Photo by Rich Pedroncelli
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Jayne Appel is doing it all for Stanford on a bum ankle: passing, scoring and willing her team to the cusp of another Final Four in her last hurrah.
The Cardinal have won their first three NCAA tournament games so easily she has been able to watch, too.
Appel had 17 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes while playing on a tender right ankle and top-seeded Stanford rolled into the Sacramento Regional final with a 73-36 rout of fifth-seeded Georgia on Saturday night.
"It's a lot about Jayne," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Jayne to me is the hub of that wheel. She can pass and she makes everyone look so good."
Stanford will play Monday night against third-seeded Xavier, which beat seventh-seeded Gonzaga 74-56 later Saturday.
Kayla Pedersen added 13 points and matched her season high with 15 rebounds and Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 11 points and 11 boards in the 25th straight win for the Cardinal (34-1) since losing at No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 23. Stanford moved one step closer to that anticipated rematch with the undefeated defending champion Huskies, whose last loss came to Stanford in the national semifinals two years ago.
"Our whole team is still hungry," Pedersen said. "We're not satisfied."
Stanford pounded the ball inside to the player it has counted on for so long: Appel. And the Cardinal's height was way too much for Georgia to handle.
Anne Marie Armstrong scored eight points to lead cold-shooting Georgia (25-9), which couldn't handle Stanford's height advantage, trailed by as many as 40 points and shot 20.3 percent.
The Cardinal shot over the Lady Bulldogs, outreached them for rebounds on both ends, and easily passed through their defense, too. Georgia was held to a season low in points, while Stanford matched its lowest total allowed -- the third time it held an opponent under 40 points this season.
Appel received a rousing standing ovation when she took a seat early with 13:32 remaining -- a common practice by VanDerveer to keep her star player well rested considering her nagging ankle. By the 6:16 mark, every Stanford starter was on the bench.
"Our guards did well getting us the ball and dishing down low. They gave us point-blank shots and it was our job to put them in," Appel said.
The game began as an intriguing matchup of two well-respected, veteran coaches who have known each other for decades. Georgia coach Andy Landers is in his 31st season and VanDerveer her 24th-year at Stanford.
The old friends hugged and shared a laugh at midcourt following pregame introductions before the first meeting of schools in the NCAA tournament in 10 years.
Then VanDerveer's veteran team took charge.
It took a few minutes for Stanford to start clicking, but the Cardinal quickly took control once they did. They used a 26-4 run to build a 37-15 halftime lead, and held Georgia to 12-for-59 shooting overall. The Lady Bulldogs were 4 of 22 from 3-point range.
"We tried to pressure them early, make them speed up a little bit, but we didn't sustain it," Georgia point guard Ashley Houts said. "They found some easy baskets on us and made it a long game."
Georgia 6-foot-5 center Angel Robinson was held scoreless, while fellow post Porsha Phillips went 2 of 12 for seven points. She was ineffective after scoring Georgia's first four points. Houts, Georgia's leading scorer, shot 2 for 11 and missed all five of her 3-point tries.
"They have more size than most anyone and their size is skilled," Landers said. "You're talking about really talented players. They pass it better than anyone else's bigs. They scored. They defended. Their kids are great defenders, but their coaches are excellent schemers."
Stanford point guard Jeanette Pohlen effectively penetrated and dished off to Appel and Ogwumike for five assists to go with 12 points and two steals -- and she committed only one turnover. Pohlen played in control a day after VanDerveer said: "Sometimes she's going 100 mph, which we like, but then has a 100 mph car wreck."
"Ultimately, we are going to go into our posts," Pohlen said. "They brought us here and they are going to take us very far."
After Jasmine Hassell's basket at the 15:16 mark of the first half put Georgia ahead 8-4, Stanford responded with an 11-0 run capped by Pedersen's three-point play.
The Lady Bulldogs had won five of six to reach their 18th Sweet Sixteen, including a thrilling 74-71 overtime win over Oklahoma State in the second round. But Landers' young team couldn't get Georgia back to its first Final Four since 1999 -- and its longtime coach is still waiting to win his first NCAA title.
Stanford reserve Michelle Harrison took an elbow to the face with 3:22 remaining but the injury wasn't considered serious.