Chiney Ogwumike pulled her fellow starters aside and offered one last challenge: Stanford’s biggest star wanted to be an “afterthought.”
That was hardly the case in her team’s latest lopsided NCAA tournament win, though Ogwumike’s supporting cast sure did its part to move the Cardinal one step closer to the Final Four.
Ogwumike had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Mikaela Ruef produced a career performance on both ends, and second-seeded Stanford beat Penn State 82-57 on Sunday to reach the NCAA tournament regional final on its home floor.
“Mikaela’s our rock out there,” Ogwumike said. “She does a lot of the grunt work.”
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The Cardinal (32-3) built a big first-half lead and rolled against the third-seeded Lions to move into Tuesday night’s regional final against No. 4 seed North Carolina (27-9). The Tar Heels beat top-seeded South Carolina 65-58 on Sunday night.
Ruef recovered from getting poked in the eye early to contribute 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Amber Orrange added 18 points in Stanford’s ninth straight NCAA tournament home win.
Ariel Edwards scored 22 points for the Lions (24-8), while leading scorer Maggie Lucas was held scoreless in the second half and finished with six.
“Maggie Lucas hasn’t had six points since third grade,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She can flat out score.”
North Carolina 65, South Carolina 58
Diamond DeShields escaped two close calls with injury to score 19 points, leading North Carolina one win closer to a sweet reunion with healing coach Sylvia Hatchell.
Brittany Rountree converted a pair of free throws with 1:14 left and two more at the 36.4-second mark to help seal it for the No. 4 seed Tar Heels (27-9).
Alaina Coates hit several key baskets down the stretch on the way to 22 points for South Carolina (29-5), held to 37.7-percent shooting while committing 13 turnovers.
North Carolina needs one more win to be reunited with Hatchell, whose doctors have said she could travel to the Final Four in Nashville after recently undergoing her final chemotherapy session for leukemia.