NCAA Womens Basketball

Georgia women rally to beat Stanford 61-59

by The Associated Press

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Georgia's Jasmine James celebrates in the final moments against Stanford in a regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament on Saturday in Spokane, Wash. Georgia won 61-59. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Andy Landers looked down at the stat sheet on the table in front of him. The numbers were almost exactly what the longtime Georgia coach anticipated.

Yes, even the final score: Georgia 61, Stanford 59.

Jasmine Hassell scored six of her 13 points in the final 3 minutes and fourth-seeded Georgia beat top-seeded Stanford 61-59 on Saturday night to reach the NCAA women's regional finals for the first time since 2004.

Georgia overcame three major scoring droughts, including falling behind 9-0, to oust the No. 1 seed from the Spokane Regional and end Stanford's hopes of reaching the Final Four for the sixth straight year.

Jasmine James led Georgia (28-6) with 16 points, including a pair of free throws with 23.5 seconds left that gave the Lady Bulldogs a 60-56 lead. It's the 11th trip to the regional finals in Landers long tenure at Georgia.

"As we came down the stretch, our players, I think figured out that they could make some plays and really did a nice job," Landers said. "I think the thing that's so good about the comeback and going ahead is that each one of those five players did something that was really significant as we did that. And they did something really significant on each end of the floor."

Chiney Ogwumike led Stanford (33-3) with 26 points, but was held to eight points in the second half. She also had 12 rebounds.

Tiaria Griffin scored 13 points, and Shacobia Barbee added nine as the Lady Bulldogs turned in another superb defensive effort to stymie Stanford and ruin any hopes of a Pac-12 showdown with No. 2 seed California in the regional final.

Georgia will play for a trip to the Final Four on Monday night against the second-seeded Golden Bears. Georgia has not made the Final Four since 1999. Georgia reached the round of 16 in 2005-07 and 2010-11, only to get ousted at that stage each time, including a 73-36 loss to Stanford in 2010.

Saturday night wasn't so much about getting even with the Cardinal, as it was about getting Georgia back to where it believes they belong.

"To finally make the next step and go to the Elite 8 and now to be going into another game to try to compete to go to the Final Four is definitely back to where Georgia basketball needs to be, trying to compete for a national championship," James said.

Whether it was the scoring droughts or the trouble slowing down Ogwumike in the first half, there was plenty of evidence that made Georgia's late rally hard to fathom. Georgia overcame a 5-minute scoreless drought to start the game, another 5 minutes with just two free throws late in the first half and another 7-minute lapse in the second half with just one basket that allowed Stanford to build a 42-34 lead with 11:50 remaining.

Still, the Lady Bulldogs were hanging around because Stanford made just 3 of 20 shots to start the second half. After Ogwumike scored 18 in the first half, Georgia made an adjustment to force more help on the Stanford star. It worked because Ogwumike's supporting cast struggled.

Amber Orrange added 17 points for Stanford, but was only 7 of 24 from the field. The Cardinal shot 29 percent in the second half and struggled to find open looks for Ogwumike. Second-leading scorer Joslyn Tinkle struggled with foul trouble in the first half and went more than 35 minutes of game time without scoring. She finished with five points.

"I think the reason that I'm not going ballistic right now is like we're 33-3," Ogwumike said. "That was a huge achievement for our program."

Then it was time for Hassell to show up in the final 8 minutes. Her basket pulled the Lady Bulldogs even at 42, and the lead went back and forth with neither team leading by more than four points. Orrange dropped in a 16-footer for a 50-46 Stanford lead with 4:22 remaining, before Georgia's closing surge.

Barbee converted a three-point play and after Ogwumike followed Orrange's miss with a basket, Anne Marie Armstrong knocked down a 3-pointer for a 52-all tie. Orrange hit a 3, but Hassell hit consecutive shots and Georgia was back in front 56-55 with 1:45 left.

Mikaela Ruef missed in close twice and was fouled on the third attempt with 1:21 left. Ruef, a 53 percent free throw shooter on the season, split the pair for the fifth tie of the game, but Hassell answered right away for Georgia for a 58-56 lead with 1:02 left. Tinkle then lost control of a pass underneath. Georgia ran the clock before Griffin missed a 3. Barbee got the offensive rebound and James was fouled with 23.5 seconds left. She hit the pair for a four-point lead.

Stanford struggled to get a good look, but Tinkle finally hit a 3 with 5.1 seconds left. Georgia threw long to James on the inbound pass and the Lady Bulldogs were able to run off all but the final 0.8 seconds before Barbee was fouled. She split her free throws for the final margin and Georgia ran off the floor celebrating the upset.

"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," Landers said. "That's what I think happened tonight."



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