SAN ANTONIO - Nnemkadi Ogwumike put Stanford ahead early, then took control in the final minute to secure a spot in the women's 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 last night in a semifinal.
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.
Next up for Stanford (36-1) is the national championship game Tuesdaynight against the winner of last night's Connecticut-Baylor game. The Cardinal will be seeking its first national championship since 1992.
If UConn advances, as expected, Stanford would get another crack at the only team it has lost to since Jan. 18, 2009, having fallen in last year's Final Four and early this season. The Cardinal is the last team to beat the Huskies - in the 2008 NCAA Tournament semifinals.
"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 off an inbounds pass when Oklahoma (27-11) lost her. Then she came away with a steal that led to the final points of the game.
Ogwumike didn't really get much help. Jayne Appel had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Kayla Pederson 12 points and nine rebounds, but the rest of the team combined for four baskets. The Cardinal went 1-for-15 on three-pointers and missed nine free throws.
"I think we're a little jittery," VanDerveer said. "You know, we missed some really very makeable baskets."
Oklahoma was knocked out in the Final Four for a second straight season.