• December 2, 2023

A Buzzer Beater and Upsets Get N.C.A.A. Tournament to Sweet 16

March 25, 2021, 12:04 a.m. ET

March 25, 2021, 12:04 a.m. ETThe Texas Longhorns celebrated making the round of 16.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The last minute of Texas’ victory over U.C.L.A. was played from the foul lines. By then, the Longhorns knew they were headed to the round of 16.

Texas, the No. 6 seed, relied on its high-pressure defense to limit the third-seeded Bruins to 14 points in the first half and took a 21-point lead. U.C.L.A. could not close enough of that gap in the second half to prevent a 71-62 Texas victory.

The Longhorns will face Maryland, a high-scoring No. 2 seed, on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the Bruins shot 33 percent while Texas shot 51 percent. Texas was 6 for 17 from beyond the 3-point arc; U.C.L.A. made just one of its 19 3-point attempts.

Longhorns guard Celeste Taylor led the way with 24 points, and point guard Kyra Lambert added 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Bruins’ Michaela Onyenwere, projected to be a top-10 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft this year, had 23 points.

With a wave to the guests and a quick dance, the Longhorns left to prepare for an extended stay in San Antonio.

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No. 6 seed Texas beats No. 3 seed U.C.L.A., 71-62.

Celeste Taylor led the Longhorns with 24 points, and Kyra Lambert had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

March 24, 2021, 10:03 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 10:03 p.m. ETJordan Nixon (No. 5) was mobbed by her teammates after she hit a winning layup to send Texas A&M to the Sweet 16.Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Jordan Nixon saved Texas A&M from being the highest seed knocked out of the tournament so far with a layup at the buzzer in overtime that gave the Aggies an 84-82 win over Iowa State.

Seventh-seeded Iowa State held the lead for most of the game and ended the third quarter with a 9-point advantage. But the second-seeded Aggies — who were pushed hard in their first-round win over 15th-seeded Troy — were not going down without a fight.

A jumper by Nixon coupled with a layup by center Ciera Johnson with a minute on the clock in regulation brought the Aggies to within a point of the Cyclones. Ashley Joens, who finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds for Iowa State, clapped back with a turnaround jumper.

Nixon then made a driving layup to send the game to overtime, and started overtime with a 3-pointer that gave the Aggies a lead for the first time. The teams continued to volley until the end and were tied with a second to go, when Nixon broke away for her layup at the buzzer. She finished with 35 points.

The Alamodome erupted in the loudest applause of the tournament, and the Aggies breathed a sigh of relief. Texas A&M will play in its third consecutive Sweet 16.

In a postgame interview, Nixon dedicated her performance to her high school coach, Dave Edwards, who died on March 24, 2020, after contracting the coronavirus.

“Today was for him,” she said.

She added, “We didn’t want to go home tonight, and I’m glad we’re still dancing.”

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March 24, 2021, 9:30 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 9:30 p.m. ET

No. 2 seed Texas A&M notched the first buzzer beater in March Madness with a dramatic Jordan Nixon layup as time expired in overtime to give the Aggies an 84-82 win over No. 7 seed Iowa State. The Cyclones led by as much as 12, but the Aggies came back and Nixon delivered the first buzzer beater win in either the men’s or women’s tournaments this year.

No. 2 seed Texas A&M beats No. 7 seed Iowa State, 84-82, in overtime.

The Aggies got 35 points from Jordan Nixon, including the winning basket, as they rallied to beat the Cyclones.

March 24, 2021, 9:25 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 9:25 p.m. ETAari McDonald, right, had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona against Brigham Young University.Credit…Michael Thomas/Associated Press

No. 3 seed Arizona came out on top after a tightly fought game, beating No. 11 seed Brigham Young University, 52-46. Neither team ever led by more than 6 as the two grappled. It was the Wildcats who earned their program’s second Sweet 16 berth, and their first since head coach Adia Barnes was Arizona’s star player in 1998.

“All or nothing, just do it or die,” Arizona senior Aari McDonald said in a television interview after the game. She finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “I definitely didn’t want to go home, so I had to just suck it up and leave it all on the court.”

McDonald hit her first 3-point shot in the middle of the fourth quarter. Brigham Young followed with a shot clock violation and then the Wildcats took back the lead.

“We know that defense starts our offense, and I’m the catalyst,” McDonald said. “Second half, I took pride in my defense and we got the job done.”

