MANHATTAN, Kan. -- New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh knows West Coast women's basketball well. He was a very successful high school coach in California, going 354-45 in his career at Brea Olinda. Then he coached at Pepperdine from 1993 to 2004, and at Southern Cal from 2004 to 2009. During that time, he was watching Stanford's success or coaching against it.
Saturday, far from the West Coast, here in the Heartland, Trakh nearly pulled off a major upset against the Cardinal. However, Stanford was able to rally in the fourth quarter and win 72-64.
For the second day in a row, a No. 15 seed almost won an NCAA tournament game, something that has never happened before on the women's side. Friday, Long Beach State fell a point short at Oregon State.
Saturday, it was New Mexico State's turn to scare a Pac-12 team. The Aggies led by three at the end of the first quarter, by seven at halftime, and by one after the third quarter. But Stanford's inside game finally took over in the final quarter, helping the Cardinal avoid the upset.
Stanford is the only seed among the top 16 that is not hosting early-round games; the Pac-12 gymnastics championships were at Maples Pavilion on Saturday, which meant that No. 7 seed Kansas State got to host.
New Mexico State was perfect in Western Athletic Conference play, won the WAC tournament title and had a 17-game winning streak entering NCAA tournament play.
Player of the game: Her team didn't win, but New Mexico State's Brooke Salas did everything she could. The sophomore guard finished with 26 points, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
Turning point: Guard Brittany McPhee converted a 3-point play with less than 7 minutes in the final quarter, giving Stanford a 58-54 lead. About a minute later, forward Erica McCall also got a 3-point play. Those six points gave Stanford some breathing room, putting them up 61-56, and seemed to change the momentum.
How it was won: Stanford's big women came through when they needed it most. Forwards McCall and Alanna Smith combined for 28 points and 23 rebounds. And guard Karlie Samuelson also made some very big shots, going 5-for-9 from 3-point range.
X factor: As in the Pac-12 tournament title game victory over Oregon State, Stanford sophomore Smith was a lifesaver. She came off the bench for 19 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 8-for-12 from the field. In the Pac-12 final, she had 18 points off the bench.
Stat of the game: New Mexico State shot 56 percent in the first half but finished the game at 42.3 percent as Stanford's defense became more effective. The Aggies shot just 18.8 percent (3-for-16) in the third quarter.
What's next: Stanford faces the winner of No. 7 Kansas State vs. No. 10 Drake; it will be a true road game for the Cardinal if the Wildcats win. New Mexico finishes the season 24-7.