Pohlen's free throws help Cardinal clinch share of regular-season crown

STANFORD, Calif. -- Arizona forced Stanford to work harder than expected. The Cardinal still came out on top, and clinched a share of the Pac-10 championship.

Jeanette Pohlen scored a career-high 21 points, including two free throws in the final seconds, as No. 2 Stanford held on to defeat Arizona 70-67 on Thursday night.

"It's not a two-team league or even a three-team league," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "If you don't come out ready, you're in trouble."

Stanford (25-4, 16-1), which secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, has either won outright or shared the Pac-10 regular-season title for nine straight seasons. The Cardinal can win the crown outright Saturday with a victory over second-place Arizona State.

Stanford, which got 16 points from Kayla Pedersen, beat Arizona (11-17, 4-13) for the 12th time and won its 28th consecutive game at Maples Pavilion. But this win was arguably the toughest of those 12 straight wins.

"To have the No. 2 team in the country on the ropes," Arizona coach Niya Butts said. "We're happy that we gave them a game. ... I'm proud of the way we played. I'm not into moral victories, but I'm proud."

Arizona sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe, the Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder, returned to action after missing two games with a knee injury and finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Reiko Thomas added 14 points for Arizona.

"I think we were just so excited to play such a highly ranked team," Thomas said. "Overall, we were just so energetic. It helped us keep going."

With Ibekwe and Amina Njonkou leading the way, Arizona went on a 15-4 run, cutting Stanford's lead to 65-64 with 1:36 left to play.

"They got a lot of momentum," VanDerveer said. "Basketball is a game of spurts. It kind of looked like we had it in hand. ... Maybe we thought we had it won and they didn't. Again, it was a good lesson."

Jayne Appel's rebound basket jumped Stanford's lead to 67-64 with 50 seconds remaining. After Arizona's Thomas missed from inside, Pohlen rebounded and was fouled, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Moments later, Pedersen blocked Ibekwe's shot, grabbed the ball and was fouled with 16 seconds left. She made one of two free throws, putting Stanford up 68-64. Courtney Clements drained a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left, slicing the lead to 68-67, and the Wildcats quickly fouled Pohlen.

This time, Pohlen hit both free throws, and Ashley Frazier's 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off target.

Stanford struggled in the first half, but built a 35-29 lead behind three 3-pointers by Pohlen.

In the second half, Stanford continued to hurt the Wildcats from long range, as the Wildcats continued to double- and sometimes triple-team Appel. Pohlen made two more 3-pointers in the second half, giving her a career-high five, and Pedersen sank two from long range.

"Jayne gets a lot of attention," Pohlen said. "If they're going to double her, she's probably one of the best passers on the team. When they were in the zone, we had a lot of open looks. I was feeling it tonight, for sure, but none of that happens if they don't double Jayne."

Pohlen missed the previous game against USC after getting hit in eye against UCLA. But the time off certainly didn't hurt her shooting.

Pohlen's 3-pointer put Stanford ahead 47-36 with 15:18 to play. Another 3 by Pohlen gave the Cardinal a 61-49 lead, but the Wildcats refused to quit.

Appel scored just 11 points, but blocked a shot to set the Stanford mark with 202, passing Val Whiting.

"I think we play better when we're uncomfortable," Appel said. "I think it definitely checks us, heading into the tournament."