We have said this before, and it bears repeating: Candice Wiggins is not a superstar; she is a megastar. She is going to be one of the leading faces to change and elevate the sport of women's basketball for years to come - not just in college, but also in the WNBA and in the Olympics.
Wiggins reminded us of her otherworldly abilities Saturday night when she lifted Stanford to a 76-64 win at Oregon. The final score does not adequately depict the tooth-and-nail fight that the Cardinal endured with the Ducks at McArthur Court. There were 11 ties and seven lead changes during the game. The home team held a lead or a tie for a period of 13 and a half minutes spanning the end of the first half and start of the second half. Oregon continued to lead most of the second half, including a three-point margin inside the final five minutes.
But "Wonder Wiggins" was in the house and put the #16-ranked Cardinal on her back with a career high 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting. When Stanford trailed late in the first half, the super sophomore rattled off 11 of the Cardinal's final 12 points to close the gap to just 37-35 at the break. Early in the second half, the Ducks extended their lead to seven before Wiggins had six points in a 9-0 run by Stanford to take their first lead more than 13 minutes. The next Oregon run regained the lead and ran it up to six points at 56-50 inside the 10-minute mark. Wiggins led another Stanford answer, with nine points during an 11-4 run. At the end of that run, the Cardinal had a lead they would not relinquish. A tight game unraveled for Oregon late, as Stanford surged to a 12-point win and ended the game on a 19-4 run.
Every step of the way, it was Wiggins who propelled Stanford in her 39 minutes of play. She scored 49% of the team's points, with 54% of the field goals and 63% of the three-pointers. On a cold night in Eugene that saw Wiggins burn the nets, she added seven rebounds, five assists and two steals for good measure.
In one of the most difficult courts to play in the conference, where Stanford had lost its last two trips, the Ducks could only offer their admiration and amazement afterward.
"She played a great game tonight. She stepped it up. She's a great player," said Oregon senior Chelsea Wagner. "Candice especially, she took over. She's not an All-American for no reason."
"The keys were to just keep her in front and kind of be physical with her," offered senior guard Kedzie Gunderson, one of the Ducks who tried to defend Wiggins on the evening. "It's hard. She's got a lot of different options. You can't guard one thing. She can go left; she can go right; she can hit a three-pointer; she can hit a jumper."
The 5'11.5" Stanford guard raised her season average to 20.3 points per game, best on the team and in the conference. The win also boosted Stanford (5-1) back into the Pac-10 lead after Washington (4-1) had briefly tied the Cardinal atop the standings with a three-point win over Washington State earlier in the day. Arizona State entered the weekend with a 3-0 record but dropped Friday night to USC and against today to UCLA.
To put this individual performance by Wiggins into perspective, here are some numbers:
- The 37 points is the third-most in the history of women's basketball at Mac Court, with Maylana Martin's 39 in 2000 atop that list - in a UCLA loss.
- 37 points ties Wiggins for the fifth-best single-game scoring performance in Stanford women's hoops history. The other 37-point mark came by Nicole Powell in 2002 in a runaway win over Oregon State in the Pac-10 Tournament. The only two players in Cardinal history to score more are Kate Starbird (44 vs. USC 1995-96; 40 at USC 1996-97) and Jeanne Ruark Hoff (42 vs. East Carolina 1979-80; 39 at California 1979-80). For a comparable tightly contested game in the modern era of Pac-10 basketball, only Starbird's 40 points on the road at USC in January 1997 stacks up. In that game, the Cardinal pulled out a narrow 77-76 win on Starbird's back. She played all 40 minutes. As a side bar, that Starbird-led squad was the last to play in the Final Four for Stanford. Current assistant coach Charmin Smith hit the game-winning lay-up in the final 10 seconds to win that game...
- If you are a Stanford Basketball fan who follows the men's program more than the ladies, this will help you stack up Wiggins' wondrous evening. Only two Cardinal men in the last 25 years have scored as many points in a game: Chris Hernandez last year (37 vs. UCLA) and Casey Jacobsen twice in the 2001-02 season (49 vs. Arizona State and 41 vs. Oregon). Stanford scored 90 points in both of Jacobsen's performances, including an overtime game against the Ducks.
VanDerveer called Saturday's win at Oregon the biggest of the year for the Cardinal, who are still finding their identity after losing five seniors from last season's 32-3 squad. Stanford is also currently without their best rebounder and most physical post presence, while 6'5" junior Kristen Newlin is out with a stress reaction. The Cardinal lost two straight and three out of five as they finished out 2005, but freshmen Jillian Harmon and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude are growing into their roles to strengthen Stanford. Harmon, a 6'1" forward, has started the last eight games and averaged 11.6 points over that span despite playing five of the contests on the road. Gold-Onwude, a 5'10" guard, has started the last six games at the point, allowing Wiggins to play more minutes at her more natural wing spot. The freshman point guard has tallied 21 assists against only four turnovers in the last three games.
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