March 17, 2012
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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Warming up before the start of her final NCAA women's tournament, Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike said she suddenly realized that the ending was about to begin.
As she recounted the moment, she concluded the story with a big burst of laughter.
Ogwumike played as though she is intent on having a blast in this final go-round as Stanford seeks a fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four. She scored 22 of her 28 points in the first half Saturday as the top-seeded Cardinal beat Hampton 73-51 in the first round.
"It's so much fun when it gets to this point and you don't want to do anything but, believe it or not, continue to practice," Ogwumike said, laughing again. "A lot of people take that for granted, but we try to embrace every moment that we have and go out and have fun."
Plenty of Cardinal players had fun in their tournament opener.
Joslyn Tinkle added 16 points and hit a career-best four 3-pointers in as many tries. Freshman point guard Amber Orrange had a career-best 11 assists, including one dazzling feed to Ogwumike under the basket, and was forced to smile when she made a 3-pointer.
Even a knee injury that kept Chiney Ogwumike, Nnemkadi's younger sister, riding a stationary bike late in the first half wasn't enough to keep her out of the lineup after halftime.
The Cardinal, however, didn't need her.
Stanford (32-1) extended its school-record winning streak to 29 and will face eighth-seeded West Virginia, a 68-55 winner against Texas, on Monday night in the second round.
Alyssa Bennett scored 19 points to lead Hampton (26-5), which set a school record for victories in a season and was playing about 11 miles from its campus. The Pirates hadn't seen anything like the athleticism of Ogwumike, or the efficiency of the Cardinal.
They got to see it all in the last seven minutes before halftime, or right after Choicetta McMillian's 3-pointer pulled Hampton within 22-21 and pumped up the partisan crowd of 4,258.
"I think we did a good job of recognizing what we need to do to attack their pressure," Nnemkadi Ogwumike said.
Getting the ball in her hands helped, as she scored eight points in a 13-0 run and Tinkle knocked down a 3-pointer as Stanford extended its lead to 35-21.
Hampton scored the next five, keeping the crowd into it, but Sarah Boothe hit a jumper. Ogwumike scored on a layup and then, with six seconds left in the half, made a high-arcing 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Stanford a 42-27 lead.
"We just tried to defend and we made some mental mistakes and they went on their run," Hampton point guard Jericka Jenkins said.
Nicole Hamilton added 10 points for Hampton, which shot 32 percent compared with 58 percent for Stanford.
"They're good," Hampton coach David Six said. "There's no denying that they're good. We didn't play our best today, but Stanford had something to do with that."
Hampton, which took Kentucky to overtime last year as a No. 13 seed before losing, has won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title three years in a row since Six became the coach, but is still seeking its first NCAA tournament victory.
The Cardinal are playing in their 25th consecutive tournament.