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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 29, 2013

Stanford's position is sweet

Cardinal just two wins away from reaching the Final Four again

by Rick Eymer

Joslyn Tinkle thinks the Stanford women's basketball team showed why it will be a national title contender in its 73-40 victory over visiting Michigan on Tuesday in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Maples Pavilion.

"That is what we need to keep advancing," said Tinkle, who scored a game-high 21 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers. "We can't rely on Chiney every game. We know she will bring it every game and we proved we have multiple threats."

Top-seeded Stanford (33-2) advances to a regional semifinal at the Spokane Arena and plays No. 4 seed Georgia (27-6) on Saturday at 6:04 p.m. (ESPN)

Stanford leads the all-time series with Georgia, 7-3, and Saturday's meeting will be the seventh between the schools in the NCAA tournament (Stanford holds a 4-2 edge in those games).

The last meeting of the schools was in the 2010 NCAA regional semifinal in Sacramento as Stanford took care of business with a 73-36 victory.

No. 2 seed California (30-3) plays No. 6 LSU (22-11) in the other semifinal at 8:32 p.m. (ESPN2). One of the four teams in Spokane will reach the Final Four.

The regional final is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. on Monday night.

Chiney, of course, is Chiney Ogwumike. She was limited to 12 points by Michigan but has 15 rebounds and was a defensive force.

Ogwumike is a lock to be named a first team All-American and is one of two or three players in the conversation for the national player of the year.

If nationally fourth-ranked Stanford (33-2) goes on to win its first national title since 1992, it will be because of Ogwumike, who averages roughly 22 points and 13 rebounds a game.

Contributions, however, are always needed from her teammates, and they all responded against the Wolverines, who tried to zone Stanford in an effort to take away Ogwumike's presence. Tinkle, Sara James and Bonnie Samuelson made them pay by nailing 3-pointers.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer could remember only Arizona State playing a zone against the Cardinal (Cal did at times to switch things up) for any length of time.

"This is the kind of game that will help us," VanDerveer said. "I'm excited to be going to Spokane."

The teams who did manage to beat Stanford or slow down Ogwumike each had a top defender athletic enough to stay with her.

"Their team's success starts with her," Michigan senior forward Rachel Sheffer said. "She brings so much to the court. She never stops working. She works 30 seconds every possession. We keyed on Ogwumike and tried to take away the post but they kept hitting shot after shot."

Tinkle, meanwhile, made sure her final game in Maples Pavilion was one to remember while James turned in one of the top defensive efforts by any player all year.

The game plan was executed to near perfection, which means the Stanford women's basketball team will play in the Sweet 16 for the sixth consecutive season in hopes of reaching its sixth consecutive Final Four.

Tinkle did not miss from long range as Stanford won its 19th straight. James put the clamps on Michigan's Kate Thompson, one of the nation's best 3-point shooters.

"I could not have asked to play any better than we did," said VanDerveer, who is six wins shy of 900 for her career. "I'm happy for Jos. I told her Candice Wiggins scored 44 points in her final game in Maples and Roz (Gold-Onwude) went crazy in her final game here, so it was her turn to keep up the tradition."

Tinkle shot 70 percent for the game and Stanford shot nearly 54 percent. Even with Ogwumike limited offensively, Michigan could not answer Stanford's sharp shooters.

One of the reasons is the defense James played on Thompson, who missed her first 10 shots and made her only basket late in the game.

"She's a player who didn't get major minutes but she'll do whatever we ask of her," VanDerveer said of James. "I told her 'no 3s. If Thompson hits a 3, you're coming out.' Sara really focused."

And Michigan could not help but notice.

"She did a good job of being physical," Michigan's Jenny Ryan said of James. "She was right on her the whole time. She got into her and never let up. We set screen after screen after screen and she worked hard."

The Wolverines scored fewer points just once all season and were held below 46 for just the third time.

"Physically they didn't allow us to do anything," Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "It started with James, but it was one through five really. As a coach, I hate saying this but we might have felt a little intimidated. Ogwumike might have made a difference in us not going inside. She has that reputation and she's just an outstanding basketball player."

Stanford made a season-high 12 three-pointers, eight coming in the first half during perhaps the most dominating half of the season for the Cardinal. Michigan had 14 made baskets total and shot under 30 percent for the game.

Like much of the nation, Barnes Arico had heard Stanford was more of a one-player team and she devised a defense based on stopping Ogwumike.

"I heard about it all week long but I doubt there are many teams who played them and think that way," she said. "You're not 33-2 without being an outstanding team."

Amber Orrange added 11 points and six assists, with just two turnovers, and continues to develop her all-around game for Stanford.

Samuelson, Mikaela Ruef and James were all within a point of double figures. Ryan scored 11 to lead the Wolverines. Tinkle, meanwhile, was outstanding.

"The past couple of days have been crazy, surreal thinking this was my last game at Maples," Tinkle said. "I had a nice talk with Kate Paye and with my parents about how to handle the situation. I was sad, yet at the same time I wanted to go out with a bang, and I wanted my team to go out with a bang. I was happy out there. I had fun."

VanDerveer remembered the high school girl who came to Spokane to watch Stanford play Maryland years ago in a regional. At the time, Tinkle was one of the most sought-after players in the country.

"She wanted to be part of this team," VanDerveer said. "Jos is really Stanford. She's a high-energy person. I love her energy and her versatility. Tonight, she was in her element."

As for Tinkle's roommate?

"I knew she'd play hard," Ruef said, "But to go 5 for 5? That was sweet."

As in the Sweet 16.

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