10:30 PM ET, March 7, 2005
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Candice Wiggins' jaw dropped when she saw Stanford's ugliest totals in the box score: Three assists, 16 turnovers and the Cardinal's lowest point total of the season."Oooooh," Stanford's freshman star said in mock horror. And yet those distasteful digits added up to another Pac-10 tournament championship for Wiggins and her teammates, who celebrated their new No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 (No. 2 ESPN) with a defensive gem. Wiggins had 16 points and seven rebounds to win the tournament MVP award, and the Cardinal won their 20th straight game and third straight conference championship with a 56-42 victory over Arizona State on Monday night. The Pac-10's top two defensive teams lived up to their reputations with a rugby match of a game -- low on entertainment value, but high on the gritty, physical play not usually associated with West Coast basketball. Stanford turned out to be tougher, maintaining a second-half lead for its third win over Arizona State this season. "A lot of people don't think we play much defense," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Don't print it that we do. Let's keep it a secret." Brooke Smith scored 10 points and Susan King Borchardt added nine for the Cardinal (29-2), who ascended to the top spot in the AP Top 25 earlier in the day for the first time since December 1996. VanDerveer's squad is headed for the NCAA Tournament on its longest winning streak since 2001-02. "We're excited. There are definitely some things we can work on before [the NCAAs]," said King Borchardt, who set the defensive tone by holding Arizona State's Kylan Loney to six points in 38 minutes. "We love playing together, and we don't want to see this end." Stanford was slowed down by the excited Sun Devils (22-9), but Arizona State made 18 turnovers and just 31 percent of its shots in its lowest-scoring game of the year. Kristen Kovesdy had 10 points and seven rebounds for Arizona State, which had its five-game winning streak snapped in a frustrating night filled with missed layups and wasted offensive rebounds. The Sun Devils still will get an NCAA bid, but missed the chance for their second title-game upset of Stanford in four seasons. "Obviously, you can't beat the No. 1 team in the nation shooting 31 percent," Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We did some really good things: We held them to 56 points. We outrebounded them and gave ourselves every opportunity, but it was like there was a lid on the basket." Though neither team had any sustained run of offensive success, Wiggins still provided her share of highlights while adding another accolade to her incredible debut season. The Pac-10's player of the year is only scratching the surface of her potential, but she made countless small plays to turn the tide in the second half. She was rewarded with the MVP award and a chance to cut down the nets in her first Pac-10 tournament. "It's always nice to be recognized, but I definitely see the big picture," Wiggins said. "It's just nice to be around all these people. It's nice to win together." Stanford has won by an average of more than 23 points per game during its streak -- but one day after surviving a rare test in a 73-69 semifinal victory over Southern California, Stanford again came out a step slower than normal. Arizona State beat the Cardinal to most loose balls and got 15 more shots than Stanford in the first half -- but Stanford has perhaps the best defensive team in school history, holding its opponents to school-record lows in points and shooting percentage this season. The Cardinal's defense took control late in the first half, holding Arizona State to two points in the final 5:56 -- though the Sun Devils helped out by missing two layups. Arizona State couldn't get closer than six points in the second half -- and with little effective inside play, the Sun Devils got just two free throws all night. Wiggins made a layup with 54 seconds left and celebrated with a raised fist as she got back on defense -- and then blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound on the other end, essentially clinching the win.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||20-61 (.328)||20-47 (.426)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-16 (.250)||4-14 (.286)|
|FT Made-Attempted||1-2 (.500)||12-15 (.800)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||12 (0/0)|