Home — Sports Highlights From the Men’s and Women’s N.C.A.A. Tournaments on Sunday

Highlights From the Men’s and Women’s N.C.A.A. Tournaments on Sunday

by geiw5


Cade Cunningham, middle, shot 6 of 20 from the field on Sunday.
Credit…Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Cade Cunningham had dreams of a Carmelo Anthony-type run to an N.C.A.A. title in his one-and-done year at Oklahoma State.

“I’m excited,” Cunningham, the 6-foot-8 freshman point guard, said before the N.C.A.A. tournament began. “Melo’s big shoes to fill but I’m up for the challenge for sure.”

As it turned out, Cunningham wasn’t able to lead the No. 4-seeded Cowboys past the second round against No. 12-seeded Oregon State. The Beavers, the Pac-12 tournament champions, knocked off the Cowboys, 80-70, to seemingly end Cunningham’s college career. Cunningham, a Texas native who has a 2-year-old daughter named Riley, is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s N.B.A. draft.

In the last 10 years, only two No. 1 picks had even reached the Final Four, with Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012 being the only one to win an N.C.A.A. title.

“Cade expects to be the No. 1 pick,” Cowboys Coach Mike Boynton said before the tournament. “He’s not going to talk about it but he believes he’s the best guy.”

The No. 1 and 4 seeds in the Midwest Region have been eliminated after No. 1 Illinois was upset earlier by No. 8 Loyola Chicago, 71-58, with Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt cheering on the Ramblers in the arena. The Beavers will face the Ramblers in the round of 16. The Pac-12’s five teams still haven’t lost a game in the tournament.

Cunningham became just the third player to be named the Big 12’s player of the year and freshman of the year, but was uneven in Indianapolis. He shot 6 of 20 for 24 points with four rebounds and three assists against Oregon State after going 3 of 14 for 15 points in a win over No. 13-seeded Liberty.

Oregon State used a 36-13 first-half run to seize a 44-30 halftime lead. Cunningham’s 3-pointer cut the Cowboys’ deficit to 70-67 with less than minutes remaining, but they never got closer.

Ethan Thompson led the Beavers with 26 points and Jarod Lucas and Maurice Calloo, who transferred from Oklahoma State, scored 15 apiece.

No. 12-seeded Oregon State upsets No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State, 80-70.

Oregon State withstood a second-half charge from Oklahoma State, and its defense held Cade Cunningham to 24 points on 20 attempts from the field. Ethan Thompson scored 26 for the Beavers.

The college career for Cade Cunningham, considered the top prospect in the upcoming N.B.A. draft, appears to have come to an end in the second round with No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State losing to No. 12-seeded Oregon State, 80-70. Only two of the last 10 No. 1 picks have reached the Final Four, and only one, Anthony Davis of Kentucky, won a title.

No. 1 seed Stanford routs No. 16 seed Utah Valley, 87-44.

Stanford outscored the Wolverines by 20 points in the first quarter and coasted to the finish. Kiana Williams led all scorers with 20 points.

No. 1-seeded Stanford went on an 8-0 run in the last two minutes of its 87-44 win over Utah Valley, a No. 16 seed. Kiana Williams, a senior guard from San Antonio, was Stanford’s leading scorer with 20 points. She set a school record for the most 3-pointers made in a career at 300.

No. 8 seed South Florida held off No. 9 seed Washington State, 57-53.

Elena Tsineke scored 18 points and Elisa Pinzan had 12.

South Florida survives Washington State’s quick start, holding the Cougars to eight fourth-quarter points in a 57-53 win. Charlisse Leger-Walker put the Cougars ahead with a 3-pointer with one minute, 48 seconds left, but they didn’t score again after Elena Tsineke’s game-winning layup seconds later.

Paige Bueckers, UConn’s star freshman, scored 24 points and nearly had a double-double in her tournament debut.
Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Paige Bueckers’s first N.C.A.A. tournament game was like many of her regular season games; dominant and historic.

She led the game in points, scoring 24 in first-seeded UConn’s 102-59 win over No. 16 seed High Point. She also had nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. She led the team with 36 minutes.

“You work your whole life for March Madness,” Bueckers said in her postgame interview on ESPN. “It’s just awesome to be a part of it.”

Bueckers’s point total is believed to be the most for a UConn freshman making their tournament debut.

