The University of Georgia women’s basketball team’s extended stay in Spokane will continue to Monday.
And defense is the reason why the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight.
Fourth-seeded Georgia clamped down, especially in the second half, rallying past top-seeded Stanford Cardinal 61-59 Saturday in the NCAA tournament Spokane Regional semifinals at the Arena.
The Bulldogs (28-6) will seek a sixth trip to the Final Four on Monday night when they face second-seeded California. Tipoff is at 6:30.
Stanford’s ultra-talented 6-foot-4 junior post Chiney Ogwumike scored a game-high 26 points. But the Bulldogs limited her to eight in the final 20 minutes including just four points and four shots in the final 13:39.
Georgia coach Andy Landers said he made a correction at halftime. Instead of trying to defend Ogwumike one-on-one with 6-2 forward Jasmine Hassell, the Bulldogs started sending 6-3 Anne Marie Armstrong to double.
“Chiney is a very good player but I won’t even take credit for stopping her on my own,” Hassell said. “I really give credit to Anne Marie for helping me and the guards putting pressure on the passer.”
Hassell, who had just four points in the first half, scored nine in the second with three big baskets coming in the final 8:25 as the Bulldogs rallied from a nine-point deficit.
Trailing 60-56 with 4:23 to go, Georgia used a 10-5 surge to take the lead at 56-55 when Hassell got a put-back with 1:44 remaining. Then Hassell’s tough bank shot inside gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 58-56 with 1:04 to go.
Jasmine James made two free throws with 23 seconds left to extend Georgia’s lead to 60-56.
Stanford (33-3) pulled within 60-59 when Joslyn Tinkle stepped back for a 3-pointer from 21 feet with 5.3 seconds to go.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Armstrong hurled a long pass and a sprinting James tracked it down. Shacobia Barbee was fouled with eight-tenths of a second remaining and she made one foul shot for the final margin.
“We were never able to really get in a rhythm with our offense,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “They disrupted things. We had our chances and we didn’t make some plays down the stretch.”
Georgia coach Andy Landers said the game played out like he envisioned.
“It was a hard-fought game that, for the most part, was carried by the defense of both teams,” he said. “The thing that’s so good about the comeback and going ahead is each one of those five players did something that was really significant.”
Georgia survived three significant scoring droughts, beginning with the first few minutes of the game when the Bulldogs missed their first 10 shots and fell behind 9-0.
“We have scoring droughts in every game,” Landers said. “We have not been a basketball team that comes out and just drills you offensively. The great thing about it is we’re really good defensively and we rarely have droughts. So if we can just hang in there until somebody hits a shot, we’re going to be OK.”
Both teams struggled from the floor. Georgia made 22 of 63 shots while Stanford made 25 of 66.
James led Georgia with 16 points and five assists and Tiaria Griffin matched Hassell’s 13 points while Barbee had nine and a team-high 12 rebounds.
Ogwumike, who made 12 of 15 from the floor, had 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Amber Orrange, who connected on just 7 of 24 attempts, had 17 points.
“Their athleticism, their physicality, bothered us offensively,” VanDerveer said.