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Siegrist leads Villanova into Sweet 16 for second time ever
VILLANOVA, Pa. – As Maddy Siegrist hugged and high-fived every Villanova fan down the front row of seats in a wild celebration following the biggest win of her career, it was hard for the All-American not to think about far the Wildcats have come in just four seasons.
Siegrist’s journey saw her dominate as the program’s career leading scorer, lead Villanova into the kind of elite team that can pack a postseason game in their own house and now this milestone, a Sweet 16 berth for the first time in 20 years.
“Everyone wants to leave their mark,” Siegrist said.
Siegrist sure left hers on the Main Line.
Siegrist scored 31 points, had four blocks, four steals and sent the winningest team in Villanova history into the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history with a 76-57 win over 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast on Monday night.
“What Maddy has done and continues to do is off the charts,” coach Denise Dillon said.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (30-6) won their record 30th game and celebrated the March Madness milestone in front of another packed house at the Pavilion. Siegrist, the first-team AP All-American, made 13 of 24 shots in what was likely her final home game. The four-year star has left some wiggle room that she could return for a fifth season, but all signs point toward her playing in the WNBA this summer.
One thing is sure, Siegrist is headed to the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats are going for the first time since the 2003 team reached the Elite Eight — the coach of that team, Harry Perretta, watched this one from behind the basket — and they will No. 9 Miami, which upset No. 1 seed Indiana.
“To me, Villanova is a Final Four-level team,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they get there.”
He’s not the only one. President Joe Biden picked the Wildcats to win it all in his March Madness bracket.
One sign from the student section said it all, “It’s On! March Maddyness.” Another fan shouted during halftime warmups, “No one can guard you, Maddy!”
Siegrist checked out to a rousing standing ovation with 1:57 left in the game and the star forward hugged every teammate down the bench. Her teammates mobbed her after the final horn as the Wildcats danced on the court and flashed the “V” sign for their fans.
“If this is my last game at home, this is a great way to go out,” Siegrist said.
Siegrist sank two free throws with 5:18 left in the third quarter to give her 21 points, which made it 36 straight games this season for the two-time Big East Player of the Year with at least 20 points.
The Wildcats actually scored the first eight points of the game before Siegrist got on the board. Siegrist may be the star who topped 1,000 points this season alone but she’s had plenty of help along the way.
Against the Eagles (33-4), it was Lucy Olsen’s shot to turn this one into another March victory. The 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 12.9 points scored nine in the first quarter. The Wildcats seemed poised to run away with this one, blocking FGCU’s first two shots, grabbing every rebound and loose ball raced to a 26-11 lead.
But a 3:28 scoreless drought trimmed Villanova’s halftime lead 39-33.
Here’s the thing, Siegrist wasn’t going to let Villanova lose on its home court and become the latest men’s or women’s tournament single-digit seed to suffer an upset. Ole Miss stunned top-seeded Stanford a night earlier to somewhat open up the women’s bracket.
With Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright watching from behind the team bench, the Wildcats showed again what makes them a dangerous matchup in March.
The nation’s leading scorer, Siegrist converted a three-point play and then picked the ball clean on a steal and layup that stretched Villanova’s lead to 46-33.
“She’s the best player,” Smesko said. “To game plan for her in one day is extraordinarily difficult.”
Each time FGCU tried to make a run, Siegrist and Olsen pushed back. Olsen buried a 3 late in the third for a 61-41 lead and the road to the Sweet 16 was completely clear. She finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
“I wouldn’t want to win it with anyone else,” Olsen said.
Florida Gulf Coast: Sha Carter led them with 11 points. The Eagles are looking for their first Sweet 16 in team history. They still have the record for overall wins in the tournament by a 12 seed with three.
“We were a little rattled,” Carter said.
Villanova: Dillon won her 400th career game and 71st at Villanova. She went 329-211 in 17 years at Drexel. The Wildcats won 24 of their final 26 home games. That helped them win 30 games, topping the 1981-82 team that went 29-4 and advanced to the AIAW Final Four.
The Wildcats are headed to Greenville, South Carolina for the Sweet 16.
Miami holds off Indiana rally to advance in March Madness
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Destiny Harden made a shot in the lane with 3.5 seconds left to send ninth-seeded Miami past top-seeded Indiana 70-68 on Monday night, lifting the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 since 1992.
The Hoosiers (28-4) became the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated in two nights. Stanford was upset Sunday on its home court.
Harden finished with 18 points and Lola Pendade had 19 points for the Hurricanes (21-12), who never trailed.
Indiana tied the score at 68 on Yarden Garzon’s 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left but couldn’t get the defensive stop it needed and turned the ball over on the final possession to seal their only home loss of the season.
While the Hoosiers head home earlier than expected, the Hurricanes head to Greenville, South Carolina, for a showdown with fourth-seeded Villanova, which was ranked No. 10 in the final Associated Press Top 25.
March Madness: Van Lith and Louisville pummel Texas
AUSTIN, Texas – Hailey Van Lith scored 21 points and No. 5 Louisville rolled over No. 4 Texas 73-51 on the Longhorns’ home court Monday night to send the the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 for the sixth NCAA Tournament in row.
