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First Four: Longwood and Missouri State advance to the Big Dance

Longwood beats Mount St. Mary’s 74-70 and Missouri State defeats Florida State 61-50 to advance past the First Four.

Florida State Seminoles vs Missouri State Lady Bears Photo by Andrew Wevers/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The first-ever First Four in the women's tournament came to an end Thursday when Missouri beat Florida State 61-50 and Longwood beat Mount St. Mary's 74-70. The games served as fantastic appetizers to a hopefully great main course of games that start this weekend.

It was all smiles for Longwood as they not only made it to the Big Dance but earned their first win Thursday night 74-70 against Mount St Mary's. The game was a roller coaster of momentum, starting off all going Longwood's way. They started the game on a 13-0 run and ended the first 22-5. A deficit like that in a win-or-go-home game would usually mean things were over, but the Mountaineers had other plans.

They fought back in the second half, outscoring the Lancers 52-38 and giving themselves a chance making shot after shot down the stretch. Unfortunately, it was just too big a deficit to overcome and time wasn't on their side. The rally fell short by four points.

For Mount St. Mary’s, the team’s guard-heavy starting five was phenomenal. All the perimeter starters were in double digits and played 30-plus minutes. Only going seven deep on the team meant everyone had to play well, and the starters held up their end of the bargain. Had they not started so cold, maybe the results would've been different.

For Longwood, Akila Smith proved to be a difference-maker. The senior forward scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, leading all players in both categories. Tra'Dayja Smith was another key player in the win; she scored the last five points for Longwood in the four-point victory. It was truly a team effort for the Lancers to hold onto the lead and advance. They went nine players deep and had the composure needed down the stretch to hit free throws and grab just enough rebounds to secure the win. They'll play NC State next in the Bridgeport Region on Saturday.

Missouri State cruised to victory against Florida State, winning 61-50. The Lady Bears won every individual quarter except the second, had four players in double digits, and played well defensively. They had more blocks and steals and held the Seminoles to under 28 percent shooting from the field. No NCAA Tournament victory is easy, but Missouri State sure made it look easy on Wednesday.

Mya Bhinhar was the offensive spark plug for the Lady Bears. She led the team with 12 points and added six rebounds while going 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. The bench mob of Mariah White and Ifunanya Nwachukwu combined for 21 points and ten boards and was a deciding factor in the win. Having a forward and a guard coming off the bench being this effective allowed Missouri State to stay fresh and counter with options Florida State couldn't handle.

It just wasn't the Seminoles’ night. They couldn't get anything going offensively, shooting 27.3 percent from the field and a woeful 2-for-10 from beyond the arc. They were outrebounded, out blocked, and had the ball stolen from them 11 times. You can't win basketball games when you lose in all of these categories this handedly.

Florida State will wonder what could have been. The game was tied 29-29 going into the half, and then in the second half, the Seminoles could only muster up 21 points. The third quarter ruined all their chances of advancing, as they lost the quarter 21-10. They got a good game from O'Mariah Gordon; the freshman guard had 12 points and five assists in the loss. She is an exciting player who will undoubtedly improve as her college career goes on. For now, their season is done, and Missouri State moves on to play Ohio State in the Spokane Region on Saturday.