Tuesday, April 13, 2021

N.C.A.A. Tournament Live: UConn, Stanford, South Carolina and N.C. State Roll Into Sweet 16


Paige Bueckers scored 20 points in an easy win over Syracuse.
Credit…Daniel Dunn/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Earlier Tuesday, Caitlin Clark and Iowa did their part. Paige Bueckers and top-seeded UConn came through in the nightcap with an 83-47 win over No. 8 seed Syracuse in a contest that was never in doubt.

Bueckers, a freshman, led the Huskies in scoring with 20 points as they played their second game without their Hall of Fame coach, Geno Auriemma, who was still away from the team after testing positive for the coronavirus. (His birthday was also Tuesday; he turned 67.)

UConn also did it without freshman point guard Nika Muhl, who injured her ankle in the first round win. The offense, paced by Bueckers, didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Bueckers, the Big East player of the year also rattled off four assists, five rebounds, and three steals, at times celebrating her passing like she would a shot from outside.

Bueckers only took one shot in the second half after the Huskies had established a comfortable lead.

“Paige has incredible court vision so she’s able to get those passes there first,” said UConn junior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa. “It was timely and just when it’s wide open so I give her a lot of credit, especially finding the open person.”

Syracuse shot a season-low 28 percent and made only three of its 15 3-point attempts. The 47 points was also a low for the season.

“Our communication was so good and the movement, we just made it really difficult for Syracuse to get good shots and really good looks,” said Chris Dailey, a UConn assistant coach.

UConn’s win set up a matchup with Clark and the Hawkeyes, a much-anticipated contest since the bracket was revealed eight days ago. Clark, a freshman who leads the nation in scoring, posted 35 points on Tuesday against Kentucky, the most a player has had in this tournament so far.

Bueckers has garnered more attention nationally as an elite freshman guiding a young UConn program. But Clark has carried Hawkeyes to their second consecutive Sweet 16 and clearly gives this round of 16 showdown star power on both sides.

Natasha Mack of Oklahoma State spent much of the night up against Cameron Brink of Stanford.
Credit…Stephen Spillman/Associated Press

Stanford will need the break before its Sweet 16 matchup after a physical face-off with No. 8 Oklahoma State. The No. 1 overall seed Cardinal were able to guard their lead for a 73-62 win, advancing to their 13th consecutive Sweet 16.

Oklahoma State didn’t get obliterated by the smooth slicing and dicing of the Stanford offense the way that Utah Valley did in the first round, and kept pushing the Cardinal up to the end — never letting the game fall out of reach even when a comeback looked impossible. A handsy defense and high energy helped the Cowgirls force some turnovers, and they shot well against the Cardinal, 41.1 percent.

The real battle was in the low post, where Stanford freshman Cameron Brink and Oklahoma State senior Natasha Mack — each 6-foot-4 — spent most of the game grappling for position. Mack accrued a very quiet double-double, but Brink’s five blocks had an even bigger impact.

Stanford led by as many as 20 late in the third quarter, but the Cowgirls still tightened the game up to a comparatively manageable 11-point deficit going into the game’s final period. The Cardinal’s hot shooting — they made 13 3-point shots in the first three quarters — tempered slightly, and Oklahoma State freshman Lexy Keys hit all but one of her shots to keep the Cowgirls in the game.

Oklahoma State stayed within striking distance through the fourth quarter but couldn’t close the gap down the stretch, delaying for at least another year the opportunity to compete in the program’s fourth ever round of 16.

No. 1 seed Connecticut routs No. 8 seed Syracuse, 83-47.

The Huskies advanced to their 27th straight Sweet 16. 

No. 1 seed Stanford beats No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, 73-62.

Stanford scored the majority of its points from 3-point range, making 13 of 25 shots.

Oklahoma State guard Neferatali Notoa (2) driving past Stanford forward Francesca Belibi (5) and guard Haley Jones (30) in the first half.
Credit…Stephen Spillman/Associated Press

Two top seeds, UConn and Stanford, are playing simultaneously on separate ESPN channels, ending a day when all four No. 1s played.

The decision to schedule them all on the same day was unusual but very deliberate: The N.C.A.A. and ESPN wanted to highlight the top teams at a time when there were no men’s teams competing for attention.

“It provided an opportunity to spotlight and tell the story of the No. 1 seeds,” Rick Nixon, a spokesman for the N.C.A.A., wrote in an email on Tuesday.

South Carolina and North Carolina State, the two other top seeds, won their second-round games on Tuesday.

The men’s tournament wrapped up its second round on Monday night and will not return until Saturday for the start of the Sweet 16.

