Stanford saves best for last of up-and-down season in Pac 12 tourney
In a season of highs and lows, the Stanford Cardinal saved the best for last, running the table as the No. 3 seed in last weekend’s Pac-12 Conference Tournament to earn the 29th NCAA Tournament bid in school history. The Cardinal were the third No. 3 seed in tourney history to win the title.
An NCAA Women’s Final Four team a year ago, Stanford’s previous pinnacle point in the season had come way back on Nov. 17, when the Cardinal scored an 88-86 overtime win against UConn, the two-time defending national champion and No. 1 team in the nation. The Huskies have regrouped in usual fashion, winning the last 30 games and reclaiming the top spot in the national polls.
Inconsistent throughout the season, Stanford, 24-9 overall and 13-5 in Pac-12 play, uncharacteristically dropped conference regular season games to Arizona State, twice, Arizona, California and Oregon.
The road to the Pac-12 Tournament title began with a 67-62 quarterfinal win against UCLA last Friday as Amber Orrange led the way with 18 points while Lili Thompson added 14.
The Cardinal advanced to the championship game, defeating No. 2 seed Arizona State 59-56 on Saturday as Orrange again led the way with 18 points while Taylor Greenfield's driving basket with 44 seconds left gave Stanford the lead for good.
With conference regular season champion Oregon State upset by Colorado in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, Stanford found itself matched up against rival and No. 4 seed California in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game. With Greenfield scoring a career-high 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting and Orrange chipping in 10 points in the second half, the Cardinal defeated California 61-60 on Sunday to claim an 11th Pac-12 Tournament title.
The win was bit of redemption for Stanford, which bounced back after a string of seven straight conference tourney titles was snapped last year after being upset in the semifinals by USC.
With the wins, Stanford now has hopes to serve as a host for first- and second-round play as a top-16 seed during the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which tips off next week. The Cardinal will learn more this Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m. EST when the 64-team championship bracket is announced on ESPN.