FRESNO, Calif. – Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 39 points and had 10 rebounds in top-seeded Stanford’s 76-60 victory over No. 5 seed South Carolina on Saturday night in the NCAA regional semifinal.
Now, Duke is all that stands in the way of a trip to Denver and Stanford’s fifth straight Final Four.
Ogwumike shot 14 for 22 and made 11 of 12 free throws, and Toni Kokenis added 12 points and seven boards as the Cardinal (34-1) ran their school-record winning streak to 31 games with a hard-fought victory.
Markeshia Grant scored 14 points and made four 3-pointers and La’Keisha Sutton had 18 for scrappy South Carolina (25-10), the No. 5 seed that hung tough in its first regional semifinals since 2002 despite a significant height disadvantage.
Stanford will play Monday night against Duke, which beat St. John’s 74-47 in Saturday’s first game at the Save Mart Center.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer topped her former U.S. Olympic star, Dawn Staley. The two captured a gold medal together in the 1996 Atlanta Games, with VanDerveer taking a year off from Stanford to coach the Americans.
But it wasn’t as easy as Stanford usually has it – South Carolina’s guards regularly answered on the offensive end after baskets by Stanford. The Cardinal received their biggest push since a 74-71 overtime victory over rival California at home in Maples Pavilion on Jan. 28.
Nneka Ogwumike took over down the stretch, even playing with three fouls for the final 17:20.
She scored on a leaping layin off a reverse pivot with 9:23 left to put her team up 56-48. She hit one free throw with 8:54 to play, then drew a charge on Ashley Bruner moments later before scoring over Bruner for an 11-point lead of 59-48.
Duke 74, St. John’s 47: Shay Selby took charge in the second half to finish with 18 points and seven assists, leading the Blue Devils (25-5) to a victory over the Red Storm (24-10).
Chelsea Gray, who grew up about 75 miles north in Stockton, Calif., scored 13 points and Tricia Liston had 15 for the second-seeded Blue Devils (25-5) in what became a surprising rout. Duke moved within one win of its first Final Four since 2006 and will play top-seeded Stanford on Monday night.
Selby had five points and two assists in the opening 4:55 of the second half and knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that built Duke’s lead to 49-29. She also had four steals.
Da’Shena Stevens scored 19 points for No. 3 seed St. John’s.