By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Tara VanDerveer knows it's not often her Stanford team will win shooting 31 percent and getting outrebounded by 12.
The Cardinal coach had one explanation after it happened.
"That was a really strange game," she said.
Nicole Powell made all six of her free throws in the final 2:22 on the way to 24 points to lead No. 12 Stanford to a 51-46 comeback win over Arizona in the Pac-10 tournament championship game Monday night.
Susan Borchardt added 11 points with three 3-pointers as top-seeded Stanford (24-6) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament by ending Arizona's six-game winning streak. The Cardinal rallied from 16 points down to win their second straight tournament title and also came from behind to beat UCLA a night earlier.
"We came out and they seemed to hit everything they were shooting," said VanDerveer, in her 18th season as coach. "And we looked frantic. I don't look at the score when it's that bad. We owe our Pac-10 championship to our zone defense."
That defense held second-seeded Arizona (24-8) to its lowest offensive output in nine seasons, scoring just 15 points in an ugly second half, and the Cardinal scored their fewest points in a victory this season.
Powell struggled offensively for much of the game but outplayed star Arizona center Shawntinice Polk in crunch time to earn tournament MVP honors.
Polk, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who was Pac-10 freshman of the year last season, grabbed 18 rebounds, one off her career high and two shy of the tournament record.
The Wildcats, who were 6-of-26 in the second half, are still a lock for an NCAA berth. They were still upset about letting this one get away.
"With a team like Stanford, you can't be comfortable with a 16-point lead," Arizona guard Aimee Grzyb said. "We've seen it on TV many times when they've come back."
Polk played another smart game to stay out of foul trouble. She fouled out of seven games this season.
She altered shots and dominated the middle all tournament, but missed two free throws with 1:28 remaining and another with 42.4 to play.
Dee-Dee Wheeler had 12 points with a key 3-pointer late and was Arizona's only player to score in double figures.
After Borchardt made a 3-pointer with 6 minutes left, Kelley Suminski converted a three-point play 59 seconds later to pull the Cardinal within 42-41. Sebnem Kimyacioglu then swished a 3 from the left wing - her only basket and only shot - at 3:51 for Stanford's first lead of the game, 44-42.
Powell scored Stanford's first six points of the second half and the Cardinal pulled within 35-34 on Suminski's 3-pointer at 13:40, but then went without a field goal for 7:40.
"None of us panicked. We knew we'd come around and play the way we played all season," Suminski said.
VanDerveer hinted after Stanford's semifinal win over UCLA that maybe by playing zone against the Bruins her team would have more energy in the title game. They didn't seem to tire in the second half.
"The first half, we played loose and we played confident," Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini said. "We were able to go inside and we were able to shoot outside and control the tempo. When they went to a zone, we were a little hesitant. It was really some decision making."
When Stanford collapsed three players on Polk late in the first half, Polk flipped the ball to Grzyb for a 3-pointer during a 12-2 Arizona spurt.
The teams split their regular-season meetings and shared the Pac-10 title after both went 14-4 in conference play. But Stanford earned the higher seed based on a complicated tiebreaker - which came down to Arizona splitting the season series with UCLA and Stanford sweeping the Bruins.
Borchardt, playing with her right knee wrapped after straining it during Saturday's 80-55 win over California, scored the final eight points of the half to pull the Cardinal within 31-23 at the break.
Stanford effectively switched to a zone defense to disrupt Arizona's offensive flow, holding the Wildcats scoreless over the last 4:39.
Polk already had six rebounds in the first 5˝ minutes and Stanford missed eight easy lay-ins and four other shots from close range in its 31-percent first half (10-for-32) to fall behind by as many as 16.
At one point, the stat sheet read: Arizona 17, Nicole Powell 8. Stanford began the game 4-for-14 - with Powell going 4-of-6 - and didn't get points from anyone other than Powell until Chelsea Trotter's short jumper at 10:21.