Alanna Smith loves to dance. At least she loves the kind of big dance associated with the NCAA women's basketball tournament. When she takes the floor, the best thing is to simply appreciate her moves.
Smith connected on her first seven shots, scoring 13 of her game-high 28 points and grabbing five of her 12 rebounds in the first quarter in helping fourth-seeded Stanford waltz into the Sweet 16 for the 11th straight season with a 90-70 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Monday night.
"Smith had an amazing game against us," FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. "Her picking and popping and knocking down threes and being able to go inside and post up. She was outstanding tonight."
Smith reached double figures in scoring for the seventh consecutive NCAA tournament game and recorded her third double-double during that span. About a 30 percent 3-point shooter normally, Smith rackets that up to 45 percent (14-31) in the NCAA party. She's also an 85 percent free throw shooter (62 percent normally).
"I think just having my teammates around me and knowing we all had the same mind-set of just coming out and being aggressive," Smith said. "Along with Brittany (McPhee) and the rest of the starters, we just came out and we said to each other that this is it; this is our last game at Maples and we need to show it."
McPhee added 17 points and nine rebounds for Stanford, which is headed to the Lexington Regional for a third straight March.
"We love Lexington so we're really excited to be going there," coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Smith added: "Lexington holds a lot of nice memories for us, so it's just nice to be able to go back to remember what we did there and what we achieved."
Stanford will take on top-seeded Louisville on Friday in the regional semifinals. Playing previously in Lexington, the Cardinal lost to Washington in the 2016 Elite Eight and then advanced to the Final Four last season.
Kaylee Johnson, who with McPhee, played her last game in Maples Pavilion, was also impossible for the Eagles to handle. She added 12 rebounds, six points and a couple of blocked shots.
"Their height was very effective," FGCU's China Dow said. "It affected us a lot as far as going to the lane. They were way bigger than Mizou so our drives weren't open. I wish I would have grew overnight, but didn't work out that way. "
Freshman Kiana Williams shined on the big stage for the second time in three days, scoring 12 points and recording six assists. At times it seemed, much like a great quarterback, she made the pass before the cut and nailed it.
Sophomore DiJonai Carrington also seems to have an affinity for the big dance, She and Williams combined to score 26 points on 9 for 16 (.562) shooting, grab eight rebounds and made all five free throw attempts.
Stanford shot 12 for 17 in the first quarter to take a 33-17 lead but went 3 of 11 for only 10 points in the second.
"I thought a big part of the game was the first quarter," Smesko said. "We had more defensive breakdowns in the first quarter than we had the whole game against Missouri. You dig that kind of a hole, you're pressing to get back in the game the entire time. You just can't build that kind of hole against a team this good."