Chiney Ogwumike sank a three-pointer, waved her arms wildly in the air and smiled as she ran down the court.
And why not? It was a rare three-pointer for the Stanford star, who had attempted just nine during the regular season.
Ogwumike’s newfound shot helped Stanford avoid an even more rare occurrence — an early defeat — in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference women’s basketball tournament.
In another scare in Seattle, Stanford saw its bid for an eighth consecutive conference tournament title get off to a shaky start Friday afternoon before Ogwumike and the top-seeded Cardinal rallied in the second half, blowing by ninth-seeded Colorado en route to a 69-54 victory at KeyArena.
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In its last trip to Seattle, Stanford lost its only Pac-12 game of the regular season, 87-82, to Washington on Feb. 9. Stanford, which has won seven straight since the loss to UW, will play USC at 6 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal game.
“They really just erupted in the second half,” Colorado coach Linda Lappe said.
Early on, Friday’s first quarterfinal game wasn’t going well for the fourth-ranked Cardinal (29-2), which trailed 10-4 after a three by Colorado’s Lauren Huggins. Stanford missed 12 of its first 16 shots and was out-rebounded 14-9 in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Colorado’s Brittany Wilson hit a three-pointer in the final minute of the first half to give the Buffaloes (17-14) a 23-21 lead.
Ogwumike, a 6-foot-4 senior forward and two-time Pac-12 player of the year, was double-teamed virtually every time she touched the ball in the post, and was held to five first-half points.
It took just three minutes and one rare three for the Stanford star to get back on track in the second half.
Ogwumike’s three-pointer was just her third made of the season, and it was surely her most important. It turned a 28-27 Colorado lead into a two-point Stanford advantage with 16:52 left.
“Coach Tara (VanDerveer) always tells me, throughout the years she’s said, ‘Chiney, don’t let your shot be an afterthought,’ ” Ogwumike said. “I love being close to the basket … (but) if they’re going to take away the inside, I have to diversify my game. It just felt good. I was a little hyped afterwards.”
Ogwumike scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds, her 23rd double-double of the season.
Mikaela Ruef added 10 points, 16 rebounds and five assists for Stanford. Wilson scored 16 points and Arielle Roberson grabbed 17 rebounds for Colorado.
USC 59, Arizona State 57
In a quarterfinal matchup between two NCAA bubble teams, fifth-seeded USC outlasted fourth-seeded Arizona State.
Kiki Alofaituli scored the go-ahead basket on a 15-foot jumper with 1:25 left for the Trojans (20-12), who got a much-needed boost to their NCAA tournament resume with their fourth straight win.
“We deserve to have that dance that everyone talks about,” said first-year USC coach Cynthia Cooper, the former USC and WNBA star. “We’ve had some bumps in the road, but we’ve always stepped up to the plate.”
Cassie Harberts scored a game-high 14 points for USC.
Hempen finished with 12 points and Kelsey Moos had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona State (22-9), which has lost three in a row and six of eight.
Oregon State 50, Utah 35
The Beavers won their 10th consecutive game and will face Washington State in a semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Beavers (22-9) swept the Cougars by an averaged 14½ points during the regular-season.
OSU used a 13-2 run to close the first half up 32-13.
Beavers freshman guard Sydney Wiese outscored the Utes (12-19) on her own ni the first half, scoring 14 of her 21 before the break. The Utes were 5 for 35 from the field in the first half.
Ruth Hamblin, a 6-foot-6 Canadian, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots for the Beavers. Utah’s Michelle Plouffe had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
OSU sophomore Jamie Weisner (Clarkston High) returned after suffering a hand injury. She had missed the past nine games and played 11 minutes on Friday.
Times staff reporter Jayda Evans contributed to this article.