NASHVILLE- No. 6/5 Stanford’s deep postseason run came to an end on Sunday night, falling 75-56 to No. 1/1 Connecticut in the national semifinals at the NCAA Final Four.
Stanford (33-4, 17-1 Pac-12) advanced to its 12th Final Four in school history and sixth in the past seven years. Making its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance, the Cardinal produced a 21-game winning streak that spanned nearly three months while storming its way to another Pac-12 regular-season title.
However, the Cardinal ran into a familiar postseason nemesis in Connecticut (39-0), responsible for handing Stanford two of its four losses on the year. The Huskies, who posted a 76-57 home victory in the Nov. 11 meeting, have won every game by double-digits.
Stanford and Connecticut were meeting for the sixth time in NCAA Tournament play and fifth at the Final Four. In the history of the Final Four (including title-game contests), the Stanford-Connecticut rivalry is the second-most reoccurring matchup behind only the Connecticut-Tennessee pairing, which has occurred six times.
Amber Orrange’s 16 points led three Cardinal players in double figures while Lili Thompson added 12 points for Stanford, which trailed only 28-24 at halftime but was unable to overcome 38.2 percent shooting overall, a 6-25 clip from three-point territory and 13 turnovers.
Sunday’s game closed the book an incredible career for Chiney Ogwumike, who leaves Stanford as one of the greatest players in school history. One of only four three-time WBCA All-Americans and a consensus All-American in 2013-14, Ogwumike notched her 27th double-double of the year with 15 points and 10 rebounds. One of the leading candidates for national player of the year honors, Ogwumike compiled 2,737 points and 1,567 rebounds during her stellar four-year career on The Farm.
Ogwumike struggled to get on track for much of the game, with Connecticut employing multiple defenders to help limit her touches in the paint. Ogwumike was held 5-12 shooting and scored only four points in the first half.
Meanwhile, Connecticut shot 50.0 percent overall and offset a 4-15 clip by cashing in at foul line (17-24). Breanna Stewart led all five starters in double figures with 18 points, including a 9-11 performance from the charity stripe.
Thompson scored 10 of her 12 points in the first period, keeping Stanford within striking distance. The Cardinal was fortunate to hang around early on, especially after shooting 11-28 overall and 2-12 from three-point territory.
A three-pointer from Thompson at the 12:32 mark of the first half gave Stanford its largest lead of the game at 16-10.
Mikaela Ruef banked in a jumper with just over five minutes to play before halftime put the Cardinal up 22-16, only to have Connecticut respond with a 12-2 scoring run that resulted in a 28-24 Husky lead at the break.
Connecticut continued to build on its momentum to start the second half, hitting four of its first five shots while Stanford misfired on eight of its first nine attempts.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis canned a jumper to give Connecticut its first double-digit lead of the game, moving ahead 38-27 with 16:42 remaining.
A layup from Ogwumike with 4:13 to play brought Stanford to within 63-52 before the Huskies iced the game.
NOTES: Stanford is now 75-26 all-time in the NCAA Tournament … Since its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982, Stanford has won national championships (1990, 1992) and qualified for 12 Final Fours … The Cardinal is 6-10 all-time against the Huskies, with its most recent victory in series coming back on Dec. 30, 2010, in a 71-59 win at Maples Pavilion that snapped Connecticut’s 90-game winning streak … Chiney Ogwumike’s double-double was the 84th of her career … Stanford attempted its first free throw at the 18:24 mark of the second half … Lili Thompson knocked down five buckets in a game for the first time since a 5-8 effort against UCLA on Jan. 24. Thompson made four of her five shots in the game’s first eight minutes … For the third consecutive game, Stanford finished with 14 assists … In this year’s earlier matchup, Stanford trailed 39-26 at halftime and committed 16 turnovers. Ogwumike finished that game with 16 points and 13 boards while Amber Orrange led all players with 22 points … Orrange dished out five assists, increasing her team-leading total to 166 … Ogwumike and fellow seniors Mikaela Ruef and Sara James competed in their final career game.