Get all of Kayla Lombardo’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
Here are four thoughts about Saturday’s women’s regional semifinal games:
1. UConn got the message
From the opening tip it was clear that No. 1 UConn (35–0) had gotten the message: Even top seeds aren’t safe in March. With South Carolina and Notre Dame ousted in their respective Sweet 16 matchups Friday, the Huskies were well aware of the potential for disaster against No. 5 Mississippi State (28–8) on Saturday. “Crazy things happen in March and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to us,” said senior forward Breanna Stewart.
But the Huskies never had to worry about an upset happening to them Saturday, as they dominated the Bulldogs, 98–38, in Bridgeport from the early-goings, and set an NCAA tournament record for the largest margin of victory in the regional rounds and beyond. They led 32–4 after one quarter, 61–12 at the half and 84–20 at the end of three. In 25 minutes, Stewart posted a game-high 22 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, while freshman Katie Lou Samuelson recorded 21 points and senior Morgan Tuck added 19.
The Bulldogs, who made their second Sweet 16 appearance in program history, shot just 28.6% from the field and missed all 14 of their three-point attempts. Leading scorer and first-team All-SEC selection Victoria Vivians was held to just six points, missing 12 of her 15 shot attempts.
The victory upped UConn’s winning streak to 72. The Huskies are averaging 98.7 points per game through three NCAA tournament appearances this year, while giving up just 46 points per contest.
2. Davis went off for Baylor, again
Junior forward Nina Davis means business in the NCAA tournament. No. 1 Baylor’s first-team All-Big 12 selection is averaging 26 points per game through three tournament contests after posting her second straight 30-point performance in the Bears’ 78–58 win over No. 5 Florida State (25–8) in Dallas.
The victory granted Baylor (36–1) its third consecutive regional final appearance, and sixth in the last seven seasons. The Bears, who improved their winning streak to 23 games, also received 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists from redshirt junior Alexis Jones.
In their second straight Sweet 16 appearance, the Seminoles were held below 65 points for the fifth time this year. They shot 35% from the field, while also recording 21 turnovers against the Bears. Despite the loss, Florida State turned in a balanced offensive effort, as four players scored in double figures.
3. Texas came from behind against UCLA
No. 2 Texas (31–4) secured its first Elite Eight appearance since 2003 with a 72–64 come-from-behind win over No. 3 UCLA (26–9). The Longhorns were paced by senior center Imani Boyette, who totaled 18 points and 10 rebounds, while helping Texas outscore UCLA 40–22 in the paint. Sophomore guards Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins aided in the Longhorns’ cause with 15 and 16 points, respectively.
The Bruins, who played in their first Sweet 16 since 1999, were led by the sophomore duo of Monique Billings and Jordin Canada, who delivered 20 points apiece and combined for 16 rebounds.UCLA held a 33–28 lead at the half, and led for more than 25 minutes overall. The Bruins had previously been 21–0 when leading after two quarters.
Facing a six-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, Texas rattled off the first 10 points of the final period and never trailed again. The turning point, however, came with 4:28 left in the fourth, as Atkins hit a pull-up jumper and drew a momentum-shifting foul, and then completed the three-point play to extend the Longhorns’ lead to seven.
Texas, which fell to UConn 105–54 last year in the Sweet 16, faces the Huskies on Monday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. “I think we’ll be more mentally prepared because of the opportunity to play them last year,” fourth-year head coach Karen Aston said. “That should be somewhat of a difference. We understand what we’re up against.”
4. Weisner led Oregon State to first Elite Eight
History was made for No. 2 Oregon State (31–4) on Saturday, as the Beavers advanced to their first Elite Eight with an 83–71 win over No. 6 DePaul (27–9) in Dallas. Senior and Pac-12 Player of the Year Jamie Weisner led the way for the Pac-12 champions with 38 points, surpassing her previous career high of 27 and setting a program record for most points in an NCAA tournament game. She also posted a career-best seven threes against the Blue Demons.
Playing in its first Sweet 16 since 1983, Oregon State also received 13 points apiece from junior Sydney Wiese and senior Ruth Hamblin, whose nine rebounds Saturday gave her a program-record 1,004 for her career. The Beavers have won 21 of their last 22 games.
DePaul, which is now 0–4 all-time in the regional semifinal, was led by junior Jessica January with 20 points in her team’s second Sweet 16 appearance in three years.
Oregon State faces Baylor on Monday in the regional final.