LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Rallying from a 16-point second-half deficit, second-seeded Stanford upset No. 1 seed Notre Dame 76-75 in the final of the Lexington Regional.
Stanford'a Alanna Smith hit a shot with 23 seconds remaining, her second field goal of the final minute, to put the Cardinal in front. Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen then missed a tough shot in the lane that was altered by Smith with four seconds left.
After a series of timeouts, Arike Ogunbowale's attempt to win the game for Notre Dame was blocked by Erica McCall.
After a two-year absence, Stanford reaches the Final Four for the 13th time in program history.
This was the third consecutive season in which one of these teams ended the season of the other. Stanford was victorious in the same arena a year ago in the Sweet 16.
Player of the game: Stanford's Brittany McPhee. That this could be anyone but Notre Dame's Ogunbowale would have seemed impossible at halftime. But after Ogunbowale put on a show with 21 first-half points, McPhee led the charge as Stanford gradually chipped away at its deficit. She finished the game with 27 points, scoring in traffic in the lane and hitting five of her nine 3-point attempts. She also had five rebounds and four assists and put in her time defensively against Ogunbowale in the second half.
Turning point: Stanford was on the wrong end of an 18-0 run in the second quarter that appeared to break open the game for the Fighting Irish. The Cardinal gave up the first basket of the second half and settled into a stretch of trading baskets. But while it was largely without fireworks, a methodical 12-3 run of their own in the middle of the third quarter pulled the game back into reach. McPhee scored six points in the run on a pair of 3-pointers. That set the stage for the fourth quarter thriller.
X factor: Stanford's Smith. The Australian sophomore was part of the mini-run in the third quarter, and she was there in the final 90 seconds, too. Her development over the course of this season gave Stanford the extra asset it needed on both ends of the court to return to the Final Four. And she provided the extra effort in this game that clinched the berth.
Stat of the game: 12-for-26 on 3-pointers. That's what Stanford shot in this game. A year ago, the Cardinal shot 11-of-20 from the 3-point line to eliminate Notre Dame. Something about Rupp Arena, which Stanford has nicknamed "The Bird's Nest" after Erica "Bird" McCall, agrees with these shooters.
Road warriors: A team that hasn't been home in more than a week is happy to have one more stop on its travel itinerary. Its venue unavailable, Stanford was the only top-four seed that didn't play at home in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. It then traveled directly from Manhattan, Kansas, to Lexington, Kentucky, leaving many players to take exams on the road. Now it's on to Dallas. We'll wait to see if they get time at home to do laundry first.
What's next: It's on to Dallas and the Final Four. There the Cardinal will face the winner of Monday's regional final between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 3 Florida State.