STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Lexie Hull ran onto the floor for her final game at Maples Pavilion determined to do everything in her power to ensure her reigning NCAA champion Stanford teammates a trip to another special home court: back in her native Spokane, Washington.
The Cardinal needed every bit of Hull’s energy on both ends following a tough halftime talk and challenge from Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer.
Hull ignited the offense after the break on the way to a career-high 36 points with six 3-pointers to go along with six steals, leading the top-seeded Cardinal past No. 8 Kansas 91-65 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
”I think it’s just I really wanted it,” Hull said, trying to describe her memorable performance. ”In the back of my head I was like, `All right, I want to play in Spokane, my entire body wants to play in Spokane.’ Just our team we really kept the ball moving, found the hot hand and ran with it the rest of the game.”
The defending champs are riding a 22-game winning streak into the Sweet 16 as they travel to a familiar Pacific Northwest spot where they’ve shined before on the big March stage.
”Lexie put our team on her back and just said, `We’re going to Spokane, I’m going to do whatever I need to do,’ and she did,” VanDerveer said.
Cameron Brink added 13 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as Stanford (30-3) used a dominant third quarter to pull away. The Cardinal outscored the Jayhawks 32-15 in the period to turn a 33-31 halftime advantage into a 65-46 lead.
Stanford not only went at 6-foot-6 Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson at every chance but extended the defense out to the perimeter by heating up from 3-point range: The Cardinal were 4 of 10 from deep in the first half then 9 for 16 over the final two quarters.
Jackson wound up with eight points, six rebounds and three more blocks to put her single-season school record at 95. Hannah Jump finished with nine points, all from long range.
Hull shot 14 for 21 and her points are the most by a Stanford player in an NCAA game in 10 years, since Nneka Ogwumike scored 39 against South Carolina in the 2012 Sweet 16. Hull also had six rebounds and three assists to leave a lasting impression in the senior guard’s final collegiate game on campus.
She and twin sister Lacie now head back to eastern Washington to help the Cardinal continue the quest at defending their title. Stanford will face fourth-seeded Maryland on Friday in the Spokane Regional semifinals.
”I’ve said this before but I get mad at their parents because they only had twins instead of triplets,” VanDerveer cracked. ”They are so exceptional, students, student-athletes. I’m so lucky. And I’m so excited. I was really excited on the bench for both, especially Lexie how she played – obviously Lacie’s so important, too – to be able to go play at home.”
Lexie Hull sat down for good to a roaring ovation with 4:02 remaining in the game, which was an impressive finish in the Bay Area given the Cardinal hadn’t hosted the first and second rounds since 2019. There wasn’t a tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and last season’s event was held in a Texas bubble.
Zakiyah Franklin scored 13 points to lead Kansas (21-10), which was back in the bracket for the first time since 2013 under Big 12 Coach of the Year Brandon Schneider.
”They were incredible in the third quarter. Lexie just went into takeover mode,” Schneider said. ”As elite as offensive performance as I’ve witnessed in person in the manner in which she scored in every way possible.”
The Jayhawks began the game 3 for 11 but kept close by going 5 of 6 on free throws in the first quarter, when Ioanna Chatzileonti’s 3-pointer beat the buzzer to get them within 20-18.
STARS IN THE STANDS
New Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson was in the stands supporting sister Anna, a sixth-year senior on Stanford, while Stephen Curry’s two daughters – Riley and Ryan – sat with Brink’s parents, who are family friends. The girls danced and cheered.
Kansas: Jackson managed only three shots in the first half and four points facing Stanford’s tough post rotation. She dominated both ends in the opener, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds. This time, Jackson had her own shot blocked at the 7:50 mark of the first quarter by Haley Jones. … The Jayhawks advanced by beating ninth-seeded Georgia Tech on Friday.
Stanford: Stanford scored five of its initial eight points off two early turnovers by Kansas. … The Cardinal are unbeaten since a 65-61 defeat at No. 1 South Carolina on Dec. 21. They finished 16-1 on their home floor this season, only losing to Texas on Nov. 14.