11:59 PM ET, March 22, 2003
Maples Pavilion, Stanford, California
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Nicole Powell, swarmed by children and adults, stayed around Maples Pavilion signing autographs until after midnight.With the kind of performance she had, it was practically her duty. Powell had 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as Stanford easily defeated Western Michigan 82-66 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night. Third-seeded Stanford, playing for the first time in 12 days since it won the Pacific-10 Conference tournament in San Jose, shot 64.3 percent in the first half and 60.8 for the game. Stanford (27-4) won its 26th consecutive home game, including its 15th in a row this season in Maples Pavilion. ''This is extremely satisfying for me, considering the obstacles I've had to overcome this year,'' said Powell, who has had a remarkable season after missing the first nine games with a herniated disc in her back. ''We didn't do everything as well as we should tonight but we did enough to beat them.'' Chelsea Trotter added 16 points and T'Nae Thiel 12 points and nine rebounds for Stanford, which plays sixth-seeded Minnesota on Monday night in the second round of the West Regional. No. 14 seed Western Michigan (20-12) played only its second NCAA Tournament game in team history against a Stanford squad making its 16th consecutive appearance. The Cardinal have lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament only three times in the past 16 years. The Broncos came into the game as the nation's fifth-best scoring team averaging 79.3 points a game, but they struggled to find any momentum on either end of the floor. Maria Jilian led Western Michigan with 16 points and leading scorer Casey Rost, averaging 19 points, had 15 and eight rebounds. Stanford's balanced offense made sure the Broncos couldn't key just on Powell. ''I'm not going to complain about shooting 60 percent,'' Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ''But most of all I like seeing six people in double figures.'' Powell, a junior forward, did not earn Pac-10 player of the year honors -- the award went to Washington's Giuliana Mendiola -- but many believed she should have. Powell opened the 2002 tournament with back-to-back triple-doubles and was nearly as good against the Broncos. Powell pumped her fists and cheered after watching her 3-pointer go through the net with 4:09 left. She was 4-for-5 from long range and also had a steal and a blocked shot. Western Michigan missed its first eight shots in the second half and nine of 10, and Stanford put the game away with big shots. Thiel's bucket at 11:58 gave the Cardinal a 66-46 lead. Thiel scored eight consecutive points as the Cardinal pulled away in the first half. Her basket at 10:36 started a 14-1 run as Stanford turned a 17-14 deficit into a 28-18 lead. The Broncos struggled against Stanford's swarming man-to-man defense, and the Cardinal hurt Western Michigan's high zone defense with quick, effective passing around the perimeter that led to open shots. ''We played our hearts out, but Nicole Powell was just on tonight,'' Broncos coach Ron Stewart said. ''We had no answer for her.'' With about 16 minutes left in the game, Stanford's Susan King hit the floor for a loose ball and Rost fought her for it. Several others got involved and tempers flared. Arms started swinging until the officials called a jump ball.
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