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The Stanford waves kept coming. Haley Jones first. Then Cameron Brink. Then Lexie Hull.
The reigning national champions showed their depth and went straight into the Elite Eight.
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“I got hot, Cam got hot, Lexie got hot, and whoever it was, I think we did a really good job of feeding that hot hand,” Jones said. “We do this every game.”
Hull scored 19 points in her hometown, Jones added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and number one-seeded Stanford advanced to the NCAA Women’s Tournament Regional Finals with a 72-66 win over the fourth seed, Maryland, on Friday night.
Meeting in the NCAA for the first time since the schools played in the same building in the 2008 Elite Eight, defending national champion Cardinal (31-3) dominated the Terrapins for the first three quarters. Maryland cut the deficit to 68-59 with 1:41 to go, but couldn’t get much closer.
Stanford will face No. 2 seed Texas in the regional final on Sunday night. This is Stanford’s 21st Elite Eight under coach Tara VanDerveer.
She was disappointed in the fourth quarter when the Cardinal were outscored 30-13 and had a nervous final minutes.
“I didn’t think halftime was our best, and definitely after the fourth quarter I’m glad we’re able to play and have another game to show how well we we’ve improved,” VanDerveer said. “Obviously there’s a lot we could do better, but…I think the depth is why we’re sitting here playing a game on Sunday.”
Brink added 15 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes for the Cardinal before committing a late foul. When Brink committed his third foul early in the third quarter, Hull landed the punch with 10 points in the quarter.
Hull and her twin sister Lacie grew up in Spokane and both drew the loudest cheers all night.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I felt like a lot of people were cheering us on tonight and it feels good wherever you are,” Lexie Hull said. “So we felt the love from the Stanford/Spokane community.”
Angel Reese led Maryland (23-9) with 25 points. Diamond Miller added 11 points but committed two quick fouls early in the third and fouled in the fourth after scoring a combined 47 points in the first two games of the tournament.
Chloe Bibby and Shyanne Sellers both had 10s for Maryland, who shot 27% in the first half and never recovered from a dominating first quarter by the Cardinal.
Stanford led 22-10 after one quarter and 39-23 at halftime.
“I thought we were ready, but obviously they came out and hit us first,” Bibby said.
Jones and Brink controlled the first half, combining for 16 of Stanford’s 22 first-quarter points. Brink shot 5 of 6 in the half and grabbed seven rebounds, and did not play the final five minutes of the half after committing his second foul.
The Terrapins haven’t made it past the Round of 16 since 2015, when they last appeared in the Final Four.
“That first quarter really got to us with the way they came out and shot the ball. I think we spent too much time trying to feel that first half,” the Maryland coach said. , Brenda Frese. “I loved our fourth quarter and the fact that we didn’t stop fighting.”
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The Cardinal beat the Terrapins in the 2008 Regional Finals behind Candice Wiggins, a win that took Stanford to the Final Four for the first time in 11 years. The Cardinal is one win away from his sixth trip to the Final Four since that 2008 season, and kept alive the odds of being Connecticut’s first unnamed repeat champions since Tennessee’s back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
Among the attendees on Friday night were Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, scouting his sister Anna for Stanford, and NCAA President Mark Emmert.
Maryland: The Terrapins have averaged 79.2 points and seven have scored 3 points per game this season. Maryland was just 3 of 19 of 3 against the Cardinal and was 16 points below its season average.
Stanford: Maryland’s shooting problems led to plenty of rebounding opportunities, and the Cardinal controlled the glass, outscoring Maryland 50-32. This is not new: Stanford exceeds its opponents this season by an average of nine per game.
The Cardinal will have a chance to get revenge on the Longhorns in the Regional Finals. Texas won at Stanford 61-56 in November in the second game of the season for both schools.