By Kathleen Cohen
Chicago, IL — The Missouri State Lady Bears (25-10) went into the Sweet 16 as underdogs, seeded at number 11; but they put up a fight to make their case as the Cinderella story of the tournament. Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale ending Saturday night as they faced off against the #2 seed, Stanford (31-4). The Cardinal took home a win with a final score of 55-46.
“We’re disappointed that we don’t get to keep on playing and the journey doesn’t get to continue with this group,” stated Missouri State head coach Kellie Harper. “It’s been an exciting run. It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously Stanford is a really tough team. We knew that coming in. But I’m proud of our players going out and competing and giving it their all and not backing down. It’s been an exciting time, and I’m really proud of them.”
This was the last game for Missouri State senior Danielle Gitzen, who finished with 14 points and eight boards for the Lady Bears. She said it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride, but at the end of the day, she’s proud of her team.
“I mean, obviously it sucks we lost. We definitely wanted to keep going, but at the end of the day, I’m honored to have put on the Lady Bear jersey and represent Missouri State University these past four years,” Gitzen said.
Stanford’s star senior, Australia-born Alanna Smith, has been averaging close to a double double, with 19.8 points along with 8.7 rebounds. In addition, 13 points and six rebounds and cashed in from the line, going 7-for-10. She would also get help from teammate Anna Wilson, who contributed with 11 points.
But as a team, Stanford had trouble shooting Saturday. Stanford shot a season-low 25 percent shooting in what would be one of their worst offensive performances of the season. However, the defense and length of the Cardinal held Missouri State to just 16-for-63 shooting, which was also a season low for the last double-digit seed left in March.
“We struggled shooting the basketball,” stated Stanford’s head coach Tara VanDerveer. “But I think if you [put] that aside, we rebounded well. We defended well. People were into it the whole game. We didn’t have meltdowns or — I thought we did really a lot to get us ready.”
With the win, the Cardinal will now advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in four years. They will go toe-to-toe against top-seeded Notre Dame at Wintrust Arena at 8 p.m CT.
Already looking to Monday’s game, coach VanDerveer is ready for the challenges her team will face against the Fighting Irish.
“They have an outstanding team. I mean, they’re basically — everyone is back that won a National Championship, and then they add Brianna Turner to the mix, and they’re playing kind of in their backyard. So we know it’ll be a big challenge, but I have a lot of confidence in our team, and we know we’ll have to play better and I know we can and they know we can, too…. it’s going to be fun.”