The dream of a championship showdown between Notre Dame and Connecticut remains alive and well.
On Tuesday, UConn edged out Saint Joseph's, 91-52. That helped the Huskies one up Notre Dame, which had a smaller margin of victory in Monday's triumph with an 84-67 victory over Arizona State.
The Huskies took part in one of Tuesday's eight second-round contests, which marks the end of the round and subregional play. The tournament now takes a break until Saturday, March 29.
Have a look at Tuesday's results, the matchups for the third round and then I'll offer up a recap of Tuesday's action.
|No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 9 St. Joseph's||UConn 91-52|
|No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Texas||Maryland 69-64|
|No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Michigan State||UNC 62-53|
|No. 3 Penn State vs. No. 11 Florida||Penn St. 83-61|
|No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 6 Iowa||Louisville 83-53|
|No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 7 LSU||LSU 76-67|
|No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 9 Oregon State||South Carolina 78-69|
|No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 James Madison||Texas A&M 85-69|
Updated Bracket: For the full bracket, check out NCAA.com
|March 29||(1) Connecticut vs. (12) BYU|
|March 29||(7) DePaul vs. (3) Texas A&M|
|March 29||(2) Baylor vs. (3) Kentucky|
|March 29||(1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Oklahoma State|
|March 30||(1) Tennessee vs. (4) Maryland|
|March 30||(2) Stanford vs. (3) Penn State|
|March 30||(4) North Carolina vs. (1) South Carolina|
|March 30||(3) Louisville vs. (7) LSU|
(1) Connecticut 91, (9) Saint Joseph's 52
All of Connecticut's starters hit double digits in points as the Huskies routed Saint Joseph's, 91-52. They now advance to the Sweet 16 for the 21st consecutive year. UConn definitely lived up to the quote, tweeted by Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com, of its head coach Geno Auriemma:
Awesome quote from Geno Auriemma in ESPN commercial. "I don't want to survive and advance. I want to dominate and conquer."— Chris Vannini (@CoachingBuzz) March 25, 2014
Three starters scored at least 20 points as the Huskies found little resistance on either end of the court. Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 21 points.
This game was never in doubt as the Huskies jumped out to an early lead and buried their opponent. UConn Women's Hoops gives us an idea of how quickly the Huskies put this one away:
By halftime, the Huskies led 50-26. Things didn't get any better in the second for Saint Joseph's, as they finished the game shooting just 34.9 percent from the floor.
Next up for the Huskies is a March 29 contest against No. 12 seed BYU. While beating NC State and Nebraska, the Cougars have been supremely impressive, but there is little to suggest they can handle this powerhouse Huskies squad.
(4) Maryland 69, (5) Texas 64
Forward Alyssa Thomas led all players in this game in rebounding and scoring with 11 and 16 respectively. Maryland needed all of her contribution to advance past a game Texas squad.
Of the opening slate of Tuesday's games, this was by far the closest. It was a back-and-forth first half that found the two teams locked at 31 at intermission.
Early in the second, however, Maryland began to assert its physical dominance and open up a lead. The lead didn't last. A resilient Texas team battled back, and with less than a minute to go, this was a one-point game.
Thanks to quality free throw shooting down the stretch, Maryland was able to pad their lead in the final seconds.
Maryland will now move onto face No. 1 seed Tennessee. In the second round, Tennessee looked strong while beating St. John's, 67-51.
(4) North Carolina 62, (5) Michigan State 53
Diamond DeShields was fantastic for the Tar Heels, as the guard scored 24 points and grabbed 12 boards while leading the Tar Heels to victory.
Five minutes into this game the Tar Heels led 11-2, and it looked like this was going to be a blowout.
The Spartans were able to play their opponents straight up after that point. The Tar Heels took a 36-27 lead into the break and this felt like a battle.
That feeling was misleading. Although they wound up winning by that same nine-point margin, the Tar Heels were able to reestablish control in the second half. It took a late run from the Spartans to close the gap.
The Tar Heels had to wait for the conclusion of Tuesday's action to find out their next opponent, and discovered that they will face No. 1 seed South Carolina.
(3) Penn State 83, (11) Florida 61
Behind 22 points apiece from guards Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor, the Lions easily advanced past upset-minded Florida.
This game got off to a painfully slow start. After three minutes had gone by, Penn State led 4-2. The Lady Lions broke out of their early slump and began to put some distance on Florida.
It wasn't until 10 minutes had passed that Florida hit double digits. The Gators finally were able to take the lid off the basket and played strong to close out the half. This left the score at the break respectable, as the Lady Lions led, 43-32.
Any hope Florida had of a comeback was quickly destroyed in the second. It was just four minutes into the second half when Penn State led by 20, and this game was all but over.
Up next for the Lady Lions is a showdown with No. 2 seed Stanford. That should be a wonderful matchup. Stanford has won both of its tournament games by 19.
(3) Louisville 83, (6) Iowa 53
The biggest blowout this side of UConn on Tuesday came when the Cardinals crushed the Hawkeyes by 30 points. Shoni Schimmel had an outstanding all-around effort to lead the charge for the victors, scoring a game-high 26 points to go with five rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
It wasn't the neatest game, as both sides turned it over 19 times, but Iowa's lackluster shooting made this into a lopsided affair. The Hawkeyes were just 1-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc and shot 33.3 percent overall from the floor, while Louisville shot just over 53 percent.
