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March 03, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Stanford women No. 1 seed for Pac-10 hoop Stanford women No. 1 seed for Pac-10 hoop (March 03, 2004)tourney after tying for regular-season title

by Rick Eymer

If history means anything, expect the Stanford women's basketball team to recover from a sluggish final week of the regular season to play some of its best basketball this week in the Pac-10 tournament which gets underway on Friday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.

The Cardinal (14-4 in the Pac-10, 21-6 overall) struggled on the road last week, needing a last second shot from Nicole Powell to beat Oregon State, 67-66, on Saturday, after getting upset by Oregon, 67-66, on a last second shot on Thursday.

Stanford and Arizona finished tied for first in the Pac-10, but the Cardinal earned the tournament's No. 1 seed in a tiebreaker. It was Stanford's fourth straight conference title.

Stanford opens the Pac-10 tourney on Saturday at 5 p.m. against either California or Oregon. Sunday's semifinal game would be at 3:05 p.m. The championship game is slated for Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Stanford went a little flat in the final week of the regular season last year, losing at Arizona by 15 points. The Cardinal came back to beat the Wildcats in the title game of the tournament 11 days later.

Stanford will be trying to reach its third consecutive Pac-10 championship game. The Cardinal lost to Arizona State in 2002 before beating Arizona for the title last year.

The winner of the 10-team conference tournament receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Oregon State (8-10, 14-13) opens the tournament with a game against Washington State (2-16, 6-21) on Friday at 6 p.m. At stake for the Beavers is a berth in the Women's NIT. A victory over the Cougars will secure a spot.

Oregon (6-12, 14-14) needs a win over California (4-14, 11-16) for a possible spot in the NIT. The Ducks and Bears play at 8:15 p.m. on Friday.

Saturday's quarterfinals begins at 11 a.m. when USC (11-7, 15-12) takes on Washington (9-9, 16-11), followed by Arizona (14-4, 22-7) against either Oregon State or Washington State.

UCLA (11-7, 16-11) plays Arizona State (11-7, 17-10) in the 7:15 p.m. game on Saturday.

USC, Washington, UCLA and Arizona State still have dreams of being invited to the NCAA tournament, but all of them need to win at least once in the tournament for a legitimate chance.

For Stanford, it's a matter of readjusting to the tournament atmosphere. A poor showing on the road last week can't help the Cardinal's confidence. A good showing at the conference tournament would help send Stanford back on the road for the NCAA party in good spirits. Powell made the most of her second chance on Saturday, sinking a baseline jumper in the final six seconds to lift Stanford past the Beavers and into a share of the Pac-10 title.

On Thursday, Powell missed an open 17-footer at the buzzer that allowed Oregon to hang on.

"Sometimes you make them and sometimes you don't," said Powell, who had 23 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against Oregon State. "Against Oregon, I thought I had a good shot and it was going in. This one went in and we won."

Kelley Suminski also got hot, scoring 17 points as Stanford overcame a 15-point second-half deficit by outscoring the Beavers 26-10 down the stretch.

"We needed this," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "We had to work very hard for it. We looked absolutely dead in the water, then we started pressing and I think the aggressiveness defensively really helped us."

The Cardinal took a short lead at halftime, but then missed their first 11 shots of the second half to allow the Beavers to start pulling away.

Oregon State held a 56-41 lead with 12:16 remaining to play before Powell hit a 3-pointer and T'Nae Thiel made two straight baskets to steer Stanford in the right direction.

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