The first four teams to clinch Sweet 16 berths were a top seed, two 4-seeds, and a sixth seed. One of those teams pulled off a historic upset over a traditional power and another banked a last-second three-pointer to win the game.
The least surprising result of the first session was in Louisville, where the Cardinals beat a solid Marquette team comfortably to clinch the eighth Sweet 16 appearance of the Jeff Walz era.
Louisville jumped out to a big lead early, ending the first half with a 25-point lead after shooting 70 percent from the field. Even though Marquette outscored them in the second half, the Cardinals were able to hang on comfortably for the win. Their familiar combo of Asia Durr (24 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists) and Myisha Hines-Allen (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) led the way for Louisville, and along with junior forward Sam Fuerhing (19 points 8 rebounds, 3 assists), the trio scored over two-thirds of the Cardinals’ points.
”Our advantage was inside, and that’s what we tried to do,” said Hines-Allen, who is the lone senior on the team. “Once we got the defensive rebounds we ran in transition too, so we got a lot of open layups, open looks.”
The two-loss Cardinals are a favorite to advance to the Final Four out of the Lexington Region but will need to get through the winner of Florida Gulf Coast vs. Stanford and then either Michigan, Baylor, or Oregon State to get there.
Elsewhere in the Lexington bracket, Oregon State put itself on Louisville’s path with a historic win over third-seeded Tennessee. Before Sunday, the Lady Vols had won all 57 of their home NCAA Tournament games. After doing the unthinkable, the Beavers are in their third consecutive Sweet 16. They will be taking on the winner of No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 2 Baylor.
The game was fairly close, though Tennessee jumped out to a 10-point lead after the first quarter. Oregon State switched to a zone defense in the second quarter and was able to claw back in, closing the game to within two points by halftime. The Beavers mounted a 13-2 run in the third quarter which would put them ahead for good.
Four OSU starters scored 13 points or more, led by 15 points each from Mikayla Pivec and Katie McWilliams and a 14-point, 12-rebound performance from senior forward Marie Gulich.
“It’s amazing to see this program grow. I’ve been a Beaver fan since I was a little girl, and once Scott got here it just got better and better,” McWilliams said. “I am so happy to be able to play for this team and that we are making this Sweet 16 run again.”
For the first time since 2007, NC State is headed to the Sweet Sixteen after defeating the Maryland Terrapins 74-60. The Wolfpack were led by former Maryland guard Kiara Leslie, who totaled 21 points and 11 rebounds. She also limited the Terrapins’ leading scorer Kaila Charles to just four points while keeping her in foul trouble all game. The Wolfpack move on to face the winner of No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State in the Kansas City Region.
The most thrilling victory of the day came in College Station. Four-seeded Texas A&M trailed No. 5 DePaul by two with ten seconds remaining with the ball in Chennedy Carter’s hands. The Aggies’ guard took the ball up court and drained the game-winning three from the top of the arc.
CHENNEDY CARTER FOR PRESIDENT— NCAA Women's BKB (@ncaawbb) March 18, 2018
The shot capped a phenomenal performance from Carter, who scored 37 points on the day. Combined with 18 points from Anriel Howard, the duo finished with 55 of A&M’s 80 points. The Aggies trailed by 15 points at the half and were down by as many as 17 in the second half but fought back to earn the right to the Sweet 16.
Texas A&M will play Notre Dame, the top-seeded team in the Spokane Region, in the next round.
One thing we know for sure, once the Sweet 16 starts anything can happen. Just about anyone within the top 16 of women’s basketball can beat any other team on a given night. The matchups that we already know about look really enticing.