The N.C.A.A. has not decided whether all four top seeds in the women’s tournament, assuming they all win on Tuesday, would again play on the same day in the round of 16, which is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Nika Muhl, who was hurt in the Huskies’ first round game against High Point, is watching her team from the sidelines in pants and a boot on her right foot as UConn takes an early lead over Syracuse.

South Carolina was not threatened by Oregon State in the second round.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Hard to believe these teams were 1 point apart after the first quarter.

Top-seeded South Carolina rolled after that as No. 8 seed Oregon State fell apart, turning the ball over 13 times and sending the Gamecocks repeatedly to the free throw line in a 59-42 rout.

But even with South Carolina’s exciting victory, the stadium itself was pretty silent — even in comparison to other games. Paying spectators are not invited until the round of 16, only a set number of invitees of the teams are permitted to watch in person. Seems like those guests were saving their voices for later rounds.

Anna Wilson hit two 3-pointers to open scoring for No. 1 seed Stanford in their second-round matchup with No. 8 seed Oklahoma State. Watching from the stands was her brother, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

No. 2 seed Baylor had no problem running past No. 7 seed Virginia Tech, 90-48, behind 21-point games apiece from Moon Ursin and Dijonai Carrington. The Bears also outrebounded the Hokies 53-23, while blocking 13 shots to 0 and leading the entire game.

No. 2 seed Baylor easily defeats No. 7 seed Virginia Tech, 90-48.

Baylor shot 50 percent, and held Virginia Tech to single digits in two quarters.

No. 1 seed South Carolina rolls over No. 8 seed Oregon State, 59-42.

The Gamecocks had three players score in double-figures, led by Aliyah Boston with 19 points.

No. 2 seed Baylor is cruising against No. 7 seed Virginia Tech, 40-22, at halftime. The Bears are led by 13 points from Dijonai Carrington and have held the Hokies to 26 percent shooting. NaLyssa Smith, in foul trouble, has only played seven minutes.

Oregon State had six turnovers in the last seven minutes of the second quarter and made only one of its 10 shots; South Carolina had a 14-2 run. The No. 1 seed is ahead by 12 going into the second half.

Georgia Tech Coach Nell Fortner won Tuesday after complaining about disparities between men’s and women’s college basketball.
Credit…Ben Mckeown/Associated Press

On the same day that she excoriated the N.C.A.A. for its disparate treatment of the men’s and women’s tournaments, Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner led a team to the Sweet 16 for the first time in her storied career. Her fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets beat fourth-seeded West Virginia, 73-56.

Fortner has coached at every level of the women’s game for nearly four decades, and even led the United States to an Olympic gold medal in 2000. This is her 11th season as an N.C.A.A. head coach; her first trip to the tournament was in 1988 as an assistant coach with Stephen F. Austin.

Fortner had not coached since 2012, when she left her head coaching position at Auburn. Before she returned to the sidelines in 2019, Fortner was a staple of ESPN’s women’s basketball coverage as an analyst. On Twitter earlier Tuesday, she decried the differences between the men’s and women’s N.C.A.A. tournaments.

“These disparities are just a snapshot of larger, more pervasive issues when it comes to women’s sports and the N.C.A.A.,” Fortner wrote. “Shipping in a few racks of weights, after the fact, is not an answer. It’s a Band-Aid and an afterthought.”

The Yellow Jackets reached the Sweet 16 once before, under previous coach MaChelle Joseph in 2012.

No. 5 seed Georgia Tech beats No. 4 seed West Virginia, 73-56.

Lotta-Maj Lahtinen had 22 points and Lorela Cubaj had 21.

Top seeds are having a wake-up call today. Oregon State, a No. 8 seed, is down by a point after the first quarter while South Carolina ended an almost three-minute scoring drought with a layup by Destanni Henderson. It’s reminiscent of the first quarter N.C. State played against South Florida earlier in which the Wolfpack had a weak first half before running away.

Naz Hillmon had 19 points for Michigan in its win over Tennessee.
Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Wolverines are competing in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.

The milestone came via an upset of one of women’s college basketball’s most storied teams. No. 6 seed Michigan knocked off No. 3 seed Tennessee in the second round, and it wasn’t particularly close. The Wolverines led by double digits for much of the second half, allowing junior forward Naz Hillmon and her teammates to stuff the stat sheet with buckets that evoked gleeful yells from the bench. When the game went final, Michigan had won, 70-55.

“It’s great for people to be able to see that Michigan isn’t just a football school and a men’s basketball school, but a women’s basketball school as well,” Coach Kim Barnes Arico told reporters after the game.