In a matchup of two teams that began the season in the Top 10 only to all out of the rankings before regrouping late, the Cardinals smothered the Longhorns and standout point guard Rori Harmon all night, stretching a 14-point halftime lead to 21 by end of the third quarter.
Louisville (25-11) led by as much as 27 early in the fourth. The win sends the Cardinals to the Seattle 4 Region to play No. 8-seed Mississippi, which upset No. 1 Stanford on Sunday.
“Coach (Jeff Walz) told us, ‘How many times can you quiet down the crowd,’” Van Lith said.
The Cardinals simply pushed around the Big 12 regular season co-champions and seemed to relish the chance to do it on the road. Louisville didn’t host the first two rounds of the tournament for the first time since 2015, excluding the 2021 pandemic tournament played entirely in Texas.
“We wanted to go out and prove we’re the same Louisville tough that this program has been for a long time now,” Van Lith said.
Harmon, who missed the matchup between the teams when Louisville beat the Longhorns in November, was rarely a factor in the rematch.
Van Lith, Mykasa Robinson and Chrislyn Carr allowed Harmon three assists in the first quarter, but no more. She also had five turnovers before limping off the court late in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
“We just really tried to wear her out,” Robinson said.
DeYona Gaston scored 12 points to lead Texas (26-10) after sitting for nearly the entire first quarter because of an early foul.
Louisville took control of the game with a 9-0 run to start the second quarter, punctuated by 6-foot-5 center Josie Williams’3-pointer from the top of the arc, and the Cardinals led by 14 at halftime.
Texas cut the deficit under 10 early in the third before Van Lith and Louisville answered with another 9-0 run. Robinson spied Carr in the corner on a fast break for a 3-pointer that put the Cardinals up 49-31.
“I hate that we went out like we did today,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said.
“Toughness has been kind of an issue all year long. It’s been an Achilles that showed up again today,” Schaefer said.
Louisville: The Cardinals’ frontcourt of Liz Dixon, Olivia Cochran and Morgan Jones combined for 22 points but most importantly disrupted everything Texas could do near the basket. The Longhorns were just 7 of 22 on layups. Louisville outscored Texas in the paint 38-20.
Texas: With the loss, Texas coach Vic Schaefer had his string of NCAA Elite Eight appearances snapped at five. Schaefer took Mississippi State to three straight, advancing twice to the Final Four, before accepting the job at Texas. The Longhorns have not reached the Final Four since 2003, when Hall of Famer Jody Conradt was coach.
March Madness rout as Lady Vols reach second straight Sweet 16
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee is starting to look a lot more like the dominating Lady Vols of old, especially after a second straight rout to open the NCAA Tournament.
Reserves Sara Puckett and Jillian Hollingshead led five Lady Vols in double figures with 13 points apiece as fourth-seeded Tennessee dominated No. 12 seed Toledo 94-47 Monday night to advance to their second straight Sweet 16 in the Seattle 3 Regional.
This is the first time since 2015 and 2016 that Tennessee (25-11) has reached consecutive Sweet 16s and the first in coach Kellie Harper’s fourth season. The Lady Vols now have reached the Sweet 16 for the 36th time – most for any men’s or women’s team – as the only program to play in all 41 NCAA Tournaments.
“We’re so excited to be going back to the Sweet 16, and I’m really proud of our team and how we’ve played in these first two games,” Harper said. “I think we’ve played really well from top to bottom, our starters and our bench.”
Puckett was 5-of-7, making all three of her 3s. Rickea Jackson and Jasmine Powell each added 12, and Jordan Horston had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Lady Vols were 11-of-21 from 3 (52.4%), one made 3 away from matching their season high. Seven different players made at least one 3.
Yet the Lady Vols smothered the quick Rockets, holding them to 29% shooting (18 of 62). Harper said defense set the tone.
“To me, the bigger growth is the defensive end and our attention to detail defensively, our aggressiveness, our focus and and really just the belief,” Harper said. “And that’s where we can win games.”
Toledo (29-5) snapped a program record 17-game winning streak and missed out on its first Sweet 16. The Rockets lost for the first time since Jan. 18 at Bowling Green, which was avenged in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2017.
Rockets coach Tricia Cullop said Tennessee’s size, athleticism and length is tough to prepare for in one day. She said they also needed the Lady Vols not to shoot well from 3 because of the size disadvantage.
“That didn’t work out so well,” Cullop said. “They were very hot from 3, which made it very difficult for us to match up, because we needed the double team in order to match up on the post.”
Quinesha Lockett led Toledo with 19 points.
“We really just tried our best to pack it in the paint, and once we did that they was hitting 3s, so really nothing we could do about that,” Lockett said.
Tennessee never trailed and improved to 30-3 all-time in the second round and 24-1 on the court named for the late Pat Summitt.
The Lady Vols, who won at least 25 games for a 38th season, scored the first three points. Toledo got within 5-4 on a Lockett layup. Then Tennessee took control and led 19-8 after the first quarter.
