Oregon started hot and hung around for most of the game, but in the fourth quarter, Stanford outscored the Ducks 18-9 to clinch the win
Second-seeded Stanford rode a big fourth quarter surge to survive a strong push from No. 6 seed Oregon, which was hoping to pull an upset for the second night in a row.
The Cardinal (27-5) beat Oregon 71-56 in their Pac-12 women’s basketball semifinal Saturday night at Key Arena and advanced to play Oregon State in Sunday’s championship game.
Stanford couldn’t shake the pesky Ducks until the final quarter, when Erica McCall out-jumped Oregon’s Jacinta Vandenberg for an offensive rebound and scored on the putback while drawing the foul to complete the three-point play. Then, she followed up with a fast break score that put Stanford up 58-49 with 5:30 remaining.
The Cardinal outscored its opponent 18-9 in the fourth quarter, and that finally proved insurmountable for the Ducks, who went into Saturday’s game riding a wave of confidence from their quarterfinal win over third-seeded UW on Friday night.
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“They played a great game, they’re a great team,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “They deserved it tonight. They played better and harder in the second half. Once we got behind, we tried like crazy to keep up, and it just wasn’t happening.
“I’m really proud of our team, disappointed in the outcome today but really proud of the effort all weekend.”
Trailing Stanford 8-2 to start the game, the Ducks outscored the Cardinal 17-4 over a four-minute span midway through the opening quarter to go into the second quarter with a 25-16 lead.
But that’s not enough when you’re playing Stanford, which was ranked 10th nationally in the most recent AP Poll.
The Cardinal not only erased that nine-point deficit in the second half. In a show of force, they managed seven points in the final 47 seconds to regain the lead going into halftime.
“They took away most of our pick-and-roll game and started to force us to the baseline. We didn’t handle that well,” Graves said. “Then we started to play on our heels. … I credit them. They adjusted well and stepped up their intensity. They really stepped up their play those three quarters.”
Normandy Park native Brittany McPhee, Stanford’s second leading scorer, went into the contest averaging 12.9 points per game, but was held scoreless on four attempts until she finally sank a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.
The shot seemed to imbue the 6-foot junior guard with confidence. With her team still trailing 34-32, she sank a pair of free throws to knot things at 34.
Then, after Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu missed a jumper with 10 seconds left in the half, Stanford’s Karlie Samuelson pounced on the rebound, slung the ball to a waiting McPhee lurking just past half court, and McPhee shot a pass to Alanna Smith who was waiting under the basket to make a layup at the buzzer that put the Cardinal back on top, 36-34.
Thereafter, the Ducks challenged, but never led again.
“I’m really proud of our team and how we battled,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Oregon has a great young team, and our seniors and juniors, our upperclass women stepped it up for us. We did not want it to be an all-Oregon final. I thought the different in the second half for us was our defense. We really stepped up.”
McCall led Stanford with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Normandy Park native Brittany McPhee was Stanford’s second leading scorer, with 15 points — 10 of which came in the second half.
Stanford junior forward Kaylee Johnson also had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Oregon was led by Sabrina Ionescu and Maite Cazorla, who each scored 14. The Ducks shot 33.3 percent from the field, but couldn’t match Stanford’s offensive might down the stretch.
“We just didn’t get many easy looks, and when we tried to get the ball inside, they do such a good job, and we have young post players who are learning positioning,” Graves said. “Going against players like McCall and Johnson, those are veteran post players. I credit their post play. It was strong tonight.”