7:00 PM ET, March 28, 2004
Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, OK
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- With All-American Nicole Powell struggling in the second half, Kelley Suminski stepped in to make the big shot.Suminski hit a 3-pointer with 0.3 left on the clock to give Stanford a 57-55 victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday in the Midwest Regional semifinals.Powell had 16 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, including a drive and dish that set up Suminski's game-winner."We were looking for Nicole to get the last shot," Suminski said. "I saw her penetrating and I went to slide behind her in case someone went to help and they did. She made a great pass and I don't know what happened after that."I'm lucky it went in."Powell took the inbounds with 11.2 seconds left, dribbled up the court and into the lane before turning around and passing to Suminski, whose open shot went in."I've never experienced that before," Suminski said. "I'm so excited. I don't know whether to cry or celebrate."Dee Davis couldn't get a full-court desperation heave off for Vandy before the final buzzer and Stanford players mobbed the court."I'm just so elated for Kelley. She's ready to cry," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I'm so happy for her. It was almost surreal. The clock was going down, Nicole found her and she knocked down the shot."It was just beautiful."Suminski finished with 11 points, and T'Nae Thiel added 10 for the sixth-seeded Cardinal (27-6), who will play top-seeded Tennessee in the round of eight Tuesday night. Tennessee beat Baylor 71-69.Hillary Hager had 13 points to lead second-seeded Vanderbilt (26-8). Earley added 12, Jenni Benningfield scored 11 and Davis had 10.Powell couldn't find her range in the second half, going scoreless for the first 19 minutes.After her first of two consecutive airballs late in the second half, the 6-foot-2 forward turned to VanDerveer with a look of frustration a some boos coming down from the crowd."I've never been booed for anything ever," Powell said. "I guess there's a first time for everything."Powell missed all six field goals she attempted in the second half and scored only on the two free throws in the final minute."Shooting airballs, missing layups, I just said, 'Hey, get on to the next play and try to knock the next one down," Powell said.But she was all smiles after her biggest play of the night.The final assist capped what started as a great night for Powell, who did everything for Stanford in the first half.She brought the ball upcourt, rebounded everything in sight and scored almost at will. Powell had 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the opening half.She started struggling after Earley returned from the bench after sitting out the final 14 minutes of the first half with two fouls.Vanderbilt capitalized on Powell's ineffectiveness to overcome a 12-point first-half deficit. The Commodores came out of halftime on an 11-2 run to tie it at 37 on Benningfield's putback of Earley's miss.Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said she looked to her players at halftime to turn their game around."I didn't ask for answers," Balcomb said. "I asked them to change and they changed."VanDerveer said Vanderbilt's matchup zone confused Stanford."We've not played against a zone all year and we looked like it," VanDerveer said.The Commodores finally took their first lead with a 10-2 run late in the second half. Davis hit two free throws to give the Commodores a 55-52 lead, but Stanford held Vanderbilt scoreless the rest of the way.Powell was fouled by Hager and hit two free throws to cut the deficit to one, then the Cardinal kept Vanderbilt from getting off a shot before the shot clock expired on the ensuing possession."That was obviously a very tough game to lose," Balcomb said. "It just came down to we didn't execute in the end and make free throws and they did."Vanderbilt was 8-for-15 from the foul line.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press