It was her 12th game with at least 20 points in her historic season. She finished 9 of 13 from the floor, one of those coming from behind the arch, and was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.

“Paige absolutely has another gear,” said UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, who was filling in for Geno Auriemma after his positive coronavirus test. “And when she gets to that point, it’s tough to stop her.”

UConn shot 59 percent from the field while dominating the rebound battle 52-23 and scoring an astounding 62 points in the paint to the Panthers’ 18.

It’s the sixth consecutive tournament in which UConn has reached the 100-point mark at least once. It’s the fourth time this season the Huskies reached 100, and the first since a Jan. 4 contest against DePaul.

After Baylor totaled 101 points earlier Sunday, UConn set the new bar for most points in a tournament game this year.

It wasn’t all good news, though; freshman point guard Nika Muhl left the game midway through the second quarter with a right ankle sprain and did not return. She previously injured her left ankle in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. She was seen leaving on crutches.

No. 5 seed Villanova defeats No. 13 seed North Texas, 84-61.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led Villanova’s four double-figure scorers with 18 points, and the Wildcats shot 50 percent from 3-point range.

Despite losing starting point guard Collin Gillespie to a knee injury at the end of the regular season, Villanova is rolling against North Texas. Jay Wright has led the Wildcats to two of the last four N.C.A.A. titles and trails only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (5) and U.N.C.’s Roy Williams (3) among active coaches.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse left early. There’s about 500 people here watching Villanova dispatch North Texas.

No. 1-seeded Stanford is 7 of 11 from 3-point range and not letting Utah Valley near the basket. It’s not a good combination for the No. 16 Wolverines, who are trailing by 20 points after the first quarter.

U.C.L.A. head coach Mick Cronin during his team’s play-in game.
Credit…Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Only two teams from the Pac-12 were in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll, but the so-called “Conference of Champions” sent all five of its teams into the second round of the N.C.A.A. tournament.

U.C.L.A. coach Mick Cronin finds the assessments of his league comical.

“You’re finding out the Pac-12 not being ranked all year was an absolute joke,” Cronin said after his team beat Brigham Young University, 73-62, on Saturday night. “And some people ought to be ashamed of themselves now. Maybe people can’t stay up late because I can’t, either. So maybe people can’t stay up for our games.”

The Pac-12 had five teams make the round of 32, including No. 12 seed Oregon State, which took an early lead on fourth-seeded Oklahoma State on Sunday night. Four Pac-12 teams are scheduled to play Monday: No. 5 seed Colorado, No. 6 seed Southern California, No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 11 seed U.C.L.A.

In the most recent AP poll, Colorado was ranked No. 22 and Southern California tied for 23rd.

Only the Big Ten and Big 12 — with six teams apiece — put more teams into the second round.

Still, the Pac-12 hasn’t won an N.C.A.A. championship since Arizona in 1997.

Oral Roberts’ Kevin Obanor scored 28 points to help his team upset Florida.
Credit…Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Both Florida and Oral Roberts had intense overtime wins in the first round, and neither got a break in the second round, where No. 15-seeded Oral Roberts narrowly upset the Gators, 81-78.

Although Florida shot incredibly well — 55 percent — the team struggled with turnovers. It led 47-32 at the half, but the Golden Eagles came out in the second half knowing they had what it took after beating No. 2-seeded Ohio State in the first round.

With 9:48 left, the Gators took their largest lead of 11 points, but by the four minute mark, their lead was down to 1. Oral Roberts inched ahead with less than three minutes on a layup by Kevin Obanor.

The final two minutes were like many close games today: unpredictable. The two teams exchanged leads and finally Florida was forced to foul when it was down 2 points with 16 seconds left. Oral Roberts made one free throw to take a 3-point lead and the Gators missed their final two 3-point attempts. Obanor led the Golden Eagles with 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Oral Roberts is the second No. 15 seed to make it to the round of 16. The first was Florida Gulf Coast in 2013. The Golden Eagles will face No. 3 Arkansas.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights after their late collapse.
Credit…Joshua Bickel/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

After leading for most of the second half, No. 10 seed Rutgers collapsed against No. 2 seed Houston, 63-60, to push the Cougars into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Houston outscored Rutgers 14-2 over the final four and a half minutes. Tramon Mark put Houston ahead 61-60 with 24.1 seconds left when he scored on a putback in the paint, took a foul and then hit a free throw.