Despite having the size and experience advantage, the Lady Volunteers went quietly in their 36th consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament appearance (that is, every single N.C.A.A. women’s tournament). Tennessee scored just 19 points in the first half. Even when its star duo, Rennia Davis and Rae Burrell, heated up slightly in the second half, the pair combined to make only six of their 14 shot attempts from the floor — not enough.

By comparison, the Wolverines’ shots were falling better, but they also forced the issue against Tennessee with 13 steals — five of which were made by junior guard Danielle Rauch — and 21 points off of Tennessee’s turnovers. Hillmon, the Big Ten Player of the Year, led her teammates with her 15th double-double of the season, as well as with her infectious energy. Into the final minute of the game, when the Lady Vols’ hope was all but lost, Hillmon was still huddling up with her teammates and helping them avoid crucial late game mistakes.

“This year I’ve gotten a lot of individual accolades and that’s always great,” Hillmon told reporters after the game, her voice breaking. “But to finally be recognized as a team is the best accolade I could get. I’m getting choked up, but this group is special.”

Barnes Arico, already the winningest women’s basketball coach in program history, has one previous Sweet 16 trip on her résumé: she led St. John’s to that program’s first Sweet 16 back in 2012. Now, she’ll get another chance to go even further.

No. 6 seed Michigan upends No. 3 seed Tennessee, 70-55.

The Wolverines reached the round of 16 for the first time.

No. 3 seed Tennessee trails No. 6 seed Michigan 28-19 at the half. In Michigan’s first tournament game, Leigha Brown had a career game with 28 points; now Wolverines forward Hailey Brown leads all players at the half with 11 points. They are not related.

Caitlin Clark was 4 points shy of a career high in Iowa’s win over Kentucky.
Credit…Ronald Cortes/Associated Press

Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes did their part by reaching the Sweet 16, and now wait to see if top-seeded UConn will meet them there.

Clark, the nation’s leading scorer, dominated with 35 points in No. 5 seed Iowa’s 86-72 rout of No. 4 seed Kentucky, a game that didn’t feel as close as the final score indicated.

“They didn’t have us in the field to start the season,” Clark said. “But this team just believed and believed in the coaches. The coaches believed in us and we just worked hard every single day, so that’s what we’re going to keep doing into the Sweet 16.”

As always seems to happen when she plays, Clark was peerless on the floor and at times outpaced Kentucky by herself. Clark’s performance was just 4 points shy of a career high and a tournament high for Iowa. She had six made 3-pointers, seven rebounds and six assists.

With 24 points at halftime, Clark had outscored Kentucky by herself in the first two periods (the Wildcats had 22 points by then).

“I was feeling my shot early there in the first half,” Clark said. “So when it’s going you just keep shooting it.”

Clark leads the country with 12 games in which she has scored at least 30 points. She also became the first player to reach 35 points in this tournament so far.

Clark’s career high was 39 points against Nebraska on Feb. 11.

Iowa’s win sets up a potential matchup with Clark’s rookie star counterpart, Paige Bueckers, and her top-seeded UConn, pending the results of their contest with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

“Going to the Sweet 16 is something special,” Clark said.

The Hawkeyes opened on an 11-0 run, its largest of the game, and never trailed. They led 23-11 after one quarter and scored an astounding 26 points in the second quarter.

The Wildcats managed 22 points in the second quarter on 22 percent shooting, the lowest point total for any Iowa opponent this season.

Even when the defense didn’t hold Kentucky down, Clark’s scoring pace was unstoppable. She didn’t let up even as Kentucky — behind 28 points from Rhyne Howard — attempted a comeback.

No. 5 seed Iowa tops No. 4 seed Kentucky, 86-72.

Caitlin Clark stole the show with 35 points, including six 3-pointers, and six assists.

Jada Boyd led North Carolina State in the third quarter, when the Wolfpack pulled away from South Florida.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

After a slow start, No. 1 seed North Carolina State once again dominated a lower-seeded opponent in the second half, earning its third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16.

The Wolfpack were down 1 to No. 8 seed South Florida at halftime on Tuesday, but eventually won 79-67. Their offense didn’t change much but their defense did, and the Wolfpack were able to hold the Bulls to just 28 percent shooting in the second half.

“It always takes a while to get used to the way certain teams play,” sophomore Jakia Brown-Turner said after the game. “I always tell my teammates, the first three minutes of the third quarter are the most important of the game.”

