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NCAA Tournament Second Round: Notre Dame survives Mississippi State as Virginia Tech makes history

The Virginia Tech Hokies head to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in program history, while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish just slip past the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Indiana
Lauren Ebo
Photo by Michael Hickey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Second Round action in the NCAA women’s March Madness tournament continued on Sunday as Notre Dame took on Mississippi State and Virginia Tech played South Dakota State.

Mississippi State pulled off the upset in the first round when they beat six-seed Creighton 81-66 in the first round as an 11-seed. Creighton can be most remembered for its Cinderella-story run last season, which involved beating Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Notre Dame on the other hand came into the tournament with a lot of question marks. They lost Dara Mabrey earlier in the season to an ACL injury, and then earlier this week it was announced that Olivia Miles would not play in the tournament either. They still came in as the No. 3 seed in the Greenville 1 Region, and beat No. 14 seed Southern Utah 82-56 in dominant fashion.

With those wins, the second-round matchup of Notre Dame and Mississippi State was set. With those injuries to Miles and Mabrey, don’t let the seeds fool you into thinking this is a walk-off for Notre Dame. They have had to quickly adjust without their offensive leader in Miles, and learn to share and handle the basketball as a team.

The first quarter was tight all the way through, with neither team able to bridge a large lead. It ended with Notre Dame up by just one point, 13-12. Canadian freshman Cassandre Prosper checked in for Notre Dame, playing with much more poise than an average freshman.

In the second quarter, Notre Dame started to pull slightly ahead, but Mississippi State was NOT going away. Ebo led all scorers with seven points, followed by Prosper with six. On the Mississippi State side, Jessika Carter led all scorers with six points.

Notre Dame led 26-23 at halftime.

It was in the third quarter that Notre Dame went on a run to get ahead of Mississippi State. They were able to get ahead by 10 points quickly thanks to Maddy Westbeld and Sonia Citron.

The Bulldogs would NOT go down without a fight, getting a buzzer-beating shot to bring it to 41-33 heading into the final quarter. The Bulldogs got it back within one possession with a little less than eight minutes to go in the game and then Kourtney Weber hit a triple to tie it — and we had a GAME!

The Fighting Irish stretched their lead to four with three minutes to go in the game, and were able to hold on to win and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

They’ll head to Greenville to play No. 2 seed Maryland after the Terrapins beat Arizona on Sunday.

Lauren Ebo had 17 rebounds for Notre Dame, making a HUGE impact on the Irish’s ability to get second chance opportunities.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech had an easier time in their second-round matchup. They came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Seattle 3 Reion and easily beat Chattanooga in their opening game, 58-33.

It was yet another first-round upset for South Dakota State, which beat the USC 62-57 to advance to the Round of 32.

Virginia Tech led the Jackrabbits 19-7 in the first quarter of their game, holding South Dakota scoreless for the first seven minutes. It was all Elizabeth Kitley, Kayana Traylor, and Georgia Amoore for the Hokies, and the team’s 3-point shooting made it hard for South Dakota State to catch up.

Despite the Jackrabbits closing it up a little more as the first half wound down, Virginia Tech was still up 46-23 at halftime.

Those 46 points marked a season high for a first half for Virginia Tech. Kitley led all scorers at halftime with 12, helping her prospects as she prepares to enter the 2023 WNBA Draft in just a few weeks. Traylor was right behind with 11 points, and both Amoore and Cayla King had nine points.

Kitley booked her double-double for the game just minutes into the third quarter. Yet, the Jackrabbits did not go away; they got a couple and-one fouls PLUS were able to block Kitley’s shot at one point mid-way through the third — boosting their energy.

This sent them on a run that would make the fourth quarter more intense for both sides. At one point, South Dakota State came within ten points of VA Tech. Yet, the Hokies prevailed, winning the game 72-60 and heading to the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in program history.

Leading the charge was Amoore with 21 points. Kitley booked 14 points and 14 rebounds. The Hokies now head to Seattle and will face the winner of Monday’s Tennessee (4) vs. Toledo (12) matchup.