According to FiveThirtyEight when the 2016 NCAA Women's Tournament started Stanford only had a 4% chance to make the Final Four. The Washington Huskies only had a .2% chance to advance. Neither team was 'supposed' to be here.The math was bad for both teams. One of these schools, however, was going to defy the odds and crash the Final Four party.
Washington started this game red hot while Stanford was ice cold. The Huskies jumped out to a 16-3 at the outset. Stanford simply could not hit a shot and Coach Tara VanDerveer opted against using a time out early to settle her team down. For as great as the Cardinal offense was against Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen it was nowhere to be found in the first quarter. By the first game break with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter Stanford had only hit two shots and trailed 18-5.By the time the first quarter ended the Cardinal trailed 22-7. Stanford had only hit three shots the entire quarter.
The Cardinal showed some signs of life on offense in the second quarter. Despite missed shots continuing to plague the Stanford offense the Cardinal were still able to slowly begin to chip away at the massive early lead. Washington stayed hot on offense, however, as Stanford did not have many answers on defense. Stanford was just 29% shooting in the first half and the Huskies went into halftime up 37-26.
Erica McCall was 0-7 in the first half Chantel Osahor dominated her in the first two quarters. Osahor also lead the Huskies with 10 points in the first half. Stanford guard Lili Thompson may have been the sole bright spot for Stanford in the first half she scored 13 of Stanford's 26 points in the first half. Sniezek, Smith, and Johnson all came off the Stanford bench to combine for another 10 points.
Both teams started the second half exchanging baskets. Stanford for their part finally started to consistently hit shots and got far more aggressive on defense. Stanford was able to trim the lead to 47-40 before Washington ended the run with five points of their own. It was a back and forth start to the third quarter but the margin remained largely unchanged as the score was 52-42 with 5 minutes left in the third. Stanford would wrap up the quarter still unable to find an answer for Osahor, or to at least get a foul call. Stanford would head into potentially their final quarter down 12, 63-51.
Coach VanDerveer gave a sideline interview before the start of the fourth. She did not seem happy. She did note a decided lack of energy and slow decision making by her team as well as a lack of answers for Osahor.
Stanford came out of the break red hot from behind the 3-point line cutting the lead to just 6 points (69-63) within the first 4 minutes of the quarter. After what felt like merely hanging around all game Stanford was back into it. With 5:49 left in the game Washington took a timeout to try and halt the momentum and slow the game down a bit. It worked. Stanford went on a cold streak and missed 7 straight shots from the floor and Washington was able to extend the lead back to nine.
Things went from bad to worse for Stanford as their best three-point shooter Karlie Samuelson fouled out with just over two minutes left to go. As clock continued to wind down Stanford began intentionally fouling to try and make something happen in the final 90 seconds.
At this point, It would take a small miracle for Stanford to win. For a brief moment it seemed like the Cardinal might just make it happen. The strategy of fouling helped Stanford draw to within 5 points but once again Stanford just could not hit shots when they needed to and Washington was able to put them away. Stanford loses 85-76. Washington will head to the Final Four. Stanford's season is over.
Tara VanDerVeer said that Stanford was "playing with the house's money." What she meant was that before this game even started the Cardinal had far exceeded her expectations for the year. Stanford had no senior starters this season, only a slim chance to advance this far and still finished among the final 8 teams in the nation. It was a thrilling tournament run but a disspointing end. Still, with such a young team returning after gaining such valuable experience, and several All-American recruits coming next season, the future looks very bright for Stanford Women's basketball.