Tara VanDerveer had some special words for her Stanford women's basketball team before it took the court at Maples Pavilion for the final time this season. VanDerveer simply reminded her players about how well some of the program's most storied players performed in their home finales.
It was good advice that Cardinal seniors Amber Orrange and Bonnie Samuelson took to heart and made sure their careers wouldn't come to an end just yet.
Orrange scored 24 points and Samuelson scored all 19 of her points in the second half to lead the fourth-seeded Cardinal to an 86-76 victory over fifth-seeded Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday afternoon.
"I told the whole team, this is a Stanford thing, Maples Magic," VanDerveer said. "I think she really lived up to it. Amber did, Bonnie did in the second half. We knew we had unfinished business."
It was a far cry from Senior Day last month, when Orange and Samuelson struggled in a loss to rival California. But, there would be no repeat in the NCAA Tournament as Stanford (26-9) made it to the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight year and 11th time in the past 12 seasons.
Lili Thompson also scored 19 points and fellow sophomore guard Briana Roberson provided a spark with 13 points and tough defense. Sophomore forward Erica McCall added seven points and 11 rebounds as Stanford overcame a season-high tying 20 turnovers. The Cardinal also helped itself by making 30 of 38 free throws.
The Cardinal next will play top-seeded Notre Dame (33-2) in the third round on Friday in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. Stanford has Orrange to thank for that.
She kept Stanford in the game while many of her teammates struggled in the first half and combined with Samuelson and Thompson to take the game over in the final 20 minutes.
"I tried not to put too much pressure on myself," Orrange said. "I just came out and played really hard. I know our younger players are capable of stepping up, and they've showed it throughout the season. I know I also need to be aggressive for our team to be successful."
"She is unstoppable when she puts her mind to it," Samuelson said. "You definitely saw that tonight. She is just extremely consistent night after night. When she's being aggressive and taking those nice jumpers, she can't be stopped."
Kaylon Williams scored 24 points and Gioya Carter added 20 for the Sooners (21-12), who struggled to generate any consistent offense one game after scoring a season-high 111 points in a first-round win over Quinnipiac.
Oklahoma knew this game would be more difficult, especially on Stanford's home court, and that proved correct once Thompson and Orrange took over.
Thompson hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer at the end of the first half to start a 15-2 run that put the Cardinal up 44-38. Thompson, held scoreless for the first 17 minutes, had nine points in that spurt with Orrange adding two baskets.
Orrange and Samuelson hit consecutive 3-pointers that started an 11-0 run that put Stanford up 13 midway through the second half.
Samuelson had missed all four of her shots in the first half and then her first to open the second, before catching fire as she was 4 of 6 from the field and all eight of her free throws.
"I was definitely frustrated," Samuelson said. "I was thinking this is my last time playing in Maples and I wanted to do well for my team. The coaches told me you're fine, just keep shooting. I came out at halftime and said, 'let's just start it over.' "
"Bonnie doesn't go o-fer," VanDerveer said. "You knew she was going to have a big second half."
After having its 14-year streak of regular season Pac-12 titles snapped in what was expected to be a rebuilding year following the graduation of All-American and national player of the year Chiney Ogwumike, the Cardinal has stepped its game up at tournament time. They won the Pac-12 tournament title earlier this month before getting the two wins to open the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma, the most inexperienced team in the tournament, played like it against the Cardinal after seemingly not missing any shots in the first round. The Sooners made just 4 of 25 shots in a span of more than 16 minutes starting late in the first half and missed their chance to win and go home to the regional in Oklahoma City.
"I think the best thing for us right now is to take this lesson and grow from it and come back with a vengeance," Williams said. "I know a lot of us are hurting right now and know this one will stick. We'll remember this."
The only player on her game for most of the night was Carter, who scored 16 first-half points to help the Sooners take a 36-29 lead. Thompson then beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to make it 36-32 at the break.
Orrange, however, held Carter to just two baskets after halftime.
"Amber gives you so much at both ends of the floor," VanDerveer said. "It's not just her offense."
NOTES: The Stanford-Notre Dame winner on Friday will play the Baylor-Iowa winner on Sunday, with that winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four . . . With her 24 points, Orrange became the 21st player in Stanford history to eclipse the 1,400-point plateau and tied Louise Smith for 20th on the team's all-time scoring list with 1,414 . . . Oklahoma has lost four straight tournament games to Stanford since beating the Cardinal in the second round in 2001 at home . . . Stanford Cardinal improved to 9-5 when trailing at the half, including wins in the first two tournament games and the Pac-12 title game . . . The Cardinal improved to 32-4 at home in NCAA Tournament play . . . VanDerveer changed things a little more than three minutes into the game when she brought Roberson off the bench to add more quickness to the lineup. Roberson never left and teamed with Orrange and Thompson to slow down Oklahoma's backcourt.