South Florida’s halftime lead at 36-35 came after it hit six 3-point shots in the first half. Three of those were made by sophomore Elena Tsineke, who has extensive experience representing Greece, her home country, in international play. She went cold in the second half, however, hitting just 1 of 6 3-pointers for a team that relied on them without an alternative when they weren’t hitting.

The driving force for N.C. State’s third quarter run, during which t led by as many as 14 points, was co-Atlantic Coast Conference Sixth Player of the Year Jada Boyd. She had 7 points and — more crucially — five rebounds in the period. Boyd typically comes off the bench, but in this matchup she started in place of senior forward Kayla Jones, who injured a knee in the team’s tournament debut.

“Rebounding is what wins championships,” North Carolina State coach Wes Moore told reporters after the game. “We have to defend and rebound if we want to stick around.”

Boyd finished with a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Five different N.C. State players finished with at least 10 points, a testament to their balance — which, so far in the tournament, has taken a couple of quarters of gameplay to really shine.

In the first round, the Wolfpack used a big third quarter to rout No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T, 79-58.

No. 1 seed North Carolina State beats No. 8 seed South Florida, 79-67.

N.C. State pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring South Florida 24-11.

Paying spectators are not permitted at games in San Antonio yet, so the Alamodome, where South Florida is besting N.C. State by a point at halftime, is oddly quiet for such a tight game. Each person within team travel parties can have up to six guests for now. The stands are completely empty behind the hoops; and the only side of the court with bleachers has about 30 invitees.

Caitlin Clark’s 11 first-quarter points has No. 5 seed Iowa ahead of No. 4 seed Kentucky, 23-11, at the end of one quarter. Clark is 4 for 7 from the field.

If South Florida keeps it up, N.C. State could be the first No. 1 seed knocked out of the tournament. The teams been jousting for the lead, settling with the Bulls up a point at halftime on a jumper by Cristina Bermejo. N.C. State’s Elissa Cunane missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left that could have flipped the lead. 36-35, South Florida.

South Florida is playing in the first game of the second round, facing North Carolina State.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

The tournament games will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU and can be streamed on the ESPN app. Here’s the schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday (all times Eastern):

  • 3 p.m. — No. 1 seed North Carolina State vs. No. 8 seed South Florida, ESPN2

  • 3:30 p.m. — No. 4 seed Kentucky vs. No. 5 seed Iowa, ESPNU

  • 5 p.m. — No. 3 seed Tennessee vs. No. 6 seed Michigan, ESPN2

  • 5:30 p.m. — No. 4 seed West Virginia vs. No. 5 seed Georgia Tech, ESPNU

  • 7 p.m. — No. 1 seed South Carolina vs. No. 8 seed Oregon State, ESPN

  • 7 p.m. — No. 2 seed Baylor vs. No. 7 seed Virginia Tech, ESPN2

  • 9 p.m. — No. 1 seed Connecticut vs. No. 8 seed Syracuse, ESPN

  • 9 p.m. — No. 1 seed Stanford vs. No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, ESPN2

  • 1 p.m. — No. 2 seed Maryland vs. No. 7 seed Alabama, ESPN2

  • 3 p.m. — No. 3 seed Georgia vs. No. 6 seed Oregon, ESPN2

  • 3 p.m. — No. 5 seed Missouri State vs. No. 13 seed Wright State, ESPNU

  • 5 p.m. — No. 2 seed Louisville vs. No. 7 seed Northwestern, ESPN 2

  • 5 p.m. — No. 4 seed Indiana vs. No. 12 seed Belmont, ESPNU

  • 7 p.m. — No. 2 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 7 seed Iowa State, ESPN2

  • 7 p.m. — No. 3 seed Arizona vs. No. 11 seed Brigham Young University, ESPNU

  • 9 p.m. — No. 3 seed U.C.L.A. vs. No. 6 seed Texas, ESPN2

Mark Emmert has made his way to San Antonio. After facing criticism from players and coaches over the disparities between the facilities, coronavirus testing and marketing of the men’s and women’s tournaments, the N.C.A.A. president is at the first game of the second round of the women’s tournament — which happens to be the first part of the competition that isn’t taking place concurrently with games on the men’s side.

South Florida is holding on against No. 1-seeded N.C. State, down a point after the first quarter thanks to a 3-point shot guard by Maria Alvarez with 11 seconds left.

If Caitlin Clark and Iowa can get past Kentucky in the second round, they could get a matchup against UConn.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Caitlin Clark and Iowa will face Kentucky in the second round. The prize? The winner most likely will face top-seeded UConn next.

“The Sweet 16 is something you dream of as a basketball player,” said Clark, who led the nation in scoring this season. “It’s a great opportunity. We have nothing to lose.”

