Erica McCall thought her No. 13 Stanford women's basketball team was capable of beating No. 2-ranked Notre Dame. After all, there was no pressure. The fourth-seeded Cardinal could have some fun.
McCall scored a career-high 27 points, one of five Stanford players to reach double figures in scoring, and the Cardinal women's basketball team knocked the top-seeded Irish out of the NCAA tournament with a surprising 90-84 victory Friday night in Lexington, Ky.
"I think we're showing the country that Pac-12 basketball is just as strong," McCall said. "I think we felt pretty good. We had a great game plan, shout out to Kate Paye for scouting, and we knew what to do. We were having fun and that helped us play loose."
That's a reasonable explanation for shooting nearly 65 percent in the first half and 55 percent for the game. Karlie Samuelson was 6-of-8 from the floor, including 5-of-6 from long range, and scored 20 points. One of those 3-pointers came with a second left on the shot clock, banking it in.
"Erica didn't have a shot so she passed it to me and I had to throw it with one second left," said Samuelson, who probably won't get style points for her shot.
"Notre Dame was making a run and I thought that might have been a burst-the-bubble 3," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "People have done that to us. I thought Bird should have shot it but Karlie is capable."
The 28 points Stanford scored in the first quarter was its highest total for any quarter all year. The production set the tone for the rest of the contest.
"We came out very focused and playing hard together," VanDerveer said. "The success early on gave us confidence for the rest of the game."
Kaylee Johnson added 17 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. She was 7-of-11 from the foul line. She's normally 54 percent from the foul line.
Lili Thompson didn't have a particularly good night shooting, but did score 11 points and dished off nine assists. Marta Sniezek added 11 points and four assists.
Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw said Bri Roberson's 3-pointer from the corner, followed by Sniezek's coast-to-coast layup, were what hurt the Irish comeback.
"Offense was not a problem tonight," McGraw said. "It was defense. We couldn't get them to miss. They made plays down the stretch."
The Huskies and Stanford split two games during the season, with the Cardinal winning by 16 in Maples and losing by eight in Seattle in the conference tournament.
"We know each other pretty well," VanDerveer said. "It should be a good game because of the familiarity."