March 19, 2005
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
FRESNO, Calif. - Candice Wiggins celebrated a second-half steal and layup with a jumping fist pump and giant grin. Then she did it again.
Take that, selection committee.
Stanford's freshman star played brilliantly in her NCAA tournament debut, scoring 16 of her 29 points in a dominant second-half outburst that carried the top-ranked Cardinal to their 21st straight victory, 94-57 over neighbor Santa Clara in the first round of the Kansas City Regional on Saturday night.
Wiggins, the first freshman to win Pac-10 Player of the Year, shot 8-for-14, had five rebounds, two steals, and converted all 11 of her free throws before sitting down for good with 7:17 left. She even received a marriage proposal from one gutsy guy in the stands waving a sign.
Brooke Smith added 19 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high five blocks for Stanford, which felt slighted by its No. 2 seed but didn't dwell on it.
It's the first time since Texas in 1984 that the top-ranked team isn't a top seed. The Cardinal won their Pac-10 games by an average of 24.9 points, went unbeaten at home and captured their third straight conference tournament title.
Stanford (30-2) started the second half with a 31-3 run, doubling its 10-point halftime lead in the opening two minutes. Wiggins scored seven of the first 10 and went on to make her first four field goals and all seven free throws.
The Cardinal, who surpassed 90 points for the sixth time this season, play again Monday night against 10th-seeded Utah, a 73-61 winner over Iowa State earlier Saturday night. Stanford beat the Utes 63-57 in Salt Lake City in the season opener for both schools Nov. 19.
If Stanford wins, it could face three-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut in Kansas City next Sunday.
Michelle Cozad had 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and six rebounds for Santa Clara, which plays about 30 minutes south down the 101 freeway from the Cardinal.
The pesky Broncos (17-14), who start four guards, made five 3-pointers to start the game, unfazed by Stanford's boisterous contingent of fans. Santa Clara stayed in the game thanks to its strong perimeter play - shooting 7-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half but 5-of-18 inside the arc.
Santa Clara did the same thing to shock Gonzaga for the WCC tournament championship, making seven straight 3-pointers in the first half against the Zags on the way to earning the school's first NCAA berth since receiving an at-large bid three years ago.
Stanford senior forward T'Nae Thiel, nursing a partial fracture in her left foot, has been cleared to play but didn't suit up. She could play Monday.
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, who last took her team to the Final Four in 1997, relaxed during the day by practicing piano for nearly two hours at a nearby Japanese Christian church. The 19th-year coach typically stays at hotels with pianos on the road.
"There's only so much film I could watch," she said.
The Kimyacioglu sisters, Stanford senior Sebnem and her sophomore sister, Yasemin, of Santa Clara, met in a college game for the first time. Their parents cheered constantly, and were fortunate both schools' colors are similar. Sebnem scored 11 with three 3-pointers.
The dedicated Stanford dance squad arrived just in time after flying home from Charlotte, N.C., where the Cardinal men were eliminated in the first round by Mississippi State, then busing three hours to Fresno.