Brittany Hrynko, Ka'Lia Johnson

Upsets highlight Monday’s women’s tourney action while unbeaten Notre Dame advances

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NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket

Second-round action of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Tournament continued on Monday night as the evening was highlighted by two big upset wins heading into the Sweet 16.

The biggest upset of the night belonged to No. 7 seed DePaul as the Blue Demons knocked off No. 2 seed Duke, 74-65, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. DePaul hit a season-high 14 three-pointers — seven of which came after Duke field goals — as the Blue Devils (28-7) became the first No. 2 seed to lose this early in the tournament since 2011. The Blue Demons (29-6) were led by Megan Rogowski’s 22 points as DePaul has won 18 of its last 19 games.

DePaul moves on to Lincoln for its Sweet 16 game on Saturday against the winner of Texas A&M and James Madison.

The other big upset of the night came courtesy of No. 12 seed BYU, as they toppled No. 4 seed Nebraska, 80-76. Morgan Bailey scored a career-high 18 points and Jennifer Hamson added 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Cougars (28-6) advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2002. The loss for Nebraska (26-7) means they won’t get to play on its home floor for a potential Sweet 16 game against unbeaten No. 1 seed UConn, who still needs to beat St. Joseph’s tomorrow night to advance.

Unbeaten No. 1 seed Notre Dame moved to 34-0 on the season with an 84-67 win over No. 9 seed Arizona State (23-10). Natalie Achonwa finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Irish moved on to its 12th Sweet 16 appearance in the last 18 years. Notre Dame is the host for the next two rounds, so the Irish will potentially have two home games as they attempt to advance to their fourth consecutive Final Four.

Also moving on was No. 1 seed Tennessee with a 67-51 win over No. 8 seed St. John’s (23-11). Cierra Burdick had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols (29-5) as they advance to Louisville for its next game on Sunday.

A pair of No. 2 seeds — Baylor and Stanford — both advanced as well on Monday as Baylor (31-4) defeated No. 7 seed Cal, 75-56, behind senior Odyssey Sims’ 27 points. The Cardinal (31-3) cruised to a 63-44 win over No. 10 Florida State behind a 30-2 run.

No. 3 seed Kentucky (26-8) survived a scare from No. 6 seed Syracuse in Lexington as the Wildcats won 64-59 to move on to face No. 2 seed Baylor while No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (25-8) held off No. 4 seed Purdue with a 73-66 victory as the Cowgirls get a crack at No. 1 seed Notre Dame on its home floor.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.