Nnemkadi Ogwumike put Stanford ahead early, then took control in the final minute to secure a spot in the national championship game.
SAN ANTONIO — Nnemkadi Ogwumike put Stanford ahead early, then took control in the final minute to secure a spot in the national championship game.
Ogwumike scored Stanford’s first eight points and the final seven — in the last 51.3 seconds — to make sure the Cardinal never trailed on the way to a 73-66 victory over Oklahoma on Sunday night in the women’s Final Four.
Ogwumike, playing in front of family and friends just three hours from her Houston-area home, scored a career-high 38 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. She also had two assists, a block and a key steal in the final minute to put Stanford in the title game for the second time in three years.
“We talked about playing with fire and I think we lit that fire tonight,” said Ogwumike, the Pac-10 player of the year.
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Next up for Stanford (36-1) is Connecticut on Tuesday night. The Cardinal will be seeking its first national championship since 1992.
Stanford gets another crack at the only team it has lost to since Jan. 18, 2009, having fallen to the Huskies in last year’s Final Four and early this season. It also would be the first title game pitting the top two teams in the final Associated Press regular-season poll since 2002.
“We’re excited to be playing on Tuesday night,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “This is just great.”
An Oklahoma team that never quit this season got within 66-62 and 67-64, yet Stanford kept getting the ball to Ogwumike and she always knew what to do.
She made a layup in traffic, then threw a 50-foot inbounds pass to set up a breakaway layup. In the final minute, she made 5 of 6 free throws and scored her own breakaway layup when Oklahoma (27-11) somehow lost her. Right after that, she came away with a steal that led to the final points of the game.
Oklahoma was knocked out in the Final Four for a second straight season, although just getting this far was quite a feat. OU came into the season trying to replace Courtney and Ashley Paris, then five games in lost Whitney Hand, the previous season’s conference player of the year, to a knee injury.
A big reason Oklahoma made it to the final weekend was because someone different always stepped up. The Sooners spent most of this game looking for someone to do so, and never really found it. They were especially hurt by missing 26 of their first 32 shots; they got back into the game by making 50 percent in the second half.
Danielle Robinson led the Sooners with 23 points.