Wiggins Isn't Everything

By Jeff Lippman - April 07, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. - Candice Wiggins isn't everything and Stanford knows that's the reason they're one game from winning their first national championship since 1992.

The Cardinal wouldn't be meeting Tennessee on Tuesday had Wiggins not put them on her shoulders at times, scoring 44 points against UTEP in the second round and 41 against Maryland to reach the Final Four, but they also wouldn't be here were it not for the emergence of Wiggins' supporting cast.

And I'm not talking about Stanford's trees, 6-foot-4 freshman and sophomore centers Kayla Pedersen and Jayne Appel. They played great for Stanford all year. Sort of like a triumvirate of talent, that was more than enough to take home regular season and Pac-10 Tournament titles. To win it all, Stanford needed more than that and they've gotten it in a big way.

"In the beginning of the year you wouldn't really be saying that about our team," said coach Tara Vanderveer. "We kind of had the big three and no one else. But the reason that we're here is because we do have that balance and the improvement of Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, the improvement of JJ Hones, the contributions that Jillian Harmon is able to make and Jeanette Pohlen."

Each of the aforementioned players had their day in the sun already this tournament.

In Stanford's Sweet 16 win over Pittsburgh sophomore starting guard Gold-Onwude, only a five point per game scorer on the season, dropped 15 points and was nearly flawless from the field.

Two days later in the Elite Eight against mighty top-seeded Maryland it was sophomore reserve-turned-starting guard JJ Hones who blew her season's average out of the water. Hones finished with a career-high 23 points against the Terps, well above her season average of just over six, and handled their on-the-ball pressure to a tee.

And finally, against Connecticut, in the biggest game of any of their lives, it was the backups turn to shine.

"Jillian really did a lot of big things for us coming off the bench," said Gold-Onwude of her teammate, "rebounding, getting steals, knocking down foul shots. And Jeanette knocking down big threes and playing good defense. It's such a team effort."

Wiggins realizes that she wouldn't be here without her mates and that's why Stanford is playing the best basketball it has all season, saying that opponents can't single out any one, two or even three players because the Cardinal have so many other weapons that can beat you.

"We are playing our best basketball right now and that's when you want to do it, at the end of the season," said backup junior forward and 6.3 point per game scorer Jillian Harmon, who stepped up with nine timely points against the Huskies Sunday. "We just have someone ready to step up every game. It was Ros against Pittsburgh and JJ against Maryland and I just thought it was my turn against UConn.

"Coach said she had a lot of confidence in me and this would be my breakout game. When you know your're coach has that much confidence in you, I just felt so much better about my game."

And isn't that what it's all about? Confidence. That's what this Stanford team is exuding in Technicolor as only the defending national champion Tennessee Lady Vols, owners of seven national titles, stand in their way.

Wiggins has been the heart and soul, the eyes and ears and the whole enchilada for Stanford for four years. They didn't get this far in each of her first three seasons in Palo Alto, and now she knows why.

"Everyone has stepped up and improved this entire year," Wiggins said, upbeat and showing lots of emotion as usual, "that's what got us to the national championship game."

Tennessee expects to have to stop Wiggins and they know Appel and Pedersen will be beasts down low and will hit their open shots. What they don't know, the X-factor for Stanford, is who else they'll have to stop Tuesday.

Because it could be any or all of the Cardinal's role players that steps up tomorrow and that's what makes this Stanford team the best to grace Northern California in over a decade and quite possibly the 2008 national champions.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 02:53 PM on April 07, 2008

Post A Comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

The Sloggers... Archives... CSTV.com Links CSTV Slogs Posts By Site