For the second straight year Texas saw its NCAA Women’s Tournament run end in the Elite Eight as the Longhorns fell to the Stanford Cardinal, 59-50, in the Spokane Region final on Sunday.
Stanford (32-3), the defending national champions, won its 24th straight game and will play the winner of the NC State-UConn game, to be played on Monday. Stanford joins South Carolina in the Final Four, which starts on Friday in Minneapolis.
Texas (29-7) fell to South Carolina in last year’s Elite Eight. The Longhorns beat Stanford in a previous meeting in November in the season’s first weekend. But Texas didn’t have the same magic that led it to that victory.
There were clear keys to the win for Stanford. A huge third quarter from forward Cameron Brink came in handy. After spending most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, the Stanford forward had 10 points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in the third quarter as Stanford built on a 45-40 third-quarter lead. Brink finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots.
Stanford’s free-throw shooting—and Texas’ trouble at the line—was a big part of the Cardinal’s win, too. Stanford went 18-of-22 from the line, led by Haley Jones. The All-American and the Most Outstanding Player of last year’s tournament, had 18 points, 12 rebounds and went 11-of-12 from the line. Lexie Hull, who had 20 points, went 4-of-6 from the line.
Texas, meanwhile, shot just 11-of-20 from the line. Instead, Texas hit their season average for 3-pointers — five — by the third quarter, and Stanford had a horrible night from the arc, normally a source of strength. The Cardinal was just 3-of-17 from distance.
But Stanford made its five-point third quarter lead hold up.
Texas had Stanford’s lead cut to 50-48 with 3:35 left. Texas lured Brink into her fourth foul, which sent her to the bench. Texas even lured Hull into an offensive foul, and Texas forward Lauren Ebo made both free throws at the other end to make it a one-possession game.
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After forcing another empty possession, Texas guard Audrey Warren had a chance to tie the game with a jumper but she missed. From there, Stanford slowly, but surely, pulled away. A Hull layup made it a four-point game with 2:29 left. She drew a foul on the play, made the free throw and made it 53-48.
Aaliyah Moore made a jumper to bring Texas back within three, 53-50, with 2:07 left. Hull drew another foul at the other end and made one free throw to make it 54-50.
Texas guard Rori Harmon missed a jumper with 1:24, which led to two Jones free throws at the other end to push Stanford’s lead to six points. Harmon then missed a 3-pointer, and Jones drew another foul, which was the fifth for Texas guard Joanne Allen-Taylor. Jones made both of those free throws, too.
Allen-Taylor left the game with a team-leading 15 points, while Harmon had 14 points and Warren added 11. Allen-Taylor and Warren were part of last season’s Elite Eight run.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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