UCLA Grabs NCAA Bid With 85-76 OT Upset Win Over No. 11 Stanford

March 7, 2006

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Coach Kathy Olivier wore the net around her neck. Nikki Blue grabbed the glass trophy and gave it a kiss. Noelle Quinn offered hugs to anyone who would accept.

Just down the road from Stanford's campus, another team celebrated a Pac-10 tournament title for a change.

Quinn scored the final seven points of regulation and four more in overtime, lifting UCLA to its first Pac-10 tournament title with a thrilling 85-76 comeback victory over the 11th-ranked Cardinal on Monday night.

"I've never won anything in my life," said a beaming Blue, the Bruins' senior point guard. "Just cutting down the net means the world to me. I've never cut down a net before. All season, people kept saying UCLA could be a good team, UCLA could be a great team. We've been climbing up the hill and we're on top right now."

The physical, speedy Bruins rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to earn the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament thanks to huge performances by their three stars: Blue, Quinn and Lisa Willis.

Willis, who was named the tournament MVP, had 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals, fouling out after establishing a new tournament record for steals (19), while Quinn had 22 points and eight rebounds. Blue finished with 14 points, eight assists and six steals and Lindsey Pluimer scored five of her 16 points in OT for the Bruins (20-10), who pulled off their second upset in as many nights following a 60-59 win over then-No. 11 Arizona State.

"We never thought we were going to lose this game," Quinn said. "We kept chipping away, chipping away, plugging away. We showed them tonight what we could do. Hopefully we showed our critics."

Blue jumped onto the scorer's table afterward, waving and celebrating with UCLA fans. Stanford's players sat dejected on their bench, stunned after the highest scoring game in tournament history.

The Cardinal are still headed to their 19th straight NCAA tournament. They watched as their five-game winning streak was snapped, keeping Stanford from winning its fourth straight conference tournament championship.

"It doesn't give you the momentum you like," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "But we've got to take it and turn it into something positive. ... They are extremely aggressive. Their 'Big Three' came to play and brought some others with them. They made some big momentum plays."

Candice Wiggins had 23 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals, but missed key opportunities in overtime and made five turnovers. Brooke Smith added 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals and Kristen Newlin 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

Wiggins got a steal and drew the fifth foul on Willis with 1:59 left in OT, converting both free throws to tie the game at 76. The Cardinal (23-7), who moved up two spots in the rankings released earlier in the day, didn't score again.

Quinn scored seven straight points over the final 1:19 of regulation, including the tying basket on a 10-footer with 5.8 seconds left. She converted a three-point play with 45 seconds left in regulation.

"I was a little concerned with 2 1/2 minutes left," Olivier said, recalling when her team trailed by nine. "But then I looked in their faces and I knew we were going to do it. They just had that look of hunger."

Stanford called timeout with 31.2 remaining, then Wiggins missed a 3 to give UCLA a final chance with 16.4 to go, and Quinn came through.

Krista Rappahahn made three 3-pointers and set a new school record for 3s in a season, surpassing the 81 set by Jamie Carey in the 1999-2000 season.

Rappahahn missed her first two attempts, then connected from the top of the arc at 10:14 of the first half to tie the mark. She passed Carey with a baseline shot that circled the rim before going in with 8:30 left, then later made another.

Stanford had won five straight and 10 of 11 after winning a school-record sixth straight Pac-10 regular-season championship.

The teams split their two regular-season meetings this season, each winning on their home floor, and Stanford was still upset with its lack of energy in a 90-80 loss at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 27 that ended the Cardinal's 14-game winning streak in the series.

UCLA beat Stanford twice in the same season for the first time since 1987-88.

"We'll learn from this," Wiggins said. "Just the fact of losing is painful."

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