Ogwumike gets plenty of help
SAN ANTONIO -- Stanford defeated Oklahoma 73-66 in Sunday night's opening semifinal at the 2010 Final Four at the Alamodome. The Cardinal will play the Baylor-UConn winner in Tuesday's national championship game.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Stanford sophomore Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 38 points -- a record for the national semifinals -- and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead Stanford to the national title game. Was her performance the key to Stanford's win? Or did another factor play into the Cardinal's victory?
|Expert||The X factor was|
|Stanford's role players. Clearly, Nnemkadi Ogwumike simply stole the show in Sunday's first semifinal. But there were some important role players, too, for Stanford. The Cardinal have relied on Rosalyn Gold-Onwude's perimeter defensive skills a lot in the past, and Stanford made the decision to have her mostly checking Oklahoma's Nyeshia Stevenson as opposed to Danielle Robinson on Sunday. Stevenson was the hot player for the Sooners against Notre Dame (hitting the big 3-pointer in overtime) and against Kentucky (31 points). She had a combined eight 3-pointers in those games and was named the Kansas City Regional's most outstanding player. Against Stanford, Stevenson wasn't totally shut down (15 points), but seven of those came from the foul line and she missed her only 3-point attempt.|
|Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen. We'll reserve letters A-W for Nnemkadi Ogwumike on this night. Oklahoma isn't a defense that forces a crazy number of turnovers, but between Danielle Robinson and Nyeshia Stevenson on the perimeter and Amanda Thompson roaming in traps and switches, it's a defense that nonetheless thrives on making life miserable for opposing point guards. So while Pohlen didn't have a night to remember shooting the ball (1-for-7), her ability to stand up to the pressure was almost as impressive as making it from one end of the court to the other in less than five seconds against Xavier. She had no turnovers in 20 minutes in the first half and the Cardinal finished with just seven in the game. Stanford's triangle offense doesn't ask its point guard to be Steve Nash, but Pohlen made the looks she needed to in transition and kept the Cardinal from getting bogged down for the first 10 or 15 seconds of the shot clock. A few more wasted possessions and Oklahoma's late rally might have sunk the Cardinal.|
|Stanford's execution in crunch time. Nnemkadi Ogwumike was a monster at both ends of the floor, but ultimately, it was the Cardinal's ability to execute and make good decisions in pressure situations that has them playing again on Tuesday. Stanford was the cooler of the two teams to start the game and the same can be said for the end. Stanford had the presence of mind at the right time. First, it was making Ogwumike touch the ball in the post with 21 seconds left that led to two free throws. Then it was a long pass from Kayla Pedersen to Ogwumike against full-court Oklahoma pressure that produced the game-sealing layup. Those turned out to be the two biggest plays of the night.|
|Stanford's Kayla Pedersen. Her contributions don't always come in scoring and rebounding. It's the calm demeanor she brings to the court. She's the Cardinal's pressure release player. When they were getting trapped at the end of the game, whose hands did they get the ball to? When the shot clock is going down, when it's a run by the other team and Stanford needs a bucket, the ball is in Kayla Pedersen's hands. Not because she can score it, but because coach Tara VanDerveer can count on her junior to make the correct decision and make the play for the Cardinal. Her ability to do that in the first half was key. Oklahoma didn't have an answer for Pedersen's 6-foot-4 frame when she was playing at the 3 position. And more importantly, the Sooners didn't have an answer for Pedersen's speed when she was playing the 4. When Pedersen had the ball in her hands, Stanford was a much calmer team.|
|Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike. She had a phenomenal night and was the go-to crunch player that Stanford needed. She was relentless and showed her toughness, her attack and her athleticism. Ogwumike and Pedersen can interchange on the block, and because of Stanford's versatility in the high-low option and the triangle offense, it has the opportunity to go after a national championship, especially if Ogwumike continues to play like that.|
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