Smith heats up in second half, Stanford back to Sweet 16
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Alanna Smith finally found her shooting touch and put Stanford right back where it is most every March: the Sweet 16.
Smith had 23 points and 14 rebounds, helping second-seeded Stanford overcome a slow start and advance to the Sweet 16 for a 12th straight year by holding off No. 7 seed BYU 72-63 in a physical second-round NCAA Tournament matchup Monday night.
She got hot in the second half playing her final game at Maples Pavilion while Kiana Williams added 13 points for the Cardinal (30-4).
"I'm definitely going to miss it. It's been the best four years of my life, but it's not over yet," Smith said of her home court, the atmosphere and support. "... I'm just trying to ride this wave and ride it as long as possible."
Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer called on her team to relax in the second half and Stanford began clicking to win its season-best 11th straight game. The Cardinal move on to face 11th-seeded Missouri State on Saturday in the Chicago Regional semifinals.
DiJonai Carrington scored 14 of her 19 points in the second quarter for Stanford, whose win gave the Pac-12 Conference five teams in the Sweet 16 for the second time — also in 2017 — with the Cardinal joining Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA. This is the fourth straight year at least four Pac-12 teams made it to regional semifinals.
The Cardinal pulled away using a 16-0 run in the third quarter as scrappy BYU (26-7) missed 10 straight shots during that decisive stretch when "we were hungry," Smith said. The Cougars went ahead 35-34 on a 3 by Shaylee Gonzales with 7:50 left in the quarter before the Cardinal took charge.
"They have just a great team and a really special player in Shaylee Gonzales. We had all we could handle with her," VanDerveer said. "I'm really proud of our team. I thought DiJonai really kept us in the game in the first half and Alanna stepped up in the second half."
Gonzales scored 32 points on 12-for-21 shooting and made all four of her 3-point tries for the West Coast Conference champion Cougars, who received a spirited pep talk from Hall of Fame quarterback and former BYU star Steve Young during this tournament run.
"I just wanted to prove myself and show that even if you're a freshman you can do anything," said Gonzales, who was recruited by Stanford. "This will motivate us big time."
Brenna Chase, averaging 12.9 points as the team's third-leading scorer, missed her first eight shots before two late 3s and wound up with eight points.
Stanford matched up well with 6-foot-7 Sara Hamson in the post. Hamson had four blocked shots in the first-round win against Auburn but just one Monday.
The Cardinal began 5 for 19 to 5 of 15 by BYU, with Stanford freshman Lacie Hull finishing the night 0 for 8 and missing all seven from deep. Twin sister Lexie started 0 of 4 before a baseline 3 at the 7:26 mark of the third. Williams connected from deep at 6:34.
"It wasn't a beautiful offensive game for us, in any instance we found a way to win," Carrington said.
Smith missed her first five 3-point tries before connecting from the baseline with 2:22 left in the third and finished with three 3s.
BYU coach Jeff Judkins was proud of his team's "fight" and considered an eight-minute stretch in the third the difference in the game.
"It's just a start for us. We're going to continue to get better," Judkins said. "Our team grew in so many different ways to make us a better team for the next few years."
Carrington took a hard, face-first fall when tripped by Gonzales driving to the basket with 5:05 left in the first half but was fine.
The teams had played just once in the past 27 seasons, a 55-52 BYU victory on Nov. 13, 2006, in the preseason Women's NIT at Maples.
COFFEE'S SPECIAL MOMENT
Stanford senior Shannon Coffee, a reserve center, used her sign language skills — she just completed her fifth quarter of courses — to sign the national anthem before her final home game.
Her proud teacher was in the stands wearing a pin featuring Coffee's photo.
Coffee hit a late 3 from the top of the arc as fans chanted "Coffee! Coffee!" She finished with five points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.
BYU: BYU reached the second round for the fourth time in program history. The Cougars dropped to 6-13 in the NCAA Tournament overall. ... BYU had won its previous nine games, including an upset of Gonzaga in the WCC tournament final.
Stanford: Stanford reached 30 wins for the 15th time in program history and first since reaching the Final Four two years ago. ... The Cardinal won their 18th straight NCAA game on their home court, improving to 38-4 all-time in tournament games at Maples Pavilion. Stanford's last home defeat in the NCAA Tournament was 68-61 to Florida State in the second round of the 2007 tournament — also the last time the Cardinal didn't advance past the second round.