- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Chiney Ogwumike wouldn’t let her last appearance at USC end without a fight.

She overcame a poor first half and led No. 5 Stanford to its biggest comeback in seven years.

Ogwumike scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Bonnie Samuelson added 14 points as Stanford defeated USC 64-59 on Friday night.

Stanford (25-2, 14-1) erased a 19-point deficit in the first half and clinched at least a share of its 14th straight Pac-12 regular-season title and 23rd overall. The Cardinal also secured the Pac-12 Tournament’s top seed.

Ogwumike scored 12 of her team’s first 17 points of the second half to spark the eighth largest comeback in NCAA history and the largest by Stanford since it rallied from 19 points down against Temple on Nov. 25, 2007.

“I think this game was all about fight,” Ogwumike said. “I said it was ironic because we’re at the home of “Fight On!” and we’re telling each other to ‘Fight on, fight on.’ I’m proud of our mental stability to be able to stay with it even though we’re 20 points down.”

Ogwumike grabbed a steal at midcourt and drove for a basket to tie it 43-43 and then scored the next two baskets on a spin move and an uncontested layup to give Stanford the lead for good. With WNBA coach Michael Cooper scouting in the stands, Ogwumike bounced back from her rough start.

“Some games it takes me a while to get used to the physicality, and kudos to their defense,” said Ogwumike, who moved into 10th on the NCAA career rebounding list with 1,444. “They were just really aggressive. They were physical. They were attacking the ball.

“They were getting their hands on the ball. But once I get comfortable with the physicality, it’s not cruise control but I’m (thinking) ‘OK, I know how to play this game.’”

Ariya Crook led the Trojans (16-11, 9-6) with 24 points, and Cassie Harberts scored 12. Crook made a 3-pointer to pull USC within 62-59 with 18 seconds remaining before Samuelson made two free throws.

Crook twice pulled USC within four points in the final 3:32. USC, which was trying to end a 13-game losing streak to Stanford, had a 32-13 first-half lead.

USC missed 13 of its first 15 shots in the second half. The turning point might have been when it grabbed three offensive rebounds on one possession but came away empty. Ogwumike then scored inside to bring Stanford to 43-41.

The Trojans couldn’t stop the Cardinal from getting easy baskets in the paint and couldn’t sustain the scoring pace set in the first half. USC shot 36 percent after the break.

“We were tired in the second half,” Crook said. “So the shots that we took in the first half we couldn’t really make it in the second half because our legs are going or our focus is not there.”

Ogwumike scored inside and blocked Harberts on the ensuing trip down the floor before Amber Orrange scored in transition for a 55-46 lead. Orrange had eight points and five assists, and Mikaela Ruef had six points and eight rebounds.

“What we tried to do was just stay positive and work through it,” USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “I thought we got some real strategic stops. We just couldn’t get those baskets to fall and really continue to keep pressure on Stanford. They’re just a great team. They make you pay for your mistakes.”

Stanford closed the first half on 17-5 run to pull to 37-30 after USC dominated the first 15 minutes.

USC used hot shooting to jump on Stanford and took its biggest lead at 32-13. The Trojans shot 48 percent in the first half and made five 3-pointers.

“The hole wasn’t good, but we dug out of it,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

VanDerveer and Ogwumike said they have to learn from this game, which was similar to a Feb. 9 loss to Washington in which Stanford was down at halftime.

“We have to look at things, and make a decision to play harder right from the get-go,” VanDerveer said. “Our team has to understand being the hunted. We have kind of the bulls-eye on our back.”

Stanford starting freshman guard Lili Thompson didn’t play because of an ankle injury and is questionable for Sunday, a team spokesman said.

Stanford, which averages 12.4 turnovers a game, committed nine in the first half, including two traveling violations and a 5-second violation trying to inbound the ball.

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