Brittany McPhee suggested an adjustment for herself at halftime of Sunday's NCAA regional basketball final and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer agreed. It turned out to be a pivotal moment in a game full of pivotal moments.
McPhee scored 27 points and helped the eighth-ranked Cardinal women's team beat Notre Dame, 76-75, in Lexington to advance to its 13th Final Four and the first since 2014.
Stanford (32-5) faces the winner of Monday's game between No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 3 seed Florida State in Dallas on Friday.
The highlights reveal an endless loop of dazzling plays, which include the last-second block by Erica McCall on Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale's shot, an Alanna Smith block a few seconds earlier, Smith's jumper that gave Stanford the lead and so many other important moments.
In the sanctuary of the Cardinal locker room, though, McPhee asked to guard Ogunbowale, who torched Stanford for 21 first-half points that helped give the Irish a 14-point advantage after two quarters.
"Brit wanted to guard her in the second half," VanDerveer said. "She said she thought she understood what she was doing. She worked hard on her."
Ogunbowale scored four points the rest of the way.
"I'm not used to guarding someone who can score in transition," McPhee said. "I was too worried about other people. It was a matter of locating her and sticking with her."
The Irish went up 47-31 early in the second half before Stanford began its comeback. Smith hit a jumper, McPhee nailed one of her five 3-pointers and Smith's lone 3-pointer brought within 52-46 midway through the third quarter.
"When you've been down by a lot, six points seems like nothing," VanDerveer said. "We got right back into it in the third quarter. We played with tremendous energy."
McPhee hit another three to bring Stanford within 57-55 entering the final quarter.
Through the first three quarters, there were five lead changes and the game was tied on three other occasions. McPhee's 3-pointer to open the fourth was the first of 13 lead changes over the final 10 minutes of play. It was tied five other times.
"Going to the Final Four with Chiney (Ogwumike) my freshman year was great," Cardinal Karlie Samuelson said. "I thought about that my sophomore and junior year. It's an amazing feeling to get back. We're ready to play."
The final lead change was Smith's jumper in the lane, from a pass by Marta Sniezek, who had eight assists for the game.
"We had a height advantage and it was smart of Marta to give me the ball," Smith said. "I got it and was able to make it. I'm just trying to play my part on the court."
Smith finished with 15 points, McCall had nine points and 11 rebound and Samuelson added 15 points.
"It was a tough, well-played game on both sides," VanDerveer said. "Bird kept talking to stay with it, Karlie made some great plays and Brit was outstanding defensively and offensively. We are so excited to be going to Dallas."