SAN ANTONIO – Indiana knocked the top-ranked state of North Carolina out of the NCAA women’s tournament on Saturday in the round of 16, 73-70. This makes the wolf pack the first number 1 to fall off the field.
North Carolina, losing 10 points less than three minutes from time, stormed back after fourth-occupied Indiana appeared to have got the game all but out of hand in the third quarter. The wolf pack moved within 2 points less than 90 seconds ahead of the Hoosiers.
But Indiana kept NC State from tying the game multiple times in the last minute – including twice in possession 2 points clear. After the teams swapped points, NC State’s leading goalscorer this season Elissa Cunane missed a desperate 3-pointer on the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“I’m proud of them, how they fought because we had players out of position and stuff like that,” said NC coach Wes Moore in a post-game interview.
Ali Patberg scored 7 of their 17 points in the third quarter as the Hoosiers built a lead of up to 14, forced sales through steals and then scored a goal.
Indiana started its run on 6 points towards the end of the first half, preventing NC State from scoring in the final 2½ minutes before half. By the end of the third quarter, the Hoosiers were up 10 and NC State’s defense slowed as its players watched a carousel of Indiana’s goalscorers extend the Hoosiers’ lead.
This is Indiana’s first trip to the round of 16.
“It’s a dream to play for Indiana. I grew up right down the street, I’m a Hoosier, ”said Patberg of Columbus, Indiana, tearfully.
“Growing up, I’ve been to the auditorium so many times it’s just a dream to me,” she said, referring to the Indiana University arena.
Indiana will play in the round of 16 against Arizona, which is also making its first appearance in a regional final after beating Texas A&M (74:59) on Saturday night.
Texas A&M already had two tight calls in the tournament, first with a narrow win over Troy, then with a Summer Beater win over Iowa State in extra time. Aari McDonald put up 31 points for Arizona to try and win a third thriller.
Earlier on Saturday, UConn with top seeds turned a much-touted matchup against Iowa with the fifth seed into a router (92-72). There, fans who showed up for a showdown between UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark got something much better – a look at what the Huskies and Hawkeyes look like when they rely largely on other players.
Two juniors, Christyn Williams and the red shirt Evina Westbrook, wore the show for UConn. Williams scored 27 points and, perhaps more importantly, prevented Clark, Division I’s top scorer, from finding her stand. Westbrook only missed two shots and ended up with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists for the Huskies. Together, they spent much of the afternoon on a tag team, drilling holes in Iowa’s defense to strengthen UConn’s lead.
“I’m a complete player and I feel like people have forgotten that,” Williams said in a post-game interview. “I’m just trying to present my game from here.”
Clark finished the race with a below average 21 points. Bueckers scored 18 points but spent most of the game turning to their older teammates.
Bueckers had 6 points in the first half but ended up with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists as she repeatedly passed the ball to teammates and celebrated with growing lead. After one game, when the game turned into a router, Bueckers solemnly ran down the sideline and slapped their trainer Geno Auriemma on the buttocks, causing him to turn around with a puzzled look.
In a post-game interview, Auriemma stated that the rooster was a reaction to a basket from Anna Makurat after hesitating to play her and said he wanted her to add more to it throughout the season. Two assistant coaches had asked him to play makurat and said she would get through. She has scored two 3-point goals in the last five minutes of the game.
“I think Paige informed me: she never misses an opportunity to let me know if I’m wrong,” he said.
Auriemma was back with his team after isolation due to a positive coronavirus test that prevented him from training for the first two rounds of the tournament. He joined his team in San Antonio on Wednesday and pulled Clark aside after defeating Iowa to offer her a pat on the back and some words of encouragement.
It was the women’s tournament’s first game with paying personal viewers, and Huskies fans came out – even if they didn’t go to UConn.
Chris Aranda, 32, from San Antonio ran a 3-mile run and then joined the player nicknamed “Paige Buckets” with his brother. While Bueckers didn’t break any records, Aranda said he wasn’t disappointed.
“I mean, UConn dominates, doesn’t it?” he said after UConn had 14 points ahead of halftime.
On the other side of a large black curtain that divides the Alamodome into two courts where the rest of the tournament is played, Baylor’s drive to the round of 16 was not so easy.
The Bears held Michigan, 78-75, in overtime after Michigan made a frantic comeback in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines started the quarter 7 points behind but forced overtime 15 seconds ahead of striker Naz Hillmon.
The teams went back and forth in overtime until Baylors DiJonai Carrington ran clear across the pitch with a turnover of 1 minute and 11 seconds, setting the Bears on a path to victory.
Moon Ursin had 20 points for Baylor and Carrington had 19. NaLyssa Smith was the top scorer of the game with 24 points. Michigan’s Leigha Brown had 23 points and 7 rebounds.
“I thought she was an All-American for us tonight,” Baylor manager Kim Mulkey said in a post-game interview about Smith.
Many Baylor fans were in attendance – the Waco campus is about a three-hour drive from San Antonio – and offered the Alamodome its first curtain rattle.
“We didn’t think there was going to be overtime and they ended up wasting a little time there, but the Lady Bears are ahead,” said Loretta Rodriguez, 43, a Baylor graduate who lives in San Antonio.
Looking ahead, Mulkey hopes her players will show the same resilience in the next round.
“I will certainly not overtake Geno so that our players can compete better against each other and outperform his players,” she said.
Marisa Ingemi contributed to the reporting.