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Wiggins matches school-record with 44 points as Stanford rolls UTEP

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Candice Wiggins blew kisses. She waved her goodbyes after putting on one of her best shows yet, and in her last home game no less.

On a night when nearly an entire arena celebrated Wiggins' remarkable college career, she gave them a record-setting performance to cheer.

Stanford's beloved superstar scored a school-record tying 44 points in her last game at Maples Pavilion on Monday night, leading the second-seeded Cardinal past UTEP 88-54 and into the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

It was the third most points scored in women's tournament history and the most since Sheryl Swoopes had 47 in the 1993 championship game for Texas Tech. Lorri Bauman of Drake has the all-time record of 50, set in 1982 against Maryland at Maples.

"It means so much," said Wiggins, who walked to Stanford's jubilant locker room arm in arm with coach Tara VanDerveer. "You don't really go into a game thinking you're going to score a bunch of points. I think the greatest feeling is the way I felt with my teammates. I'll remember that, just the excitement of Maples. It's been four tremendous years.

"This is my lasting imprint of my career. I think it just summarizes the feeling I have when I play at Maples."

Wiggins took the ball to the basket from every which way. She hit long 3s and hit the floor. She blocked shots and blocked out. She found her teammates with pretty passes, too. She shot 15-for-27 with six 3-pointers, had 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block -- and the place was rockin' with 5,530 fans for her fabulous farewell. Her performance tied Kate Starbird's school record and was the highest scoring tournament game by a Stanford player.

If her latest gem wasn't enough to finally put last year's shocking second-round loss to Florida State in the past, a trip to the Spokane Regional should do the trick.

"This is my last year. Last year stung so much," said Wiggins, who was surprised to see her high school coach, Terri Bamford, in the stands. "I didn't want to go out in Maples like that. I didn't want to go out and disappoint and make the season less than what it was."

Wiggins has her heart set on traveling to Tampa, Fla., for the Final Four before turning her attention to next month's WNBA draft.

First, Stanford (32-3) will play Saturday against sixth-seeded Pittsburgh, a 67-59 winner over No. 3 seed Baylor earlier Monday. The Cardinal have 20 straight victories and need just four more for Wiggins to go out with the national title she has coveted since arriving on The Farm four years ago. The Cardinal haven't won it all since 1992 and are trying to advance to their first Final Four since '97.

Stanford won this one with the kind of unselfish play that has defined it.

"Candice had just a spectacular game," VanDerveer said. "Her last Pac-10 game she had a great game. Her last game at Maples, she just wanted to top it off. We've been kind of a year waiting for this to happen."

Wiggins' 24-point first half followed a similar performance from Jayne Appel, who scored 29 of her career-high 33 points in the opening half of Stanford's first-round rout of Cleveland State. Appel did her part again Monday, getting 20 points on 9-for-9 shooting, five rebounds and six assists. Kayla Pedersen added 11 points and 11 boards.

"I told Kayla before the game, 'I'm kind of nervous, but she's fine, she has 40 in her,'" Appel said of Wiggins.

After Wiggins' 3-pointer with 16:42 to play gave the Cardinal a 51-31 cushion, Wiggins backpedaled while shaking her head as if even she was impressed.

"I threw it up and I thought I got fouled a little bit and it still went in and I was like, 'I think the Maples gods are helping me out tonight," Wiggins said of that play.

UTEP quickly took a timeout, but by then it was too late.

"She hit the 3, she got to the basket," UTEP coach Keitha Adams said. "We tried to make the adjustments. She just played a very good ballgame."

This was Wiggins' night all the way. She topped her previous NCAA-best performance of 34 points from 2006, against Florida State. She sat down to roars with 3:03 left.

The Pac-10's all-time scoring leader ran out to a loud standing ovation during pregame introductions. Before that, she had a loud pregame message of her own for the team.

In a hallway just off the court, Wiggins' teammates surrounded her and heard their leader scream: "They're not going to give it to us on our home floor! We've got to take it! I see a different looking team than the one that lost in the second round last year! We're going to win this game!"

Izabela Piekarska became the school's all-time scoring leader with 1,251 after getting 17 points and eight rebounds for NCAA newcomer UTEP (28-4), which had won 24 of its last 25 games.

Timika Williams hit all three 3-pointers she tried in the opening four minutes, but Stanford then produced an 11-0 run on the way to a 40-29 halftime lead.

Natasha Lacy went to three NCAA tournaments while with TCU before transferring to her hometown team for her final college season, helping the Miners take a major step by reaching the second round. But she went 3-for-13 for seven points.

"The only thing that would make me feel better is if they go on and win a national championship," Adams said. "I told their coach, 'Go win it all.'"