Saturday March Madness: South Carolina will be perfect

SEATTLE – Third-seeded Ohio State advanced to the Round of 8 over second-seeded Connecticut, taking the game early and ending UConn’s long streak to reach the final weekend of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

Ohio State’s 73-61 win stopped the Huskies from reaching the Round of 8 for the first time since 2005 and the Final Four for the first time since 2007, a streak that included four and six national championships from 2013 to 2016.

The Buckeyes took control in the second quarter with a game-defining run that started when they were down 8 points late in the first quarter.

They found their run with a swarming press defense that forced a turnover and sparked a 17-point run. Perhaps more shocking than Ohio State’s score in that stretch was its ability to hold the Huskies without even a field-goal. Try Almost five minutes into the second quarter.

“We lost our poise, we lost our poise a little bit, and I don’t think we ever got it back,” UConn’s longtime coach Geno Auriemma said after the game.

UConn turned the ball over on eight straight possessions early in the second quarter and watched one of its most important players get hurt.

Lou Lopez Senechal, a transfer student, took on a leadership role when Paige Bookers’ season was derailed by a knee injury, when she crumpled to the floor in pain in her right knee while trying to set up a play and left the court. He returned in the second half and led the Huskies with 25 points.

UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards, the team’s leading scorer this season, was benched for key stretches due to foul trouble. He had just 4 points – and four shots.

Ohio State was able to fend off several UConn drives in the second half, led by 23 points from Cotie McMahon.

Ohio State players tried to keep their cool on the fourth-place UConn bench. The Buckeyes played with the confidence of a team that knows its strengths and the hunger of an underdog facing a program that used to be a dynasty.

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With 90 seconds left, Ohio State slowed down as some players on the UConn bench struggled to see the end of the game.

Ohio State has made two consecutive appearances in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It was UConn’s 29th consecutive appearance. The last time Ohio State advanced to the Round of 8 was in 1993, when it entered the championship game and lost to Texas Tech.

Last season, UConn lost the championship game to South Carolina. The Huskies haven’t won a title since 2016.

Ohio State will face either Tennessee or Virginia Tech in the Round of 8 on Monday evening. – Talya Minsberg

GREENVILLE, S.C. — UCLA opened its women’s regional semifinal against South Carolina with a defensive strategy that almost every team has tried this season against the undefeated Gamecocks. The Bruins sat in a zone defense, dropping their guards down the free-throw line to help them defend against South Carolina’s tall forwards.

South Carolina shot 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range, but UCLA couldn’t convert the defending champion’s woes into points, falling 59-43 to send the Gamecocks to the Round of 8.

South Carolina capitalized on second-chance opportunities to stifle the Bruins’ offense, and its star forward Aaliyah Boston led the way with 8 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Gamecox’s size difference was evident throughout, as South Carolina bullied the smaller Bruins in the paint, often knocking them over. One of the most notable plays of the game came from 6-foot-7 center Camila Cardoso They chased and beat A layered attempt by UCLA guard Lundin Jones that sent Jones flying to the floor.

“We always talk about not wanting to get punked, not getting off the floor and not letting any team punk us,” Boston said. “So I don’t think we see ourselves as bullies, we just play our game and I think it’s dominant.”

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South Carolina guard Gia Cook added that many of the nicest players on the team can’t be considered bullies.

“We have a lot of cheat codes on our team,” he said. After listing the strengths of each player on the list, he added: “Everyone has a superpower. What a blessing.”

During the first three games of this combined regional at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Friday and Saturday, large crowds filled only the areas near midcourt, leaving most of the stadium empty. That changed on Saturday afternoon. By the time Maryland and Notre Dame had finished and South Carolina had begun, fans in Garnet T-shirts filled the arena. They roared their team’s every score and cheered anything in favor of fourth-ranked UCLA

The arena is considered a neutral regional site by the NCAA, but effectively serves as the home game for South Carolina, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Corey Close, UCLA’s coach, acknowledged the disadvantages before the game, but said regional sites are “important to continue to grow our game.”

“Look at how many upsets we had on home courts in the first two rounds,” he said. “So the bottom line is you’ve got to play your best basketball, and you’ve got to be a tough team, you’ve got to be a team, and you’ve got to find ways to win.”

Cook said he doesn’t think the regional format is unfair and that South Carolina deserves to play in front of the fan base coach Dan Staley has built.

UCLA seemed poised to threaten South Carolina’s quest for a second straight title. When the teams played in November, Gamecox overcame a 10-point first half deficit to win by 9. After the game, South Carolina coach Dan Staley told Close they would see each other again.

Staley’s words were wise, but this match was never close. South Carolina proved why it was the best team in Division I all season, with the height and physicality to overwhelm UCLA.

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South Carolina faces Maryland on Monday. – Chris Rim

GREENVILLE, SC – When Notre Dame and Maryland squared off in December, the game quickly turned into the Diamond Miller show. Miller, a 6-foot-3 guard, scored his 31st point in the A Game-winning, one-foot fadeaway jumper. She ran around Notre Dame’s home court with her index finger to her lips to silence the crowd.

On Saturday, in the Round of 16 of the Women’s NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame’s Miller looked hellbent on stopping the show. The Fighting Irish were double-teamed — and sometimes triple-teamed — when Miller picked the ball up in the post.

But Notre Dame’s stop-Miller-at-all-costs strategy allowed other players to take advantage of open looks and keep the game close while Miller struggled. In the second half, Miller finally got into a groove and second-seeded Maryland beat No. 3 seed Notre Dame 76-59. Maryland will advance to its first Round-of-8 appearance since 2015. Miller and guard Cheyenne Sellers led all scorers with 18 points apiece.

“I felt like they were daring me to shoot,” said Maryland guard Lavender Briggs, who scored 12 points.

Notre Dame threw the first figurative punch of the game. Down by 5, the Fighting Irish scored 13 straight points in the second quarter, neutralizing Miller and forcing Maryland’s half-court offense into forced shots and errant passes.

But in the second half, Miller loosened up. Maryland responded with a big third quarter run by Miller and Sellers. Maryland cruised in fourth.

Despite the eight-year drought, the Round of 8 is familiar to Maryland and its coach Brenda Frase. Since he started in 2002, Maryland has been one of the best teams in college basketball. The Terrapins advanced to the Round of 8 six times and won the program’s only national title in 2006. – Chris Rim

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