The first day of the NCAA women’s basketball Tournament is in the books. Many of the outcomes were predictable: top-seeded Notre Dame and Louisville won their games and other highly-ranked teams such as Baylor, Tennessee, and South Carolina rolled to victory.
The day did see three upsets, however. The 10th-seeded Minnesota Gophers took down Green Bay and another 10-seed, Virginia, defeated Cal in a close one. You can read great recaps of those games from SB Nation sites The Daily Gopher and Streaking the Lawn.
Minnesota overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to advance to the second round, led by 26 points from Kenisha Bell. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Destiny Pitts added 20 as the Gophers rode a 30-13 fourth quarter to victory.
UVA had five players score in double figures in a close game where the Cavaliers pulled away in the third quarter. An unlikely bench player, Felicia Aiyeotan, led them with 16 points. They advance to take on defending national champions South Carolina in the second round. The Gamecocks are coached by Dawn Staley, who starred for UVA in the early 90s.
“It’s not about her, it’s about the basketball game,” sophomore guard Jocelyn Willoughby said. “That’s what’s important.”
The day’s other upset came from No. 9 Villanova, who beat 8-seed South Dakota in overtime. As VU Hoops noted in their recap, it was the Wildcats’ first NCAA Tournament win since 2004. Villanova hit 16 three-pointers, with leading scorers Adriana Hahn (24 points) and Mary Gedaka (20 points) hitting six each from long range. South Dakota State hit a three at the buzzer to send the game to overtime but the Wildcats prevailed in the extra session.
“That’s the way it goes, you just have to try to recover and play,” head coach Harry Perretta told VU Hoops. “I thought our kids did a great job of not deflating. We came right back in overtime and played very well in the overtime.”
Villanova has Notre Dame up next while Minnesota will be facing 2-seed Oregon. All three games are on Sunday.
Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings noted that last year Oregon beat a 2-seed on its way to the Sweet 16, as she told the AP:
Stollings is keenly aware that sixth-ranked Oregon also was a 10th seed last year that beat No. 7 Temple and No. 2 Duke on its own floor to eventually reach the Elite Eight, where the Ducks were stopped by UConn. “We’re going to take a page out of their book, we hope,” she said. “It’s definitely something that you can say, `Hey, this has been done. They did it just last year and why not us, so why not the Gophers?”