Stanford Doesn't Let Arizona Stand in Way

Times Staff Writer

Stanford got it right this time.

This year they did not treat the Pacific 10 Conference tournament as an inconvenience or afterthought. Especially with the chance to stay at home in Palo Alto -- where Stanford is a host school for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament -- as a probable reward.

So the ninth-ranked Cardinal concluded three days of taking care of business by defeating No. 21 Arizona, 59-49, Monday, to take the conference tournament championship game in front of 5,757 at the HP Pavilion.

Nicole Powell, voted the tournament's most valuable player, led Stanford with 19 points, four rebounds and five assists. Kelley Suminski, who joined Powell on the all-conference tournament team, added 11.

Now the Cardinal (26-4), which has the Pac-10's automatic bid, will wait to see what the NCAA selection committee has in mind. The Cardinal may not get a No. 1 seeding, but not having to leave the state until the Final Four would be just as good.

"Our team is very excited about winning the regular-season and tournament championships," Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said. "This is a tough league; we had to work very hard.

"As far as [staying in California], that's up to the selection committee. The important thing is for us to be rested and carry over the momentum."

Arizona (22-8), which has never won a Pac-10 title in women's basketball, had been the hottest team in the tournament with six consecutive wins going into Monday's game.

But the Wildcats were not in sync Monday, shooting 34.5% against the Cardinal's matchup zone.

And their best players -- Shawntinice Polk, Krista Warren and Dee Dee Wheeler, all of whom made the all-tournament team -- were rarely factors.

On defense, the Cardinal bottled up Polk so effectively on the inside, the standout freshman had only one field goal (on one shot) and three rebounds in the first half. She ended up with five points, her lowest total of the season. Polk wasn't helped by the fact Wheeler and fellow guard Julie Brase were cold from the outside.

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