STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Candice Wiggins wanted the ball in her
hands -- and in Brooke Smith's hands down low.
Stanford's two most reliable players carried the Cardinal to
their biggest win yet.
Wiggins scored 19 of her 21 points in the second half and Stanford (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 14 AP) won its 48th straight Pac-10 home game, earning a
hard-fought 77-71 victory over Arizona State (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 10 AP) on
Smith hit a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left and Arizona
State's Jill Noe missed a 3-pointer on the other end that would
have tied it.
Smith made another free throw at 12.3 seconds and two more with
4.2 left to finish with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in
the Cardinal's 23rd straight victory against the Sun Devils at
Maples Pavilion, a streak spanning more than two decades.
"It's huge," Wiggins said. "We have a lot to prove. We know
we're a good team and know how special this situation is. We have
to prove that. We can't just say we're a special team. ... It's
great to go into the new year with this kind of morale on our
Stanford (9-3, 4-0), which has long believed it has Final Four
talent on this roster, avoided losing twice at home in the same
season for the first time since 2000-01, getting a lift from the
largest crowd of the season at 3,607. The Cardinal lost to BYU on
Freshman Jayne Appel scored 16 points, hitting several key
baskets in crunch time, and grabbed seven rebounds in Stanford's
seventh straight win overall -- which also snapped Arizona State's
eight-game winning streak.
"We wanted to keep the streak going. We accepted the
challenge," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "In the second
half, our big-time players came out and showed why they are
big-time players. ... Candice hit some big 3s."
The Sun Devils (12-2, 2-1) got the ball back with 29 seconds to
go and took it the length of the floor, with Dymond Simon scoring
at 22.4 to pull her team to 72-71. Arizona State hasn't won at
Maples Pavilion since March 3, 1984, and is 1-25 at Stanford
Kirsten Thompson scored 17 points and Noe, who came in with the
best 3-point percentage in the Pac-10 at 54.8, added 12 points and
six rebounds. Both Noe and Aubree Johnson missed key free throws in
the final 1:33.
Stanford opened the second half with a 17-3 run to take a 45-37
lead, getting back-to-back 3-pointers, a jumper and another 3 from
Wiggins -- who made five 3s -- and four points by Smith during the
spurt. The Cardinal hit seven of their first eight field goals in
the half, while Arizona State missed five of its first six.
"There were many different momentum shifts the entire game and
that was one of them," Arizona State's Emily Westerberg said.
"You can win the game in the first five minutes of the second
half. We did a poor job defensively."
The physical game featured plenty of pushing beneath the basket
by both teams, 13 lead changes and 14 ties.
VanDerveer received a technical foul after coming onto the floor
with 5:06 before halftime following a hard foul by Westerberg that
sent Smith to the floor after the ASU senior missed a shot.
It was VanDerveer's first technical since Jan. 25, 2001, in a
76-68 home win against Washington.
"I don't remember deserving that one, either," she said. "I
apologized to our team at halftime. I don't think that's fair to
our team when you're talking about a one- or two-point game."
The Sun Devils, who needed a big second half to win at No. 18
California, were outrebounded 41-36 and allowed Stanford to shoot
56 percent in the second half.
These two schools along with Washington, which hosts UCLA on
Sunday, were the only remaining unbeaten teams in the conference.
"I'm extremely disappointed we couldn't get a stop. We need to
be much tougher," Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
"This is our second close game of the year. I don't think we fell
apart by any stretch."
Wiggins, the two-time defending Pac-10 Player of the Year
playing in her second game back after missing two contests with a
hamstring injury, went 0-for-4 in the first half under constant
pressure from Briann January and had two fouls.
The Cardinal began the game 8-for-21 with four turnovers to
Arizona State's 11-of-23, but Stanford was in the bonus for free
throws over the final 7:02 of the first half.
Stanford went nearly seven minutes without a field goal late in
the half between baskets by Appel but made all eight of its free
throws to stay within seven at 35-28 at the break. The officials
were booed loudly as they left at intermission.
Arizona State also made all eight of its free throws in the
opening 20 minutes.