Appel comes up big as Cardinal trounces

STANFORD -- Jayne Appel worked herself into a nervous tizzy over having to defend a shorter, quicker player.

Just imagine how Cleveland State must have felt going up against the 6-foot-4 Appel in the paint. That quickly became the far bigger issue Saturday.

Appel dominated the Vikings in their NCAA Tournament debut, scoring 29 of her career-high 33 points in the first half to help second-seeded Stanford roll to an 85-47 first-round victory.

She was determined to make sure the Cardinal protected their home court in Maples Pavilion, because Appel is reminded each time she takes the floor of Stanford's most recent NCAA disappointment.

Candice Wiggins also brought it up again before the game.

"Our team knew to get the ball inside. That was the most nervous I've been all year," Appel said. "Candice got me in the right mind-set that we have defended Maples all year and we will continue to. That's what my team needed me to do."

Appel shot 14 for 19, finished two shy of tying Stanford's NCAA tournament record and pulled down 12 rebounds in 25 minutes. The Cardinal (31-3) won their 19th game in a row without relying on Pac-10 career scoring-leader Wiggins.

Wiggins wound up with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists and was whistled for her first collegiate technical foul with 12:58 remaining, prompting her home crowd to boo in protest.

She also provided that motivational pregame speech.

"I talked about how special Maples is and don't let people come in and beat us in our own gym," Wiggins said.

A year ago, Stanford was knocked off by Florida State at home on The Farm -- and that still stings to this day. It was one of three NCAA losses at Maples in the past 10 years for the Cardinal, who are trying to reach their first Final Four since 1997.

They play at home again Monday against seventh-seeded UTEP, a 92-60 winner in the late game Saturday over No. 10 seed Western Kentucky, with a chance to advance to the Spokane Regional.

Stanford has been thinking about the Final Four in Tampa, Fla., all season.

"We definitely want to get out of here, and the feeling in the locker room is that we will get out of here," guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude said. "This year our goal is Tampa, and that hasn't always been the case on other teams I've been on. We have all the pieces."

Kailey Klein had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists and Robyn Hoying had 10 points and seven boards to lead upstart Cleveland State (19-14), the 15th seed playing with just nine healthy players. The Horizon League champions earned an NCAA bid a year after winning only eight games.

"She pretty much scored at will if we fronted her or played behind her," Cleveland State coach Kate Peterson Abiad said of Appel. "She's by far the best center we've seen all year."