Trinity Baptiste fouled out in the final minute after racking up 11 rebounds and after making a potentially game-saving play by tipping one of McDonald’s misses back out to the normally sharpshooting guard. McDonald was then able to make a driving layup that effectively sealed the game.

After the Wildcats shot some free throws, the Cougars had one last chance — a chance that McDonald generated with a steal with nine seconds left before hitting one more layup on her way to her first Sweet 16.

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March 24, 2021, 9:09 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 9:09 p.m. ET

Two top W.N.B.A. prospects are playing in the game between No. 6 seed Texas and No. 3 seed UCLA: Longhorn Charli Collier and Bruin Michaela Onyenwere are both projected as top-10 draft picks.

No. 3 seed Arizona beats No. 11 seed Brigham Young University, 52-46.

Aari McDonald had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona.

March 24, 2021, 8:29 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 8:29 p.m. ET

No. 11 seed Brigham Young and No. 3 seed Arizona were tied, 37-37, going into the fourth quarter. The Cougars are seeking their third-ever Sweet 16 berth; the Wildcats, their second.

March 24, 2021, 7:33 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 7:33 p.m. ETIndiana celebrates its rout of Belmont.Credit…Ronald Cortes/Associated Press

Fourth-seeded Indiana has punched its first-ever ticket to the Sweet 16 with a 70-48 blowout win over No. 12 seed Belmont, keeping the Bruins from an upset run. It is Hoosiers Coach Teri Moren’s first trip to the round of 16.

Four of five starters scored at least 10 points each for the Hoosiers. The fifth, 6-foot-3 junior Aleksa Gulbe, had 9 points and 15 rebounds.

“A lot of the things she does don’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Grace Berger, who had 17 points in the game and has the most triple-doubles in Division I this season. “To see her get 15 rebounds is big time, but it’s nothing she doesn’t do for us every game.”

Belmont was able to stay within range through the first half, but Indiana pulled away and had the Bruins in foul trouble in the second half. While the Hoosiers made 14 free throws, Belmont was able to make just one, preventing the Bruins from staying competitive.

“We’re really excited — that’s an understatement,” Berger added. “But we also know we’re not done yet.”

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March 24, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ET

The crowd is loud at the Iowa State and Texas A&M game — especially for No. 7 seed Iowa State. The Cyclones had a 10-point lead over the No. 2 Aggies after the first quarter, when Aubrey Joens made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

March 24, 2021, 7:16 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 7:16 p.m. ETOlivia Cochran had 13 points and 15 rebounds in Louisville’s comeback win over Northwestern.Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Following an abysmal first half, No. 2 seed Louisville flexed its starting rotation and stormed back for a 62-53 win over No. 7 seed Northwestern to earn a berth in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals outscored the Wildcats 55-28 in the second half.

Louisville scored a season-low 20 points in the first half and trailed by as much as 18. But the Cardinals posted 20 points in the third quarter and held the Wildcats to 8.

Their 18-point comeback was tied for the third largest comeback in the women’s tournament.

“It just shows us that we’re never out of a game,” said the Cardinals’ star guard, Dana Evans.

Evans got off to a slow start but finished with 14 points, working as an offensive catalyst during the comeback. Kianna Smith contributed 16 points and Olivia Cochran had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

The win was reminiscent of the Cardinals’ first round win over Marist, where they trailed 21-12 in the second quarter before coming back to earn a decisive 74-43 victory.

“This is the second straight ballgame,” said Cardinals Coach Jeff Walz. “So the first thing I’m going to do is change my pregame speech.”

A 17-0 run in the second half powered the Cardinals on Wednesday, even as they led for less than 10 minutes of the game. The Cardinals shot just 36 percent.

Jordan Hamilton led Northwestern with 17 points.

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No. 4 seed Indiana tops No. 12 seed Belmont, 70-48.

Grace Berger had 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

No. 2 seed Louisville gets past No. 7 seed Northwestern, 62-53.

Louisville was behind big in the first half, but went on a 17-0 run to come back.

March 24, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

No. 2 seed Louisville has pulled into a 40-40 tie with No. 7 seed Northwestern after three quarters. The Cardinals posted 20 third-quarter points and held the Wildcats to just 8, now shooting 33 percent to the Wildcats’ 35 percent. Dana Evans now has 10 points, along with fellow Cardinals starter Kianna Smith.

