Palo Alto -- The no. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits came to the Maples Pavilion on Monday looking to pull the upset of the year.
Unfortunately for them, the no. 2 Stanford Cardinal had lady luck on their side.
With eight seconds left, junior guard Lili Thompson drove into the lane and scored the game-tying layup, which led to a game-winning free throw to put the Cardinal in the Sweet 16, winning 66-65 over South Dakota State on Monday night.
South Dakota State outplay the Cardinal most of the night, leading a majority of the game. In the end, though, Stanford took advantage of some late fouls, giving them just enough breathing room to win.
South Dakota State head coach Aaron Johnston was emotional in the postgame press conference, giving credit to Stanford but also recognizing that the season comes down to one game in the NCAA Tournament.
"(Stanford) made a lot of plays late," Johnston said. "That's what good teams do. Seasons come to a screeching halt at this point; they don't just slow down."
Stanford forward Erica McCall, who led all scorers with 20 points, was excited about the win, but summed the entire game in one sentence.
"We didn't want this to be our last game," McCall said.
Stanford and South Dakota State were wire-to-wire a good part of the game. The first quarter was the pacesetter for what was to come, as the Cardinal only led by one point, 18-17, at the end of it. McCall had nine of her 13 first-half points in the quarter, but South Dakota State's Kerri Young came to ball as well, scoring seven.
The second quarter was a little more of a low-key affair, with Stanford pressing on defense to keep the Jackrabbits off their usual game. Known for their three-point shooting, South Dakota State only made 2-of-8 in the first half, going into halftime with a 33-27 deficit.
In the third quarter, South Dakota State, rallied on by its faithful fans, turned up the heat on Stanford's home floor. Taking advantage of McCall's absence due to her three fouls earlier in the quarter, the Jackrabbits bounced back to take a 45-43 lead with 3:26 left in the third. South Dakota State would go into the fourth quarter with a 50-46 lead, with three players (Young, Macy Miller, and Clarissa Ober) with double-digit scoring.
South Dakota State led a majority of the quarter, leading by as much as eight with 4:43 left in the game. However, the Stanford players and fans did not let up, keeping the energy high in the arena the entire time.
In the last minutes of the game, mental lapses by the Jackrabbits were what kept Stanford in the game. Freshman guard Madison Guebert, who led the charge in SDSU's upset win over Miami (FL), had two late fouls in the final minutes, including the deciding foul with eight seconds to go.
With the Cardinal down 65-63, guard Thompson drove the ball up the court and into the paint, baiting Guebert into fouling her in the air as she let go of the ball. As Thompson slid out of bounds, the ball went in the basket. Thompson, who was 3-for-7 from the free throw line, made the shot, sealing the deal and any hopes of an upset.
After in-bounding the ball, the Jackrabbits took a shot at the rim in the lane, however, McCall blocked the first attempt. Clarissa Ober grabbed the ball going for a final shot and clanged it off the rim.
With the win, Stanford advances to their 23rd Sweet 16, and seventh in the last 10 years. This will also mark the first time that four Pac-12 teams have advanced to the Sweet 16, joining Oregon State, UCLA, and Washington.
When asked about how she felt about four Pac-12 teams in the Sweet 16, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer was coy in her reply.
"I was hoping it would be five," VanDerveer said.
Stanford will now head out to Lexington, KY for the third round of the NCAA Tournament. They will face off against no. 1 Notre Dame on Friday, March 25.