STANFORD, Calif. – Sobbing as she received hugs from friends and administrators, Mississippi coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin tried to grasp the magnitude of her team’s stunning win against top-seeded Stanford when someone reminded her there’s more basketball to be played.
Her two young daughters danced on the floor.
Her proud father provided a shoutout to everybody back home in The Bahamas.
Her team posed and midcourt and shouted, “Seattle!” That’s where the Rebels are headed next.
Madison Scott hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left that gave Mississippi the lead for good, Angel Baker scored 13 points, and the Rebels delivered on their declaration to get defensive, stunning top-seeded Stanford 54-49 on Sunday night to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time in 16 years.
“This is such a big accomplishment. A lot of us came here to make history and that’s what we’re doing,” freshman Ayanna Thompson said.
Behind the entire game, Stanford called timeout with 28 seconds left then Hannah Jump turned the ball over and Scott converted. Haley Jones lost the ball out of bounds on the Cardinal’s last possession with a chance to tie then again in the waning moments.
Marquesha Davis hit a pair of free throws with 15.4 seconds to play as Ole Miss overcame not making a field goal over the final 5:47, going 0 for 8.
These upstart Rebels (25-8) advance to the Seattle Regional semifinal next weekend, while Tara VanDerveer’s Stanford team (29-6) is eliminated far earlier than this group envisioned – the season ending on the Cardinal’s home floor. Jones fought tears after her final game, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds but five turnovers.
Only four No. 1 seeds had lost before the Sweet 16 since 1994, with Duke the last one in 2009. Stanford did so once before, falling to 16th-seeded Harvard in the first round of the 1998 tournament.
The Cardinal had reached 14 straight Sweet 16s and hadn’t lost in the first or second rounds since No. 10 seed Florida State shocked the fifth-seeded Cardinal 68-61 at Maples Pavilion in the second round exactly 16 years ago to the day before on March 19, 2007.
Cameron Brink came back from a one-game absence because of a stomach bug to finish with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots, but Stanford never led and tried to come from behind all night. The program’s career blocks leader, she finished with 118 on the season and has 297 total.
Stanford had won 21 consecutive NCAA games on its home floor and is 41-5 all-time at Maples during March Madness.
Ole Miss led the entire first half on the way to a 29-20 lead at the break at raucous Maples Pavilion, where the crowd went wild when Brink blocked three straight shots in the same sequence by Rita Igbokwe midway through the second quarter. About two minutes later, Igbokwe grabbed at her mouth after being hit.
The Rebels got a scare when senior guard Myah Taylor went down hard grabbing at her chest with 6:41 left in the third after colliding with Francesca Belibi while moving to defend Indya Nivar. After a short break to catch her breath, Taylor was back running the point.
The fourth-best team in the Southeastern Conference and runner-up in the conference tournament to No. 1 South Carolina, Ole Miss has regularly faced bigger teams and physical tests.
The Rebels declared from Day 1 in the Bay Area they were ready to get defensive to make their mark on the NCAA Tournament. Stanford’s layups regularly rolled out. The Cardinal got called for repeated offensive fouls.
BIG PICTURE Ole Miss: Proud parents Gladstone and Daisy cheered on fifth-year coach McPhee-McCuin as her team reached the second round after last year’s first-round exit by South Dakota. Her daughters, 10-year-old Yasmine and Yuri, 5, rooted the team all the way, with Yasmine yelling, “That’s my mom!” when Ole Miss came out before tipoff. … The Rebels advanced to the Elite Eight in 2007. After grabbing 24 offensive rebounds in the win against Gonzaga, the Rebels crashed the boards again to create second chances with 20 more.
Stanford: The Cardinal also never led in the first half of 55-46 loss at USC on Jan. 15. … They had a 14-game home winning streak since a 76-71 overtime loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Nov. 20.