March 24, 2021, 6:04 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 6:04 p.m. ET

No. 4 seed Indiana has handled No. 12 seed Belmont so far, up 30-18 heading into the second half. The Hoosiers have held the Bruins without a 3-pointer in 13 attempts. Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes leads the way with 9 points and 5 rebounds.

March 24, 2021, 5:56 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 5:56 p.m. ET

No. 7 seed Northwestern leads No. 2 seed Louisville at halftime, 32-20. The Cardinals are shooting just 28 percent, and 20 percent from beyond the arc, while their star Dana Evans has only 7 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Jordan Hamilton is 4-for-6 and has 12 points to lead the Wildcats.

March 24, 2021, 5:51 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 5:51 p.m. ETJasmine Franklin had 11 rebounds for Missouri State.Credit…Michael Thomas/Associated Press

Missouri State came away the winner in this battle of the mid-majors, beating back an upstart No. 13 seed, Wright State, that had just completed the tournament’s biggest upset with a victory over No. 4-seeded Arkansas.

Elle Ruffridge, a 5-foot-3 senior guard, put on a show with 20 points, matching a career high, as she made seven of her eleven shot attempts from the floor. Jasmine Franklin helped the Lady Bears control the glass with her 11 rebounds, surpassing her season average of 10 boards per game, while Wright State struggled to establish the rebounding that had fueled its first-round upset. Missouri State had outrebounded the Raiders by 16 when the rout was complete, 64-39.

“I mean, shooters shot,” Ruffridge said after the game. “I was locked in, in the zone. I’m going to do whatever it took to win.”

The fifth-seeded Lady Bears will make their second consecutive trip to the Sweet Sixteen, a feat of continuity for Missouri State coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton in her first postseason as a head coach. Agugua-Hamilton is the first African-American woman to be the head coach of any sport at Missouri State.

“I think they don’t get the respect they deserve,” Agugua-Hamilton said of her team after the game. “You haven’t seen any highlights from our game in the first round, and you didn’t see anything about us going into this game. The N.C.A.A. tweeted out Wright State’s picture. We handle a lot of disrespect, but it just fuels our fire. We say, ‘Grind now, shine later,’ every single day.”

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March 24, 2021, 5:27 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 5:27 p.m. ET

After one quarter, No. 7 seed Northwestern has opened a 25-10 lead over No. 2 seed Louisville. The Wildcats have held Dana Evans, a two-time A.C.C. player of the year, to 3 points and 1-of-5 shooting. Northwestern is shooting 64 percent from the floor.

March 24, 2021, 5:22 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 5:22 p.m. ETSedona Prince of Oregon added four blocks to her game-high 22 points.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Oregon fought for its fourth Sweet 16 appearance in program history — in some cases, quite literally.

Oregon’s 57-50 win over Georgia, a No. 3 seed, was very physical, with players diving, ducking and knocking each other over in a joust for control. The Ducks’ height advantage helped them to pass the ball efficiently over Georgia, forcing the Bulldogs to play closer to the floor and, in some cases, causing them to hand the ball over.

Tied at halftime, the Ducks, a No. 6 seed, capitalized on these bad-pass and dropped-ball turnovers to take a 7-point lead in the third quarter. Taylor Mikesell took a fast break for a layup, followed shortly by Nyara Sabally hitting a jumper in the paint with just over three minutes left in the third.

Oregon shot 5 for 12 from beyond the arc while Georgia made only one of its 13 3-point attempts. Sedona Prince was the biggest scorer with 22 points for the Ducks. Georgia’s leading contributor, Jenna Staiti, had 18.

But Georgia fought back in the fourth, at one point taking a 1-point lead with four minutes left on a layup by guard Mikayla Coombs. From there, the teams traded baskets until Oregon solidified a six-point lead on a layup and a jumper by Sabally.

By the end, the Bulldogs looked downtrodden, and a set of free throws by Mikesell sealed the victory.

After the game, the Ducks huddled up on the court for a celebration, the cheers of invited friends and family echoing in the background.

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No. 5 seed Missouri State blows by No. 13 seed Wright State, 64-39.

Missouri State was 8 for 16 from beyond the arc, ending the Raiders’ dream of a run.

No. 6 seed Oregon tops No. 3 seed Georgia, 57-50.

The score was tied, 48-48, with under three minutes remaining before the Ducks pulled away.

March 24, 2021, 4:38 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 4:38 p.m. ET

No. 13 seed Wright State is so far losing the rebounding battle — which is usually their calling card — and the game, down 45-27 to No. 5 seed Missouri State. The Lady Bears have 37 boards, while the Raiders have 24.

