Okay, Sam Purcell. We’ll see you.
Mississippi State’s freshman coach objected to all the people overlooking the Bulldogs, even calling them out after his team won their First Four game. Candace Parker, A’ja Wilson, the current President of the United States AND one of his predecessors in the Oval Office…
“You know what was the most fun? Those young women in that locker room believed in each other. That’s all you can wish for,” Purcell said before the game. “We’re having a ball with people who don’t believe in us, but again, the bottom line is that those young women in that locker room believe in each other.”
Well, a lot more people will believe after grueling 11th-seeded Mississippi State Creighton, a dark horse favorite for the early rounds, gave in on the first day of the women’s tournament Friday. The Bulldogs made a 3-pointer 18 seconds into the game and never relinquished the lead. They had five players in double digits, led by JerKaila Jordan’s 20 points, and made a season-high 11 3-pointers.
It was a rare drama on the first day of the women’s tournament, with most of the other matches going by rankings. Defending champion South Carolina cruised, as did fellow No. 1 seed Virginia Tech and No. 2 seeds Iowa and Maryland.
Follow the madness: Latest Women’s NCAA Tournament College Basketball Scores and Schedules
Here’s a look at the winners and losers in Friday’s first round of games:
Princeton is now a basketball school.
The women’s team joined the men in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 64-63 upset of seventh-seeded NC State. The Tigers also became the first Ivy League school to make the second round in consecutive years.
However, it took a wild ending to get there.
Down twice with 12 seconds left, Grace Stone grabbed an inbound pass and immediately called for a timeout. When play resumed, Stone flew from just behind the 3-point line and made the basket to give Princeton a one-point lead.
NC State got the ball back with four seconds left, but couldn’t get a playoff.
Princeton ended the game with a 9-0 run over the final 3:09, with all points coming from behind the arc. Stone made two threes during the run and Kaitlyn Chen added another. The two led the Tigers with 22 points each.
Like scoring? Then you’ll love the Utes, who pull off one of the best attacks in women’s basketball. Utah shot 59% from the field en route to 103 points on Gardner-Webb. They were led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Alyssa Pili, a force down low who scored 33 points (on 12-of-17 shooting), grabbed eight rebounds and provided eight assists. Utah defeated Gardner-Webb 60-26 in the paint. Yes, you read that right.
The Wildcats had a rough end to the regular season, dropping two of their last three before being eliminated from their conference tournament in their first game. Afterward, coach Adia Barnes, just two years away from appearing in the national title game, said bluntly that she couldn’t get her team to play hard or with pride.
The message has come across clearly. Cate Reese scored 25 points, Shaina Pellington scored 18 and Esmery Martinez recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds as Arizona never trailed en route to a 75-62 win.
The Irish don’t feel like wallowing.
A day after Notre Dame announced that Oliva Miles would join Dara Mabrey on the bench for the NCAA Tournament due to a knee injury, the third-seeded Irishman rolled 82-56 from Southern Utah. They opened the game with a 16-0 run and went 13-of-16 in the first quarter, as if to let the rest of the field know, “Yeah, we lost two of our top four scorers. What about?”
Maddy Westbeld scored 20 points to lead four players in double digits, while Lauren Ebo and Cassandre Prosper each had 10 rebounds. The Irish also had 24 assists – a not insignificant number considering Miles is Notre Dame’s facilitator. She has 192 assists this year, which is more than Notre Dame’s next three players combined.
“The resilience of this group, the toughness they’ve shown over the last month, few weeks with our injuries, I’m super proud,” said coach Niele Ivey.
Caitlin Clark and Monica Czinano
The Hawkeyes’ stellar one-two punch—arguably the best guard combination in the country—combined for 48 of their team’s 95 points in Iowa’s 95-43 rout of SE Louisiana. In typical Caitlin Clark fashion, the junior guard also dished out 12 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds, while Czinano racked up 8 boards himself.
The duo, who were both named AP All-Americans earlier this week, are extremely focused and determined to get Iowa to the Final Four. Good luck stopping them.
A defeat of a 16-seed at the hands of the overall No. 1 and defending champion would normally not be remarkable. But with its 72-40 victory over Norfolk State, South Carolina now has a full calendar year without a loss.
The Gamecocks have not lost since last year’s SEC tournament finals. Given their performance against the Spartans, it seems unlikely that their 39-game win streak will end anytime soon. Although Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere were the only two South Carolina players in double digits, both finishing with 11, the Gamecocks got points from all but two of the 14 players who saw action against Norfolk State.
Seven of those players had six points or more. South Carolina also got 41 points off the bench.
A year ago, Creighton was the tournament darling, the plucky underdog who defeated Iowa at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena en route to the school’s first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight. This year, the Bluejays finished Day 1, upset by the 11th-seeded state of Mississippi.
Creighton was never in this either. The Bulldogs won the opening tip and knocked down a three-pointer, a lead they would never relinquish.
Talk about a meltdown. After leading South Florida for 38 minutes, the Golden Eagles fell apart at the end of regulation, needing a pair of Mackenzie Hare free throws with three seconds left to force overtime . There were six lead changes in the extra period and Hare had a good eye for a 3 that would have won him, but he rolled off the edge and eighth-seeded South Florida survived, 67-65.
What a rough end to the season for the Zags, a top 25 team all year. Gonzaga got upset in the WCC tournament championship by Portland and got a 9-seed. The 8-9 game was supposed to be each region’s most competitive first round game, but instead Gonzaga was chased out of the gym by Ole Miss and lost 71-48. The Rebels finished the first half with a 17-5 run and didn’t slow down in the second half, leaving the Zags at 29% of the field and 6% (6!)