Double-digit seeds continue winning in women's NCAAs
Double-digit seeds are leaving their mark on the first weekend of the women's NCAA Tournament and bouncing some of the top players and teams in the country, including Iowa's Caitlin Clark and Baylor's NaLyssa Smith.
Creighton and South Dakota continued the run of upsets as the two No. 10 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.
The Bluejays got the second round started, shocking Clark and Iowa with a two-point win that silenced the sellout crowd in Iowa City. Hours later, South Dakota knocked off No. 2 Baylor, ending Smith's college career on her home court.
If you're counting, that's eight wins by double-digit seeds in this tournament — tying the most ever in NCAA women's basketball history through two rounds, a mark set in 2018.
Two double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16 already matches the record that's been accomplished a few times. And there's a chance for a few more to win Monday to break the mark when the regional semifinals field is completed.
Creighton was able to pull off its win thanks in part to sophomore Lauren Jensen, who transferred from Iowa after her freshman year. She scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left that gave the Bluejays the lead for good.
“I’ve gotten the question a lot,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “‘How is Lauren going to feel today, what’s Lauren going to play like, da da da da?’ Those last few minutes had to be magical and special, and we’re super proud of her and we’re super proud that she’s part of our program.”
While Creighton needed last-minute heroics from Jensen, South Dakota took it right at Baylor and never let up. The Coyotes' 14-point road win was the largest by a 10-seed over a No. 2 according to STATS.
South Dakota was led by a trio of super-seniors, who were hoping to have a special season. They certainly are.
“We had a very special team in 2020 that didn’t have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament until — I think all — and that’s young ladies were on that team at that point in time." coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “So for them to have the opportunity, it has been something that they’ve wanted and they’ve relished and they’ve certainly taken advantage of being in the moment for two games."
Here are a few other tidbits from Sunday's games:
An average of 6,449 fans came to first-round games this year, including a sellout crowd of 14,382 at Carver Arena in Iowa. The Hawkeyes also sold out their second-round game against Creighton.
“A wonderful opportunity for a women’s basketball game today on ABC in front of a sold-out crowd,” Clark said. “I just feel bad for the fans because they’ve given us so much over these past two weeks, really willed us to a regular season title here at home versus Michigan, and I hope they come out and support us the exact same way next year. I know they will.”
With crowds expected to be high in the remaining second-round games, the attendance is on pace for the most in the opening two rounds since the 2004 season when the average was nearly 6,700 a game.
It wasn't all about the upsets Sunday, with No. 1 seeds South Carolina, Stanford and Louisville advancing to the Sweet 16. The Gamecocks continued playing stellar defense, holding Miami to just 33 points in a 16-point win. The 54 points allowed by South Carolina in the first two rounds of the women’s NCAAs is 17 fewer than any other team has allowed in its first two games.
“There’s a nastiness to us on that side of the basketball," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. "It wins basketball games for us,”
Louisville and Stanford needed strong second halves to pull away from Gonzaga and Kansas, respectively. Tara VanDerveer's team used a 32-15 third quarter to turn a two-point halftime lead into a blowout.
N.C. State will look to join them as the fourth No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 on Monday night.
Texas and the NCAA Tournament are saying farewell to the Longhorns’ home court at the Frank Erwin Center, also known as “The Drum.”
Sunday’s game was the last one at the 45-year-old building, which is being closed as Texas moves to new arena just a few blocks away. Texas has won eight consecutive tournament games at the Erwin Center and is 27-9 overall there. The Longhorns hadn’t lost an NCAA Tournament game at home since the first round in 2009.
“It was an honor for me to play there,” Texas freshman Rori Harmon said.
In all 72 games had been played at that site — tied for third-most of any arena in NCAA women's basketball history.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this story.
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