Michelle Smith: Another rematch stands between Stanford and its 15th Final Four
Revenge might be sweet, but getting to Minnesota would be even sweeter.
Another rematch from the early part of the 2022 season now stands between Stanford and another trip to the Final Four.
The No. 1 seeded Cardinal will take on No. 2 seeded Texas at Spokane Arena on Sunday night, one of two regions in the bracket where the top two seeds will play for a trip to the national semifinals.
Stanford will be playing for the 15th Final Four berth in program history and to move one step closer to defending its national title in Minneapolis.
Texas is playing in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row and for the 11th time in school history, but the Longhorns, one of the stalwart programs in women’s basketball during the early days of the NCAA, haven’t been to a Final Four since 2003.
Texas is one of three teams to defeat Stanford this season, winning 61-56 in Maples Pavilion on Nov. 14, the night the Cardinal was receiving its national championship rings.
“We were all a little bit excited to see Texas on our side of the tournament,” said Stanford’s Haley Jones. “I think it adds an extra chip on the shoulder to go into the game.”
The Cardinal want to show how much it has improved in the past four months, understanding that’s probably true for Texas as well.
“I think we've grown a lot since then. I think they're a completely different team, and we are as well,” Jones said. “We're really excited to see our growth against this type of pressure going through the rest of the tournament. I think last night was a quick taste of it. Texas is going to come 10 times that.”
Spokane Regional Final
No. 1 Stanford (31-3) vs. No. 2 Texas (29-6) • Sunday • 6 p.m. PT • ESPN
- Series Record: Stanford leads the series 8-5, but the Longhorns have won three of the last five matchups.
- Stanford’s 2022 Tournament: Defeated No. 16 Montana State 78-37; defeated No. 8 Kansas 91-65; defeated No. 4 Maryland 72-66.
- Texas’ 2022 Tournament: Defeated No. 15 Fairfield 70-52; defeated No. 7 Utah 78-56; defeated No. 6 Ohio State, 66-63.
- Stanford Starters: G Lacie Hull, Sr.; G Lexie Hull, Sr.; G Haley Jones, Jr.; G Anna Wilson, 6th; F Cameron Brink, So.
- Texas Starters: G Rori Harmon, Fr.; G Joanne Allen-Taylor, Sr.; C Lauren Ebo, Sr.; G Shay Holle, So.; F DeYona Gaston, So.
- Stanford’s Story: The nation’s longest winning streak ran to 23 games on Friday night when the Cardinal defeated Maryland to reach the Elite Eight. Stanford did a lot right on Friday night, a snapshot of the things that the Cardinals has done well all season - hitting 3-pointers, playing strong team defense, dominating inside and demoralizing opponents by breaking off big scoring runs.
- But what was a little different against Maryland was watching the Terps cut a 26-point lead to an ultimate six-point win for the Cardinal by cranking up the defensive pressure. Stanford knows it can expect much more of that from Texas, which pressured them heavily into that loss at Maples back on November 25.
- Stanford can handle physicality and has the depth to withstand a little foul trouble, but won’t want to be in a position where any of its key players are off the floor for significant lengths of time.
- Texas’ Story: The Longhorns, on a 14-game winning streak since losing three straight games in early February (the second-longest streak in the country behind Stanford), had just two players finish in double figures in their win over Ohio State, and that will likely not get it done against a team of Stanford’s caliber.
- Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Rori Harmon scored 21 points against Stanford in their first matchup and will likely be a focus of the Cardinal defense.
- Texas’ bread-and-butter is defensive pressure, which is Vic Schaefer’s hallmark as a head coach. Against the Buckeyes, the Longhorns scored 21 points on 17 turnovers and they rank 13th nationally in turnovers forced at more than 21 per game.
- Texas finished third in the Big 12 standings behind Baylor and Iowa State, but won the Big 12 Tournament.
- Stanford’s X-Factor: Anna Wilson's ability to defend Harmon will be an absolute key to Stanford’s success in this game, but if it can also get a timely basket or two out of her, she will give her team another huge lift to get her team to Minnesota.
- Texas’ X-Factor: Aliyah Matharu, the junior who played for Schaefer at Mississippi State before transferring to Austin to reunite with her head coach, came off the bench against Ohio State to score 10 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers and collecting four steals.
- Stanford Wins If: The Cardinal started fast, with Haley Jones’ hitting 3s and the inside game working early on against Maryland. It will need more of both against Texas, but mostly, it will also need to take care of the ball. Twenty turnovers led to 12 Texas points in the matchup way back on November 14, and Stanford can ill afford to be that careless again. The Cardinal is averaging 16 turnovers a game in the NCAA Tournament. It will want to do better than that against the opportunistic Longhorns.
- Texas Wins If: If the Longhorns can defend the perimeter against raining 3s, limit offensive rebounds and pressure the ballhandlers, they will have a strong chance at an upset of one of the tournament favorites.
- Tara VanDerveer's Take: “It's going to be our inside game of rebounding. It's handling the physicality. I thought the quote yesterday that Brenda Frese said, we were the aggressor, we punched them, not literally. I thought that was great. We need to be the aggressor. This is not going to be pretty basketball.”
UCLA (17-12) and Oregon State (17-13) are to meet Sunday at noon in Corvallis for a spot in WNIT semifinals, both teams winning close third-round games on Thursday. UCLA needed triple-overtime to beat Wyoming in Laramie.
Charisma Osborne scored 20 points and IImar'I Thomas added 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Oregon State won at home, 78-73, over New Mexico to advance.
The Beavers defeated UCLA 72-58 in their only matchup during the season, a game in which Talia von Oelhoffen scored 21 points and Taya Corosdale added 18.
In Oregon State’s first WNIT appearance since 2013 the Beavers have not only extended the season for a young team, but also secured a winning record for the ninth straight season.
UCLA, which has won six of its last seven games, is 48-30 in the series all-time against Oregon State and 16-18 at Gill Coliseum.