- Graham Watson, College Football
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Three games, three blowouts.
That's Stanford's NCAA tournament in a 32.6-point advantage nutshell.
The Cardinal's 73-36 dismantling of Georgia in the regional quarterfinals was the most lopsided of Stanford's three tournament games that included a 32-point victory over UC Riverside in the opening round followed by a 29-point win against Iowa.
But Stanford isn't about to say that its cakewalks haven't prepared the Cardinal for whichever team awaits in the Elite Eight.
Quite the opposite, really.
Stanford's lopsided games have allowed the Cardinal to rest starters while getting bench players valuable tournament experience. Coach Tara VanDerveer said the Cardinal used six just players in the first half, but 14 players finished the game with minutes.
Keeping those players rested, including star inside player Jayne Appel, who is nursing a sore ankle and spent most of the week riding the bike instead of practicing, will be invaluable against a Xavier team that hasn't had the same luxury.
"I think it will be really tough on Monday night, but who knows?" VanDerveer said. "Georgia coming into it, they beat Tennessee, they're 16-0, they've played against really top teams and it was our night tonight."
The Cardinal broke Saturday's game open when they went on a 29-7 to end the first half. Georgia scored a season-low 15 first-half points, shot 20 percent from the field and scored just one field goal in the final 10 minutes of the first period.
"They really struggled on their shots," VanDerveer said. "Once they were really struggling it grew. We worked hard defensively, we switched, we got out on people, and they still got some open looks that didn't go down. I've been on that side where you're like, 'Wow, what else can you do?' But the shots didn't go in."
Georgia coach Andy Landers credited Stanford's passing for the difference in the game. The Cardinal had 19 assists on 28 field goals. Guard Jeanette Pohlen led the way with five assists, but eight different players had assists in the game, including five combined by Appel and Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
"You look at the obvious, they have size, more size than anyone and their size is skilled," Landers said. "You talk about big kids who are talented at shooting the basketball, but most of which can stretch you to 15 [feet] or the 3. So they're really good scorers, but the thing that separates their bigs, while Stanford may be bigger than everyone else and they shoot it well, they pass it, I think, better than anyone else's bigs. This is an excellent passing basketball team."
While Georgia might not have put up much of a fight Saturday, The Cardinal's dominance had a lot to do with preparation. And that same preparation began as soon as their game ended, and players took their seats in Arco Arena to watch their next opponent in the venue's nightcap.
"I think we're definitely getting the competition that we need," Ogwumike said. "Anyone who makes it to the tournament is good and I think we've prepared very well for our games. It does get harder as you go, but if we continue to prepare the way we like to prepare and be ready for the game, I think we'll be just fine. We'll take it one game at a time as we always do the whole year."
Graham Watson covers college football for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With another blowout win, Stanford punches its ticket to the Elite Eight. But, getting to the Final Four might not be as easy.