TAMPA, Fla. -- Candice Wiggins refused to let Stanford lose to Connecticut.
The Cardinal star continued her electrifying run through the NCAA Tournament by scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while getting timely help from Kayla Pedersen and JJ Hones as Stanford shocked Connecticut 82-73 in Sunday night's national semifinals.
Back in the Final Four for the first time in 11 years, the Cardinal (35-3) avenged an early loss to the Huskies (36-2) and advanced to Tuesday night's title game, where it will put a 23-game winning streak on the line against Tennessee -- a 47-46 winner over LSU in the second semifinal.
Wiggins typically leads the Cardinal through emotional, loud pregame huddles. Her message this time focused on her teammates' smarts and how far they had come since the first meeting between the teams.
"We failed the midterm, but we're going to take this final," guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude recalled Wiggins saying.
Wiggins was a little more specific.
"We got killed by Connecticut back in November, just absolutely killed. And, you know, they changed the whole dynamic of our team," Wiggins said. "So we grouped before the game and we said, 'Let's see how much better we've gotten. This is a test for ourselves to see we're not the same team we were in November.' "
The first player to have two 40-point performances in the same NCAA Tournament, Wiggins seemed to be everywhere on the floor and finished five assists shy of the first triple-double in women's Final Four history.
She didn't shoot particularly well, going 7 for 19, but made two huge 3-pointers to help Stanford pull away for good after UConn trimmed a seven-point halftime deficit to 47-46 and appeared to be taking control.
"They're a lot better team than they were back in November. They played the game today the way we usually play it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We got done in by our own stuff."
When Wiggins wasn't making big shots, Hones and Pedersen stepped up to break UConn's heart. Hones hit a deep 3-pointer to put Stanford up by 10 with 3:20 to go, then Pedersen answered a 3-pointer that drew UConn within 71-66 with a long jumper to send Cardinal fans into celebration mode.
"We ran with them and we ran on them. That's their game," Gold-Onwude said. "This is amazing. You saw after we got to the Final Four, everybody was crying. This time, we're happy, but we're also very focused."
Pedersen scored 17 points and Jayne Appel 15. Maya Moore led UConn with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
UConn trailed 40-33 at the half; however, that wasn't necessarily a bad omen because the Huskies were 4-0 when trailing at the break entering the Final Four. They looked as though they might have another comeback in them when Renee Montgomery hit a 15-foot jumper and Charde Houston followed with a layup to trim Stanford's lead to one.
That's when Wiggins, who had 44 points in a second-round victory over Texas-El Paso and 41 against Maryland in the Spokane regional final, took over.
The 5-foot-11-inch guard grabbed all 13 of her rebounds on the defensive end and went 8 for 9 from the foul line, including four in the final 1:21.
"At this time of the year, especially in this environment, unless you win, there's really not a lot that you can say that's going to make any of the players feel any better," Auriemma said.