March 24, 2021, 3:49 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 3:49 p.m. ET

Oregon thought it had the lead on a 3-pointer by forward Nyara Sabally until Georgia’s Mikayla Coombs clapped back with a jumper at the buzzer, tying the score at halftime, 27-27. Both teams are fighting for control of the ball: Oregon has 10 turnovers, Georgia has 7.

March 24, 2021, 3:27 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 3:27 p.m. ET

This Oregon-Georgia game has been very physical; the Ducks have a slight height advantage and are using it to to play above Georgia’s heads when they can. Neither team scored for a four-minute stretch until Jenna Staiti, Georgia’s leading contributor, hit a layup in the last seconds of a tight first quarter. Bulldogs up by 2 going into the second.

March 24, 2021, 3:08 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 3:08 p.m. ETFaith Masonius had a nearly flawless game for Maryland to reach the Sweet 16.Credit…Ronald Cortes/Associated Press

Maryland flexed its offensive might in a dominant win over No. 7 seed Alabama, beating the Crimson Tide, 100-64. The Terrapins reached their 2020-21 season average — 91 points — with nearly five minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was Maryland’s seventh game scoring at least 100 points this season.

Angel Reese, a freshman who entered Maryland as the No. 2 recruit in the country and was sidelined by a foot injury in her fourth collegiate game, made 8 of 12 shots for 19 points in a typically efficient performance. Faith Masonius, who comes off Maryland’s bench, went 7 for 8 for a career high 16 points.

Alabama senior Jasmine Walker, a top W.N.B.A. prospect, led all scorers with 23 points — which still wasn’t enough to stymie the Maryland’s onslaught.

Maryland’s win was something of a turnabout two days after its men’s team fell to Alabama in the second round of the men’s tournament, a game in which the Crimson Tide scored 96 points.

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No. 2 seed Maryland routs No. 7 seed Alabama, 100-64.

Maryland shot 61 percent and had four players with at least 13 points each.

March 24, 2021, 2:21 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 2:21 p.m. ETWright State is playing with confidence as it chases a second upset.Credit…Stephen Spillman/Associated Press

When the Wright State Raiders beat No. 4 Arkansas on Monday, they surprised a lot of people. It was the first time a No. 13 seed had won a women’s N.C.A.A. tournament game since 2012, after all. But nothing about the way the 66-62 victory transpired surprised them.

“We just played our game: made a couple upsets, busted a couple brackets,” Angel Baker told reporters after scoring 26 points to lead the Raiders to their first N.C.A.A. tournament win. “We can beat anybody.”

Baker was undoubtedly the team’s star, and her efficient, quick scoring and impressive court vision instantly made that obvious to anyone watching.

The Raiders’ strength, though, is fundamentals. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and so even without shooting particularly well they’re able to gather 42.5 percent of their misses — the fifth-most in the country.

That emphasis comes from fifth-year head coach Katrina Merriweather, who has won Horizon League Coach of the Year three times. Wright State is her first head coaching position.

“We are a driving, rebounding, defending team,” Merriweather said. “I don’t think we can pretend to be anything else. I don’t think we can try to be anything else and be any good at it. So that had to be our game plan.”

The Raiders get another defense-oriented team in the No. 5 seed Missouri State Bears, who average more than 40 rebounds per game.

“Sometimes we can get a little distracted with how good we think we are,” Merriweather said. “But we just talk about playing to our potential. If we do that, and stay bought into what our plan is, we’ll have a chance to compete with anybody.”

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March 24, 2021, 1:55 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 1:55 p.m. ET

No. 2 seed Maryland is rolling early, up 54-25 on No. 7 seed Alabama at halftime and shooting 68 percent. Three players — Katie Benzan, Mimi Collins and Faith Masonius — haven’t missed a shot yet.

