BERKELEY, Calif. -- No. 5 seed Texas Women's Basketball's depth shined and a second half-intensity helped edge No. 4 seed Cal, 73-70, on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion to secure a spot in the NCAA Championship 'Sweet 16' for the first time since 2004.
The Longhorns (24-10) scored 36 points off the bench to Cal's 12. Four Texas players scored in double-digits and all but two Longhorns contributed points in the victory. The team never seceded the lead in the second behind 73-percent shooting from the free throw line.
Junior Imani McGee-Stafford led Texas with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds—notching her fourth consecutive double-double. Sophomore Brooke McCarty scored 16 points with two steals in 17 minutes, accounting for all seven of UT's final points in the last 31 seconds.
Sophomore Kelsey Lang helped UT down the final stretch with her 14 points and six rebounds, as did junior Empress Davenport with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes played.
Cal (24-10) jumped out to an early eight-point lead with the help of three early 3-pointers, but a full Texas team effort sparked a 7-0 run that cut the lead to only one with 13:13 on the clock in th first half. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half with two tied scores in the last nine minutes. In the final two minutes, four points from Lang helped tie the score to send the teams into the locker room tied, 27-27.
Texas came out of halftime with a fierce intensity and went on a 12-0 run while forcing seven Cal turnovers to put Texas up, 39-27.
Cal's Brittany Boyd helped the Lady Bears make a comeback with 17 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Her second half dominance, paired with Mercedes Jefflo's 22 points, allowed Cal to close the gap to three points on three different occasions.
Junior Brady Sanders added seven assists on the night, including one to Lang at the 1:04 mark that put Texas up by six.
In the remaining minutes of regulation, the intensity and urgency kicked up, and the Longhorns committed two back-to-back turnovers that the Lady Bears converted to points to close in on Texas, 64-60. Texas was able to sustain its lead and continue their journey.
The Longhorns advance to Albany, New York, to face the winner of UConn and Rutgers on Saturday, March 28.
• TEXAS-CAL SERIES: Texas now leads the all-time series, 5-2 after meeting California in NCAA Championship competition for the first time. Sunday also marked UT's first win road over Cal in series history.
• STARTERS: For the second consecutive game, Texas started junior guard Celina Rodrigo, junior guardBrady Sanders, junior guard Empress Davenport, sophomore guard Brianna Taylor, and junior centerImani McGee-Stafford. Texas is 2-0 when this lineup starts.
• TIED AT HALF: Texas and Cal played to a 27-27 tie at halftime. It is the third consecutive NCAA Championship game Texas and its opponent have been tied at halftime (3/25/14 at Maryland; 3/20/15 vs. WKU; 3/22/15 at Cal). The last non-NCAA Championship game involving Texas to be tied at halftime was in 2011 (3/2/11 at Texas Tech).
• NCAA TOURNAMENT W-L RECORDS: In the NCAA Championship, Texas is now 35-26 overall, 12-7 in the round of 32, 5-2 as a No. 5 seed, and 3-1 under Head Coach Karen Aston. The No. 5 seed is the third-winningest seed for UT (5-2), only trailing its success as a No. 1 seed (13-4) and a No. 2 seed (10-4).
• ROAD UNDERDOGS: No. 5-seed Texas notched just its third win as a lower seed in the NCAA Championship with its win over No. 5 seed Cal on Sunday (3-13). It is also the Longhorns first road win in NCAA postseason play (1-6).
UT's previous wins as a lower seed:
1990 Regional Semifinal - No. 3 defeating No. 2 NC State
2003 Regional Final - No. 2 defeating No. 1
• CALI HAS BEEN KIND: The Longhorns boast a perfect 4-0 record in the state of California this season, with wins over then-No. 6/1 Stanford (Nov 20), UCLA (Nov. 23), WKU (March 20), and No. 24/rv California (March 22).
• POINTS IN THE PAINT: The Longhorns muscled their way to a 46-18 scoring advantage in the paint on Sunday. It is the fifth time this season Texas has scored 48 or more points in the paint, including the second consecutive after also posting 48 against WKU on Friday.
• WEATHERING 3-POINTERS: Texas made one 3-pointer, while Cal made 11 3-pointers on Sunday. In the last two games, Texas has made just two treys, and given up 23.
• TURNOVERS: Texas forced 20 Cal turnovers, marking the fifth time this season Texas has forced 20+ turnovers (UTSA 28, New Mexico 28, Southern 21, Northwestern State 24).
• SECOND HALF SHOOTERS: Texas shot 50 percent (18-36 FG) in the second half against Cal. In two NCAA Championship games, the Longhorns are shooting 50.7 percent from the field (34-67 FG).
Imani McGee-Stafford (Junior, C)
• Recorded her fourth consecutive double-double, scoring 20 points (7-10 FG, 6-8 FT) with 11 rebounds in 31 minutes.
• Second consecutive 20-point -- third of the season and 10th of her career.
• Totals 79 points (15.8 ppg) and 55 rebounds (11.0 rpg) in five postseason games this season, including 44 points (22.0 ppg) and 26 rebounds (13.0 rebounds) in two NCAA Championship games.
Empress Davenport (Junior, G)
• Scored 11 points (7-10 FG, 3-4 FT) with two steals, five assists, and seven turnovers in 31 minutes.
Brooke McCarty (Freshman, G)
• Scored 16 points (5-7 FG, 5-6 FT) with two steals in just 17 minutes.
• After posting just four points in three games in the Big 12 Championship in Dallas, McCarty is averaging 13.0 points on 60-percent shooting in the NCAA Championship.
Brady Sanders (Junior, G)
• Tied a career-high seven assists for the second time, also occurring at Oklahoma this season.
• Her seven assists was paired with no turnovers in 35 minutes.
• Sanders leads the team in assists (3.2 apg).
Kelsey Lang (Sophomore, C)
• Scored 14 points (6-9 FG, 2-2 FT) with six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 34 minutes off the bench.