Stanford edges Notre Dame to reach 13th Final Four
(TSX / STATS) -- The Stanford Cardinal seized momentum in the second half and rode it to a 76-75 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday at Lexington, Ky., and a berth in the Final Four.
Stanford, the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Region, trailed by 13 early in the third quarter, but came storming back to force a back-and-forth battle with the top-seeded Fighting Irish in the closing minutes at Rupp Arena.
Forward Alanna Smith made an inside jumper on an assist from guard Marta Sniezek for the game-winning basket with 23 seconds left.
Smith and forward Erica McCall each had blocks on Notre Dame's final possession to preserve the win for Stanford (32-5).
The Cardinal advance to the Final Four for the 13th time in program history, this time in Dallas to play the winner of Monday's South Carolina versus Florida State Elite Eight contest.
Guard Brittany McPhee scored 27 points to lead Stanford. Smith and guard Karlie Samuelson each pitched in 15 points.
Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale scored 25 to lead the Fighting Irish. Guard Marina Mabrey added 20 and guard Lindsay Allen finished with 10 for the Fighting Irish (33-4).
Stanford charged after halftime, winning the third quarter 24-12 and slicing Notre Dame's lead from 14 to two to start the final period.
McPhee and Smith led the way in the third quarter, scoring a combined 17 for the Cardinal.
The game featured 10 ties and 18 lead changes, many of which came in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame opened up a 13-point lead in the second quarter after an 18-0 run midway through the period.
Stanford led 27-22 before the Fighting Irish held the Cardinal scoreless for 6:56 of game time.
While Notre Dame's defense clamped down, Ogunbowale started filling up the basket on the offensive end.
Ogunbowale hit a pair of free throws to put Notre Dame in front at 28-27, then added a jumper on the next trip down the floor.
By the time Ogunbowale completed a three-point play at the 4:55 mark, the Fighting Irish led 33-27 and were rolling.
Notre Dame forward Erin Boley capped the key first-half run by hitting a 3-pointer for a 40-27 lead.
Ogunbowale ended the second quarter with a trey that gave the Fighting Irish a 14-point lead at the break. She finished the first half with 21 points.
Samuelson scored nine points to lead Stanford in the first half despite the fact that she played only 15 minutes.
Samuelson picked up her second foul with 8:53 left in the second quarter. But Stanford could not afford to keep her on the bench. She returned with 4:55 to go before halftime, but didn't score again before the break.
Updated March 26, 2017