Good teams come and go. Great teams are in it for the long haul. It's the only way to explain how the Stanford women's basketball team keeps rising to the occasion.
After a miserable start against good, great and decent teams, the Cardinal rides into Sunday's 6 p.m. championship game like a general confidently leading his troops.
No. 16 Stanford beat Arizona State 58-46 in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament Saturday in Seattle. Kiana Williams, who stopped playing like a freshman a month ago, scored 24 points to lead the Cardinal (22-9) charge. She took 11 shots, seven from 3-point land, and missed two of them.
Stanford will be attending its 15th championship game and will bring a 12-2 record in its 14 previous engagements. Oregon is making its first ever appearance, that is if you don't count the old McArthur Court, which served as tournament host in 2002, the first time the tournament was contested.
The Cardinal has missed out on the final game twice, both within the past five years. But it manages to keep coming back and has a chance to win back-to-back titles since a seven-year streak following the 2013 season.
Stanford is the only team to have won more than one tournament title, let alone repeat.
Oregon is the top seed and brings the conference's Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and, according to the media, Coach of the Year.
"Oregon gives you the ultimate challenge in that they have a good inside game and a good outside game," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "They're a legitimate Top 10 team."
The sixth-ranked Ducks (29-4) rallied to beat UCLA, 65-62, in their semifinal. Stanford beat Oregon in its only meeting of the year and that was in Eugene.
"It's going to be a battle, a real grind out game," Williams said.
Alanna Smith added 13 points against the Sun Devils, one of three Pac-12 teams to beat the Cardinal in conference play.
"I thought we did a good job of team defense," Smith said. "We were really aggressive."
Arizona State missed 12 of its first 14 shots and the Cardinal took advantage to open an early 20-point lead. DiJonai Carrington hit back-to-back jumpers to give Stanford its biggest lead at 56-30 with eight minutes left before the Sun Devils closed on a 16-2 run.