Stanford's seniors didn't face many deficits at home during their record-setting careers, and judging by the final score of tonight's 75-49 win against St. John's in the second round of the NCAA tournament, you wouldn't guess that the group's 63rd and final victory at Maples Pavilion was ever in doubt.
Yet, midway through the first half, the No. 9 seed Red Storm held a 22-14 advantage. Nneka Ogwumike followed with her best Toni Kokenis impression, scoring eight consecutive points as part of a 24-8 Stanford run to close the half. Cold second-half shooting doomed St. John's, which was gunning for its first Sweet 16 appearance in school history.
Ogwumike finished with a game-high 22 points and 5 rebounds, while younger sister Chiney added 13 points and 12 boards on her 19th birthday. Kayla Pedersen filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in front of a crowd of 5,904. Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen each received standing ovations when the seniors checked out with less than 5 minutes remaining and the Cardinal's lead secure.
Stanford seized control of the game early in the second half without Kokenis, who left with an ankle injury before halftime. The freshman, who scored 10 consecutive points to help the Cardinal rally past UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament championship, would later return.
Stanford advances to the Sweet 16, where it will play UNC in Spokane on Saturday. The No. 5 seed Tar Heels knocked off No. 4 seed Kentucky, 86-74. If the Cardinal wins, it will most likely face a familiar foe in the Elite Eight, but that foe will not be UCLA. The No. 3 seed Bruins were upset by No. 11 seed Gonzaga, which was playing on its home floor and is hoping to ride the hometown support and the dominant play of Courtney Vandersloot all the way to the Final Four. The Cardinal beat the Zags in Spokane earlier this season.