OK, Sam Purcell. We see you.
The first-year Mississippi State coach took issue with all the people who overlooked the Bulldogs, even name-checking them 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 the best part was? Those young women in that locker room, they believed in each other. That’s all you can ask for,” Purcell said before the game. “We’re having a ball with people not believing in us, but again, it comes down to those young women in that locker room believing in each other.”
Well, a lot more people are going to be believing after the thrashing 11th-seeded Mississippi State gave Creighton, a dark horse favorite for the early rounds, on the first day of the women’s tournament Friday. The Bulldogs made a 3-pointer 18 seconds into the game and never gave up the lead. They had five players in double-figures, led by JerKaila Jordan’s 20 points, and made a season-high 11 3-pointers.
It was some rare drama on the first day of the women’s tournament, with most of the other games going according to seed. Defending national 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 the first slate of games Friday:
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.
It took a wild ending to get there, though.
Down two with 12 seconds left, Grace Stone snagged an inbounds pass and immediately called for a timeout. When play resumed, Stone let fly from just behind the 3-point line and made the basket to put Princeton ahead by one.
NC State got the ball back with four seconds left but couldn’t get a play off.
Princeton closed the game with a 9-0 run over the last 3:09, with all of its 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 run one of the best offenses in women’s basketball. Utah shot 59% from the field on its way to hanging 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 dished eight assists. Utah outscored Gardner-Webb 60-26 in the paint. Yes, you read that correctly.
The Wildcats had a rough end to the regular season, dropping two of their last three before getting knocked out of their conference tournament in their first game. Afterward, coach Adia Barnes, just two years removed from a national title game appearance, said bluntly that she couldn’t make her team play hard or with pride.
Clearly, the message got through. Cate Reese poured in 25 points, Shaina Pellington scored 18 and Esmery Martinez recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds as Arizona never trailed on its way to a 75-62 win.
The Irish have no use for wallowing.
A day after Notre Dame announced Oliva Miles would join Dara Mabrey on the bench for the NCAA tournament because of a knee injury, the third-seeded Irish steamrolled Southern Utah 82-56. 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’ve lost two of our four top scorers. What of it?”
Maddy Westbeld scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures while Lauren Ebo and Cassandre Prosper had 10 rebounds each. The Irish also had 24 assists – a not insignificant number given 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 that they have shown over the last month, several weeks with our injuries, I’m super proud,” coach Niele Ivey said.
Caitlin Clark and Monica Czinano
The Hawkeyes’ terrific one-two punch — maybe the best guard-post combo 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 hauled in 8 boards herself.
The duo, who were both named AP All-Americans earlier this week, are singularly focused and determined to get Iowa to the Final Four. Good luck stopping them.
A rout of a 16 seed by the overall No. 1 and defending national champion wouldn’t normally be noteworthy. But with its 72-40 win over Norfolk State, South Carolina has now gone a full calendar year without a loss.
The Gamecocks haven’t lost since the final of last year’s SEC tournament. Given their performance against the Spartans, it seems unlikely their 39-game win streak will end anytime soon. Though Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere were South Carolina’s only two players in double figures, 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 from its bench.
A year ago, Creighton was the darling of the tournament, the plucky underdog knocking off Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on its way to the school’s first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight. This year the Bluejays were done before the end of Day 1, upset by 11th-seeded Mississippi State.
Creighton was never even in this one, either. The Bulldogs won the opening tip and knocked down a 3-pointer, a lead they’d never surrender.
Talk about a meltdown. After leading South Florida for 38 minutes, the Golden Eagles fell apart at the end of regulation and needed a pair of free throws from Mackenzie Hare with three seconds left to force overtime. There were six lead changes in the extra period, and Hare had a decent look at a 3 that would have won it, but it rolled off the rim and 8th-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 is supposed to be the most competitive first-round game of each region, but instead, Gonzaga was run out of the gym by Ole Miss, losing 71-48. The Rebels ended the first half on a 17-5 run and didn’t slow down in the second, holding the Zags to 29% from the field and 6% (6!) from thre