocks of opponents and probably cleans his plate after every meal. And he’d hit fourth in any manager’s batting order.

The Warriors during their renaissance haven’t had such a personality. They’ve been a fun bunch, enjoying life, each other and their pillaging of the NBA.

West, 36, brings a more laconic dynamic, and it’s on full display as the Warriors lean into the final weeks of this regular season. He’s a leader who is producing and, more and more, winning over a fan base that was somewhat skeptical early this season.

“David West has been playing brilliantly,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday night, after West came off the bench for a highly efficient 14-minute stint in a 114-100 win over the Kings.

Showcasing sharp passing, splendid shooting, solid rim protection and his usual old-jerky toughness, West totaled 8 points, four assists, three rebounds, three blocks and one steal. The Warriors were plus-8 when he was on the floor.

Such production, it seems, is a bit of a bonus.

“He’s been very good for us as a veteran leader,” Draymond Green said. “He’s been playing well, but just his presence also has meant a lot to this team.

“D-West is just kind of a no-bull---- type of a guy. He doesn’t say much. But when he does, you know it means a lot. And everybody hears him.”

Said West: “It’s just about adjusting and learning personalities. Obviously, this group has been very successful. I just try to add my 2 cents where I feel like it fits. Try not to over-talk people. I speak to guys directly and just make sure that we’re all on the same page.”

West is in his 14th season. Drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in 2003, he also has played for the Pacers and, last season, the Spurs, before joining the Warriors in July.

The question at the time was whether he still had a lot to give. West is a two-time All-Star and one of the most widely respected players in the league. But did he still have the legs to compete at a high level?

The answer is visible, particularly over the past month, since he returned from fractured left thumb on Feb. 23. West is shooting 53.0 percent from the field, he’s rebounding consistently and he has proven to be a spectacularly good passer -- easily one of the best in the league among big men.

Earlier this week, to quell any lingering concerns about how much athleticism he still has, West rose up and dunked over a crowd of three Dallas Mavericks. It was clock-cleaning at its finest.

“I’m just getting more comfortable,” West said, referring to his game and his locker-room influence. “We’ve developed good chemistry, communicating, harping on our defense more than anything else at this moment, because we feel that’s going to give us a chance if shots aren’t falling.”

West is on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, $1.55 million. He sacrificed bigger dollars for a chance at his first championship. He’s doing his part. And he neither takes nor leaves any mess.

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.