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Stanford knocks off Oregon to win Pac-12 championship

Updated March 10, 2019 - 9:41 pm

Stanford sophomore guard Kiana Williams gathered her teammates near halfcourt Sunday night and implored them to secure one final defensive stop of Oregon in the final minute.

Try two. Or three. Or four more stops.

For one more Pac-12 tournament title.

The Cardinal, which finished second in the league during regular season, embarked on a 16-3 run over the final five minutes to cement a 64-57 win over the regular-season champion Ducks — and the 13th conference tournament title in program history.

Stanford players celebrated afterward on the playing surface at MGM Grand Garden Arena with friends and family, and cut the nets from the baskets before returning to their locker room for more celebration.

They arrived in Las Vegas as the conference runner-up during a rigorous two-month regular season.

They depart as the conference tournament champions and national championship contenders after a stellar three-day showing.

“I’m just really proud and really happy for these women,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I don’t look at it like ‘Oh, it’s just another trophy,’ or anything like that. It’s just another great memory.”

The No. 6 Ducks (29-4) and and No. 7 Cardinal (28-4) figure to contend in the NCAA Tournament after jostling for two months in the Pac-12, which featured five ranked teams by season’s end.

Stanford surged to an 8-0 advantage Sunday and led the majority of the first three quarters, though the Ducks flipped the script in the second half by spreading the floor for star guard Sabrina Ionescu.

The 5-foot-11-inch junior point guard orchestrated their pick-and-roll offense to perfection and propelled them to a 51-48 lead by making a jumper with 5:39 to play in the fourth quarter.

But the tournament’s most outstanding player, Alanna Smith, countered with a game-tying 3-pointer, guard DiJonai Carrington scored twice in a row and Stanford’s defense forced stop after stop after stop.

Just like Williams wanted.

“We were just saying four minutes, two minutes at a time. One minute at a time. One possession at a time,” Williams said. “So credit my teammates for locking in.”

Smith finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and wore one of the nets during the postgame press conference. Carrington added 22 points and nine rebounds and Williams scored 13, including a crucial 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds.

Ionescu led the Ducks with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

“Well, this is an NCAA Tournament game. This is an Elite Eight, Final Four, kind of game,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “Both teams are certainly capable of getting there.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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