Freshman Toni Kokenis came off the bench to score a season-high 17 points and spark the second-ranked Stanford women's basketball team to a 64-55 victory over seventh-ranked UCLA in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"Toni stepped up really big for us," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "She played well against UCLA last time. I had confidence that she could come out with our team in the second half and recognizing what was open."
Nnemkadi Ogwumike, named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, added 15 points and Kayla Pedersen had 12 points for the Cardinal (29-2), which awaits Monday's NCAA selection show to determine its first-round opponent.
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament will be held at Stanford.
With UCLA ahead, 46-41, midway through the second half, Stanford went to work. The Cardinal went on a 16-2 run (which included a 10-0 run) to regain control.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike's old-fashioned three-point play with 6:12 remaining to play gave Stanford its first lead of the second half. The Bruins retook the lead moments later, but then the Cardinal took a 57-48 edge into the final three minutes.
Kokenis scored 10 of her points in the final 5:17 of the contest.
"It all started on defense," Kokenis said. "Great plays by my teammates who tipped the ball and I was just in the right place at the right time. We passed the ball really well on offense and I got some open shots and was able to knock them down."
UCLA stretched its lead to 11 points three times early in the second half. Jeanette Pohlen hit two straight 3-pointers, Kokenis recorded a steal and scored on a fastbreak layup, then got fouled and made the first of two free throws to bring the Cardinal within 40-38.
"It's very unusual that we are in that spot," Pedersen said. "I don't think that any of us panicked though. It was more of a challenge. How are we going to get out of it? How are we going to fight back?"
The Bruins scored four in a row to go back up six before Stanford put together a 17-2 spurt, with Kokenis scoring 10 in a row, that gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
"Toni helped us defensively, her speed, getting out, and getting those layups, getting to the free throw line and making those threes," VanDerveer said.
Kokenis, an honorable mention on the conference's all-freshman team, hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the run.
"It was on instinct and just giving whatever I could to the team and being aggressive," Kokenis said.
Stanford was up, 16-9, with 9:53 remaining in the first half. With Chiney Ogwumike, also named to the all-tournament team, in foul trouble and spending tine on the bench, the Bruins outscored the Cardinal, 21-5, the rest of the way to take a 30-21 advantage into halftime.
"They had us on the ropes and we had to really battle to come back," VanDerveer said. "This game will help us a lot."
The Cardinal settled for long range shots early on and weren't successful at it. Stanford hit 2-of-14 from 3-point range. In the paint, Stanford made five of six.
It wasn't so much that Pohlen missed all five of her shots in the first 20 minutes, but that the Ogwumike sisters combined to attempt a mere four shots (they made three of them).
Meanwhile the Bruins forced eight turnovers (six were steals) and took advantage of them. UCLA made 10 of 27 shots in the first half.
NOTES: Stanford appeared in its 10th tournament championship game in as many tournaments. The Cardinal is 8-2 in title games . . . Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored in double figures for the 27th time this season while Pedersen reached double digits for the 26th time . . . Stanford's 21 points were its lowest in any half this season.