Houston’s Marcus Sasser then stole the ball from Geo Baker and went to the foul line with nine seconds left. He made two more free throws for a 63-60 lead, and Ron Harper Jr. missed a 3-point attempt for the Scarlet Knights at the buzzer.

Houston celebrated as Rutgers realized its dream season was over, short of what would have been its first Sweet 16 since 1979.

Houston (26-3) will next meet Syracuse (18-9) next weekend after Jim Boeheim and the Orange fended off West Virginia, 75-72.

“We missed a ton of open shots, we missed a ton of free throws but at the end of the game, we found a way to win and we survived and advanced,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said in a television interview. “Couldn’t be more proud.”

Rutgers fans applauded the players as they left the court. Harper Jr. and Jacob Young were disconsolate at the buzzer, laying on the court, and Baker was wiping away tears.

“The end of the game wasn’t Xs and Os, that was Tramon Mark, a freshman, doing what we do best, rebounding a missed shot, putting it in and making a free throw,” Sampson said.

Quentin Grimes finished with 22 points for Houston and DeJon Jarreau scored 17 with five rebounds and two assists despite an injury.

“We didn’t play very well and Rutgers had a lot to do with that,” Sampson said. “Sometimes the other team plays good and you don’t.”

Since Rutgers last reached the second round of the N.C.A.A. tournament in 1983, it has had nine different head coaches and endured 26 seasons with a losing record. The school has played in four different conferences.

Still, Pikiell has the team going in the right direction even if this season is over.

With its win, Oral Roberts is the second No. 15 seed to ever make it to the Sweet 16. The first was Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

It might seem like 43 points is a large margin of victory, but compared with UConn’s first-round win margins over the past few years — 49 points in 2019, 88 in 2018 and 61 in 2017 — High Point put up a respectable effort in its tournament debut.

No. 4 seed West Virginia got past No. 13 seed Lehigh, 77-53.

West Virginia will play Georgia Tech in the next round.

No. 1 seed UConn easily beat No. 16 seed High Point, 102-59.

Paige Bueckers had 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

No. 15 seed Oral Roberts takes down No. 7 seed Florida, 81-78.

The Gators blew an 11-point lead.

The Huskies set the bar for the most points scored in one of this year’s tournament games, men’s or women’s, when they defeated High Point in the first round, 102-59. They are the second team to surpass 100 points in Texas after Baylor, which beat Jackson State 101-52. UConn’s Paige Bueckers racked up 24 points, nine rebounds and sx assists in 36 minutes — and added evidence to her case for player of the year.

If you’re looking for the Oklahoma State-Oregon State game, tip-off was delayed by 17 minutes, to 9:57 p.m. Eastern time, because of a power failure at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Oregon State won by 24 points despite the game being close early.
Credit…Stephen Spillman/Associated Press

Oregon State’s blowout, 83-59, win over Florida State showed how hard it was to seed the teams this season.

No. 9 seed Florida State and No. 8 seed Oregon State came into their first-round matchup with similar resumes. Both teams had 11 games canceled or postponed as a result of coronavirus health and safety protocols, and both played only 18 games before the N.C.A.A. tournament. The Beavers had one more regular season win than Florida State, and made it to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.

They started out even enough, tied at 16 after the first quarter. But then Oregon State senior guard Aleah Goodman, who had 49.4 percent of her shots from the 3-point line this season entering play, started using that long-distance threat to split the Florida State defense. She scored 14 points in the first half, leading her team to a 41-27 halftime lead.

The Florida State offense stalled, with Oregon State holding its opponent to just 35.5 percent shooting for the game while the Beavers seemed to score at will. Their win showed that despite the fact that both teams played the same number of games in equally tough conferences and were seeded accordingly, one was much more tournament-ready than the other — a reality the coronavirus pandemic made impossible to see coming.

Rutgers fans are applauding the players as they leave the court and do they ever need it. Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young were disconsolate at the buzzer, laying on the court, and Geo Baker was wiping away tears. That was some collapse: blew a 10-point lead midway through the second half, gave up the go-ahead points on a offensive tip-in and 1, Baker lost the ball on the next possession and Harper missed a 3 on a good look.

No. 2 seed Houston comes back to beat No. 10 seed Rutgers, 63-60.

