STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Chiney Ogwumike pulled her fellow starters aside and offered one last challenge: Stanford's biggest star wanted to be an "afterthought."
That was hardly the case in her team's latest lopsided NCAA tournament win, though Ogwumike's supporting cast sure did its part to move the Cardinal one step closer to the Final Four.
Ogwumike had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Mikaela Ruef produced a career performance on both ends, and second-seeded Stanford beat Penn State 82-57 on Sunday to reach the NCAA tournament regional final on its home floor.
"Mikaela's our rock out there," Ogwumike said. "She does a lot of the grunt work."
The Cardinal (32-3) built a big first-half lead and rolled against the third-seeded Lady Lions to move into Tuesday night's regional final against No. 4 seed North Carolina (27-9). The Tar Heels beat top-seeded South Carolina 65-58 on Sunday night.
Ruef recovered from getting poked in the eye early to contribute 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She was cheered at every chance by the raucous home crowd at Maples Pavilion. Amber Orrange added 18 points in Stanford's ninth straight NCAA tournament home win.
Ariel Edwards scored 22 points for the Lady Lions (24-8), while leading scorer Maggie Lucas was held scoreless in the second half and finished with six.
"Maggie Lucas hasn't had six points since third grade," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "She can flat out score."
It hardly mattered that Hall of Famer VanDerveer spent a day each of the past two summers at her New York home providing tips to Penn State coach Coquese Washington.
Stanford neutralized Penn State's physical style, with Ogwumike far outmatching the Lady Lions' athleticism in the paint.
The Cardinal figured they more than earned their home-court comforts, having traveled all the way to Iowa as a surprised No. 2 seed for a pair of 19-point NCAA victories and then home to the Bay Area — rather than getting to play in West locales of Los Angeles or Seattle.
Ogwumike is determined to carry this team back to Final Four in her last hurrah after their streak ended last March at five consecutive Final Four berths. Stanford lost 61-59 to Georgia in the regional semifinals last year in Spokane, Wash.
After her uncontested layin with 6:37 to play, roaring fans jumped to their feet during the ensuing timeout — some even holding posters of Ogwumike's face. She gave everyone a scare going down hard with 2:22 remaining while going for a rebound on the defensive end, but got up to make both free throws then took a seat for good.
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