Karlie Samuelson may not have been able to play in the NCAA women's basketball championship game after suffering a sprained ankle late in the second quarter of Stanford's 62-53 loss to South Carolina in the national semifinal on Friday in Dallas.
It's more of a shock that her younger sister won't be playing in the title game. Katie Lou Samuelson scored Connecticut's final points of the season on a pair of free throws, tying the contest late in overtime. Less than 30 seconds later, a Mississippi State buzzer-beater ended the Huskies' 111-game winning streak.
The Gamecocks and Bulldogs, both in the Final Four for the first time, will be playing for the national title on Sunday night.
Stanford and Connecticut, NCAA tournament veterans, are on the sideline.
"Right now it's painful," Cardinal guard Brianna Roberson said. "It's sad I won't be able to play with this team again. I love this team to death. I'd die for this team. I'd take a bullet for them and I can't say that about a lot of people in my life."
It's been a cohesive team all year, and it remained that way afterward. The players seemed unwilling to separate.
"These girls are really special to me," Roberson said. "I know I'm going to have great relationships with them."
Stanford let a nine-point halftime lead slip away. Samuelson's injury didn't help. In fact, it changed the way South Carolina played the game and changed the way the Cardinal attacked the basket.
Stanford (32-6) took a big hit when she sprained her right ankle with about 4 1/2 minutes before halftime after the Cardinal had taken an eight-point lead with a 13-1 run.
South Carolina's Dawn Staley, who played for Tara VanDerveer on the U.S. women's team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal, won as a coach against the Stanford coach for the first time in six tries.
Erica McCall led the Cardinal with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Alanna Smith also had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
In the end, Stanford stopped attacking the basket and went ice cold from the field.
"For us, with Karlie not being 100 percent, that really hurt us a lot," VanDerveer said. "We really got out of sync and never really got it going in the third quarter. That was disappointing. I don't think we got to the free-throw line, what, twice, if that, in the second half. We turned it over too much. We just never could get it."
Stanford loses the three seniors but has three of the top recruits coming in.
Next year will start pretty much how this season began: with a lot of talent and a lot of promise.