The Pac-12 Conference championship will be missing the Stanford women's basketball team for the first time in the tournament's history.
Lili Thompson added 13 points for the Cardinal (29-3), which lost its second game in the Emerald City this season. It's a place that has given many athletic teams at Stanford a certain amount of anxiety over the years.
Stanford gets a chance to relax a bit before the NCAA selection committee announces the 64-team bracket on Monday, March 17 (full moon) at 4 p.m. (PT).
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer almost certainly has developed a to-do list already as Stanford looks to regroup in time for the postseason party.
"We did not shoot the ball well," VanDerveer said. "I thought we worked hard on defense, but offensively we really struggled, and that is something we have two weeks to work on, and that is our plan."
Ogwumike tried, once more, to put Stanford on her back and fell short. She tried a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the closing moments and missed. She failed to score over the final seven minutes of the contest.
"They hit shots, timely shots," Ogwumike said. "That's always tough. We'll learn from that defensively. Offensively we'll just fine tune things."
Will the Cardinal be ready to make a run in the NCAA tournament? Did the loss mean losing a No.1 seed? Will Ogwumike have to carry an even heavier load? How will Stanford rebound from its first conference tournament loss in eight years?
"We have not been moving the ball well," VanDerveer said. "The past month or so we've been stagnant offensively and we need to fix that."
Stanford will have to be careful not to slip in the first two rounds of the tournament, since the Cardinal hosts the West Regional. It might be wise to avoid yet another trip to Seattle, even if its means opening in Pauley Pavilion or some other location, just anywhere but Seattle.
Tied at 32 at halftime, Stanford missed 13 of 14 shots to start the second half and was down 46-36 before Ogwumike put back an offensive rebound with 12:55 left.
"I was proud of our defensive effort, but I think offensively we need to execute better and play with a sense of urgency," Ogwumike said. "I think we played hard, but we need to take that to another level."
The Cardinal opened the game by missing 10 of their 12 shots and falling behind 9-4 after the first seven minutes.
"Losing a game is not the worst thing," VanDerveer said. "If something happened to one of your key players, that is the worst thing. We're not going to worry about seeding. We're going to worry about getting our team running the offense better, working harder defensively, having people understand what shots we want them to take. Just pick it up from here."
She converted a three-point play to get Stanford within seven, and then blocked a shot. The block eventually led to Amber Orrange's 3-pointer from the top of the key. Ogwumike added a pair of free throws and the Trojans lead was down to 50-48.
The run continued with six more points from Ogwumike and Stanford retook the lead on Thompson's driving layup for a 58-57 lead with 6:45 left. Free throws from Thompson pushed the lead to three.
USC eventually built a seven-point lead with 1:23 left and the Cardinal could not put together another run.
"There were some key possessions that we didn't get that could have changed the outcome," Thompson said. Hopefully this loss will help us turn around and let us go far in the big dance."
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