Stanford survives second-half Maryland comeback, punches ticket to Elite Eight

March 26, 2022, 3:36 p.m.

In a tournament named for its maddening upsets and unpredictable last-minute finishes, all a top-seeded team can hope for is a stress-free victory over its lower-seeded opponent. The further a team advances in the bracket, the harder these blowout wins are to achieve.

On Friday night, No. 1 seed Stanford (31-3, 16-0 Pac-12) had a chance for a blowout win over No. 4 seed Maryland (23-9, 13-4 Big Ten) in the Sweet 16. With under two minutes left in the third quarter, the Cardinal led by 26 points.

But it is March, and Maryland, on the brink of elimination, would not go down without a fight.

As the Cardinal dealt with foul trouble and an offensive slump, the Terrapins outscored them by 20 points in the final 11 minutes of the game. Ultimately, time ran out on Maryland’s comeback, and Stanford won 72-66.

“We had three very good quarters,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer after the game. “I’m glad the game is only four quarters.”

Coming into Friday’s contest, Maryland boasted the sixth-highest scoring offense in the country, and all five starters averaged double-digits. In its first two rounds of the tournament, the team scored 95.5 points per game.

Against Stanford, the Terrapins could not kickstart their offense. In the first half, the team made eight field goals and scored just 23 points. 

“We were communicating, we were closing out on their shooters, we weren’t giving them their first option,” said junior guard Haley Jones of Stanford’s defensive effort. “Usually, they get shots pretty quickly on offense, but I think we made them look for those second, third options.”

Sixth year guard Anna Wilson, a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection, was integral to Stanford’s strong defensive performance. She was tasked with defending Maryland guard Katie Benzan, who averages 10.2 points per game, and she held her scoreless.

“[Wilson] had a fabulous defensive game,” VanDerveer said. “For Katie Benzan not to score a point, that’s lockdown defense.”

Offensively for the Cardinal, Jones and sophomore forward Cameron Brink matched Maryland’s production on their own, recording nine field goals and 23 points in the first half.

Not known for her 3-point shooting, Pac-12 Player of the Year Jones made a statement in the opening minutes by knocking down back-to-back triples. 

Jones’ scores gave the Cardinal an early lead, and eight minutes into the game, the team had opened a 10-point advantage. For the remainder of the game, Stanford would extend and protect this lead.

Later in the first quarter, junior forward Fran Belibi brought the Spokane Arena crowd to its feet with a play reminiscent of her dunk against Montana State in the first round last Friday. On a hard close-out, Belibi blocked Maryland forward Chloe Bibby’s 3-point attempt and was off on a fast break. Picking up the ball at the free throw line, Belibi wound up for a dunk but settled for a smooth layup from above the rim.

Belibi’s finish ignited a Stanford scoring run that persisted throughout the second quarter. Entering halftime, the Cardinal led 39-23.

The third quarter saw Stanford continue to bottle up Maryland’s offense and build on its advantage. When senior guard Lexie Hull knocked down a jump shot with 3:07 left in the period, the Cardinal had their first 20-point lead of the game.

But a casualty of Stanford’s aggressive defense during its dominant third quarter was foul trouble. Brink recorded her third personal foul around the eight-minute mark and would not return until the fourth. Senior guard Lacie Hull similarly picked up her third foul with seven minutes left in the period and would sit out the rest.

It was during Brink and Lacie Hull’s absence that Maryland’s comeback began. After going down 26 points late in the third quarter, the Terrapins went on a 10-0 run to make the score 59-43. 

Sharpshooting junior guard Hannah Jump ended Maryland’s scoring run with a 3-pointer, but the Terrapins weren’t done just yet.

Playing with a sense of urgency, Maryland continued to cut into Stanford’s lead bit by bit for the rest of the game. Brink, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, fouling out with 4:10 left in the game only encouraged Maryland’s offensive onslaught. 

When the dust settled, Maryland outscored Stanford 30-13 in the fourth quarter but could not overcome the deficit from the third. 

“They’re not a team that’s going to give up. They got hot, and we weren’t hitting shots on the other end,” Jones said. “I think we have a lot to work on going into Sunday’s game, just with closing out games.”

VanDerveer was grateful her team was able to pull out the win despite the fourth quarter breakdown.

“I think we can do better,” VanDerveer said. “I’m glad we’re able to play and have another game to show how much we’ve improved,” she continued later.

Playing in front of her friends and family in her hometown of Spokane, Wash., Lexie Hull led Stanford in scoring with 19 points. Jones left her mark all over the stat sheet with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. 

Dealing with foul trouble, as well as a minor injury in the second quarter, Brink played just 19 minutes against the Terrapins. When she was on the floor, the sophomore forward was nothing short of dominant, logging 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, eight rebounds and five blocks.

Next up for Stanford is a date with the No. 2 seed in the Spokane region, Texas (29-6, 13-5 Big 12) Sunday. On Friday, the Longhorns survived a nail-biter against No. 6 seed Ohio State (25-7, 14-4 Big Ten) to win 66-63 and advance to the Elite Eight.

Stanford suffered its first loss of the season to Texas on Nov. 14 at Maples Pavilion. In that game, the Longhorns exploited Stanford’s early-season point guard weakness with a full-court press to win 61-56.

Stanford will have its chance to get its revenge against Texas Sunday night, with tip-off scheduled for 6:00 p.m. PT at Spokane Arena.

Gavin McDonell is a former managing editor of the sports section. He is a junior from San Francisco, California who is studying Economics and Mathematics. His rooting interests include the San Francisco Giants, the Golden State Warriors, Max Homa and of course, the Stanford Cardinal. Contact him at gmcdonell 'at'

Login or create an account