March 25, 2016
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Notre Dame’s bid for a sixth straight Final Four appearance was thwarted by Stanford’s party crashers.
Erica McCall scored a career-high 27 points and No. 4 seed Stanford stunned No. 1 seed Notre Dame 90-84 on Friday night in an NCAA Lexington Regional semifinal, snapping the Fighting Irish’s 26-game winning streak.
”Our team felt pretty confident,” McCall said. ”I think we didn’t have the pressure on us. We just went out there and had fun. That was the biggest thing.”
Stanford (27-7) advanced to the regional final Sunday against No. 7 seed Washington, which upset No. 3 seed Kentucky 85-72 in the other semifinal. Stanford beat Washington at home during the regular season and lost to the Huskies in the Pac-12 Tournament.
McCall said Thursday that Stanford was embracing its underdog status. She talked about how some Stanford players were calling themselves ”party crashers” because they wanted to ”crash the party” by pulling an upset.
That’s exactly what they did, thanks to a spectacular shooting display. Stanford shot 55.9 percent (33 of 59) overall and 55 percent (11 of 20) from 3-point range.
After trailing by as many as 15 points, Notre Dame (33-2) cut it to 81-78 on Madison Cable’s basket with 2:05 left. Stanford’s Karlie Samuelson, who scored 20 points, answered by banking in a 3-pointer from well behind the arc as the shot clock was expiring with 1:31 remaining.
”There was only one second left (on the shot clock), so I just threw it up there,” Samuelson said. ”It was a great three points to have – and a good time to have it.”
Stanford stayed ahead by at least four the rest of the way and overcame Notre Dame’s uncanny ability to win close games.
Before Friday, Notre Dame had won its last 27 games that had either been decided in single digits or had gone to overtime. The Fighting Irish hadn’t lost a game by a single-digit margin since falling 63-54 to Connecticut in the 2012 Big East tournament.
”Normally you have to have the other team help you out when you’re trying to come back,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”They’ve got to miss some shots. We just couldn’t get them to miss.”
Notre Dame was one of two No. 1 seeds to fall on Friday. South Carolina lost 80-72 to Syracuse in a Sioux Falls Regional semifinal.
Kaylee Johnson had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Stanford. Lili Thompson and Marta Sniezek each added 11 points.
The two teams met in the Sweet 16 for a second straight year after Notre Dame beat the Cardinal 81-60 in last year’s Oklahoma City Regional semifinal.
Notre Dame: Niele Ivey was selected Friday as the inaugural winner of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division I Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Ivey, who played on Notre Dame’s 2001 national championship team, is in her ninth season on the Fighting Irish staff.
Stanford: The Cardinal shot for the highest percentage of any Notre Dame opponent all season. Before Friday, nobody had shot higher than 52.4 percent from the floor against Notre Dame.
The victories by Stanford and Washington in Lexington continued the Pac-12’s impressive NCAA Tournament performance.
The Pac-12 advanced four teams to the regional semifinals this year for the first time ever. UCLA and Oregon State play Saturday.
With Washington and Stanford in a regional final, the Pac-12 is assured of having at least one team in the Final Four.
”I think we’re showing the country that Pac-12 basketball is strong,” McCall said.
Stanford faces No. 7 seed Washington in the Lexington Regional final Sunday.