Sisters lift Stanford to rout of Gonzaga
SPOKANE, Wash. — Nnemkadi Ogwumike knows nothing but going to the Final Four since arriving at Stanford. Little sister Chiney is coming along for the ride this time.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated the inside with 23 points and 11 rebounds, sister Chiney chipped in with 18 points and 15 boards, and Stanford is headed back to its fourth straight Final Four after the top-seeded Cardinal ended the surprising run of Gonzaga, 83-60, in the Spokane Regional final last night.
The size and strength of Stanford was simply too much for the Bulldogs, and their more than 11,000 hometown fans, to overcome on this night. Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen will close out their college careers on The Farm a perfect 4 for 4 at reaching the Final Four, a streak that started by winning the Spokane Regional in 2008 when they were freshmen.
Stanford (33-2) won its 27th straight to match the longest streak in school history and will face the Baylor-Texas A&M winner in the national semifinals Sunday night.
“Some people might take this for granted but we’re very grateful to be going,’’ Pohlen said.
Courtney Vandersloot did her best to carry Gonzaga (31-5) for a half before the Bulldogs wore down in the final 20 minutes under a bevy of missed shots and a befuddling Stanford zone defense. Vandersloot, who came in averaging 30.7 points and 10.3 assists in the tournament, finished with 25 points and nine assists, including 18 straight Gonzaga points during a 9-minute stretch of the first half.
But Stanford managed to harass Vandersloot in the second half and limited her to just 4 points. Her stellar college career ended when she checked out with 1:14 left to a standing ovation and a wave to the crowd after leading Gonzaga to upsets of Iowa, UCLA, and Louisville to reach the first Elite Eight in school history.
“In the second half we weren’t getting the shots we were in the first half and things just started to go Stanford’s way,’’ Vandersloot said.
Gonzaga was trying to become the first team not named Stanford from West of the Rockies to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988.
Instead, it’s Stanford going to the Final Four for the 10th time.
Pohlen broke out of her recent shooting slump by hitting five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
Lindy La Rocque, averaging less than 4 points on the season, scored 11, including a pair of key 3-pointers in the first half when the Ogwumikes were getting plenty of help from teammates.
Then the sisters took it upon themselves at the start of the second half to make sure there wouldn’t be one more Gonzaga upset. They scored 14 of Stanford’s first 16 points to start the half, with Nnemkadi twice ripping away rebounds on Chiney’s misses. They combined for 11 offensive rebounds and 26 rebounds total — more than Gonzaga’s total of 25. Stanford outrebounded Gonzaga by 24.
“We did a really good job of playing together today and I’m just really proud of her performance,’’ Nnemkadi Ogwumike said of her sister.
It was the worst time for Gonzaga to post its worst shooting game (34 percent) of the season.