Janesville73°

Big game, big stage

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Associaed Press
April 5, 2010
— Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike was having one of the greatest performances ever at a women’s Final Four, yet her team was ahead by only three points with 16 seconds left.

So how in the world did she break free for an uncontested layup?


Slipping away from the Oklahoma defenders she’d befuddled all night, Ogwumike took a long inbounds pass near midcourt and strolled in for an easy basket that sent the Cardinal to a 73-66 victory Sunday night and into the national championship game.


“I didn’t think I would actually be open,” Ogwumike said. “I thought it was an awesome play to run. It was definitely spur of the moment. A great coaching decision. We executed it right and it worked.”


Ogwumike scored Stanford’s first eight points and the final seven—in the last 51.3 seconds—on the way to a career-high 38 points. It was the second-most in women’s Final Four history, behind the 47 scored by Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes in the 1993 championship game.


Ogwumike also had 16 rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, which came right after that game-sealing layup, all to screams of delight from family and friends just three hours from her Houston-area home.


They get to watch her play again, too, on Tuesday night, when Stanford (36-1) will be in the NCAA final for the second time in three years, seeking its first championship since 1992.


The Cardinal will play UConn.


Stanford will get another crack at the only team it has lost to since Jan. 18, 2009, having fallen in last year’s Final Four and early this season. It also will be the first title game pitting the top two teams in the final Associated Press regular-season poll since 2002.


The Cardinal are the last team to beat the Huskies—in the 2008 NCAA tournament semifinals.


“We’re excited to be playing on Tuesday night,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “This is just great.”


So was Ogwumike.


She had 14 points and nine rebounds by halftime, and seemed to be everywhere.


When Oklahoma (27-11) started closing in midway through the second half, Ogwumike—the Pac-10 player of the year—scored eight points during a 12-4 run. Soon after, she had a three-point play and earned a standing ovation from fans when she went to the bench.


She scored nine of Stanford’s final 11 points and assisted on the other, which was another long pass for a breakaway layup by Jayne Appel.


“Her game has matured,” VanDerveer said. “She’s confident, in the flow, knows what we’re looking for.”


Point guard Danielle Robinson led the Sooners with 23 points and six assists.



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