Mar. 10, 2003
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Somehow, a makeshift scouting report on Stanford showed up in the Cardinal locker room before Monday's Pac-10 tournament title game.
"Great shooter," the report said next to one name. "Knocks down 3s," it said by another. Coach Tara VanDerveer left it there, then went to eat.
Her players took the words to heart. Tournament MVP Nicole Powell scored 13 of her 19 points in the first eight minutes as No. 9 Stanford opened up an early lead to defeat 21st-ranked Arizona 59-49 and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
"They hear criticism so much from me, it was nice for them to hear good things being said about them from other people," VanDerveer said of the mysterious report, author unknown. "Just a little reminder helped."
Stanford (26-4) was determined to win Monday after losing to Arizona State in the title game in last season's inaugural conference tournament despite going 18-0 in Pac-10 play.
"I think they were a team on a mission because of a year ago," Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini said. "Nicole is a great leader and gives her team a lot of confidence, but she's not their only weapon."
Arizona's players exited the court in HP Pavilion without shaking hands with Stanford, but reluctantly returned for the awards ceremony.
Dee-Dee Wheeler led No. 3 seed Arizona (22-8) with 13 points. Stanford mixed up its defense to make it difficult for 6-foot-5 freshman of the year Shawntinice Polk to get the ball inside. Polk finished with a season-low five points, 12 below her average, to go with nine rebounds. It was just the second time in 30 games Polk didn't score in double figures. Polk missed two shots from close-range in the final two minutes.
"If I were her I would have been frustrated," said Stanford's Chelsea Trotter, one of several players who defended Polk. "Tara said earlier today that she told reporters she didn't like to be fronted. Thanks for telling us."
Wheeler was helped off the court with 8:31 left after being injured in a scramble for the ball but later returned. She helped Arizona regain some momentum with her hustle plays and driving lay-ins late in the game.
Arizona had won six straight games, including 79-64 over Stanford on Feb. 27 in Tucson. The streak was the school's longest since winning seven straight two years ago.
The Cardinal have struggled this season to break full-court presses, especially against Arizona and UCLA, but they were more effective against the Wildcats this time. Stanford committed 20 or more turnovers nine times this season, but had only 18 Monday. The Cardinal had 38 turnovers in their two previous games against Arizona.
In the Wildcats' first 23 possessions, Polk had only eight touches, and just four near the basket. And she only got one shot thanks to tough pressure by Trotter.
All-tournament selection Kelley Suminski added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Stanford, which made 13 of its first 22 shots (59 percent) and shot 53.8 percent to take a 35-24 halftime lead.
Suminski's 3 with 3:12 left in the half gave Stanford a 20-point lead, 33-13, but Arizona used an 11-2 run in the final three minutes to get within 11 at halftime.
Stanford moved the ball quickly around the perimeter to find open shots against Arizona's zone defense, which allowed the Cardinal five 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes to fall behind 23-9.
"We showed a lot of youth tonight. From the beginning of the game we were back on our heels because Stanford was hitting some great 3-pointers," Bonvicini said.
The Wildcats switched to man-to-man defense and started pressing to try to slow down Stanford, but it wasn't successful.
Stanford jumped out to an 11-2 lead but allowed Arizona, the conference's best rebounding team, to get several second-chance opportunities on offense early in the game. Stanford is the second-best rebounding team in the Pac-10.
The Wildcat mascot stole a branch from Stanford's tree mascot at halftime, but later gave it back.