|NCAA Women's Basketball|
No. 2 Stanford beats Cal 77-62 for Pac-12 crown
By BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES (AP) As if Nnemkadi Ogwumike wasn't already dangerous enough on the inside, the Pac-12 player of the year showed she can hit from long range, too.
Ogwumike scored 29 points, including her first 3-pointers of the season, her younger sister Chiney Ogwumike added 17 and No. 2 Stanford rolled to the Pac-12 tournament title with a 77-62 victory over California on Saturday, extending the Cardinal's winning streak to a school-record 28 games.
"She did stuff today that we've never gone over, never practiced," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I said, `Nnemkadi, can you do this?' and she said yes.'"
The Cardinal (31-1) won their ninth tourney title while improving to 30-2 in the event that began in 2002. It was their 78th consecutive victory against a Pac-12 opponent.
Layshia Clarendon scored 20 points and freshman Brittany Boyd added 13 for the senior-less Golden Bears (24-9), making just their second appearance in the final. They were the only team to force overtime against Stanford in the regular season, but couldn't get untracked against the dominance of the Ogwumike sisters in the Battle of the Bay south edition.
"The more film I watch, I'm more impressed with Chiney and Nnemkadi," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "I think they may be the best on court ever in terms of what they are relied on to do, and that's before Nnemkadi started hitting threes from 30 feet. `'
When Chiney wasn't driving for layups, Nnemkadi was stepping out for three rare 3-pointers. She hit two in the second half that twice extended Stanford's lead to 13 points.
"I've definitely worked on my three," Nnemkadi said. "Tara's always known all along that she thinks I can shoot out there. But Chiney always says there is a psychological barrier when I see the line. Today it was more so we just need to score, so when I was in the rhythm things kind of fell through."
Cal tried a full press, but it had little effect, with Nnemkadi racing through it for a layup that made it 64-48.
Both sisters were chosen for the all-tourney team, with senior forward Nnemkadi becoming the first three-time most outstanding player of the tournament.
"I can't ask for a better two seasons with her," said Chiney, a sophomore. "I know when we're old and sitting together and looking back, I'm going to be like, `Man, that was perfect.' We still have things to work on, but I'm really enjoying this journey."
Stanford moves on to the NCAA tournament with only a November loss to Connecticut as a blemish on its record. Cal is likely headed there, too.
"I absolutely feel like the way we competed today should make us even more dangerous in that tournament next weekend than we were coming into this," Gottlieb said.
Amber Orrange added 13 points for the Cardinal, who have won 41 of their past 44 games against the Bears. Stanford's 74-71 OT win on Jan. 28 was its smallest margin of victory this year and one of just four games decided by less than 10 points. Stanford got past Arizona State by nine points in the tourney semifinals.
"A lot of people may think otherwise, but the teams out here are very hard to beat, especially twice and three times with Cal. That was not a cake walk," Nnemkadi said. "We're very thankful for everything that we've achieved. But the postseason is here now, and we're very excited about it."
Orrange, who scored five in a row, and the sisters keyed a 13-4 run to open the second half and stretch Stanford's lead from six points to 50-35.
Over the next five minutes, the teams each scored 12 points, but second-seeded Cal still trailed by 15.
"Any time you put yourself in a hole, it's hard to dig yourself out," Clarendon said. "Even if you play even, you've already put yourself down. So that was a tough start."
Stanford raced out to a 13-point lead at the start of the game before Boyd hit three 3-pointers that helped the Bears cut their deficit to four points. From there, Stanford narrowly outscored the Bears to end the half ahead 37-31. The Ogwumikes combined for 24 points.
Updated March 10, 2012