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.”
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 trailed by as many as 40 points and shot 20.3 percent.
The Cardinal shot over the 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 to less than 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.