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Pac-12 Showdown: UW, Stanford cross paths again

The Stanford Cardinal and Washington Huskies both look to advance to the Final Four as they compete in the NCAA Women’s Tournament Lexington Regional Finals on Sunday. No. 4 Stanford is coming off a 90-84 upset against No. 1 Notre Dame, and Washington continues their somewhat Cinderella story after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 85-72.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Lexington, KY -- The Stanford Cardinal and the Washington Huskies both pulled off upsets on Friday night in the NCAA Women's Tournament Lexington Regional Semifinals. But who will continue their road to the Final Four? Both teams are ready for the matchup, as they look to advance on Sunday at Rupp Arena.

"First of all, I'm really excited that a Pac-12 team is going to go to the Final Four," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I want that team to be Stanford. I've been through this, and we know kind of what it's going to take.  Both of us have had big games to get here. So we're both riding this emotional high, and you've got to come out ready to play, and you've got to be extremely aggressive.

"I think it's going to be a great game."

"It's business as usual," Washington head coach Mike Neighbors said on his team's preparation for the finals. "There will be a very routine feel to it, and I think that's an important part of these kids being in a routine that they're comfortable and trying not to get too far away from that to magnify the situation, because, in all reality, it's just another game like we've been playing."

THE TEAMS:

The Stanford Cardinal:

With five players in double figures, No. 4 Stanford Cardinal snapped No. 1 Notre Dame's 26-game win streak and ended the Fighting Irish's bid for a sixth straight Final Four appearance with a 90-84 upset.

Junior forward Erica McCall led the Cardinal with a career-high 27-point performance, marking Stanford's revenge against the Irish after a devastating 81-60 defeat in last year's Sweet Sixteen.

Stanford had 50 points by halftime against a Notre Dame defense that had been allowing only 60.4 points per game. In the first half, the Cardinal shot 64.5 percent overall (20-of-31) and 67 percent (6-of-9) from beyond the arc. Stanford will play in its 18th Elite Eight, where the Cardinal holds a 12-5 record in regional final games.

"Washington, they're skilled players," VanDerveer said. "Mike has done a great job with their team. They really execute extremely well. To beat Maryland at Maryland and Kentucky at Kentucky, they're a hot team. Tomorrow will be who is the hotter team? I think we're playing hot basketball, too."

The Washington Huskies:

Washington has shown an ability to deliver in hostile environments, following up their second-round upset of second-seeded Maryland on the Terrapins' home floor by stunning the Wildcats at Rupp Arena.

The seventh-seeded Huskies beat the third-seeded Wildcats 85-72, fueled by senior forward Talia Walton's 30-point performance in Washington's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2001. Alongside Walton, junior forward Chantel Osahor put up 19 points and 17 rebounds to help Washington advance to their first regional final in 15 years.  The Huskies are 0-2 in the Elite Eight.

"I think when I looked at the bracket, the first thing I noticed was we were in there with Stanford," Neighbors said. "It was going to happen. Anytime you get multiple teams, four or more teams in there; you're going to have somebody in the same conference in the same bracket. It ended up being us."

THE MATCHUP:

The two teams have matched up twice before with very different results.

At Stanford, the Cardinal beat the Huskies 69-53 during the regular season, behind junior guard Lili Thompson's season-high 27 points.

"Obviously, it's hard to go to that arena and play," Osahor said. "They did a great job against us, and I think a lot of credit goes to them. But I don't think we played our best basketball there. And coming back to Seattle, it was (Pac-12) tournament time, and that's when everybody rises to the occasion.  So we're going to try to do the exact same thing out here."

"Washington ... They're not the same team we beat in January," VanDerveer said. "They're playing very confidently. We have to be more aggressive."

At Washington, the Huskies beat the Cardinal 73-65 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. Junior guard Kelsey Plum put up 29 points, to become Washington's all-time leading scorer, and Walton added 19 points and a clutch three-pointer.

"I think we were stagnant on offense, and it took us a while to definitely get going in the game, and ultimately it was too late for us to come back," McCall said. "So I think we're definitely going to learn from that and come back and come out as an aggressive team."

"Stanford's a phenomenal team," Plum said. "They're going to have a great game plan, and they're going to have players that are trying to execute that game plan, so we have our work cut out for us. We're really excited about this opportunity, and we're going to go out there and continue to try to do what we've been doing this whole tournament."

The Lexington Regional Finals tip off is at 1 pm on Sunday at Rupp Arena.