Stanford advances to women's Sweet 16
The Pac-12 will be represented by Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, with the seasons of Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State and USC coming to a conclusion. The Conference of Champions wrapped up the first four days of play with a 5-4 record, including two wins against higher-seeded opponents.
Stanford did what Stanford does best, advancing to its seventh consecutive Sweet 16 after a pair of 19-point victories over 15th-seeded South Dakota and 10th-seeded Florida State. Bonnie Samuelson was bombin’ in the first game, hitting six triples against South Dakota to help propel Stanford to an 81-62 decision. Florida State did Stanford the favor of knocking out Iowa State so the Card wouldn’t have to play the Cyclones on their home court, but it appeared in the early going that perhaps that wasn’t such a good thing after all. The ‘Noles raced out to an 11-4 lead before Tara’s Team righted the ship with a 28-5 run to end the half and remove any doubt (Stanford eventually won 63-44). Stanford now finds itself paired up with third-seeded Penn State back in Maples on Sunday.
The Sun Devils registered an opening-round victory over eighth-seeded Vanderbilt 69-61 behind 16 points from Katie Hempen, who was a blistering 4-5 from beyond the arc. She wasn’t the only one who was hot, either; Sophie Brunner shot 7-9 from the floor and Arizona State connected on 62 percent of its attempts overall. This set up a date with top-seeded and lossless Notre Dame. It was close at the half with Notre Dame leading by just six and Arizona State did a good job of getting into the bonus early in the second, but it wasn’t enough as the Irish offense woke up and eliminated the Forks 84-67.
There was high drama for Gottlieb’s Group in the first round as the Golden Bears narrowly edged 10th-seeded Fordham 64-63 on a Brittany Boyd jumper with 14 seconds remaining. The Cal point guard had a game to remember against the upstart Rams, amassing 22 points, 10 dimes, six boards and three steals. Up next was the second-seeded Baylor Lady Bears on their home floor, and it was quite the competitive contest for 30 minutes. But trailing by three with just under 10 minutes remaining, Cal saw Baylor utilize a 13-2 run to put the game out of reach over the next five minutes and change, effectively ending the Golden Bears’ season. Baylor ended up winning 75-56 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Defense was the name of the game for the Beavs in their first-round triumph over eighth-seeded Middle Tennessee, holding the Blue Raiders to just 23 percent shooting from the floor en route to a 55-36 shutdown to book a couple of extra nights’ rest in Seattle. That’s as far as the road would go for the Fighting Ruecks, however, as top-seeded South Carolina gapped itself from Oregon State near the end of the first half and wound up with a 78-69 victory over the Beavs. However, the Beavers must be given credit for not giving up down the stretch and really making the Gamecocks earn it at the foul line. In all, it was quite the campaign for the Beavers, winning 11 straight games near the end of the season to get into the dance for the first time since 1996.
The Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament champions fought valiantly in the first round, but suffered a heartbreaking 71-68 loss to eighth-seeded St. John’s after the Red Storm’s Briana Brown drilled a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to provide the final tally of the contest. USC wraps up its first campaign under new leader Cynthia Cooper at 22-13.