CHICAGO — The Missouri State Lady Bears’ Cinderella run ended in the Sweet 16 after a 55-46 loss to the Stanford Cardinal.
“We’re disappointed that we don’t get to keep on playing and the journey doesn’t get to continue with this group,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “It’s been an exciting run. It’s been a lot of fun.
“I’m really proud of our players going out and competing and giving it their all and not backing down. It’s been an exciting time; I’m really proud of this team.”
It was clear from the beginning that Stanford was the dominant team. The Cardinal controlled the ball well, charging into the paint and then slipping the ball back out to the corner for a 3-point shot worked for them, but shots weren’t sinking.
The Cardinal shot 1-17 from behind the arc in the first half. In the first quarter alone, they shot 1-8.
Stanford led 16-10 after the first quarter, seven of which came from the line.
The Lady Bears calmed down in the second quarter. They seemed more composed and moved the ball well. Shots weren’t sinking for them, either. Almost five minutes passed during the second quarter without a field goal from either team.
The Lady Bears shot 24.2 percent and trailed 28-19 going into the locker room. This was the 11th time this season Missouri State trailed at halftime. They are 2-9 now when trailing at half.
A lot of scoring started the third quarter. Senior Danielle Gitzen scored Missouri State’s first six points to which many Stanford players responded with points of their own.
Gitzen ended with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Missouri State scored a game-high 16 points in the quarter — it was the only quarter the Lady Bears outscored Stanford.
Missouri State managed to get within four points or less four times in the third quarter, but big shots from Stanford prevented Missouri State from taking a lead. The Cardinal took a 43-35 lead into the final quarter.
They started scoring off right away while Missouri State struggled. Stanford jumped out to a 13-point lead before Missouri State started scoring again.
The Lady Bears were able to close it within five with just over two minutes to go, but the damage had been done.
No. 2 Stanford defeated No. 11 Missouri State 55-46 in the Sweet 16 of the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
For Gitzen, the only senior on the team, it was a day full of emotions.
“At the end of the day, I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything,” Gitzen said. “I’ve met so many amazing people on this journey, made so many memories, and Missouri State fans — and the community as a whole has been the most supportive towards me. It’s definitely been a mix of emotions.
Jasmine Franklin, the all-Freshman Team honoree for Missouri State, ended the season with her sixth double-double. She scored 11 points and snagged 11 rebounds.
“Our team can hang — even though we’re the underdogs, we can still keep going,” Franklin said. “I think these next few years will definitely be great.”
In its 50th season, the Lady Bears program is now 16-15 in the NCAA Tournament after two wins in the first two rounds of the 2019 tournament.
“I think we kind of put Missouri State on the map,” Gitzen said. “You’re going to want to watch the Lady Bears the next couple years because it’s going to be a good team.”