Houston outscored Rutgers 14-2 over the last four and a half minutes.

Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham had 15 points during the Cowboys’ first-round win against Liberty on Friday.
Credit…Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Fourth-seeded Oklahoma State is preparing to play No. 12 Oregon State in the second round of the men’s tournament Sunday night. But while the collegiate championship dreams of Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State’s star guard, will be on the line, the game is virtually certain not to move his N.B.A. draft stock one way or the other.

“Players have bad games,” Vinny Del Negro, a former coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Clippers, said this month. “But if you’ve watched the player you’re really interested in and you’ve seen him play 10 games during the year and talked to the high school coach and the college coach and you do all the background things, just because he has one bad game is not indicative of his talent level.”

Let’s take it another step: N.B.A. talent evaluators don’t really care whether a draft prospect appeared in an N.C.A.A. tournament at all, a reality we explored at length in Sunday’s newspaper. By some predictions, at least one-third of the players selected in the first round of the draft later this year will not have appeared in games played these past few days.

It has gone that way for plenty of players.

“It could have been counted against me, but it didn’t,” Markelle Fultz, a guard for the Orlando Magic and the top pick in the 2017 draft, said in an interview last year. “I didn’t really hear a lot about it.”

The greatest cost of not appearing in the N.C.A.A. tournament, executives said, may very well be the lost opportunity to dazzle millions of television viewers and start to build the prominence that can lay the groundwork for lucrative sponsorships later.

But, of course, a great performance never hurts.

Some pretournament mock drafts — reliable as they may or may not be — had De’Andre Hunter going somewhere from No. 11 to No. 15 in 2019, when Zion Williamson was the consensus top pick. Then came Hunter’s star turn during Virginia’s national championship run. His biggest game was his last as a Cavalier: a career-high 27-point eruption in the title showdown, including the shot that led to overtime and the one that put Virginia ahead for good.

“If I could play good on that stage, then it definitely shows scouts or whatever that you’re the best,” Hunter said. “I feel like the tournament definitely helped me probably move up a couple draft spots and change the narrative of my game.”

Hunter, a forward for the Atlanta Hawks, was the fourth pick.

No. 8 seed Oregon State blew out No. 9 seed Florida State, 83-59.

Aleah Goodman scored 24 points and had five assists.

Nothing better epitomizes this game better than Quentin Grimes missing two free throws, the Cougars getting the offensive rebound and Grimes knocking down a long 3.

The full Rutgers experience is on display: tenacious defense and rebounding, and times when it… just… can’t… score. Scarlet Knights were up 50-40 with 11:19 left. Houston has scored 8 points since and is hanging around, with Rutgers up 58-56 with 2:30 left.

Washington State forward Ula Motuga in action against Utah during the first round of the Pac-12 tournament earlier this month.
Credit…Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

The Cougars have a flair for the dramatic. No. 9 seed Washington State even had to eke it out one final time on Selection Monday, unsure if they’d get an at-large bid.

Washington State, the seventh-place finisher in the Pac-12 Conference, made the N.C.A.A. tournament after overtime thrillers with No. 8 U.C.L.A., No. 7 Arizona, Southern California and Oregon State, all in a two-week span.

It’s also the first time in 30 years the Cougars are dancing. It’s been a season of firsts, as the Cougars earned their first ever Associated Press poll ranking earlier this season. They do love their theatrics.

“We want to become relevant in women’s college basketball and become a household name across the country,” Coach Kamie Ethridge said. “This is the first step, to get into the N.C.A.A. tournament and make some waves.”

The Cougars didn’t have to wait long to find out they had made it. On the ESPN bracket reveal last week, they were one of the first teams to see their logo appear on the screen. For once, they didn’t have to keep viewers on the edge of their seats for too long.

Maybe it’s just the No. 35, but Houston’s Fabian White Jr., lanky, long-armed and back-pedaling after a mid-range jumper, has a pocket Kevin Durant vibe.

UConn guard Nika Mühl was carried off the court by a trainer and teammate with 6:07 on the clock in the second quarter, hopping only on her left foot. It is unclear if the freshman, who has averaged 10.9 points, 5.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game this season, will return. A string of 3-pointers have kept High Point from an even larger deficit, but the Panthers are down 24 points at halftime.

