Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Notre Dame, Stanford in new key meeting

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Notre Dame and Stanford aren't looking at tonight's game as a rematch, even though they're meeting in an NCAA women's region semifinal for the second straight season.

Both teams say their rosters have changed since their last matchup, making it hard to read too much into Notre Dame's 81-60 victory in a 2015 region semifinal.

"I think we're both kind of two different teams," Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen said.

The winner faces either No. 3 seed Kentucky or No. 7 seed Washington on Sunday with a Final Four bid at stake. The top-seeded Fighting Irish are seeking their sixth straight Final Four appearance, while No. 4 seed Stanford is seeking its 13th overall Final Four berth.

The Cardinal players aren't talking much about avenging last season's loss.

"We really don't think about revenge," Stanford forward Erica McCall said. "We're thinking it's a completely different game with two different teams, two different game plans."

Stanford's plan should start with trying to contain Allen, who scored a career-high 28 against the Cardinal last season.

Notre Dame's first two tournament games have shown the many different ways Allen can help the Irish win. In a first-round blowout of North Carolina A&T, Allen didn't take a shot but had 10 assists. She followed that up with 22 points, seven assists and a career-high five steals against Indiana.

"I think the thing that makes her the best point guard in the country is she takes advantage of what the defense gives her, and she does whatever we need her to do on that particular day," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.

Notre Dame's status as the No. 1 seed puts the Cardinal in an unfamiliar underdog role. Stanford's players are embracing that approach.

Sanford coach VanDerveer noted that her team feels as if it's playing with "house money" after needing Lili Thompson's three-point play with 8.2 seconds left to escape with a 66-65 second-round victory over South Dakota State.

"Some (of us) call ourselves the 'party crashers,' the team that's just going to come in there and crash the party," McCall said. "It's a lot of fun sometimes being the underdog because you don't have as much pressure on you."

KENTUCKY: Guard Makayla Epps is not letting a little shoulder pain stop her from trying to give the Wildcats the happiest of homecomings. Epps briefly left a second-round victory Monday over Oklahoma with a sprained right shoulder. She expects to play tonight when the third-seeded Wildcats face No. 7 seed Washington in a Lexington Region semifinal at Rupp Arena, near Kentucky's campus. "Of course I still have a little pain and soreness, but that's expected," Epps said. It's "nothing that's going to hinder me from playing."

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