MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer noticed Kansas State tends to hound an opponent’s best shooters, at least in terms of statistics, and surmised that Karlie Samuelson might have a tough night.
She also figured Brittany McPhee would get plenty of looks.
The Cardinals’ unsung star made the most of them, lighting it up from 3-point range and pouring in 21 points to help second-seeded Stanford rout the No. 7 seed Wildcats in their NCAA Tournament game Monday night - earning VanDerveer’s program a 10th straight trip to the Sweet 16.
“The coaches had told us they leave shooters open. They guard the people who have the best shooting percentage,” said McPhee, who hit five 3-poitners with seven rebounds and five assists. “They were just really positive with me, telling me to step up and knock it down.”
Alanna Smith also had 19 points for the Cardinal (30-5), who managed just fine with Samuelson getting only three shots and the Wildcats (23-11) playing in front of a home crowd.
“We played them early. We played them at home,” VanDerveer said. “Our team is playing with confidence, but you know, I’m sure they’ll remember - that probably wasn’t a fun trip back to Austin.”
Kindred Wesemann had 11 points and Breanna Lewis was held to nine in their final game for the Wildcats (23-11), who have not advanced past the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend since 2002.
Neither senior star could get on track after combining for 39 in the opening round.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I love my team,” said Lewis, who battled through foul trouble much of the game. “They’ve been really supportive through it all. This just doesn’t feel real right now, but it’s been a great journey for me.”
The journey continues for the Cardinal, who needed to rally from nine down in the opening round to beat upset-minded New Mexico State. It was an ugly, disjointed performance that led Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer to muse afterward nearly two weeks off may not have been good for them.
Two days off seemed to suit the Cardinal much better.
They quickly shook loose of the Wildcats with hounding defense and pinpoint perimeter shooting, using a 13-0 run late in the first quarter and early in the second to take a 28-12 lead. And when McPhee hit a 3-pointer moments later, she had nearly as many points (13) as the Wildcats (14).
Kansas State went on a brief run to trim its deficit to 34-21 with 2 minutes left before halftime, but Nadia Fingall’s basket in the paint and McPhee’s fourth 3 of the half restored order.
The Wildcats had six turnovers in the first quarter and nine by halftime, while the Cardinal had already built a 20-9 rebounding advantage by that point - despite having no advantage in size.
“We did not control the ball very well,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “Turnovers were a problem for us, the glass was a real problem for us. Not much went right early for us in that game, but a lot of credit for that goes to Stanford. I thought they executed very well.”
The Cardinal’s lead swelled to 47-24 before the Wildcats managed their first basket of the third quarter with 4:11 remaining. Kansas State proceeded to run off nine straight points in its best stretch of the game, but Karlie Samuelson’s 3-pointer got Stanford back on track.
They coasted through the fourth quarter and right into the Sweet 16.
“Their balance is very, very impressive,” Mittie said. “I don’t know that people give them the credit they deserve. If they shoot the basketball well, I think they can be a Final Four team.”
Kansas State has made strides in three years under Mittie, but the Wildcats’ coach still has never made it to the tournament’s second weekend. The Wildcats have been bounced in the second round the past two years, and five of his teams at TCU were eliminated in the same round.
Stanford missed out on having home games the opening weekend because of a conflict at Maples Pavilion, but it ultimately didn’t matter. Now, the Cardinal head to a neutral floor as they attempt to reach the Final Four for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
The Cardinal head to Lexington to face the Longhorns.
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