Minnesota Proves Too Much for Stanford

When the Cardinal needed one more bit of last minute magic to go on a run against Minnesota in the final minutes, they couldn't find it. A quick and feisty Minnesota team held on to pull off the second round upset 68 – 56.


This young Stanford team picked up a few things about winning tight games this year. In the first two games of the season against Rutgers and USF, they learned not to overlook any opponent. On the road at Oregon and UCLA, they learned how to keep it close and pray for an open look. In both cases, Nicole Powell came up with an All-American last second play to get the win. Against UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals, Stanford fought off a last minute serge from a determined opponent. The one thing the Cardinal didn't figure out was how to dominate a game from start to finish. In their last game of the season, they never quite found their rhythm as a team.


Although she failed to score in the first half, Sebnem Kimyacioglu looked to be Stanford's savior in the second period. She hit two key threes to quell the Gophers' momentum. With 2:32 left in the second half she made the most important four points of her career thus far. She drained a three and drew the foul from Lindsay Whalen in the process. She made the free throw to complete a four point play and put Stanford within five, 58-53. Stanford kept it close, but couldn't string together two good plays to close the gap. Minnesota owned the glass and made sure that the Card didn't get a clear look at the basket.


The Cardinal would have needed an good night across the board to stop Center Janel McCarville and the backcourt duo of Lindsay Whalen and Shannon Schonrock. They needed an excellent night when senior Corrin Von Wald went off for 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.


It was a scrappy first half, with both teams putting in a strong defensive effort. Stanford frustrated the Gophers by denying them high percentage shots in the lane. They held McCarville scoreless, and Lindsay Whalen's only first half field goal was a long three.


Powell hit all of her 9 first half points in a flurry of action after a made layup on a third attempt. The play was typical of the frustration that the Cardinal faced all night. Whereas Minnesota was making the shots they needed to make, the Cardinal was missing layups.


After the half, Stanford came out cold. They were held scoreless as Minnesota went on an 8 point run. The fouls piled up as Stanford tried to muscle its way out of a 10 point hole. Powell had to sit down the stretch after she picked up her fourth foul around the halfway point. The Cardinal made a run to make it 50-49 within one with 7:23 left to go, but the one point deficit was as close as they would come.


When the brackets showed the three-seeded Cardinal with a chance to play at home until the Final Four, many of the other teams in the West were crying foul before the first tip of the tournament. Prior to the loss to Minnesota, Stanford owned the second longest home winning streak in the country, 26 home wins in a row, dating back to a December 2001 loss to Tennessee. 2,926 strong attended Monday evening's game. A hearty band of a few hundred Gopher fans were dwarfed by the deafening crowd in their cardinal red. When Kimyacioglu tried to help Stanford mount its comeback, Maples was shaking like it hasn't since the mid-1990s.


After Stanford's early exit in the tourney, some may wonder if the added pressure of hosting a regional hurt the Cardinal as much as it helped them. In the post-game press conference, Coach VanDerveer acknowledged that some players looked like they were "pushing it" at times, trying to do too much by themselves and not "relaxing and letting the game come [to them]." The limp heads and downcast eyes of the players after the game hinted at their deep disappointment at the tough loss. Fortunately, their last effort of the 2002-2003 season is not the last time this group will take the court. With no seniors, everyone will return for next year with the added help of new recruit Kristen Newlin, a highly touted 6-5 center out of Wyoming, and Eziamaka Okafor, the athletic 6-0 redshirt forward from Missouri.

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