SAN JOSE — Whatever happens over the next month, the Stanford Cardinal has accomplished one thing Louisiana State could not -- win its conference tournament as the nation's No. 1 team.
The top-seeded Cardinal, on the same day it rose to the No. 1 ranking for the first time since December 1996, defeated third-seeded Arizona State, 56-42, Monday to win a third consecutive Pacific 10 Conference tournament championship in front of 4,015 at the HP Pavilion.
But the "No. 1" position with more meaning right now to Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer is a top seeding in the upcoming NCAA tournament, to which Stanford has the conference's automatic bid.
"Do I think we deserve a No. 1 seed? Yes," said VanDerveer, whose team moved up to the No. 1 ranking a day after previously No. 1 LSU fell to Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference final. "But there might be six teams that deserve it. What's most important to me is our team being healthy. When the ball goes up, records and seeds are not relevant. It's just about getting it done."
Stanford freshman Candice Wiggins, the conference regular-season player of the year, was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
Her 16 points and seven rebounds enabled the Cardinal (29-2) to record its 20th consecutive victory, equaling the fifth-longest such streak in school history.
Arizona State (22-9) had 10 points from leading scorer Kristen Kovesdy, who joined Wiggins, Stanford's Kelley Suminski, Arizona State's Aubree Johnson, UCLA's Nikki Blue and USC's Eshaya Murphy on the all-tournament team.
If the Sun Devils had taken advantage of their second-chance opportunities in the first half, they might have been leading, rather than trailing, 29-20, at halftime. Arizona State controlled the offensive boards (13-5) in the opening 20 minutes and had at least four possessions where it had at least three shots before Stanford could get the ball back.
But Arizona State made only nine of 35 shots (25.7%) in the half, and Stanford was 10 for 20 (50%).
It didn't get much hotter for the Sun Devils in the second half, who ended up shooting 31.1% for the night (19 for 61).
The closest Arizona State came was six points, at 38-32, with 12:18 left. That wasn't enough to catch a Stanford team shooting 43.5% (20 for 46).