Champagne For Ice

By Jeff Lippman - March 31, 2008

I'll never underestimate Kristi Toliver's fire and courage again. But with all due respect, tonight belongs to Candice Wiggins and Stanford.

Once again, for some reason, many doubted Stanford against the mighty Terrapins. Not I. How could you doubt Wiggins? Well, Wiggins made all her doubters eat crow tonight. Stanford's resolve was too much for the Terps. They played well.

Maryland shot over 60 percent in the first half and was still down 10 at halftime. Tonight was just Stanford's night.

Wiggins, who will soon become a four-time All-American, willed her team into the Final Four, where no team residing West of the Mississippi River had navigated since the Cardinal did it in 1997.

The senior scored 41 points and simply wouldn't be denied in the closing minutes with Maryland making a furious comeback attempt behind Toliver.

I said Toliver needed a big game for Maryland to win. Toliver gave them a big game, but it wasn't enough. The Terps junior PG scored 35 points, including 15 over the game's final 10 minutes and hit big shot after shot reminiscent of two years ago against Duke.

Crystal Langhorne was held in check by the double-headed center of Kayla Pedersen and Jayne Appel. The senior finished her historic Maryland career with a pedestrian 13 point, eight rebound performance.

But to further illustrate how tonight was simply Stanford's night, not only did Wiggins step up - we knew that would happen - but the Cardinal also got scoring from very unlikely shooters.

Stanford's 6-foot-4 freshman Pedersen had an excellent first season in Palo Alto. She averaged 12.6 points per game so the 15 points she scored tonight isn't out of the ordinary. But Pedersen hit just seven three pointers all season and attempted just 23, so what prompted the frosh to fire away in Stanford's biggest game, I'll never know.

But the Cardinal are sure glad she did. Pedersen went 3-for-3 from long range, three daggers to the heart of the Terps.

Sophomore guard JJ Hones was averaging six points per game this season. The 5-foot-10 guard picked a damn good time to notch a new career high with 23 points and four big threes.

All in all, the Cardinal dropped 98 points - their third-highest scoring total of the entire season - on a team that won 33 games this season in the biggest game of any of their lives. It was get big or die for Stanford and they got big in a gargantuan way.

So congratulations to Candice Wiggins, congratulations to Stanford and congratulations to fans of women's basketball out West.

This game could only be described as a gem and although there wasn't any diamonds involved, there sure was a lot of Ice. Candice, that is.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 11:36 PM on March 31, 2008

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