Stanford Women Defeat USC With Ease to Win Pac-10 Title

Jeremy MeyerCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2009

The sixth-seeded USC Trojans (11-10,17-15) lost in the championship game Sunday night to the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal (20-1, 30-4) at the Galen Center, 89-64. With tonight's win, the Cardinal gets an automatic bid to the 2009 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

“Our team is playing with a lot of confidence," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I think they have really listened to the directions that our coaches have given them. I think we have great leadership with our captains. Everyone is just focused on doing what we need them to do. I think we have to be one of the most improved teams in America."

Stanford's 25-point margin of victory was the most in a title game history. Stanford also defeated California last year, 56-35, and has now won three Pac-10 championships in a row. They have one six of the eight total tournaments that have been played.

The 89 points scored by Stanford were the most scored in a tournament title game and second-most in any tournament game (both previous highs owned by Stanford as well). Their 239 total points scored in three tournament games also broke a record which previously held by the Cardinal.

If that were not enough, Stanford also set tournament records for rebounds (48), field goals made (35), field goal attempts (71) and field goal percentage (.493).

The USC Women of Troy gave the Stanford Cardinal a reasonable challenge until the second period, when Stanford's lead became insurmountable. With 3:19 on the clock, Stanford led by 35 points.

Most championship victories are followed by some sort of celebration. Not so for Stanford's team. Senior forward and team captain Jillian Harmon is off to study for a test. And she's not the only one—the team has finals starting Monday.

"I see it as six more games and I think our team is playing the best we have played all season right now," Harmon said. "I want to play with these players six more times. They are my best friends and I want it to go as long as it possibly can.”

Sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen had a game-high 25 points as well as the game-high in rebounds, with nine. Freshman forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike who had 14 points and seven rebounds.

“Everything kind of came together in the second half, so we were able to pull away,” Pedersen said.

USC senior guard Camille LeNoir scored her team's high with 13 points, followed closely by sophomore center Kari LaPlante, with 12 points and four rebounds.

“We're not quitters. We never have been and I think we fought until the end,” LeNoir said.

The Trojans put up a fight in the first period, actually holding a lead over the Cardinal for brief moment before Stanford woke up and never looked back. They lead 33-24 at the half.

After the game, the All-Tournament Team was announced:

Jillian Harmon (F, Stanford)
Camille LeNoir (G, USC)
Nyingifa Atonye (F, UCLA)
Nnemkadi Ogwumike (F, Stanford)
Ashley Walker (F, California)

As well as the Most Outstanding Player, Kayla Pedersen (F Stanford).

Pedersen is the second sophomore to be named Most Outstanding Player. Stanford's Nicole Powell received the honor in 2002, and Candice Wiggins, also from Stanford, won as a freshman in 2005.

“I'm proud of my kids. They scrapped as best they could and I think the third night you get tired of leaning on these big bodies and I think they kind of just ran out of gas.” USC head coach Mark Trakh said. “Stanford played a heck of a game. They beat us in every facet of the game. I think the big thing was that they where just so big and they're skilled inside.”

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Photo Courtesy of Eric Wade