LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Stanford has become so accustomed to comebacks that the question wasn’t whether it could overcome a halftime deficit to Texas, but how patient it would be in erasing it.
The Cardinal responded with an uneven but effective enough effort to get to the Elite Eight.
Erica McCall had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Karlie Samuelson scored 15 points and Stanford outlasted Texas for a 77-66 victory on Friday night to reach the Lexington Region final of the NCAA Tournament.
The second game this season between the schools ended with another Cardinal win despite the team shooting 42 percent and committing 14 turnovers. But second-seeded Stanford (31-5) made 8 of 14 in the third quarter and held Texas to 33 percent to grab a 54-49 lead entering the fourth and eventually extend it to double digits by making 7 of 8 free throws during one late stretch.
Stanford eventually closed out its fourth comeback in five games and another example of its grit.
“I’m really proud of our second-half effort,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We really had to battle,
The Cardinal also out-rebounded the third-seeded Longhorns 41-35 to earn its second straight Elite Eight appearance, and will face top-seeded Notre Dame in Sunday’s regional final. The Irish routed No. 5 seed Ohio State 99-76 in the other semifinal.
But Stanford’s play coming out of the break trailing 36-29 was key in gutting out the win.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Samuelson and Brittany McPhee (12 points) got the Cardinal started on a 23-11 run capped by back-to-back 3s by Samuelson for a 52-47 lead. Stanford continued getting the baskets and rebounds it needed for its seventh straight win.
“That just shows our heart,” McCall said. “No matter how far down we get, we’re going to come back and fight with every rebound, every shot.”
Ariel Atkins scored 18 points, Joyner Holmes had 15 and Kelsey Lang had 12 rebounds for the Longhorns (25-9), who had won five of six.
Texas: The Longhorns were held below their rebounding average of 43.4 per contest and were beaten on the boards for the first time since Baylor did it by a 43-35 margin on Feb. 6. Texas struggled to keep Stanford off the glass and finished with an outcome like its season opener — a loss to the Cardinal.
“I didn’t think we executed things at the level that we had to,” coach Karen Aston said. “I thought they (Stanford) made some adjustments in the second half to open things up inside, but we got antsy and didn’t wait like we should have.”
Stanford: The Cardinal shot just 39 percent in the first half but stayed even in the paint (18-18) and built a slight edge on the boards. That wasn’t easy considering Texas’ strength there as well blocking shots. Three-point shooting was key as they made 7 of 22 from long range while Texas shot just 4 of 13. Samuelson made 4 of 8.
“Threes get people going,” Samuelson said. “Brit hit one right after (the break) and that was a good six-point play we had.”
Stanford and Texas played even in the paint for the most of the game, so the 32-all statistic wasn’t surprising. But the Cardinal’s 20-10 edge in second-chance points was important in the second half, not to mention drives that got them to the foul line.
Stanford meets Notre Dame in Sunday’s regional final, seeking another NCAA Tournament win over the Irish after beating them in last year’s Sweet 16.