Defending champion Stanford tops Texas 59-50 in Elite 8

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Standing at the top of the ladder, Lexie Hull got the final snip with the scissors, drawing one of the loudest cheers of the night as she draped the net around her neck.

Hull did all she could to get defending national champion Stanford back to her hometown for the Spokane Regional. Then, she became the catalyst for getting the Cardinal back to the women’s Final Four.

“I’m just super proud of our team for staying with it, sticking with each other and being gritty,” Hull said. “I think it really comes down to who was the grittier team.”

Hull scored 20 points, including a key three-point play inside the final three minutes, and Haley Jones hit four free throws in the closing moments to finish with 18 points in top-seeded Stanford’s win over No. 2 seed Texas 59-50 on Sunday night.

The Cardinal will play in the national semifinal for the 15th time in program history, facing either North Carolina State or Connecticut in Minneapolis.

“It’s crazy to say this but you’re always happy to go to the Final Four, but sometimes you’re like really happy. And I’m like really happy,” coach Tara VanDerveer said.

This Elite Eight matchup was tightly contested throughout and reinforced the resolve that Stanford was missing earlier in the season when it lost to Texas at home on the night it received its rings from the 2021 championship.

Stanford (32-3) was the tougher team this time around, especially in the second half.

Hull made a key 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter and the three-point play gave Stanford a 53-48 lead with 2:29 remaining. Texas never got closer than two in the closing seconds and Stanford spent the final moments celebrating around Hull and her twin sister Lacie.

Then came the real celebration afterward that included the team doing the Electric Slide. It was VanDerveer’s idea, and she even joined in.

“I think everybody killed it today,” Jones said.

Hull made 7 of 14 shots on a night scoring was at a premium. Jones was just 4-of-11 shooting but made 10-of-11 free throws and Stanford was 18 of 22 at the foul line. Jones also grabbed 12 rebounds.

Cameron Brink added 10 points for Stanford, all in the third quarter, and the Cardinal extended the longest win streak in the country to 24 games. Brink was also a force at the defensive end with six blocks, half coming in the third quarter when Stanford went to a zone defense.

“Good teams adjust at the end of the day, and they made an adjustment and went to zone,” said Texas’ Joanne Allen-Taylor, who led the Longhorns with 15 points before fouling out. “We just didn’t make enough plays in the zone at the time.”

Texas (29-7) lost in the Elite Eight for the second straight season.