Stanford wins rematch with Texas and trip to Final Four

SPOKANE, Wash. – The defending champions are back in the Final Four. No. 1-seeded Stanford beat No. 2 Texas, 59-50, on Sunday to reach...


SPOKANE, Wash. – The defending champions are back in the Final Four. No. 1-seeded Stanford beat No. 2 Texas, 59-50, on Sunday to reach its 15th national NCAA Tournament semifinal.

The Cardinal was cheered on by a decidedly backyard Spokane Arena crowd thanks to fans of the Hull twins, Lexie and Lacie, who grew up in Spokane. Lexie Hull was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

The game was hectic, physical and fast-paced from the start, with each side blocking shots and making hard looks. It was exactly the pace and style the Longhorns were looking for, although Stanford still found ways to score. Lexie Hull particularly seemed to feed off the crowd’s enthusiasm for her and her sister, scoring 5 points in the first six minutes of the game and ending the first half with 12.

“You’re always happy to go to the Final Four, but sometimes you’re really happy,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I’m really happy. It’s a great group to be with, they care about each other, they’ll do anything. No matter who we face, whether it’s Connecticut or NC State, we’ll be ready.

Free throws were traded early in the game, as were tough defensive plays. At one point, Lacie Hull blocked a shot for a steal on one side, then Texas’ Aliyah Matharu took a charge in transition on the other. The first quarter ended 14-14 after Haley Jones hit a tough buzzer beater, but Texas had held Stanford scoreless for five minutes prior.

The Cardinal shot just 39.3% from the floor in the first half, but entered the locker room with a 3-point lead – thanks in part to the Longhorns’ poor free-throw shooting. Every time Texas lost patience and started playing too aggressively, Stanford would make them pay by either making their free throws or finding an open player along the baseline.

“We knew tonight was going to be super physical, and it definitely was,” Lexie Hull said. “It depended on who was more gritty.”

It looked like Stanford might have found a separation early in the third, when the Longhorns’ leading rebounder Lauren Ebo fouls second and third in the first two minutes of the quarter, and Stanford forward Cameron Brink scores 5 consecutive points in the same period.

But Texas kept getting saves, even when they couldn’t consistently convert them into runs, and tied the game again. Senior guard Audrey Warren contributed crucial 3-point shots to keep the Longhorns within striking distance and played impressive defense on Haley Jones.

“This defense is very trying,” Jones said. “I can’t wait to get back, shower and go to bed.”

Jones was able to cut Stanford’s lead to 5 points late in the third quarter, when she was fouled while shooting from 3 points and made all of her free throws. A 5-point lead is exactly what the Cardinal brought in the fourth quarter of their first game against the Longhorns this season – a loss to Texas at home in November for one of only three losses this season.

The pushing and pulling continued in the fourth, but the Longhorns were never able to regain the lead and replicate their early season upset. Texas came within 2 points in the final minutes, but continued to be haunted by missed free throws. The Longhorns finished 11 of 20 from the free throw line.

Stanford won its 24th straight game, the longest active streak in Division I. Cameron Brink excelled in the second half, ending Texas’ home offense with six blocks.

“They did enough to beat us, and that’s what great teams do,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said. “We had a bad fourth quarter scoring the basketball, and other than that, we left it all on the floor.”

Jones finished with a double-double thanks to her consistency on the line, where she shot 10 of 11. Jones had 18 points and 12 rebounds and was named the Spokane area’s most outstanding player.

Ultimately, Stanford took control of the low-scoring game and managed to avenge his loss. Texas was eliminated in the Round of 16 for the second year in a row.

“We listen to his post-game speech, and we’re like, ‘But this is just the first year,'” rookie Rori Harmon said, alluding to the other young Texas players. “I’m upset with this one, but I’m ready for more.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Stanford wins rematch with Texas and trip to Final Four
Stanford wins rematch with Texas and trip to Final Four
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