TEMPE, Ariz. – A glimmer of hope wasn’t enough to keep Missouri around for a second day of play.
An early departure probably isn’t what No. 11 seed Missouri women’s basketball team wanted, but No. 6 seed Stanford didn’t give the Tigers much choice, winning 68-44 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in Wells Fargo Arena.
Ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, Stanford (25-6) is the Pac-10 Conference regular-season champion and tournament champion. The Cardinal rallied behind senior forward Nicole Powell, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, who led Stanford with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Stanford jumped out to a 5-0 led, but Missouri forward Evan Unrau responded, making a layup and drawing a foul. After making the free throw Unrau showed signs that it was going to be the Tigers night when she made a 3-pointer the next trip down the floor. Senior guard MyEsha Perkins added another 3-pointer to tie the game at 9, and senior forward Stretch James made a layup to give the Tigers the lead.
James carried Missouri with 20 points and six rebounds. James made 4-of-6 shots in the first half, while the rest of the Tigers combined for 6-of-22 shots.
“We had a lot of good looks,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “They just weren’t dropping; we got frustrated then.
Missouri (17-13) kept it close for much of the first half getting to within one before Stanford extended its lead with a 10-2 run in 4:45 to make it 26-17.
Powell extended the Cardinal’s lead again, scoring seven of her 14 first-half points in the final 5:52 minutes to take a 35-24 lead into halftime.
Stanford took control of the game in the second half, opening with a 14-2 run and ending Missouri’s hopes of advancing to the second day of tournament play.
The Cardinal made 25-of-60 shots, including 7-of-18 3-pointers.
Despite early signs of hope, Missouri’s offense stalled during the second half. Stanford’s defense refused to allow Missouri to find a rhythm. Stanford stole the ball 11 times.
Missouri made 18-of-58 shots and couldn’t get an open shot in the second half.
James and Unrau combined for 30 of Missouri’s points.