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Eric Vander Voort | | April 7, 2014

Vander Voort: End of the Ogwumike era

Chiney Ogwumike finished with 15 points, shooting 5 of 12 from the field, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Chiney Ogwumike finished with 15 points, shooting 5 of 12 from the field, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The next time Stanford takes the floor, it will be without someone named Ogwumike on scholarship for the first time since 2007-08. Senior Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford’s star and the second from her family to play for the Cardinal, played her last game in a Stanford uniform on Sunday in a 75-56 loss to Connecticut in the Final Four.

It was a disappointing yet familiar ending to Ogwumike’s illustrious career. In her four years at Stanford, the Cardinal bowed out in the national semifinals three times -- Sunday, a loss to Baylor in 2012 and a loss to Texas A&M in 2011, both of which went on to win the national championship.

By Ogwumike’s standards, she struggled on Sunday. She finished with 15 points, shooting 5 of 12 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds. But as the Huskies pulled away in the second half, she had a hard time finding good shots.

“It’s tough for a player to have one, two, three people [guarding her], and it’s tough for me to not force things,” Ogwumike said, “but coach always reminds me to let the game come to me and fully trust in my teammates. I think we did a great job in the first half. … Things got a little away from us in the second half. Maybe if two things go our way we could have swayed the momentum, but that’s just the way the game goes sometimes.”

All five Connecticut starters scored in double figures, led by Breanna Stewart’s 18. Amber Orrange led the Cardinal with 16. Stanford jumped out to a 22-16 lead thanks to Lili Thompson’s 10 early points, but was outscored 59-34 the rest of the way.

The Huskies will meet Notre Dame in the national championship game on Tuesday.

Ogwumike accumulated 27 double-doubles this season. She was the only player to rank in the top 10 in the nation in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage. Coming into Sunday, she averaged 26.4 points per game (third in the country), 12.1 rebounds (ninth) and shot 60.4 percent (fourth).

When she started at Stanford, Ogwumike had a lot to live up to. Her older sister, Nnemkadi, also referred to as Nneka, had already been there for two years. Nneka ended her career as an All-American and was selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 WNBA draft.

A 6-foot-4 forward out of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, Chiney certainly managed to make a name for herself at Stanford, though. She is the all-time Pac-12 leader in scoring and rebounding, and ranks sixth in NCAA history in rebounds. She has collected an astounding array of individual awards.

Ogwumike has been the Pac-12 player of the year twice, the conference defensive player of the year three times, and on the All-Pac-12 team all four years. This season, she collected a record nine conference player of the week awards. She has been named to the WBCA All-America team three times, the Wooden and AP teams twice as well as several other end-of-the-year award teams

“Chiney as a player, it's fun to actually think about her journey,” head coach Tara Vanderveer said on Saturday. “[Assistant coach] Amy [Tucker] at first said to Chiney, 'wow, how hard of a life would that be to follow Nneka?' And obviously Chiney has done pretty well. But Chiney, when she started at Stanford, she was to rebound and play defense and keep Nneka out of foul trouble and rebound Nneka's shots.”

It is not just on the court where Ogwumike has the face of Stanford women’s basketball. She was named this year’s Capital One Academic All-American in the sport as she pursues her degree in international relations with a 3.46 grade-point average.

Seemingly always smiling and upbeat in press conferences and interviews, she lets her personality show, too. This year, she and the team were featured in a music video, a follow-up to a video Chiney and Nneka came out with two years ago about Stanford’s “Nerd City Kids.” This year’s version, “N-E-R-D-S,” which Chiney says she wrote the lyrics to in about an hour, brought “Nerd Nation” to the public eye again. Posted two weeks ago, the video had accumulated more than 46,000 views on YouTube as of Sunday.

There are two more younger Ogwumike sisters, Olivia and Erica. Olivia, a senior in high school, has not decided on a college yet, but if she chooses Stanford she will have to walk on because the Cardinal have offered all of their scholarships for 2014-15.

So it looks like, at least for now, the six-year-long Ogwumike era at Stanford is done. Even in the disappointment of Sunday’s loss, Ogwumike managed to keep some perspective on the significance of her career.

“I think it’s been an amazing run,” Ogwumike said. “I’m not even that emotional, because I was just trying to have fun, enjoy the moment, play hard, and that’s easy to do when you have a great coach and great teammates that support you every possession, no matter the outcome.

“It’s been an amazing, remarkable experience and I’m fortunate to have Stanford on the front of my jersey this one last time.”

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