Karoline Striplin knocked down a pair of 3s within the first 50 seconds of the second, and Tennessee hit 6-of-8 beyond the arc in the quarter. The last came from Puckett with 41.7 seconds remaining for their biggest lead yet at 50-21 before going into halftime up 50-22.
“We knew what we needed to come in here and do, and we did exactly that,” Puckett said. “We’re not going to let our foot off the gas. That’s a big confidence boost for the team, but also me personally.”
The Lady Vols led 72-40 going into the fourth. Then they outscored Toledo 22-7 to finish, not allowing the Rockets to score even a single bucket over the final 6:11.
Toledo: The Rockets head home still looking for the program’s first Sweet 16 berth. They are 4-9 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, Cullop will have her leading scorer back in Lockett along with four juniors, including starters Khera Goss, Sammi Mikonowicz and Jessica Cook. … The Rockets had hoped to use their speed to counter Tennessee’s height but were outscored 17-4 on the fast break.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols have locked down on defense in the first two games. They held Saint Louis to 50 points in the first round, the fewest they had allowed in this tournament since giving up 46 to Northwestern State on March 22, 2014. Then nearly matched that tournament low in this game as they dominated across the court.
According to ESPN, this is just the fourth time a team has won each of its first two games in the tournament by 45 points each. UConn did it in 2001, 2010 and 2016, winning the national title in 2010 and 2016.
With this win, the Lady Vols joined the men who will play in the East Regional on Thursday night in New York. It’s the seventh time in school history both the women and men have reached the regional semifinals and first since 2016.
“I will say that right now is a lot of excitement on Rocky Top obviously with our men in the Sweet 16 as well,” Harper said. “It’s just a lot of fun, great vibes.”
The Lady Vols get a rematch in the Sweet 16. They lost 59-56 on Dec. 4 to then-No. 9 Virginia Tech as part of the Jimmy V Women’s Classic in Knoxville without forward Rickea Jackson. That also was center Tamari Key’s last game before blood clots ended her season.
No. 3 Ohio St beats No. 6 UNC 71-69, advances to Sweet 16
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jacy Sheldon made a tiebreaking jumper in the lane with 1.8 seconds left to lift No. 3 Ohio State to a 71-69 win over No. 6 seed North Carolina on Monday and help the Buckeyes advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
With the game tied, Sheldon took the pass from Eboni Walker and floated in the game-winning score. North Carolina had one final chance, but turned it over with a second remaining.
“Eboni did a great job,” Sheldon said. “It didn’t go as planned and she made a great play there, and that’s what led to that bucket. So I think keeping our composure in that situation was huge, keeping possession of the ball. And that was all Eboni.”
Ohio State (27-7) saw its 12-point lead with 7:02 to go erased as the Tar Heels went on a 13-2 run midway through the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels did most of that run without star Deja Kelly, who exited midway through the final quarter with a leg injury. She went to the locker room, but returned to the court a short time later.
Trailing 66-63, Kelly made two free throws before Paulina Paris made a layup in transition to give the Tar Heels (22-11) its first lead of the game with 2:09 left.
Sheldon scored to give the Buckeyes the lead back with 1:07 left. She added a free throw 29 seconds later to make it a two-point game.
Kelly, who finished with 22 points to lead North Carolina, hit a jumper to tie the game at 69 with 9 seconds left.
“I asked them to be what they have been all year, which is a group of fighters,” North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart said. “We asked them to be hard to beat, and we thought those things would get us to a Sweet 16. They did all of those things, right, but you got to be so good to win in March, so good, and we just were not quite good enough.”
Ohio State led the entirety of the first half, including by as many as nine points in the first quarter, on 46% shooting. Taylor Mikesell went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Sheldon finished with 16 points, Walker added 15 and Cotie McMahon scored 14. Taylor Mikesell had a team-high 17.
“This is a great win for us because it puts us in the Sweet 16 but also just I have so much respect for North Carolina,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We beat a great opponent today.”
X’S AND O’S
McGuff said Ohio State’s final play design was intended to give Sheldon the basketball, but it didn’t unfold according to plan.
Walker, who averaged over 14 minutes and 4 1/2 points per game this season, took the inbounds pass from Rikki Harris, looked toward Sheldon after catching the ball, dribbled to the top of the key and hooked it back to Sheldon for the game-winning score.
“Eboni made a great decision not passing the initial one to Jacy because she really wasn’t open, and then we swung the ball back around and got it back in her hands,” McGuff said. “I told her in the locker room sometimes it’s about X’s and O’s and sometimes it’s about having the best player on the court.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels allowed an opposing team to shoot at least 50% for the third time all season and first time since December. North Carolina allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 54.2% in the second half.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have made second-half comebacks in all four of their postseason victories, including a 24-point resurgence that broke the Big Ten Tournament record March 4. Ohio State advances to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time since the 2015-16 season.
Ohio State will play the winner of No. 2 seed UConn and No. 7 seed Baylor in the Seattle 3 Regional.