Before UConn, Stanford must escape Sooners
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, April 04, 2010
4/04/10 at 7:39 AM
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SAN ANTONIO — The anticipation of a Stanford-Connecticut national final has been building since early in the season, when the Cardinal led UConn at halftime in what was the most competitive game the Huskies have faced in two years.
"I think it just puts us in a great position to change history," Oklahoma's Amanda Thompson said. "UConn is going to be UConn. Every other team is going to be themselves. Everybody's competing for the championship.
"We know what we expect of ourselves. We're going to play our game and not worry about what everybody else is saying."
All of the talk is about a possible Connecticut-Stanford game on Tuesday night. Oklahoma and Baylor, the two Big 12 Conference teams, seem to be perceived as the preliminary warm-ups for the main event.
The last team to beat UConn was Stanford — two years ago in the Final Four.
The only loss for Stanford this year was at Connecticut.
However, before all of that can happen on Tuesday night at the Alamodome, the Cardinal will have the not-so-small matter of playing red-hot Oklahoma on Sunday.
"We know what we're capable of," Danielle Robinson said. "We don't need the support of anybody beyond our Oklahoma circle.
"We've been the underdog all season. People didn't expect us to be here right now and we're here."
Nothing is guaranteed. Stanford learned that last week.
The Cardinal, a 15-point favorite against the Sooners, were on the verge of not even making it to San Antonio.
Stanford survived the biggest scare of the Elite Eight.
Jeanette Pohlen went the length of the court and hit a game-winning layup as time expired in Stanford's 55-53 victory over Xavier to reach the Final Four.
It was the first close game the Cardinal had played this season. Stanford had won 33 games by 15 points or more this season.
Now, suddenly, there was a close game.
"Now that we've won a close one I'd say this can really help us," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Stanford has cruised to a 35-1 record, the only blemish is that 80-68 road loss at UConn.
If nothing else, the close call with Xavier in the Elite Eight might have served as a wake-up call. The Cardinal now knows there are no gimmes this time of season.
Stanford may be a two-touchdown favorite over OU but that will mean nothing on Sunday night.
"I definitely think we've been able to come down just because after we had our day off, we were right into getting into all the Oklahoma stuff that we were preparing for," Pohlen said. "It's still exciting to think about (the last-second victory) but I think for the most part all of us have moved on. We have so much more to prepare for our game."
VanDerveer said against Xavier, it was the first time all season she had seen her players feel the pressure.
But now that Stanford has gotten to the Final Four, the pressure is off.
"If you make it by 40 points, you make it by four seconds, either way you're still here at the Final Four," Stanford All-American Jayne Appel said. "But, we definitely take things from that game and learn from them. We take the opportunities that we have made smart plays in and we didn't in the game (against Xavier) and learned from them and hopefully apply them in the next game.
"I think we build on that excitement that we gained from that game. We just take the energy and kind of put it into our work and our effort to put into the Oklahoma game."