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The Nerds Invade Music City
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 04/02/2014
Game #37
NCAA Tournament National Semifinal

No. 6/5 Stanford Cardinal (33-3)

- vs. -

No. 1/1 Connecticut Huskies (38-0)

Sunday, April 6, 2014 – 6 p.m. PT
Bridgestone Arena (19,395) – Nashville, Tenn.

Tournament Seeds: Stanford – 2, Connecticut – 1
Series History: Connecticut leads 9-6
Last Meeting:Nov. 11, 2013 (Connecticut 76, Stanford 57) – Storrs, Conn.
TV: ESPN (P-x-P: Dave O’Brien, Analyst: Doris Burke, Sideline: Holly Rowe)
Webcast: ESPN3 (http://www.espn3.com)
Radio: 90.1 KZSU (P-x-P: Ashley Westhem); Westwood One (P-x-P: Dave Ryan, Analyst: Debbie Antonelli, Sideline: Krista Blunk)

STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford has returned to the Final Four for the program’s 12th appearance overall and sixth in the past seven years. The Cardinal takes on No. 1/1 Connecticut in Sunday’s second national semifinal in Nashville at approximately 6 p.m. PT on ESPN, with Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke on the call and Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe reporting from the sidelines. The game can also be heard on 90.1 KZSU.

Last Time Out
The Cardinal punched its ticket to Music City with a 74-65 victory over North Carolina Tuesday night at Maples Pavilion. Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef was named the Stanford Regional Most Outstanding Player after posting career highs of 17 points and three 3-pointers with nine rebounds and three assists in the win. Fellow senior Chiney Ogwumike posted her 26th double-double, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds, with 16 of her points coming in the second half in which the Cardinal outscored the Tarheels, 44-29. Amber Orrange (14 points), Bonnie Samuelson (13) and Lili Thompson (10) rounded out the five Cardinal players scoring in double digits in the win.

About Connecticut
Connecticut (38-0) enters this weekend’s Final Four as one of two unbeaten teams left in the country, alongside Notre Dame. The Huskies captured the Lincoln Regional title Monday with a 69-54 win over Texas A&M. With Geno Auriemma in his 28th year at the helm, Connecticut is led by a trio of All-Americans in Breanna Stewart (19.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Stefanie Dolson (12.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and Bria Hartley (16.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg).

All-Time Against Connecticut
Stanford is 6-9 all-time against Connecticut and has dropped six of the past seven meetings against the Huskies, most recently a 76-57 loss in the second game of this season on Nov. 11 in Storrs.

Against The American
Connecticut was the only American Athletic Conference Team the Cardinal players this season. While Sunday’s meeting with Connecticut is officially the Cardinal’s first game against an AAC team in the NCAA Tournament, it has played the Huskies five previous times in the event, and also defeated SMU, 95-73, in a second-round game at Maples Pavilion in 1995.

In The Pac-12 Stat Rankings
Through April 1 Stanford ranks in the top three of 13 categories: scoring defense (59.8 - first), scoring margin (+17.6 - first), rebounding margin (+8.2 - first), field-goal percentage (47.2 - first), assists (17.81 apg - first), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.44 - first), scoring offense (77.3 - second), field-goal percentage defense (35.3 - second), 3-point field-goal percentage (36.6 - second), rebounding defense (34.7 - second), defensive rebounding percentage (71.8 - third), free-throw percentage (69.7 - third), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (30.8 - third), and defensive rebounding (30.5 drpg - third). Individually, Chiney Ogwumike leads the Pac-12 in scoring (26.4 ppg) and field-goal percentage (60.4), and is second in rebounding (12.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.83 bpg). Mikaela Ruef is fifth in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.82), and ninth in assists (3.28 apg), tops among all Pac-12 posts in the latter two categories. Amber Orrange leads the loop in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.93) and is second in assists (4.47 apg). Lili Thompson (41.9) leads the Pac-12 in 3-point field-goal percentage while Bonnie Samuelson (41.9) is third.