Moses Moody had 15 points for Arkansas
Credit…Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Third-seeded Arkansas is settling into a freak-out-the-fans approach for this tournament: Hold a narrow lead at halftime — and then, eventually, get around to winning one way or another.

It had a 3-point lead over 14th-seeded Colgate at the intermission on Friday, and ultimately won by 17. On Sunday, a 2-point lead at halftime turned into just a 2-point victory over No. 6 Texas Tech in the South region.

Arkansas, which trailed by as many as 10 during the first half and led by up to 13 in the second, faced a furious resurgence by the Red Raiders in the closing minutes at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis before winning, 68-66. Although Justin Smith had 20 points on Sunday, the Razorbacks’ shooting was poorer than usual, with Arkansas making just 42 percent of its field-goal attempts. Davonte Davis and Moses Moody each had 15 points.

Next up for the Razorbacks: the winner of the evening’s No. 7 Florida vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts matchup. Arkansas beat both by 11 points each during the regular season.

High Point, a No. 16 seed, is holding up in its first Division I tournament appearance. But No. 1 seed UConn is still outrunning the Panthers. The Huskies look unbothered without their head coach, Geno Auriemma, who tested positive for the coronavirus last week and has yet to join them in San Antonio.

South Carolina’s Zia Cooke put up a shot during the Gamecocks’ blowout win.
Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After a surprisingly close first half, No. 1 seed South Carolina took care of business with a 79-53 win over No. 16 seed Mercer to open their tournament.

Aliyah Boston and Victaria Saxton each tallied 20 points for the Gamecocks. Boston also finished with 18 rebounds — nine offensive and nine defensive.

The Gamecocks finished with 52 rebounds compared with 27 for the Bears.

The Gamecocks held the Bears to 36.9 percent shooting and to just 27.3 percent on 3-pointers. South Carolina was itself only 3 of 14 on 3-pointers, but extended their possessions with 21 offensive rebounds, giving Mercer little room to come back.

Mercer only scored 6 points in the fourth quarter against the smothering South Carolina defense, which held the Bears to just nine offensive rebounds.

South Carolina will face the winner of Florida State and Oregon State in the second round.

Texas Tech might be bringing back layup drills next season.

No. 3 seed Arkansas hangs on to beat sixth-seeded Texas Tech, 68-66.

Kyler Edwards of Texas Tech missed a layup at the end that could have tied the game.

No. 1 seed South Carolina routed No. 16 seed Mercer, 79-53.

The Gamecocks pulled away in the second half, and Aliyah Boston had 20 points and 18 rebounds.

No. 8 seed Syracuse topped No. 9 seed South Dakota State, 72-55.

The win for the Orange was much more comfortable than the victory clinched by the men’s team minutes earlier.

The Syracuse women got some belated revenge with their victory over No. 9 seed South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits beat the Orange in the second round of the 2019 N.C.A.A. tournament.

Buddy Boeheim had 25 points against West Virginia, after scoring 30 in the first round.
Credit…Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Another No. 3 seed goes down as No. 11 Syracuse upset West Virginia, 75-72. This is not new territory for the Orange, though — they now have nine wins as a double-digit seed, the most of any team.

West Virginia struggled in the first half, shooting just 32.1 percent. Syracuse’s zone defense cost the Mountaineers 11 turnovers as they struggled to move the ball.

Syracuse put on a 3-point clinic to start the second half, opening on an 8-2 run. It shot 45.2 percent from behind the arc, led by Buddy Boeheim who finished with six 3-pointers. Boeheim led the Orange with 25 points after scoring 30 in their first-round game.

Still, West Virginia fought back, forcing Syracuse into a scoring drought that lasted more than four minutes and cutting the deficit to 2. It then became a 3-point battle as the two teams exchanged long shots back and forth. A 3-pointer by guard Sean McNeil gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game, 53-52, with less than 10 minutes remaining.

The game came down to the final seconds as Syracuse had trouble inbounding the ball and West Virginia got a few easy layups. A travel by West Virginia with about three seconds left gave Syracuse the win.

No. 11 seed Syracuse gets past No. 3 seed West Virginia, 75-72.

Syracuse will face either Houston or Rutgers in the Sweet 16.

South Carolina’s Victaria Saxton battles for the ball in the first half of the first round game against Mercer.
Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Lower seeds have made things interesting on the first day of the women’s tournament. After No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T led by 6 points in the second quarter against top-seeded North Carolina State, Mercer has made things interesting against another top seed, South Carolina.