March 24, 2021, 1:36 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 1:36 p.m. ETBaylor earned its Sweet 16 trip with a rout of Virginia Tech.Credit…Ronald Cortes/Associated Press

The tournament games will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPNU and can be streamed on the ESPN app. Here’s the schedule for Wednesday (all times Eastern):

  • 1 p.m. — No. 2 seed Maryland vs. No. 7 seed Alabama, ESPN2

  • 3 p.m. — No. 3 seed Georgia vs. No. 6 seed Oregon, ESPN2

  • 3 p.m. — No. 5 seed Missouri State vs. No. 13 seed Wright State, ESPNU

  • 5 p.m. — No. 2 seed Louisville vs. No. 7 seed Northwestern, ESPN 2

  • 5 p.m. — No. 4 seed Indiana vs. No. 12 seed Belmont, ESPNU

  • 7 p.m. — No. 2 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 7 seed Iowa State, ESPN2

  • 7 p.m. — No. 3 seed Arizona vs. No. 11 seed Brigham Young University, ESPNU

  • 9 p.m. — No. 3 seed U.C.L.A. vs. No. 6 seed Texas, ESPN2

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March 24, 2021, 1:11 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 1:11 p.m. ETJordan of Lewis is one reason Alabama looks like it can contend with top teams.Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Alabama hasn’t pulled off any upsets yet, but the seventh-seeded squad has already made history with its first tournament win since 1999.

The Crimson Tide are playing their best basketball of the season right now, led by a trio of seniors who share the ball well and are used to playing tough teams — even if they haven’t usually been able to secure a win. Alabama is 0-8 against programs ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, and is looking for its first victory over an elite team Wednesday in its matchup with No. 2 seed Maryland.

“When you put the work in, you have to be confident enough to come out here and know that you can do it,” redshirt senior Jordan Lewis told said. She has started every game for the Crimson Tide since joining the program in 2016.

“I think when a lot of people doubt you or don’t have confidence in you, you have to have it within your team and your coaches,” she added. “We’ve really had each other’s back throughout the whole year.”

Lewis, a 5-foot-7 guard, had a career game in Alabama’s defeat of North Carolina on Monday, nearly earning a triple-double with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists. Lewis and her senior compatriots Ariyah Copeland and Jasmine Walker each average at least 10 points. Walker is one of Division I’s top 3-point shooters, making 40 percent of her attempts.

Still, they’ll have to play their best game of the season again to have a chance against Maryland, which boasts the highest scoring offense in the country. The Terrapins aren’t untouchable: They have lost five times in the second round of the tournament since 2010, and in four of those matchups they were the higher seed.

Plus now, the Tide are playing loose. “I think it takes off a lot of weight off of us,” Lewis said. “It’s just so fun to play with your teammates and not have that weight on your shoulders anymore.”

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March 24, 2021, 1:11 p.m. ET

March 24, 2021, 1:11 p.m. ETDestinee Wells led Belmont to its first N.C.A.A. tournament win.Credit…Chuck Burton/Associated Press

It’s impossible to ignore how quickly Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers have developed into offensive juggernauts — the freshmen lead their teams and are both among the best in Division I in scoring and assists. When they meet in the Sweet 16 it promises to be one of the tournament’s splashiest matchups.

There are plenty of other freshmen seeking to make their mark in the postseason, however. Several already have, just with slightly less eye-popping numbers.

Belmont freshman guard Destinee Wells led her 12th-seeded team to its first N.C.A.A. tournament win over Gonzaga with 25 points, 7 assists and 3 steals. The 5-foot-6 Wells even had a block — a testament to the determination and energy she showed throughout the game. Plus, she plays best in big circumstances: Wells’ career scoring high came during the Ohio Valley conference tournament, where she scored 32 points to push her team to a win and its fifth consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament berth.

“We just played a really good defensive team and for her to do what she did against those guys gave us a chance to showcase how good she is,” Belmont Coach Bart Brooks said after the game. “Now, I don’t think anyone who’s watched us play would walk away without some major respect for Destinee Wells.”

It’s not just underdogs that are fueled by young talent. The freshman duo in Louisville’s starting lineup, Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran, combine for 21 points per game and provide essential support to all-American Dana Evans. Cochran averages nearly 13 rebounds per game and in her first tournament game, Van Lith led all scorers with 17 points.

“We were talking and only two of our players have played in the N.C.A.A. tournament for Louisville,” Van Lith said. “So obviously, it’s a really young team. And I wouldn’t say we were nervous or scared, but there was just overall excitement.”

Stanford’s Cameron Brink is yet another freshman starter for a top team. The 6-foot-4 forward has an A-list pedigree: She shares a trainer with Megan Rapinoe, and Dell and Sonya Curry — the parents of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry — are her godparents. That’s all irrelevant on the court, of course. There, she blocks nearly 15 percent of the shots that come her way, and is as reliable as can be scoring below the basket — in her second tournament game, she even hit a 3-pointer, her 10th of the season.

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