Williams’ wish is for a long Stanford stay in her hometown


Kiana Williams had one wish all along: She wants top-seeded Stanford to keep playing in her hometown for as long as possible.

No stopping until the NCAA Tournament nets come down. Step one is done.

Williams looked up to the stands and acknowledged parents LaChelle and Michael during a lopsided first-round victory against Utah Valley in San Antonio. She briefly got to celebrate her latest milestone that her parents treasured getting to witness while finally watching her play live this season.

And after the game, the senior point guard held up a white T-shirt someone had made reading “SHE’S COMING HOME!!!”

“I told my teammates I want you guys to stay here in my hometown as long as possible,” said Williams, noting she had “50-plus people in the stands.”

The Cardinal (26-2) pounded 16th-seeded Utah Valley 87-44 on Sunday night.

Next up for Stanford is a Tuesday night date with eighth-seeded Oklahoma State (19-8), an 84-61 winner Sunday against No. 9 seed Wake Forest.

Other teams securing second-round games: No. 3 seed Georgia beat No. 14 seed Drexel 67-53 on Monday and was awaiting the winner of a late game between Oregon and South Dakota; No. 13 Wright State advanced with a 66-62 upset of No. 4 Arkansas and was set to play the winner of No. 5 Missouri State and No. 12 UC Davis; and seventh-seeded Northwestern after the Wildcats’ 62-51 win over 10 seed UCF.

It’s a long time coming for Northwestern, which returned to the tournament for the first time since 2015 and just the third time since 1993.

Oklahoma State didn’t plan to celebrate the first-round win for long.

“Stanford’s got one of the premier programs in the country,” Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said. “They’re just high level every phase of the game. … I told our kids in the locker room: ”Let’s play loose, let’s play comfortable, enjoy the fact that you got here, and let’s turn it into March Madness. Expect to win and expect high things of yourselves.′ So that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”

Dealing with Williams’ hot hand will be on the to-do list.

She became Stanford’s career 3-point leader in the win by passing Candice Wiggins’ 295 made 3s from 2005-08.

Williams’ entire family campaigned for her Stanford team to come to San Antonio for an extended visit.

“We want to stay as long as we can, I’m with Ki,” Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Stanford won national titles in 1990 and ‘92 and lost in the championship game in 2008 and ’10 — and no question VanDerveer would love nothing more than to cut down the nets and hoist a trophy one more time before calling it a career. This is her 35th season on the Farm and earlier this season she became the winningest coach in women’s basketball history.

Everyone loved hearing the real, live cheers again at long last.

“We have not played in front of family and friends really all year,” VanDerveer said. “The Pac-12 tournament there were some family and friends that did come but not very many. This is really special for our team, to come out and have people yelling for us, we haven’t had that happen. I know it’s special for Ki. I know her teammates played really hard for her. It’s great to be down here and get that chance to do that.”

The Cardinal have won 15 straight since a surprising two-game skid.

It will get harder from here.

Senior forward Natasha Mack carried the Cowgirls into the second round with 27 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in the opener.

“She’s going to be a handful down there,” Williams said.

Mack averages 4.1 blocks per game.

“It’s just a comforting feeling to know you’ve got the leading shot blocker in the country sitting back there waiting on people,” Littell said.

Littell was pleased Oklahoma State limited its turnovers to nine while shooting 53.8% and outrebounding Wake Forest 36-33. The Cowgirls also produced nine steals in all and dished out 21 assists on 35 field goals.

“The next game we have to bring the same energy,” the 6-foot-4 Mack said. “So I have to encourage my team that it only gets harder and we’ve got to do what we do, can’t let the other team stop us from doing us.”

Dealing with Mack will be a tough chore for Stanford, with VanDerveer noting: “Mack put on a show. She scores, she rebounds. You’ve really got to defend her.”

Much like Williams, Mack realizes the Cowgirls must cherish this run after such a trying year with COVID-19.

“It is such a great feeling, it’s amazing, the spotlight is on you,” she said. “This is the big dance. You either come with your dancing shoes, or you go home.”

More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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