SPOKANE, Wash. — Nnemkadi Ogwumike knows nothing but going to the Final Four since arriving at Stanford. Little sister Chiney is coming along for the ride this time.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated the inside with 23 points and 11 rebounds, sister Chiney chipped in with 18 points and 15 boards, and Stanford is headed back to its fourth consecutive Final Four after the top-seeded Cardinal ended the surprising run of Gonzaga 83-60 in the Spokane Regional final on Monday night.
The size and strength of Stanford was simply too much for the Bulldogs, and their more than 11,000 hometown fans, to overcome on this night. Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen will close out their college careers on The Farm a perfect 4 for 4 at reaching the Final Four, a streak that started by winning the Spokane Regional in 2008 when they were freshman.
Stanford (33-2) won its 27th consecutive to match the longest streak in school history and will face the Baylor-Texas A&M winner in the national semifinals on Sunday night.
Courtney Vandersloot did her best to carry Gonzaga (31-5) for a half before the Bulldogs wore down in the final 20 minutes under a bevy of missed shots and a befuddling Stanford zone defense. Vandersloot, who came in averaging 30.7 points and 10.3 assists in the tournament, finished with 25 points and nine assists, including 18 consecutive Gonzaga points during a 9-minute stretch of the first half.
But Stanford managed to harass Vandersloot in the second half and limited her to just four points. Her stellar college career ended when she checked out with 1:14 left to a standing ovation and a wave to the crowd after leading Gonzaga to upsets of Iowa, UCLA and Louisville to reach the first Elite Eight in school history.
Gonzaga was trying to become the first team not named Stanford from West of the Rockies to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988.
Instead, it’s Stanford going to the Final Four for the 10th time.
Pohlen broke out of her recent shooting slump by hitting five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Lindy La Rocque, averaging less than four points on the season, scored 11, including pair of key 3-pointers in the first half when the Ogwumikes were getting plenty of help from their teammates.
Then the sisters took it upon themselves at the start of the second half to make sure there wouldn’t be one more Gonzaga upset. They scored 14 of Stanford’s first 16 points to start the half, with Nnemkadi twice ripping away rebounds on Chiney’s misses. They combined for 11 offensive rebounds and 26 rebounds total— more than Gonzaga’s total of 25. Stanford outrebounded Gonzaga by 24.
It was the worst time for Gonzaga to post its worst shooting game (34 percent) of the season.
Already struggling from the perimeter, other than Vandersloot, the Cardinal started the second half leading by nine and in a zone, daring the Bulldogs to shoot. They missed three consecutive 3-point attempts while the Ogwumike sisters re-established their dominance on the inside, giving Stanford its biggest lead at 51-38 just 90 seconds into the half.
Vandersloot scored to briefly pause the Cardinal spurt on a driving basket, but the Ogwumikes scored five more and La Rocque knocked down a pair free throws and the Stanford lead was at 58-40 with 15:55 left.
Gonzaga made just 8 of 34 shots in the second half and could only watch as its Final Four hopes clanged away. Even in the closing minutes as Gonzaga tried to make the final score more respectable, the shots simply wouldn’t fall as Katelan Redmon’s shot from 2-feet bounced around and out.
Kayla Standish added 17 points for Gonzaga, while Redmon scored 13. The Bulldogs had gone 29-1 since losing at home to Stanford back in November, their only loss in the city of Spokane in the last two seasons.
Until Stanford solved them again on Monday night.