Stanford and Mississippi State advanced to the women's NCAA Tournament Final Four on Sunday evening.
Stanford 76, Notre Dame 75
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Even after Alanna Smith and Stanford pulled off a huge rally to put Stanford in position to reach the Final Four, there still was work to do.
That’s when Erica McCall stepped up and blocked Notre Dame’s path.
Smith’s layup with 23 seconds left capped Stanford’s comeback from a 16-point deficit in the second half, McCall swatted a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday for its first Final Four trip since 2014.
The Irish had the ball under their own basket with 2.2 seconds left and there was a series of timeouts before play resumed. Akire Ogunbowale caught the inbounds pass and drove to the basket, and McCall blocked the shot from behind.
“She took a dribble, and I’m like, I’m going for it whether I get the foul or not,” McCall said. “I got a nice clean block off of it. We get the win. Whew, so I’m excited.”
Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA tournament, with the Cardinal winning the past two in the Lexington Regional.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer referencing the Bluegrass State’s horse racing history in describing the win at Rupp Arena.
“It took us a while to get going,” she said, “but then when we got going, we were charging down that stretch and came across that finish line.”
Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame’s 17-game winning streak.
Ogunbowale finished with a team-high 25 points, and the Irish (33-4) put the ball in her hands at the end.
“It was a screen for Arike,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of the final shot. “She was wide open and she probably could have shot it. That’s hindsight.”
The Cardinal is going to the Final Four for the 13th time, and will aim for its third national championship under VanDerveer. The Cardinal also dropped Notre Dame to 7-1 in the Elite Eight.
Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.
Smith finished with 15 points. After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, she added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score.
Stanford then denied Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be back, and we’re ready to play,” said Samuelson, a senior guard.
Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.
Mississippi St. 94, Baylor 85
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Morgan William gave her late stepfather the ultimate tribute.
The 5-foot-5 point guard scored a career-high 41 points and second-seeded Mississippi State upset top-seeded Baylor 94-85 in overtime Sunday night to reach the Final Four for the first time.
The win came three years and a day after William's stepfather, Donnie Rory, passed away. After she was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional, she dedicated the victory and the performance to him.
"He's the reason I am where I am today with basketball," she said. "He just did so much for me, working out when I was younger. He had no doubt because of my height. We put in so much work in the gym. For me to just come out here and do this, it's amazing. I just wish he was here to see it."
William scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and 12 points in overtime to set school and Southeastern Conference records for most points in an NCAA Tournament game. She made 13 of 22 shots, including 6 of 8 3-pointers. She also had seven assists and no turnovers.
Victoria Vivians scored 24 points and Teaira McCowan added 10 for Mississippi State (33-4) in a game that featured 24 lead changes.
Kalani Brown scored 27 points and Nina Davis had 18 for Baylor (33-4), which lost in the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year.
"At Baylor, we have expectations that are higher than an Elite Eight," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "Whether that's egotistical, fair, whatever, it is what it is. We have to keep feeding that monster that we started 17 years ago."
Davis, one of the most decorated players in school history, played in all four of those Elite Eight losses. She thought this one would turn out differently.
"Every time we would get the lead, they would come down and shoot a 3, we would foul, and could never get that one stop that we needed," she said.
William's layup with 22 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. Mississippi State outscored Baylor 19-10 in the extra period.
"It took a gut-check, gut-wrenching performance by our kids today and we delivered," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. "I thought our kids were unflappable. I thought they were resilient. They showed tremendous toughness, a lot of character in their heart."