SAN ANTONIO — Nnemkadi Ogwumike put Stanford ahead early, then took control in the final minute to secure a spot in the national championship game.
Ogwumike scored Stanford’s first 8 points and the final 7 — in the last 51.3 seconds — to make sure the Cardinal never trailed on the way to a 73-66 victory over Oklahoma last night in the women’s Final Four.
Ogwumike, playing in front of family and friends just three hours from her Houston-area home, scored a career-high 38 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. She also had 2 assists, a block and a key steal in the final minute to put Stanford in the title game for the second time in three years.
“We talked about playing with fire and I think we lit that fire tonight,’’ said Ogwumike, the Pac-10 player of the year.
Next up for Stanford (36-1) is UConn. The Cardinal will be seeking their first national championship since 1992. Stanford is 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.’’
Jayne Appel had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Cardinal, and Kayla Pederson had 12 points and nine rebounds, but the rest of the team combined for four baskets. The Cardinal went 1 of 15 on 3-pointers and missed nine free throws. Ogwumike missed a pair of 3s, but was 12 of 13 from the foul line, her only miss coming in that final-minute surge.
This was the second straight close call for the Cardinal, who needed a buzzer-beating layup to get past Xavier in the regional final.
“I think we’re a little jittery,’’ VanDerveer said. “You know, we missed some really very makeable baskets.’’
Oklahoma was knocked out in the Final Four for a second straight season, although just getting this far was quite a feat. OU came into the season trying to replace Courtney and Ashley Paris, then five games in lost Whitney Hand, the previous season’s conference player of the year, to a knee injury. Oklahoma also endured the nation’s toughest schedule.
Sparkplug point guard Danielle Robinson led the Sooners with 23 points and 6 assists. Abi Olajuwon — playing in front of her father, Hakeem Olajuwon, for the first time in her four-year college career — had 12 points and 9 rebounds. Nyeshia Stevenson added 15 points.