In The National Stat Rankings
Through April 1 Stanford ranked in the top 20 of eight categories: assist-to-turnover ratio (1.44 - fourth), field-goal percentage (47.2 - eighth), scoring margin (+17.6 - eighth), assists (17.81 - 11th), field-goal percentage defense (35.3 - 12th), turnovers per game (12.3 - 14th), rebound margin (+8.2 - 18th), and 3-point field-goal percentage (36.6 - 18th). Individually, Chiney Ogwumike is the only player to rank in the national top 10 in scoring (26.4 ppg - third), field-goal percentage (60.4 - fourth), rebounding (12.1 rpg - ninth), and double-doubles (26 - fourth). Amber Orrange’s 2.93 assist-to-turnover ratio is ninth in the country.

Stanford And Connecticut In The Final Four...Again
Stanford and Connecticut will meet Sunday for the sixth time in the NCAA Tournament, the fifth time at the Final Four, and fourth time at the Final Four in the past seven years. Connecticut has won three of the previous five NCAA Tournament meetings, including a 3-1 mark over the Cardinal at the Final Four, with Stanford’s only such victory coming in 2008, an 82-73 decision. The Huskies captured Final Four wins in 1995, 2009 and 2010, with the latter being a 53-47 victory in the national title game in San Antonio. The only non-Final Four meeting between the schools in the tournament was a 76-59 Stanford win in the 2005 regional semifinal in Kansas City.

Gettin’ A Little Familiar
Sunday’s matchup between Stanford and Connecticut will mark the fifth time that the schools will face off at the Final Four. In Final Four history (including title-game matchups) the Stanford-Connecticut matchup is the second-most reoccurring one with five meetings (including Sunday), behind only the Connecticut-Tennessee rivalry in which the schools have met six times at the Final Four (1995, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004). Connecticut-Notre Dame, and Tennessee-Louisiana Tech are next with four meetings apiece.

Coincidence, Or...?
In 1990, Stanford punched its ticket to its first Final Four with a regional final win at Maples Pavilion (114-87 over Arkansas), then went on to win its first national title at the signature event in Knoxville, Tenn. In 2014, Stanford punched its ticket to the program’s 12th Final Four with a regional final win at Maples Pavilion (74-65 over North Carolina), and the Final Four is being held for the second time in...Tennessee. Will lightning strike twice for the Cardinal?

Stanford In The NCAA Tournament
Stanford is in its 28th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 27th in a row. The Cardinal is alone in third place among all schools, passing Louisiana Tech (27) and remaining behind Tennessee, which has appeared in all 33 editions of the NCAA Tournament, and Georgia, which made its 31st appearance in 2014. Stanford has now reached 12 Final Fours (1990-92, 1995-97, 2008-12, 2014), third- amongst all schools, with six trips over the past seven seasons. Since its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982, Stanford has won two national championships (1990, 1992), reached the aforementioned 12 Final Fours, 17 Elite Eights, and 21 Sweet 16s.

Stanford At Home In The NCAA Tournament
This past weekend’s NCAA Regional at Maples Pavilion marked the fourth time that Stanford had hosted an NCAA Regional (1990, 1994, 2003, 2014). It also marked the 18th year in which Stanford played an NCAA Tournament game on its own home court. After sweeping the regional with wins over Penn State and North Carolina, the Cardinal has now racked up an NCAA Tournament record of 30-4 at Maples Pavilion, including a 5-1 mark in regional contests. Stanford went 2-0 in 1990 to reach its first Final Four (and went on to win its first national title), lost in the 1994 Regional Final to Purdue, and did not reach the 2003 Regional rounds. The Cardinal is on a 10-game winning streak at home in tournament play, with its last home tournament loss a 68-61 setback to Florida State in the 2007 second round.

The First Stanford-Connecticut Meeting Of 2013-14
Sunday’s national semifinal will be the second meeting of the season between Stanford and Connecticut, as the teams met in Storrs on Nov. 11 with the Huskies claiming a 76-57 win. The teams got off to a grinding start, with the Cardinal staying within striking distance throughout the opening 19 minutes. Things turned when, trailing 33-26 with 1:28 to go in the half, Stanford missed a pair of free throws that could’ve cut the deficit to five. Connecticut went on to score six points over the final 1:12 to take a 39-26 halftime lead and was never seriously threatened the rest of the way. The Huskies were led by Bria Hartley’s 20 points while Kiah Stokes added 10 points and 13 rebounds, while the Cardinal was paced by Amber Orrange’s career-high 22 points and Chiney Ogwumike’s 16-point, 13-rebounds double-double.

