STANFORD (AP) — Well after the final buzzer, Chiney Ogwumike darted across the court one last time to find big sister Nneka in the stands for a long celebratory embrace.
Ogwumike is carrying her team to Music City and one last Final Four she planned for all along, going for 20 points and 10 rebounds as second-seeded Stanford beat North Carolina 74-65 on Tuesday night in the regional final on the Cardinal’s home floor.
Mikaela Ruef scored a career-high 17 points on the way to regional MVP honors, Amber Orrange added 14 and Bonnie Samuelson knocked down three 3-pointers for 13 points off the bench for Stanford (33-3), which had its streak of five straight Final Fours snapped last March.
Since the disappointment of that early exit against Georgia in the Spokane Regional semifinals, Ogwumike, Ruef and their fellow seniors have made it their mission to get back to women’s basketball’s biggest stage.
All season long, Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer called for more of her players to do their part, and Ogwumike’s supporting cast delivered when it mattered most.
When it was decided, Stanford’s players jumped in delight and quickly pulled on hats and T-shirts and began dancing at center court.
Allisha Gray scored 19 points for No. 4 seed North Carolina (27-10), which couldn’t pull off a Final Four reunion with Sylvia Hatchell after the coach’s season-long battle with leukemia.
Maryland reaches Final Four, tops Louisville 76-73
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Maryland Terrapins are headed back to the Final Four for the first time since they won it all back in 2006.
All-American Alyssa Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Maryland advanced to the Terrapins’ first Final Four since winning the 2006 national championship, holding off Louisville 76-73 Tuesday night in the Cardinals’ home arena.
The Terrapins (28-6) reached their fourth Final Four all-time. They pulled off their second straight upset in Louisville with this victory much harder in essentially a home game for the third-seeded Cardinals, with a crowd of 14,002 mostly in Louisville red.
Shoni Schimmel scored 31 points, missing a tying 3-pointer off the back rim just before the buzzer. Louisville (33-5) missed a chance for a second straight Final Four with the Cardinals’ season ending shy of the national championship game they lost a year ago.
Lexie Brown added 20 points for Maryland with her dad, former NBA player Dee, in the stands. Now an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, he got the night off to watch his daughter play. Katie Rutan had 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins will play undefeated Notre Dame on Sunday in Nashville in a national semifinal.
Even though Brenda Frese said she’d just picture all the red inside the KFC Yum! Center as Maryland faithful no matter how loud they screamed, the Terrapins moved their bench onto the floor almost into the paint during timeouts.
Antonita Slaughter added 16 points for Louisville, and Asia Taylor had 12.