Lexie Hull and Haley Jones made plays when it counted and Cameron Brink had a statement third quarter following a first half struggle with foul trouble to lead the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal past the No. 2 seed Texas Longhorns, 59-50, and into the Final Four Sunday night at Spokane Arena in Spokane, Wash.
Hull’s 3-point play with 2:29 to play gave the Cardinal a five-point cushion and she added a free throw 39 seconds later to make it a four-point lead after which Stanford led by at least two possessions.
Hull (20 points) and Jones (18 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks) accounted for all of the Cardinal’s points in the fourth quarter, allowing the defending champs to survive a scare from the Longhorns.
Every time Stanford came close to building a comfortable lead, Audrey Warren was there to keep Texas in it. With her team down 50-43, Warren drew a charge on Fran Belibi and then made a mid-range shot off a curl on the other end. She also made key threes throughout the game, finishing 3-of-3 from downtown after entering 8-of-24 on the season.
Jones scored the final points in each of the first three periods. At the end of the third, she was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.4 seconds remaining and made all three free throws. That gave the Cardinal back some of the momentum that Warren took away with her third three of the game. Stanford had been all excited because of a Brink three followed by Brink and Hannah Jump blocks and a Belibi layup that made it 42-37 Cardinal. Warren’s third three cut the deficit to two just when it looked like Stanford might pull away.
Brink played just five minutes in the first half and then went ahead and scored the first 10 Stanford points of the third. She finished with the 10 points to go along with six boards and six blocks.
Hull led Stanford with seven points in the second, points she accumulated on a 7-3 individual run. Jones chipped in with five points in the frame, including a free throw line jumper that resulted in the halftime score of 30-27 Cardinal.
Warren made two threes in the second to really frustrate Stanford. The first gave Texas a 24-22 lead and the second cut a Longhorn deficit to 28-27. Freshman Rori Harmon, who had 21 threes coming in and is known more for her mid-range game, also made a second-quarter three for Texas. Hers came at the buzzer of the shot clock and made it 19-16 Longhorns.
Texas outshot Stanford from beyond the arc in the first half, 4-of-6 to 1-of-8, and also won the turnover margin by four to counteract being outrebounded by nine. The Longhorns ended up winning the final turnover margin by 10, but missed nine free throws on 20 attempts and lost by nine.
The first quarter was highlighted by an 8-0 Texas run, but Jones made a mid-range shot while moving to her right that beat the buzzer and tied the game entering the second.
The 8-0 run took the score to 14-10 Longhorns and was capped by a Joanne Allen-Taylor three in transition. The first five points came from Aaliyah Moore, who made a layup through a lot of contact and turned it into the 3-point play to give Texas the lead.
Harmon finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in defeat.
This is Stanford’s 15th trip to the Final Four.