Sports

Stanford, North Carolina women set for meeting

 

Top-seeded and second-ranked Stanford (31-2) meets fifth-seeded and 14th-ranked North Carolina (28-8) in the regional semifinals of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in Spokane at 8:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

Cardinal senior Kayla Pedersen enters play with 1,235 career rebounds, 28 shy of Jayne Appel's all-time Stanford and Pac-10 record of 1,263 rebounds.

Senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen has made 88 3-pointers on the season, three shy of matching Krista Rappahahn's Stanford single-season record of 91.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell have combined to win 1,683 games. They've coached against each other once: March 23, 1995, with Stanford winning, 81-71, in the regional semifinals.

VanDerveer went on to coach Team USA to the 1996 gold medal in Atlanta. Hatchell just kept winning at North Carolina, alongside the legendary Dean Smith.

VanDerveer, Pedersen and Pohlen discussed Saturday's game during a press conference at the Spokane Arena on Friday.

Some of their thoughts:

VanDerveer:

"They have an experienced and a very successful coach in Sylvia Hatchell and her staff, and then they have terrific players. They are extremely athletic and extremely talented. Their leading scorer, Italee Lucas, kind of a west coast person, scores, takes the ball to the basket. They really get out in transition well, they rebound really well, they have a lot of weapons, and this is a really big challenge for our team."

on freshman guard Toni Kokenis, who turned her ankle in last week's victory over St. John's: "We're expecting to have her just jog on the court and see how that feels for her. She has an ankle brace and she's been working really hard with our trainer and our team doctors to make sure that it's OK."

Pedersen:

on keys to victory: "Rebounding and taking care of the ball. Those are the two main things that will really help us."

on Kokenis: "Toni contributes a lot coming off the bench much for us. She's just going to go as hard as she can and whatever coach does will be fine, but she will just contribute in any way she can."

Pohlen:

on keys to victory: "They're a great rebounding team and they get about 11 steals a game, so they're very aggressive as well. And just kind of taking our time and getting good shots, not rushing things too much, but making sure we get the shots that we want."

on Kokenis: "Toni's definitely got the speed that helps us, and comes off the bench and helps handle the ball a lot. I think that she's very strong and has a really good mentality going in, no matter how she's feeling. She's already said she can fight through the pain, which gives us confidence knowing that she can fight through an injury like that. We have other people that can come off the bench and help too."

The Cardinal advanced through the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend and concluded a program-record fourth straight undefeated home season with a 75-49 second-round win over St. John's Monday night.

Seniors Kayla Pedersen, Jeanette Pohlen, Ashley Cimino and Hannah Donaghe ended their home careers a perfect 63-0 at Maples Pavilion. Pedersen scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win, while Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 22 points and Chiney Ogwumike posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Sophomores Mikaela Ruef (five points, four rebounds, four assists) and Joslyn Tinkle (seven points, seven rebounds) provided a spark off the bench for the Cardinal, which shot a combined 53.4 percent (31-for-58) from the field in the victory.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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