Texas A&M trusted their sophomore transfer and it all worked out.
Jordan Nixon was understandably emotional after delivering the No. 2 seed Aggies a spot in the Sweet 16. Once again on the verge of upset, she made the game-tying layup in regulation and the game-winning one in overtime for a 84-82 win. Her ensuing post-game interview was everything we love about March Madness.
The top seeds did prevail on Day 4 of the NCAA women's tournament even if it took all they had for a full 40 minutes. No. 2 seed Louisville, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 3 Arizona were all taken down to the final minutes or overtime in the second round and were in serious trouble of an early exit. Again, the parity is here. Neutral courts certainly help.
Minutes before the Aggies, who never led in the game until Nixon's overtime-opening 3-pointer, put themselves into overtime it was all eyes on No. 3 Arizona. The Wildcats were in a battle with No. 11 BYU and trailing, 43-39, with five minutes left. Aari McDonald and Sam Thomas took over from there with back-to-back 3-pointers. McDonald secured one of her four steals to seal it at the end. She had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the 52-46 win.
In the game session prior to those two close calls, Louisville had a tough time and trailed by as many as 18 points to No. 7 Northwestern. The Cardinals also played behind for most of the contest but built the third-largest comeback in tournament history to win, 62-53. The early deficit was reminiscent of their first-round game against Marist, though they bounced back in that one for a larger win.
“This is the second straight ballgame,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said after the game. “So the first thing I’m going to do is change my pregame speech.”
The top three seed lines are a deep and talented group. So are the teams slightly below them. The tournament bracket is still mostly chalk, but it doesn't reflect the battle these top seeds have to go through to get there that we haven't seen in years past.
Louisville escapes, but Dana Evans' slump remains
The only way to describe Louisville's second-round game is "survive and advance." The Cardinals trailed Northwestern for most of the game and had to climb back from 18 points down. The comeback is tied for the third-largest in the history of the women's tournament. Texas A&M completed a 21-point comeback in the 2017 tournament.
More concerning is the shooting slump two-time ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans has experienced of late. The 37.5% career 3-point shooter was 1-for-8 from behind the line against Marist and 2-for-10 against Northwestern. The first-round WNBA draft prospect is in a slump at the worst time.
The handful of times this season she's been worse than 35% she's bounced back in the next game to make nearly half of her 6.5 attempts a game.
Evans still had 14 points against Northwestern and hit a late 3-pointer that pushed their lead to five. And she wasn't the only reason they found themselves behind. Northwestern is a tough team and brought it defensively. They also shot 40% (6-for-15) from behind the arc. Louisville freshman Hailey Van Lith was quiet until late, but finished with a perfect shooting line for 13 points.
Louisville has shown it can win without Evans at her best, but it will be increasingly tougher to as the tournament goes deeper.
Terrapins winning the points race
Maryland isn't slowing down. The Terrapins opened the fourth day of action with ease, defeating No. 7 Alabama, 100-64. They outscored the Crimson Tide, 30-9, in the first quarter and no one let up on the gas.
The 198 points over the first two games is a Big Ten record and puts the Terrapins on watch for most points over an entire NCAA tournament. The record is 547 points by the 2000 UConn squad over six games. The Terrapins would need to average 88 points per game in a run to the title game to eclipse that mark. If Maryland finishes with more than 507 total points, it would break the hold by UConn, Tennessee, Baylor and Notre Dame on the top 10 in the record books.
The Terrapins shot 61.8% as a team and can get scoring from anyone, including young players who are getting valuable tournament experience. Freshman forward Angel Reese led the efforts with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting off the bench. Sophomore guard Faith Masonius added 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, two assists and two steals off the bench. All but one player scored.
Notes from Day 4
Count them: Three of the four No. 6 seeds are into the Sweet 16 (Michigan, Oregon, Texas). They are joined by all four No. 1 seeds, all four No. 2 seeds, No. 3 Arizona, No. 4 Indiana and three No. 5 seeds (Missouri State, Iowa, Georgia Tech).
No. 5 Missouri State doubled up No. 13 Wright State in the second half to advance, 64-39, and book a meeting with No. 1 overall seed Stanford. It's a rematch of the 2019 Sweet 16 that Stanford won, 55-46, in a poor offensive showing for both teams. It was Missouri State's final game under coach Kelli Harper, who left o coach at alma mater Tennessee.
No. 6 Texas advanced without a big game from likely No. 1 draft pick Charlie Collier. The Longhorns defeated No. 3 seed UCLA, 72-62, behind 24 points from Celeste Taylor. Collier dealt with foul trouble and UCLA forward Michaela Onyenwere fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Sedona Prince is having a big tournament. She was a key reason the inequities in the men's and women's tournaments gained national attention with her TikTok last week. And Wednesday she followed up a fun pre-game dunk with a Sweet 16 worthy performance for No. 6 Oregon.
No. 4 Indiana is in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history with a 70-48 win over No. 12 Belmont. Mackenzie Holmes scored eight of the team's first 13 points to get the Hoosiers going. She finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Grace Berger led with 17 points and every starter scored nine points or more.
Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma has arrived in San Antonio. Auriemma missed the first two games while quarantining at home following a positive COVID-19 test.
Sweet 16 schedule
The NCAA is leading off Saturday's Sweet 16 slate with one of the most anticipated matchups in college basketball. The freshman faceoff between Connecticut's Paige Bueckers and Iowa's Caitlin Clark will tip at 1 p.m. ET on ABC. Here's the rest of the schedule:
1 p.m.: No. 1 UConn vs. No. 5 Iowa, ABC (River Walk)
3 p.m.: No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 6 Michigan, ABC (River Walk)
6 p.m.: No 1 N.C. State vs. No. 4 Indiana, ESPN2 (Mercado)
9 p.m.: No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Arizona, ESPN2 (Mercado)
1 p.m.: No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 5 Georgia Tech, ABC (Hemisfair)
3 p.m.: No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 5 Missouri State, ABC (Alamo)
7 p.m.: No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 6 Oregon, ESPN (Alamo)
9 p.m.: No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 6 Texas, ESPN (Hemisfair)
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