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The waves from Stanford kept coming. Haley Jones first. Then Cameron Brink. Then Lexie Hull.
The defending national champs showcased their depth, and rolled right into the Elite Eight.
“I got hot, Cam got hot, Lexie got hot, and whoever it is, I think we did a really good job at feeding that hot hand,” Jones said. “We do that in every game.”
Hull scored 19 points in her hometown, Jones added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and top-seeded Stanford moved into the women’s NCAA Tournament regional final with a 72-66 win over No. 4 seed Maryland on Friday night.
Meeting in the NCAAs for the first time since the schools played in the same building in the 2008 Elite Eight, the defending national champion Cardinal (31-3) dominated the Terrapins for the first three quarters. Maryland trimmed the deficit to 68-59 with 1:41 left, but couldn’t get much closer.
Stanford will face No. 2 seed Texas in the regional final on Sunday night. It’s Stanford’s 21st Elite Eight under coach Tara VanDerveer.
She was disappointed with the fourth quarter when the Cardinal were outscored 30-13 and made for a nervy final few minutes.
“I didn’t think at halftime that was our best, and definitely after the fourth quarter I’m glad we are able to play and have another game to show how much we’ve improved,” VanDerveer said. “Obviously there’s just a lot of things that we could do better, but … I think depth is the reason we’re sitting here having a game on Sunday.”
Brink added 15 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes for the Cardinal before fouling out late. When Brink picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, Hull picked up the scoring punch with 10 points in the quarter.
Hull and 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 we had a lot of people cheering for us tonight and that feels good anywhere you are,” Lexie Hull said. “So we felt the love from Stanford/Spokane community.”
Angel Reese led Maryland (23-9) with 25 points. Diamond Miller added 11 points but picked up two quick fouls early in the third and fouled out in the fourth after scoring 47 points combined in the first two tournament games.
Chloe Bibby and Shyanne Sellers both had 10 for Maryland, which shot 27% in the first half and never recovered from a dominant 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 they punched us first,” Bibby said.
Jones and Brink controlled the first half, combining for 16 of Stanford’s 22 points in the first quarter. Brink made 5 of 6 shots in the half and grabbed seven rebounds, and didn’t play the final five minutes of the half after picking up her second foul.
The Terrapins haven’t advanced past the round of 16 since 2015, when they last went to the Final Four.
“That first quarter really impacted us with the way they came out and shot the ball. I thought we spent too much time kind of trying to feel out that first half,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I loved our fourth quarter and the fact that we didn’t quit fighting.”
The Cardinal beat the Terrapins in the 2008 regional final behind Candice Wiggins, a victory that took Stanford back to the Final Four for the first time in 11 years. The Cardinal are one victory away from their sixth Final Four trip since that 2008 season, and kept alive the chances of being the first repeat champions not named Connecticut since Tennessee’s consecutive titles in 2007 and 2008.
Among the attendees on Friday night were Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, watching his sister Anna for Stanford, and NCAA President Mark Emmert.
Maryland: The Terrapins averaged 79.2 points and seven made 3-pointers per game on the season. Maryland was just 3 of 19 on 3s against the Cardinal and was held 16 points under its season average.
Stanford: Maryland’s shooting troubles led to plenty of rebound chances, and the Cardinal controlled the glass, outrebounding Maryland 50-32. That’s nothing new: Stanford is outrebounding its opponents this season by an average of nine per game.
The Cardinal will get a chance at a bit of revenge against the Longhorns in the regional final. Texas won at Stanford 61-56 in November in the second game of the season for both schools.