Two days after struggling against North Carolina, Stanford blew out Gonzaga in Spokane to advance to its fourth consecutive Final Four. With the 83-60 win, the Card are the first #1 seed in this year’s tournament to make the Final Four following Tennessee’s loss to Notre Dame earlier on Monday. The 11th-seeded Gonzaga is the first group to ever make the Elite Eight as an 11 seed, but the hometown favorite could not overcome an efficient and especially motivated Stanford squad.
Gonzaga stayed within 9 points of Stanford in the first half and had scored 38 points at the break. Gonzaga star point guard Courtney Vandersloot logged 21 points in the first 20 minutes. But Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer switched to a zone defense that limited Gonzaga to 22 second-half points and kept Vandersloot to 4 points in the final period.
The Ogwumike sisters again provided the majority of the offensive firepower for Stanford. Nneka, who attributed the success of the sister duo to an “inter-knowing” between them, led the team with 23 points and completed the double-double with 12 rebounds. Chiney grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds while scoring 18 points of her own. Senior forward Kayla Pedersen pulled down 12 rebounds and scored 8 points, and starting guards Jeanette Pohlen (17 points, 5 assists) and Lindy La Rocque (11 points) each put up double figures.
Despite playing a long bench–13 women got into the game for Stanford–VanDerveer relied almost entirely on her starting lineup for substantial minutes. The Cardinal bench played just 28 minutes, and freshman guard Toni Kokenis’s 8 minutes were the most of any non-starter. Pedersen, Nneka Ogwumike, and Pohlen all played nearly the entire game, perhaps in part to help give rest to Kokenis, who suffered an ankle injury during tournament play last week.
Gonzaga also used a starter-heavy rotation scheme, but could not manage to score consistently throughout the night. The team made just over one-third of its shots from the field, and only shot 29% from three.
Stanford rebounded (literally) from a deficit on the boards against UNC to more than double the rebounding numbers of Gonzaga (Stanford recorded 45 rebounds, compared to Gonzaga’s 22).
The Card had ball security problems against a crafty Gonzaga team that features outstanding guard play. But the Bulldogs couldn’t turn enough of those turnovers into points, especially in the second half.
Although VanDerveer and her team would not likely pause to revel in the win with at least one more game left to play, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the remarkable accomplishments of the senior class. Pedersen, Pohlen, Hannah Donaghe, and Ashley Cimino never lost at Maples Pavilion and never failed to reach the Final Four. Both feats are firsts in Stanford history.
Stanford will travel to Indianapolis to face either Baylor or Texas A&M in the national semifinal game on Sunday. The winner of that game will face Notre Dame, UConn, or Duke on the following Tuesday night for the national championship.
[Editor’s Note: The initial version of this article mistakenly listed Texas Tech as a possible opponent for Stanford in the semifinal. Baylor will in fact play Texas A&M, not Texas Tech.]