The Stanford women's basketball team is returning to the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year after dismantling hometown favorite and No. 11 seed Gonzaga, 83-60, in the Spokane Regional final last night.
Tara VanDerveer, who was named women's basketball collegiate coach of the year hours before tip-off, demonstrated one reason why with her decision to switch to a zone in the second half after Courtney Vandersloot torched the Cardinal for 21 first-half points. As usual, VanDerveer deflected the credit for what was ultimately her call to her assistant coaches.
"In talking with coaches, Amy (Tucker), and Kate (Paye), and Bobbie (Kelsey), they just said, 'We can zone them.' And I said, 'All right, well, let's look at it.' It was their ball the first possession, I said, 'We'll stay in it as long as they're not bombing us out of it.' And we were able to stay in it the entire second half."
The surprise strategy helped Stanford turn a 47-38 halftime lead into a rout, as Vandersloot managed only four more points, but it wasn't the only factor. Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike were as dominant as they've been all tournament, combining for 41 points and 26 rebounds, or one more rebound than Gonzaga registered as a team. Stanford shot the lights out in the first half, and on the rare occassion that it did miss, Nneka or Chiney was seemingly always there for the easy putback.
Jeanette Pohlen, who has struggled with her shot of late, found her range with 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Fellow starting guard Lindy La Rocque added 11 points. VanDerveer relied heavily on her starters and they delivered.
The scary part for Baylor and Texas A&M, who play tonight for the honor of playing Stanford in the Final Four, is that the Cardinal can play better than it did against the Zags in a hostile environment on Monday."We haven't hit on all cylinders yet," La Rocque said. Indeed, Stanford committed 18 turnovers and shot only 12-for-20 from the free throw line. Shooting 57% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc, and nearly doubling your opponent's rebounding total (49-25) will cover up those flaws.
For now, Stanford is just soaking in the feeling of going four for Four. As Kayla Pedersen said during the postgame press conference, "I'm feeling extremely elated right now."