Top seeds advance in Spokane and Albany in women’s tourney
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — It was a good day for the top seeds in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
No. 1 seeds UConn and Notre Dame joined Louisville and Mississippi State in the Elite Eight. The Huskies will face defending champion South Carolina and the Irish will play Oregon setting up matchups of the top two seeds in each region. All four No. 1 seeds are in the Elite Eight.
It’s been rare that UConn has played against the defending national champion in the women’s NCAA Tournament over the past two decade. Then again, they’ve been the champ 10 times since they played Tennessee in 1997.
“You can’t waste a lot of time worrying about the other team because until today we didn’t know who the other team was going to be, so you concentrate more on you being ready. At this time of year, you say to yourself: ‘What’s South Carolina going to do that we haven’t seen yet this year?’” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “And the same thing with them. We’re not going to do something that they’re going to say, ‘This takes us completely by surprise.’ You just want to make sure that you’re going to do the things that you’re good at, and then whatever happens after that happens.
“Just because you’re ready for something doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to handle it great.”
Both UConn and South Carolina got strong efforts from their seniors to advance to the regional finals Monday night.
Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse played solid defense, holding Duke’s talented backcourt of Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell to just 16 points — nearly 18 below their average.
“We’re fortunate that our two seniors are two of the better defensive players in the country,” Auriemma said. “We can count on those two every game. Gabby’s going to play great every game. She plays at a certain level every game. Kia’s one of the toughest competitors we’ve had at Connecticut.”
Wilson had 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Gamecocks beat a plucky Buffalo squad.
“I just feel like my energy really helps my teammates,” Wilson said. “That’s the biggest thing. That’s my goal, whether it’s screaming at one or just screaming at everyone. That’s just how I operate. I really try to use that on every possession.”
Notre Dame got a solid shooting effort from Marina Mabrey, who set the school’s NCAA Tournament record with seven 3-pointers in a win over Texas A&M.
“I think a few times in transition, they might have mixed up some players. Got some shots there,” Mabrey said.
The Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in nine seasons.
Here are a few other tidbits from Saturday’s Sweet 16 games:
STILL LOOKING FOR COMPANY: The 2011 Gonzaga team remains the lone 11 seed to reach the regional finals. Buffalo and Central Michigan, both from the Mid-American Conference had a chance to join the Zags, but fell short.
STRONG SHOWING: Over 10,000 fans were in Albany, N.Y., and 5,000 in Spokane, Washington, for the regionals on Saturday. It definitely helped that UConn and Buffalo fans were in driving distance of Albany and Oregon fans could flock to Spokane.
HIGHER EXPECTATIONS: A year after a surprising run to the Elite Eight, Oregon is back again. This time, they expected to be there after winning the Pac-12.
“We have high expectations of ourselves,” said sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu, who just missed another triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. “This year, it’s known we deserve to be where we are. It’s more where we should be than jumping up for joy.”
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