Mercer trails just 43-32 at halftime. The Bears, who historically have been competitive in the tournament despite being a lower seed, have held the Gamecocks to 28.2 percent on 3-point shooting.

At one point, the Bears tied it up 27-27 on a jumper from Amoria Neal-Tysor, but Aliyah Boston, Destiny Littleton and Victaria Saxton led a Gamecocks run to pull ahead once more.

In all cases, the top seed has ended up pulling away today — the Wolfpack stormed back to win 79-58 with a 35-point second half effort, during which they held the Aggies to just 21 points.

Even Idaho State, a No. 13 seed, competed with No. 4 seed Kentucky and fell 71-63 earlier in an upset bid. No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin also took fifth-seeded Georgia Tech to overtime.

If the trend continues, South Carolina has plenty of time to pull away in the second half.

Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim in the last four games: 22 points and counting with six 3s; 30 points with seven 3s; 31 with five 3s; and 27 with six 3s.

West Virginia has narrowed the gap against Syracuse. But Buddy Boeheim, a junior guard for Syracuse who had 30 points in Friday’s first-round game, has been much more of a scoring force in the second half. Of his 22 points today, 19 have come after the intermission.

No. 5 seed Georgia Tech hung on in overtime against No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin, 54-52.

At the end of a close overtime, Avery Brittingham missed a layup that could have tied the game.

Fifth-seeded Georgia Tech escapes the first round with the women’s tournament’s first overtime win over No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin, 54-52.

No. 1 seed North Carolina State easily beat No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T, 79-58.

North Carolina A&T was held to 21 points in the second half.

Syracuse has eight wins as a double-digit seed — tied with V.C.U. for the most — including reaching the Final Four in 2016 as a No. 10 and the Sweet 16 in 2018 from the play-in games as a No. 11.

Second-seeded Baylor routed No. 15 seed Jackson State, 101-52.

Moon Ursa led the Bears with 24 points, and NaLyssa Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Michigan’s Danielle Rauch shot against the Florida Gulf Coast defense during Michigan’s blowout win.
Credit…Michael Thomas/Associated Press

Leigha Brown, who transferred to Michigan from Nebraska last year, scored a season-high 28 points — 19 of them in the third quarter — to lead the sixth-seeded Wolverines to an 87-66 first-round win over No. 11 seed Florida Gulf Coast.

Brown, a 6-foot-1 junior, missed four of her team’s games this season because of Covid-19 protocols.

“In the last few games, I’ve been struggling coming back from Covid,” she told reporters after the game. “But my teammates kept telling me, ‘Your pull-up — that’s your bread and butter.’”

The game was close for three quarters, but Michigan pulled away in the fourth quarter to end a 24-game win streak by the Eagles. Junior guard Danielle Rauch hit back-to back 3s — just her fifth and sixth of the season — in the quarter to help the Wolverines put the game away. Over all, Michigan hit eight 3-pointers, just one fewer than the team’s season high.

On defense, Michigan controlled Florida Gulf Coast, which went into the game with the sixth-best scoring offense the N.C.A.A.’s Division 1, averaging over 80 points.

“We knew they came in shooting 600 to 700 more 3s than we shot this season,” Brown said. “So we gave up some easy 2s because we didn’t want to give up the 3.”

Mercer Coach Susie Gardner huddling with her team during the Southern Conference tournament championship game.
Credit…Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

As a No. 16 seed, expectations aren’t high for Mercer. The Bears dominated the Southern Conference tournament, winning their third conference title in four years with a 60-38 thrashing of Wofford.

The Bears, even though they were ranked low each time, have historically kept games competitive on the national stage. In 2018, they competed with No. 4 Georgia in a 68-63 loss, and a year later they fell 66-61 to No. 2 Iowa. Top-seeded South Carolina, beware.

“We are a very confident program,” Mercer Coach Susie Gardner told reporters last week. “We have to rely on the selection committee to respect our program. We are at the mercy of the selection committee. Once we get our opponent then we dive in head first and prepare like we always do.”

Mercer had never made the N.C.A.A. tournament until 2018, after hiring Gardner before the 2010-11 season. Of those past tournament games, though, only Shannon Titus, the two-time SoCon defensive player of the year, remains on the roster.





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