How Stanford Got To Nashville
Stanford opened its 2014 NCAA Tournament run with a first- and second-round sweep in Ames, Iowa, defeating No. 15 seed South Dakota 81-62 on March 22 and following up with a 63-44 victory over No. 10 seed Florida State March 24. Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike shot 63.3 percent from the field over the two games, averaging 22.0 points and 8.5 rebounds, while junior forward Bonnie Samuelson was a star off the bench, averaging 14.5 points while going 9-for-18 (50.0 percent) from behind the arc. Freshman guard Lili Thompson shot 45.5 percent from behind the arc and averaged 12.5 points. The Cardinal then returned home for the Stanford Regional, where Most Outstanding Player Mikaela Ruef (14.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg) led the way with Chiney Ogwumike adding 24.5 points and 12.5 rebounds over the two victories against No. 3 seed Penn State and No. 4 seed North Carolina.

Chiney Ogwumike Against The Top-25
Tuesday’s 74-65 win over North Carolina improved Stanford’s record against Top-25 teams this season to 10-1, and Sunday’s matchup with No. 1/1 Connecticut will be the 12th this season for the Cardinal. Over the previous 11 games, Stanford’s received great performances from numerous players, most notably national player of the year candidate Chiney Ogwumike, the only player in the country to rank in the national Top 10 in scoring (26.4 ppg), rebounding (12.1 rpg), field-goal percentage (60.4), and double-doubles (26) through April 1. After going for 20 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s win over the Tarheels, Ogwumike is now averaging 24.9 points, 12.6 rebounds and shooting 57.5 percent with 17 blocked shots over 10 games against Top-25 teams. Below is a game-by-game breakdown of Ogwumike’s lines against those teams:

Started From the Bottom, And Now She’s Here
Tuesday’s Stanford Regional Final served as the latest example of redshirt senior Mikaela Ruef’s transformation from “water cooler hugger” to headline contributor over the span of her Stanford career. Ruef came in as a freshman in 2009-10 and spent that season at the end of the bench, “hugging the water cooler” as head coach Tara VanDerveer puts it, averaging just 2.7 minutes a game. She became a solid role player the next season before having to redshirt 2011-12 due to a foot injury. Instead of languishing in purgatory, Ruef battled her way into the starting lineup in 2012-13, starting 29 games and averaging 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 points per game.

This season, Ruef has started 35 of 36 games and turned in a career campaign, averaging career bests of 7.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.28 assists per game while establishing herself as one of the top passing posts in the country. It all came together Tuesday against North Carolina, as Ruef posted bests of 17 points and three 3-pointers while grabbing nine rebounds and claiming the Regional Most Outstanding Player award.

Orrange And Thompson Prove Dangerous Together
The backcourt combination of junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman Lili Thompson has gelled into a ruthlessly efficient unit in this NCAA Tournament. Orrange has stepped up her aggressiveness, averaging 12.3 points and shooting 56.8 percent from the field with 4.50 assists per game through the first four rounds. Thompson, meanwhile, is making her presence felt on both ends of the court, scoring 11.5 points per game on offense, and defensively playing lockdown on such standouts as Penn State’s Maggie Lucas (six points on 3-for-14 shooting in the regional semifinal) and North Carolina’s Diamond DeShields (13 points on 5-for-15 shooting in the regional final).

Keep On Bombin’, Bonnie
Another player for Stanford who is enjoying a strong NCAA Tournament is junior forward Bonnie Samuelson. The 3-point bomber from Huntington Beach is among the top long-distance shooters in the tournament field, making 14 triples and shooting 46.7 percent (14-for-30) from behind the arc over the first four rounds. Coming off the bench in each of the four games, Samuelson is averaging 12.0 points and has shown a renewed aggressive streak, contributing 3.0 rebounds a game.

The Old, Wily Veteran
While senior guard Sara James may average just 7.0 minutes a game this tournament, she has started all four games because of the hustle and veteran presence she provides early on for the Cardinal. After undergoing offseason surgery in her legs due to compartment syndrome, James has been limited in her action all season but has still earned the respect of her teammates by gritting her way to 2.4 points a game in 9.8 minutes over 32 appearances (21 of those being starts).


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