As tough as it gets

TEMPE, Ariz -- ASU football coach Dennis Erickson called this game before it even started when he told me that this was going to be a tough one.

Coach Erickson may know football, but it was his pre-game prediction of the 60-56 No. 7 Stanford (16-3, 6-2 Pac-10) victory over No. 25 ASU (11-7, 5-2 Pac-10) that is making him also look like his knows his women's college basketball.

"This is a tough place to play and coming in," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "I thought they had an enthusiastic crowd, they played hard, got us down, did things they really haven’t done since Charli has been here and we really struggled in the first half with finding the right shots we wanted."

It was the early minutes of the game where each team traded baskets which forshadowed a close game. Yet even after ASU jumped out to an eight point lead with 9:01 left in the first half, the Cardinal kept fighting back. ASU refused to let its lead slip away and even jumped out to as much as 14-points on Stanford, but it was a three-pointer by Stanford's JJ Hones with 1:06 in the half that was the beginning of Stanford getting the game back under control.

The first half was controlled by ASU, but it was the second half which would see Stanford take control of the game. The Cardinal took a 7-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half and then ultimately took the lead with 8:09 left to play.

"The run at the beginning of the second half gave us the confidence and maybe shook their confidence," said VanDerveer. "We got right back in it immediately in the second half and then we were right there. We just battled point-by-point. I thought we did some nice things, got some good shots and made some hustle."

However the Cardinal could only see their lead grow to as much as six points as ASU never gave up on trying to not be swept at home this weekend. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, it was the Cardinal who gave them a devil of a time by holding onto the lead until it was solidified with a pair of freethrows by Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen with six-tenths of a second left on the clock.

"That's kind of the story of this team right now -- finishing things and staying with things consistently through the course of an entire basketball teams," said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose team has not been swept at home during Pac-10 play since the 2002-03 season against the Bay Area schools. "We can get away with some teams in playing 30 minutes or so, but obviously with a team like Stanford, it has to be 40 minutes. You have to finish out the game and keep your aggressiveness. Our goal was to stay energized and aggressive, and we didn't do that."

Statistical leaders for Stanford included Candice Wiggins with 18 points, Jayne Appel with 16 points and Kayla Pedersen with 12 points. Appel and Pedersen co-led the Cardinal with eight rebounds each.

ASU was paced by Briann January's 20 points and Kayli Murphy's 12 rebounds.

Stanford will next host No. 8/9 California on January 26 in what could be a preview of the Pac-10 tournament final while ASU travels up to face the Washington schools next weekend.

That's it for the Pac-10 blogapalooza this weekend!

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