And the winning margin could have been even greater. Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal observed how the Cardinals were on pace to eclipse their recently established NCAA tournament record for points in a single game:
It's 79-44 Louisville with 3:59 to play. Cards scored 88 against Idaho, which was a NCAA Tournament school record.— Steve Jones (@SteveJones_CJ) March 26, 2014
But advancing in such dominant fashion isn't such a bad consolation prize. It's better to chase history at the end of a game than to be trailing on the scoreboard.
Antonia Slaughter sank five of her six three-point attempts en route to 17 points for Louisville, while forward Asia Taylor notched 10 points of her own. Jude Schimmel and Tia Gibbs came off the bench to also score in double figures with 10 apiece.
The Cardinals continue their quest to return to the national final, where they lost last year to the Huskies, when they square off with LSU on Sunday.
(7) LSU 76, (2) West Virginia 67
The only upset of the evening was a big one, as LSU took a two-point halftime lead and remained out in front of heavy favorite West Virginia to advance to take on Louisville.
Lady Tigers sophomore guard Danielle Ballard was just 7-of-23 shooting but did notch a game-high 22 points in addition to pulling down 15 rebounds and dishing out six assists. There was no shortage of enthusiasm from LSU coach Nikki Caldwell afterwards:
SWEET SIXTEEN!!! Thank you TIGER FANS!!! So proud of this team!!! GEAUX TIGERS!!!— Nikki Caldwell (@NikkiCaldwell) March 26, 2014
Senior Mountaineers star Christal Caldwell—unrelated to the Lady Tigers coach—had a disappointing end to her collegiate career, missing 16 of 19 shots from the field en route to just 10 points. That came after Caldwell scored a personal best 26 points in the previous win over Albany.
Unfortunately, this landmark win may have come at a cost for LSU. As reported by Baton Rouge WAFB-TV's Chris Hagan, starting senior guard Jeanne Kenney suffered a concussion, leaving her status tenuous moving forward:
Shanece McKinney had 13 points, seven rebounds and most importantly blocked five shots. She will be key in the Lady Tigers' efforts to keep the Cardinals out of the paint in the next game.
(1) South Carolina 78, (9) Oregon State 69
A huge contrast in styles saw the upstart Beavers trying to utilize the three-point line as an equalizer, but it wasn't quite enough to knock off top-seeded South Carolina.
Even when the Gamecocks' lead ballooned over the final 20 minutes, the underdogs never gave up, which KEZI 9 sports anchor Stephen Nelson appreciated:
No quit in this #GoBeavs team. Sydney Wiese hits her 1st FG with 1:30 left to cut it to 9. SC's lead was close to 20 just a few minutes ago.— Stephen Nelson (@Stephen__Nelson) March 26, 2014
Oregon State opted to fire away from distance, sinking 10 of 30 attempts from deep, while the Gamecocks tried just six threes but made four. The difference came in South Carolina's ability to crash the paint and get to the charity stripe.
Four players on the victorious squad shot eight free throws or more, and the Gamecocks were 34-of-43 shooting form the free-throw line overall. Tiffany Mitchell notched a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the same went for Aleighsa Walsh (21 and 11). Mitchell sank 10 of 11 free-throw attempts, while Walsh converted five of eight.
Gamecocks center Alaina Coates missed five of her six shots from the floor, yet drained seven of eight free throws en route to nine points, matching Walsh as well with a team-best 11 boards.
Jamie Weisner tied Walsh as the game's leading scorer with 21 points in defeat, and she did well to sink five three-pointers. Coach Scott Rueck struggled to make sense of the lackluster night Beavers leading scorer Sydney Wiese suffered through—she made just two of 12 three-pointers—per The State's David Cloninger:
Rueck: "That’s been done to Sydney Wiese all year long. I don’t know why that ball didn’t go down tonight."— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) March 26, 2014
The aggressive approach almost paid off for Oregon State, but its 44-point second half was matched by South Carolina, who was relentless in protecting its lead at the intermission.
Now the Gamecocks move on to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16. That should be an enticing matchup, but it's South Carolina's to lose as the higher seed, especially with its edge in the frontcourt.
(3) Texas A&M 85, (11) James Madison 69
It seemed the Colonial Athletic Association champions would be up to snuff against power-conference competition after 20 minutes of action, but the Aggies pulled away in the second half to punch a ticket to the Sweet 16.
A fast-paced first half saw Texas A&M take a 47-43 edge into the locker room. Superior execution after the break from the No. 3 seed defined the rest of the game, as the Dukes slumped down the stretch.
Rusty Burson of 12th Man Magazine noted how experienced the Aggies senior nucleus is, as it improved to 11-2 in the NCAA tournament:
Distributing dynamo Jordan Jones kept ball movement crisp, dishing out 16 dimes for Texas A&M, who assisted on 23 of 29 made field goals. Center Karla Gilbert took advantage of her size on the inside to post 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Kirby Burkholder did her best to keep James Madison within striking distance, scoring a team-high 20 points and registering a double-double with 10 rebounds before fouling out after 35 minutes on the court.
Next up for the Aggies is seventh-seeded DePaul, who upset Duke 74-65 and shouldn't be taken lightly. The Blue Demons will have plenty of momentum in a bid to keep their improbable run going.
A maverick approach by Oregon State didn't work out, but it would have been something if Wiese was shooting better. Otherwise, the Lady Tigers' upset will be the story of Day 4 amid a slew of predictable results. Those who selected mostly favorites in the bracket will be pleased with the rest of the outcomes from Tuesday.
Now as the tournament gets deeper, the truly elite squads in women's college basketball should rise to the occasion. Cinderella stories aren't quite as prominent as in the men's version of March Madness, yet it will still be compelling to watch the sheer prowess of this tournament's powerhouse programs.