NCAA

Stanford's Ogwumike sisters eager to face Griner

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Stanford's Ogwumike sisters eager to face Griner

STANFORD -- Stanford sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike are thrilled to take on one mighty, Mile High challenge: stopping 6-foot-8 Baylor star Brittney Griner and the unbeaten Lady Bears.It's a matchup they've both been eagerly waiting for as they lead the Cardinal (35-1) into their fifth straight Final Four this weekend in Denver riding a school-record 32-game winning streak. Nneka Ogwumike faced Griner in an AAU game back in high school, and that's when she insists she learned to shoot 3-pointers because scoring in the paint was a big problem. But the senior feels like everybody else in the country has already faced Griner, and now she's finally getting that chance in her NCAA tournament farewell.

Chiney Ogwumike knows Griner will alter shots and block her fair share, too."I think we have a tall task ahead of us, no pun intended," Chiney Ogwumike said with a grin before practice Wednesday. "I expect my shot to get blocked quite frankly. Embrace it."Stanford is an underdog for a change, and that's fine with 26th-year coach Tara VanDerveer. She hasn't received any text messages, emails or calls with tips on how to pull off the upset against the Bears (38-0)."Everyone just says, Good luck, our money's on Baylor,'" she said, only half-joking.VanDerveer has a couple of tall male practice players who have played as Griner in the past - like last March when Stanford figured it might face Baylor at the Final Four. That was before Texas A&M pulled off a surprising victory against the Bears in the regional final and then beat the Cardinal in the national semifinals on the way to an improbable championship.VanDerveer won't even mind if Griner dunks against her team. It's good for the women's game, after all."That adds excitement," the Hall of Fame coach said. "It's two points. We're not going to have a breakdown about it. As long as it's not the winning basket. If Brittney Griner dunks, I hope she slams a couple home in warm-ups. I'll be sitting right there cheering. She's a special player."Nneka Ogwumike is a load to handle herself, so Baylor's defense will have its hands full. Ogwumike, the likely No. 1 pick in next month's WNBA draft, had 39 points and 10 rebounds in Stanford's 76-60 victory over No. 5 seed South Carolina in the regional semifinals, then added 29 points and nine boards in an 81-69 win over Duke in the Fresno Regional final Monday night."Honestly, if Nneka was 6-8 I'd be terrified of her," said Chiney Ogwumike, who grabbed 17 rebounds in the Duke win. "Her game would be ridiculous. She said, March madness turns you into a monster.' She's playing out of her mind."While these Final Four trips are becoming familiar each March, students and others in the community are stopping the Stanford players and coaches a little more frequently lately considering they all know that Griner and Co. are up next.In fact, VanDerveer was at the grocery store and got startled when she grabbed a carton of milk from the refrigerator only to have a man on the other side loading it congratulate her."Nneka and I went to get Jamba Juice yesterday and got stopped," Chiney Ogwumike said. "Someone said, Are you those twins?' We're like, Yeah, we're the twins.'"In truth, Chiney is the sophomore. Yet both know it's going to take one impressive sister tag-team act to move into the title game and have a chance at the program's first championship since 1992."I'd rather do that than go against tiny little people," Nneka Ogwumike said of going up against Griner's big body in the middle.She doesn't remember a lot from that game against Griner, except that they played at Rice and "it was hard for me to score, obviously."Griner's game was still developing and Ogwumike recalls she was figuring out her fundamentals. How tall was Griner then?"Taller than me," Nneka Ogwumike quipped.VanDerveer is counting on another balanced performance come Sunday night at the Pepsi Center after she got contributions from much of the roster in the win over Duke. While Nneka Ogwumike will run the show, the rest of the team is looking to take some pressure off its All-American forward - especially considering things will be all the more difficult dealing with Griner inside on both ends of the floor.Even 6-3 forward Joslyn Tinkle might find herself helping on Griner. Tinkle - daughter of Montana coach Wayne Tinkle - is eager to prove herself any way she's needed. A year ago as a sophomore, she didn't get off the bench in the NCAA semifinals after playing in every game up to that point.That fueled her for months, and she became a regular starter in January. Tinkle hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists against the Blue Devils on Monday."I just love to be out there, regardless of where I am," Tinkle said. "I'm doing my best to do whatever it is needed for our team."And it's certainly going to take a little something from everyone to get by Griner."We know that we're capable of more. Right now, I'm going in and just enjoying every moment," Nneka Ogwumike said. "It's not every day you play against someone like her. I'm excited. I feel like I'm the only one in the country who hasn't played her."

Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal

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AP

Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal

BOX SCORE

PALO ALTO — Bryce Love rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown despite missing most of the fourth quarter after aggravating an ankle injury, and No. 20 Stanford held off California 17-14 on Saturday to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive.

K.J. Costello completed 17 of 26 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, Ben Edwards made a key interception in the fourth quarter and Cameron Scarlett rushed for 49 yards on the final drive in place of Love to help the Cardinal (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) milk the clock and win its eighth straight Big Game.

Stanford can earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against USC but needs some help.

The Cardinal can get there if No. 15 Washington State loses to No. 16 Washington next week. If the Cougars — who beat Stanford 24-21 on Nov. 4 — beat the Huskies, they get the nod because of the tiebreaker.

The nation's leading rusher going into the game, Love was held in check most of the game by Cal's defense and sat out the final 11:43 after re-injuring his ankle that has bothered him for the past month. He did stay on the field long enough to score a 57-yard touchdown — his 11th run of 50 yards or longer this season.

Scarlett, Love's primary backup all season, also came up big for Stanford. Scarlett rushed for 61 yards, the majority coming on the Cardinal's last drive that took the final 7:25. Scarlett's 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1 kept the drive going.

Patrick Laird ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Ross Bowers passed for 182 yards and a touchdown for California. The Golden Bears (5-6, 2-6) need a win in their final game to become bowl eligible in coach Justin Wilcox's first season.

THE TAKEAWAY

California: The Bears made the Cardinal sweat and kept the game a lot closer than many thought possible. Wilcox's defense did a good job bottling up Love most of the game but couldn't stop Scarlett on the final drive which was huge. Still, there are plenty of positives for Cal to take out of this one.

Stanford: It wasn't the best game for David Shaw's team but the Cardinal gritted it out and held off a pesky Cal team that had plenty to play for. The conference title can still happen but before that Stanford has a pretty big game coming up against Notre Dame.

UP NEXT

California: Ends the regular season at UCLA on Saturday.

Stanford: The Cardinal stay home and will host No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday. Stanford has won the last two and six of last eight against the Irish.

Former Cal running back suffers scary spine injury, taken to hospital

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AP

Former Cal running back suffers scary spine injury, taken to hospital

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New Orleans Saints say running back Daniel Lasco has feelings in his extremities after suffering a spinal injury making a tackle on a kickoff return during today's game at Buffalo.

Lasco was loaded into an ambulance on the field and taken to a hospital.

He was hurt six minutes into the second quarter when he appeared to lower his head while tackling Bills returner Brandon Tate. 

Lasco played four seasons at the University of California, Berkeley. He gained 1,471 yards from scrimmage with 14 touchdowns his junior year. In 2015 as a senior, Lasco was limited to nine games and only totaled 355 yards. 

The Saints selected Lasco in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Associated Press contributed to this report