Commentary

Stanford 74, North Carolina 65

Originally Published: April 1, 2014
By Michelle Smith | espnW.com

STANFORD, Calif. -- Second-seeded Stanford got in a hole, Maples Pavilion was quiet, Chiney Ogwumike was being bottled up and the home team looked to be in trouble.

And then slowly and purposefully, the Cardinal made their way back. Stanford's veteran players kept their poise and did what they did best, scoring out of the triangle and hitting big 3-pointers. And when No. 4 North Carolina made its run and assumed a 63-62 lead on a Jessica Washington 3-pointer with 3:59 to go, the Cardinal made some big plays on the defensive end.

Stanford had five players in double figures and defeated upstart North Carolina 74-65 to earn the program's sixth trip to the Final Four in the last seven years, and the program's 12th overall appearance in the national semifinals.

Key stat: Points in the paint. Despite having early trouble getting the ball to Ogwumike inside, Stanford outscored North Carolina in the paint 26-14. Ogwumike finished with 20 points -- 16 of those in the second half.

Turning point: Stanford's Lili Thompson hit a 12-foot jumper to reclaim the lead for Stanford, 64-63, with 3:12 remaining. After that, the Cardinal double-teamed UNC's Xylina McDaniel and the Tar Heels scored only one more field goal the rest of the way. Stanford closed the game on a 10-2 run.

Key player: Mikaela Ruef. The Cardinal's fifth-year senior, a quintessential blue-collar player, had the game of her career. She scored a career-high 17 points (including three 3-pointers on five attempts), pulled down nine rebounds and had three assists. She was averaging 6.8 points and had hit just two 3-pointers (on 13 attempts) this season entering Tuesday's game.

How it was won: Balance. The Cardinal scored from everywhere, with five players in double figures. They scored inside with Ogwumike, midrange behind guard Amber Orrange and outside with nine 3-pointers.

What's next: The Final Four and a national semifinal date with title favorite Connecticut.

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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