March 19, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Nnemkadi Ogwumike's 22 points led six Cardinal players in double figures on Saturday but top-seeded Stanford needed to go into the second half before pulling away from 16th-seeded UC Davis for an 86-59 win in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Maples Pavilion.
The loss brought to a close the most successful season at the Div. I level for UC Davis which was making its first appearance in the the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies, who were led by 17 points from senior Paige Mintun and 11 from senior Heidi Heintz, finished the season with a 24-9 record.
The game was the final one for the outstanding UC Davis duo while also marking the end of Sandy Simpson's 14-season tenure as head coach. Simpson, who announced his retirement from coaching prior to the season, leaves with a program-record 251 victories.
Stanford (30-2) won for the 62nd consecutive time at Maples Pavilion, advancing to Monday's Spokane Regional second round against ninth-seeded St. John's which beat eighth-seeded Texas Tech, 55-50.
"I was really, really pleased with our team's effort," Simpson said. "To be honest, in the first half I thought we had three or four defensive breakdowns that were uncharacteristic of how we play. Major breakdowns in our shift and they scored on those.
"Without those maybe it's a single-digit lead at halftime," he added. "We knew they would come out strong in the second half. Our goal was to hold the line, not even cut into the lead. Instead, they blew it out to about 18 and that was it from there."
Mintun echoed those thoughts.
"In the second half, they came out pretty strong and we couldn't keep up with them," she said. "They were starting to make more reads and their guards were more comfortable."
UC Davis' shooting percentage hovered around 50 percent for most of the game - eventually finishing at 46.8 percent - but Stanford countered by making 55.4 percent of its attempts including an impressive 59.1 percent (13 of 22) from beyond the arc.
Lindy La Rocque led the way from long distance, making four three-pointers and scoring 14 points. Kayla Pedersen, Jeanette Pohlen and Toni Kokenis each had three treys, each finishing with 11 points. Chiney Ogwumike pitched in with 10 points.
While the Cardinal won by 27 points, it was only a 12-point game at halftime thanks to an efficient Aggie offense which made 52.2 percent (12 of 23) from the field while draining four three-pointers. Heintz buried a three-pointer from the wing for UC Davis' first lead at 5-4 while Kasey Riecks canned one from the corner to put the Aggies in front 11-8, barely four minutes in.
A three-pointer from Mintun helped tighten a seven-point Cardinal lead to just 18-16 with 12:52 left in the half but Pedersen kick-started a 10-0 run wth a trey and Stanford eventually went in front 28-16 midway.
UC Davis played Stanford even the rest of the half, going into the break down just 42-30 after Pohlen's three-pointer with only eight seconds left pushed Stanford's lead back into double-digits.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike hit five of her first seven shots in the first half and had 12 points as Stanford made 60 percent from the field overall. The Cardinal also had 14 assists on its 15 baskets.
Riecks had a layup three minutes into the second to bringing UC Davis to within 48-35 but a 14-4 Stanford run, which included a trio of three-pointers from La Rocque, put the Cardinal comfortably in front 62-39 with about 13 minutes left. It held at least a 20-point lead the rest of the way.
Pohlen had a game-best eight assists for Stanford while Pedersen had seven. The Cardinal finished with 28 on 31 baskets.
Mintun capped her tremendous career as one of the top post players in Aggie history, finishing fourth in career points (1,382), eighth in rebounds (609) and steals (160), and first in blocked shots (159). She also received three All-Big West first-team awards.
Heintz, who transferred from the University of San Francisco after her sophomore season, provided UC Davis outstanding versatility, eventually scoring more than 1,000 career points and earning a pair of All-Big West second-team honors.
Simpson began his career as a UC Davis assistant coach in 1977 before leaving and then returning as an assistant in 1991. He served as interim head coach in 1996-97 - leading the Aggies to a program-best 29-3 record and third-place finish at the Div. II Elite Eight - before assuming duties on a permanent basis a season later.
He guided the Aggies through its transition to Div. I and since then has been on the sidelines for a Big West regular-season championship, a Big West Tournament title and two appearances in the Women's National Invitational Tournament before its inaugural berth on collegiate women's basketball's biggest stage.
Simpson also has four career conference coach of the year accolades.
"I think it's pretty emotional for all three of us (Mintun, Heintz, Simpson) up here at this point," said Heintz. "We've gone through a long stretch this season and it's just been a fun run for all of us. It's been such an honor to play for Coach Simpson and I know he feels the same way about all of us. Going into this game, we all thought this would be an awesome way to close this out."
UC Davis enjoyed another successful season, posting its second straight 20-win campaign while making a perfect run through the Big West Tournament as the fourth seed, downing third-seeded UC Riverside in the semifinals and top-seeded Cal Poly for its historic championship.
It definitely was a season to remember.