Stanford All-American Chiney Ogwumike played as advertised.
The problem for Penn State in this NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 matchup was that Ogwumike had too much help from her friends.
Ogwumike had 29 points and 15 rebounds, and three more Cardinal players scored in double figures as second-seeded Stanford ended the third-seeded Lady Lions’ season with an 82-57 romp at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal (32-3) will face fourth-seeded North Carolina (27-9) in the regional final on Tuesday with a chance to make their sixth Final Four in the last seven seasons.
Ariel Edwards’ 22 points led the Lady Lions, who finished the season 24-8. Dara Taylor added 11 and Talia East had 10, but leading scorer Maggie Lucas had a frustrating afternoon and was held to six points, none over the final 29 1/2 minutes of the game.
Ogwumike connected on 10 of 19 shots from the floor, 9 of 10 from the line and dominated the glass.
But the Cardinal, who did not have another player averaging more than 9.8 points per game coming in, got points from other sources. Amber Orrange netted 18 points, while Mikaela Ruef (13 rebounds) and Lili Thompson added 11 points each. Each of those players had baskets and Bonnie Samuelson nailed two 3-pointers in a first-half run that erased a Penn State lead and put the Cardinal in control.
“I think today was an ideal day for Stanford basketball,” said Ogwumike, who had her 25th double-double of the season. “I think we had so many contributors.”
“That’s why they’re an outstanding team,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “They’ve won 30-plus games and it’s not just Chiney Ogwumike. They have other players who are stepping up and capable of making big plays. I thought Orrange did that. Ruef did that. Thompson hit some big and timely shots. When you’ve got contributions coming from a lot of different people, it’s tough to stop a run and make a run of your own.”
“Chiney is a star,” Stanford coach Tara VanDeveer added. “She does amazing things for us. She was up against some really big physical kids. It’s not going to get any easier. She needs other people to make plays so she doesn’t feel like she has to do it all. Other people made plays today and that was great.”
Stanford got out to the early lead but Penn State fought back. A 7-0 run, punctuated by a fadeaway from Lucas, gave the Lady Lions a 23-19 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes remaining in the half.
But from there it was all Stanford to close out the half. Ogwumike had eight points, Samuelson had six and Orrange had four as the Cardinal outscored the Lady Lions 25-7. A 14-0 outburst started the run that gave Stanford a 44-30 lead at the break.
“It was transition defense,” Lucas said. “We took some quick shots and they were able to score pretty easily. It’s a credit to them for taking advantage of that moment.”
Edwards, who scored the last seven points of the first half, scored six of the Lady Lions’ first nine to start the second half.
Her slashes to the basket were Penn State’s only reliable offense.
“My coaches kept telling me that they really needed me to be aggressive this game,” said Edwards, who missed her first three shots before finishing 7 of 18 from the floor. “After I got a little bit of jitters out, I felt like I settled in a little bit.”
“She played like she’s been playing the last 10 to 12 games of the season,” Washington said. “When she’s really aggressive attacking the basket and her mid-range game shooting open shots, she’s a tough cover. I thought she played really well on the offensive end.”
One of Edwards’ drives to the basket drew a third foul on Ogwumike with 15:38 left and Penn State down 51-39. The Stanford standout sat out for the next 2:16, but Penn State failed to make a dent in the 12-point deficit. The score was 53-41 when Ogwumike returned with 13:22 to go.
Edwards and East said the Lady Lions missed a golden opportunity with Ogwumike on the bench.
“Stanford is a great team with or without her, but she definitely makes a huge difference,” Edwards said. “That could have been a moment where we could have put a bit more pressure on them, but they did a good job of maintaining their lead while she was out.”
“You definitely have to take advantage when their best player is off the floor and we didn’t necessarily do the best job of it,” East said.
Edwards picked up her fourth foul with 8:23 left and Penn State down 61-48. The Lady Lions never got closer. Ogwumike and Orrange combined for 17 points as the Cardinal lead grew to 82-54 with 2:09 left. VanDeveer replaced her starters with 1:20 remaining.
Washington brought East, Lucas and Edwards off the floor to a fine ovation with 40.5 seconds left.
Lucas left the hardwood after one of the more frustrating days of her career. She was held scoreless after her basket gave Penn State its 23-19 lead. She finished 3 for 14 from the floor, having been hounded by Thompson most of the game.
“Just playing hard and trying not to let her get as many touches as she usually does was pretty much my No. 1 plan,” Thompson said.
“Lili really understood that this was her job and that for us to be successful she had to do it,” VanDerveer said. “She did a fabulous job. Maggie Lucas hasn’t had six points since third grade. I mean that girl can flat out score. We’ve seen her light up teams. She’s in a great league and she’s a great player. We had to not only have Lili, but other people had to help on her to make someone else score besides her.”
Lucas, who did not shoot a free throw in the game for the first time this season, said she thought Thompson got away with a lot during the game.
“I think I got shots early on,” Lucas said. “In the second half, honestly I just don’t think it was consistent in the way it was reffed. On one hand, it’s two hands on it’s a foul and on the other hand we’re looking the other way. There’s not much you can do about it. You can play through it better, but there’s only so much you can do when you have two hands on you every time you try to make a move.
“She’s a good defender,” Lucas added. “I got good looks. That’s on me.”
Lucas, Edwards, Taylor and East played their final games for Penn State and were disappointed.
“We came into the game thinking we could play with them,” Taylor said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game, but we knew we could play with them. We let it get away from us.”