Iowa has won seven of nine, spurred by the well-documented success of Clark, their star freshman. Her scoring — 26.7 points a game this season — draws most of the attention, but her passing ability and 3-point shooting range have helped unlock defenses, too.

Kentucky may offer a tougher challenge. The Wildcats and the Hawkeyes have one common opponent this season in Indiana; Kentucky beat the Hoosiers, 72-68, while Iowa fell to them twice in Big Ten play.

Kentucky used its rebounding advantage — it had 16 offensive rebounds — to hold off Idaho State in the first round, when the senior Chasity Patterson and the star junior Rhyne Howard each scored 14 points.

But the Hawkeyes will enter their second-round matchup with something different: a chip on their shoulder.

“At the beginning of the year, people said, ‘Oh, if they can only get to the N.C.A.A. tournament ,’” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said of her team, adding: “Then it was, ‘Oh, if they can only win one game.’”

Natasha Mack leapt over chairs to cheer on her teammates during the first round.
Credit…Ronald Cortes/Associated Press

After rolling in the first round, No. 1 Stanford will contend with Natasha Mack and eighth-seeded Oklahoma State on Tuesday.

The Cowgirls have a doubly difficult task in front of them in a top seed and their own grim history: They are 3-11 when playing as the lower seed in the tournament. But they also have the 6-foot-4 Mack, an intriguing shot-blocker and rebounder who may be one the most overlooked players in the nation.

The rare W.N.B.A. prospect with two years of community college basketball on her résumé, Mack was once a top high school recruit before taking a circuitous route to the Big 12. Mack committed to Houston out of high school but never enrolled, then turned up at tiny Angelina College in her hometown of Lufkin, Texas, where she became a junior college all-American.

Now she is one of four finalists for the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading the nation with 4.1 blocks per game. She also ranked third in the country with 9.3 defensive rebounds a game.

Mack had 27 points and 15 rebounds in the Cowgirls’ first-round win over Wake Forest and 4 assist. Oklahoma State Coach Jim Littell praised the aggressive nature of her performance — “She has at times been too unselfish,” he said afterward — but Mack acknowledged she and her team would have to be even better against Stanford.

“This is such a great feeling,” Mack said. “It is like the spotlight is on you.”

“We have to bring the same energy,” she added. “It only gets harder from here.”

All four No. 1 seeds in the women’s tournament can advance to the tournament’s second weekend with wins on Tuesday. In addition to Stanford, UConn faces Syracuse; top-seeded South Carolina will deal with a No. 8 seed, Oregon State, looking to advance to its fifth consecutive round of 16; and N.C. State will play South Florida.

The Wolfpack dealt with some scary moments early in the first round against No. 16 North Carolina A&T before pulling away with a strong second half. Some of that could have been attributed to rust, N.C. State Coach Wes Moore said; his team had not played since March 7.

“I felt like we’ve got to have more urgency,” Moore said of the quick turnaround to another opponent. “We’ve been sitting around for two weeks now and we’ve got to find our mojo, so to speak, and get some energy and urgency on the defensive end of the floor.”

Nika Muhl was hurt during UConn’s first-round win.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Top-seeded UConn cruised, as expected, in its opening win against High Point behind 24 points from the freshman star Paige Bueckers, but UConn’s degree of difficulty is quickly going up.

The Huskies next will face a Syracuse team that had a strong performance against South Dakota State in the first round. And while UConn already was missing the hall of fame coach Geno Auriemma, who tested positive for the coronavirus before the tournament, it now could be without the freshman guard Nika Muhl, who sprained her right ankle on Sunday.

Muhl, a Croat, was on crutches when UConn wrapped up its victory against High Point. She is questionable for the Syracuse game, but the Huskies’ interim coach, Chris Dailey, was not ready to rule her out on Monday.

“If there’s any way Nika can be on the court,” Dailey said, “she will be on the court.”

Sunday’s win was UConn’s 27th consecutive first-round victory. But it was perhaps more satisfying (and comforting) for the team’s coaches because Bueckers — who also had nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 36 minutes — and several other members of the freshman-heavy squad were making their debuts in the event. Another freshman, Aaliyah Edwards, recorded a double-double, with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Syracuse, the No. 8 seed, took care of South Dakota State, 72-55, with a strong second half. Emily Engstlerr’s 18 points led a balanced offense — all five Syracuse starters scored in double figures — and the Orange set a program record 14 blocks.

Guard Tiana Mangakahia may be the player the Huskies will want to contain, though: She leads the nation with 7.47 assists per game.





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