Lexington, KY - The No. 4 Stanford Cardinal will advance in the NCAA Women's Tournament after a 90-84 win over the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Five players in double figures and a career high 27-point performance by Erica McCall allowed Stanford to avoid elimination and move on to the Elite 8.
"I think we beat a really, really good team, and I'm really proud of our team how we came out really focused and just really played hard together," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We came out and played well, in the beginning, it gave our team confidence, and we just continued to play with that kind of confidence through the rest of the game."
Both Stanford and Notre Dame posted a high shooting efficiency in the first quarter at Rupp Arena, with both teams fighting for a spot in the Elite 8. The Cardinal shot at 61 percent from the field, and the Fighting Irish weren't far behind with a 53 percent efficiency.
Stanford went 3-for-6 from the three-point range, while Notre Dame shot 100 percent, sinking 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Stanford junior forward Erica McCall went 5-for-6 from the field and led all scorers with 10 points, helping the Cardinal to a 28-21 lead.
"We felt pretty good coming into the game; we had a great game plan," McCall said. "We watched a lot of video, walked through a lot of their plays and knew what to do in every situation."
McCall continued to lead all scorers and control the floor, adding 9 points, helping the Cardinal increase its shooting efficiency to 65 percent. The Fighting Irish's efficiency decreased to 44 percent, despite junior forward Kristina Nelson putting up 8 in the second quarter alone and leading Notre Dame in scoring.
After just 20 minutes, McCall stood six points shy of her career-high. Stanford took a 50-39 lead into the locker room, marking their second-most points in a half for Stanford this season. They had 53 in the first half vs. Cornell on Dec. 19.
"I think our team felt confident, we didn't have the pressure on us and we just wanted to have fun," McCall said. "That was the biggest thing ... we're always having fun, and I think that let us play loose."
McCall put up the first points of the second half with a jumper, followed by a layup from sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson, who added 8 points and 5 rebounds in the quarter.
Notre Dame got on the board three minutes in with a layup by junior guard Lindsay Allen. The Fighting Irish hit five straight shots before McCall responded with another jumper. Shortly after, she tied her career-high of 25 points with a layup. Stanford took a 67-57 lead into the final 10 minutes of play.
"Erica - "Bird" - She's passionate about the game of basketball," VanDerveer said. "She's having fun. She loves the game of basketball. I don't know that I've coached any player that loves it more than she does."
The Cardinal continued to dominate the floor throughout the fourth quarter. Notre Dame cut the lead to eight before Stanford junior guard Karlie Samuelson responded with an old-fashioned three-point play.
Stanford finished shooting at a 56 percent efficiency, with Notre Dame shooting 49 from the field. McCall finished with 27 points and 4 rebounds, Johnson had 17 points, and 12 rebounds, and Samuelson had 20 points and 2 rebounds.
"Our team was really focused and worked really hard, and I'm proud of them," VanDerveer said. "We're really going to work hard and get ready for Sunday and playing Washington."
Stanford will play the Washington Huskies on Sunday at 1 pm.