Now Stanford can say it for reals, they are Pac-12 Champions.
They won the Pac-12 regular season by going undefeated and earned a number 1 seed in the post-season tournament. Then they had to play the games. And they almost lost to a defense-minded ASU in the semis. And the finals were against the only team to take them to overtime this season, Cal. But it didn’t really matter. Stanford won all of them, and got to cut down the nets.
Again, this was a physical game with inconsistent refereeing. Cal keyed on the inside duo of sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike. Stanford perimeter players responded by going 1-8 from three-point land in the first. Cal, on the other hand, which is not known for its outside shooting, made 5-9 three pointers in the first, enabling them to keep the score close at the break, 37-31. Cal had been in the hole by as much as 13 points earlier in the half.
But both teams knew the three point shooting were both anomalies. Cal would go 0-3 on threes in the second, and Stanford would be 4-8 from behind the line. And the biggest surprise of them all was newly minted three-point shooter post player Nneka Ogwumike. She made not 1, not 2, but 3 threes. She missed a 4th attempt somewhere, C and R don’t remember amidst the yelling and the screaming and the cats-running for cover over at SC’s place. The twitter-sphere went crazy. Nneka had not made a three all season! She previous had made 2 threes in her career! It was out of this world!
And also timely. Sister Chiney went out of the game with 4 fouls with 9:37 to play and Stanford with a 10-point lead. Nneka herself had 3 personal fouls. And that’s when she hit it, her first three, for a 13-point lead and it wouldn’t get any closer. The game ended with the score 77-62, Stanford.
So just what got into Nneka to start bombing threes? Apparently, she makes the all the time in practice. Sister Chiney counseled her earlier saying she’s got a great outside shot, but as soon as she steps over that line, she physiologically psyches herself out (Or something like that, Chiney tells the story better). Chiney told Nneka to stop placing such importance on the line and just shoot, especially if the shot clock is winding down. And she did! Three times, and it was a dagger in Cal’s heart.
Let’s look at the records:
Nneka Ogwumike became the all-time scorer in Pac-12 Tournament history. Nneka also equaled Pac-12 Tournament record for most points in a tournament (71). Chiney Ogwumike broke the Pac-12 Tournament record for most rebounds in a tournament with 36. Stanford set a school record with its 28th consecutive victory and extending its win streak over Pac-12 foes to 78 games.
Then let’s look at stats:
Both sisters had a double-double. Nneka had 29 points, and 12 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots and 3 threes! Sister Chiney had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and one flagrant elbow call (Brittany Boyd missed both shots, so there was some justice in the air). The sisters combined for 46 points and 25 rebounds. Freshmen guard Amber Orrrrange added 13 and 3 assists. Nneka averaged 23.7 points 10.3 rebounds during the tourney.
Let’s look at the awards:
Nneka earned the Pac-12 tournament MVP. Nneka and Chiney were named to the all-conference tournament team. Stanford took home a shiny trophy and Nneka wore the net around her neck on the flight home.
Things we learned from twitter:
Mikaela Ruef did not make the trip down to LA. She had surgery on her foot the day before. She plans to make the NCAA tournament, although it is not clear she will play, although that does seem doubtful.
Things we learned from fans that were courtside, of which there were few, (announced attendance was 1,845):
Bonnie Samuelson was hurt. She was seen limping and crying when she left the floor. The thought is Nneka might have landed on her leg. Having the MVP land on you is a small price to pay for a Pac-12 Championship.
Selection Monday, where the 64-team field will be set and Stanford will find out how may thousands of miles they will have to travel. It will be on ESPN at 4 PM Stanford time.
Follow C and R on Facebook and Twitter, and maybe you'll win the Pac-12 championship too!