LOS ANGELES -- Nikki Caldwell knew it was coming.
She knew top-seeded Stanford, with all its weapons, couldn't stay down for long. UCLA had the energy, the intensity and even the double-digit lead. It appeared the Bruins would finally knock off their toughest competitor. They just didn't have enough, as second-ranked Stanford avoided the upset and captured its eight Pac-10 tournament championship in 10 years, 65-44, at Staples Center.
The second-seeded Bruins led by 11 early in the second half and by six with under 10 minutes left, but the Cardinal (29-2) finished on a 24-9 run to cut down the nets. Ninth-ranked UCLA (27-4) lost to Stanford for the third time this season.
"This group did an amazing job, pretty much, for 32 minutes," Caldwell said. "This group is tough and resilient, but we couldn't go deep into our bench tonight and I think that hurt us a bit. When you're playing a team like Stanford, who has so many weapons -- their ability to shoot from the perimeter, their ability to score in the paint -- you can't give them both. You've got to be able to take one of them away."
All things clicked in the first half. The Bruins took away Stanford's inside game, outscoring the Cardinal 16-8 in the paint. UCLA was solid in transition, capitalizing with 14 points off turnovers while Stanford had none. The Bruins went into the break on a 21-5 run that gave them a 30-21 lead after trailing by as many as seven.
"We always love a team that gives us a good challenge," said Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike, the tournament's most outstanding player for the second straight year. "They were taking the ball out of our hands. We just needed to figure out what we had to do."
Nnemkadi had the answer, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in the second half. Stanford's Toni Kokenis had 17 points off the bench. All but two of UCLA's points came from the starting five -- Doreena Campbell had 16 and Darxia Morris and Markel Walker each had 12. The Bruins had been 19-0 this season when three players scored in double figures.
"This was a great game," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I just want to first of all congratulate UCLA for a great season. They had us on the ropes and, you know, we had to really battle to come back."
VanDerveer, whose team will likely receive a No. 1 seeding when the bracket for the women's NCAA tournament is released Monday, later added that she says she believes UCLA deserves a No. 2 seeding.