- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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STANFORD, Calif. -- Maybe it was the comfort of a packed house at Maples Pavilion. Maybe it was finally time for Stanford to play like the elite team it was for the first three months of the season.
The Cardinal pulled out the best version of themselves in an 82-57 victory over No. 3 seed Penn State on Sunday afternoon. It was a strong performance from start to finish for second-seeded Stanford, which was greatly appreciated by a loud, supportive home crowd and former team stars such as Nneka Ogwumike, Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen and Brooke Smith.
KEY STAT: Penn State's Maggie Lucas tied a career low with six points (all in the first half). She shot 3-for-14 from the floor, including an 0-for-5 effort on 3-pointers. Stanford simply took her out of the game. Her last points of the game came with 9 minutes, 35 seconds to play in the first half.
TURNING POINT: A 14-0 Stanford run late in the first half turned a 23-19 Cardinal deficit into a 33-23 lead in the span of less than five minutes. Stanford outscored the Lady Lions 25-7 to close the half and held Penn State without a field goal for nearly 6:30.
KEY PLAY: Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike followed an inside score (to get her team within 23-21 during the brief time Penn State had the lead) with a steal at the other end, and when Bonnie Samuelson hit a 3-pointer in transition, the Cardinal run was on.
KEY PLAYER: Ogwumike. Clearly motivated to move her team past last year's Sweet 16 exit, Ogwumike was all over the floor. She finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 3 assists.
HOW IT WAS WON: Stanford grabbed the lead in the first half and didn't let go. The Cardinal ran its most crisp offense in weeks, defended well inside and out and didn't let the Lady Lions back into the game in the second half. Penn State never got closer than 12 points in the second half.
WHAT'S NEXT: Stanford advances to the Elite Eight for the ninth time in 11 years and will face the winner of the late game at Maples between top-seeded South Carolina and No. 4 seed North Carolina.
17dBonnie D. Ford