Two teams have already punched their tickets to the 2015 NCAA women’s basketball Final Four and two more teams will do so tonight.
The South Carolina Gamecocks became the first team to qualify for the women’s NCAA Final with a 80-74 victory over Florida State on Sunday. The Gamecocks, the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro (North Carolina) Regional, advances to their first ever Final Four appearance.
Junior guard Tiffany Mitchell scored seven of her game-high 21 points in the last two minutes of game to lead South Carolina (34-2), which led the contest for just 3 minutes and 43 seconds. Mitchell added six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Sophomore center Alaina Coates, who was a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor, added 14 points off the bench while freshman guard A’ja Wilson chipped in with 10 points.
Leticia Romero tallied 13 points to lead Florida State (32-5) while Brittany Brown added 12.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were the other team to move onto the Final Four on Sunday. The Irish (35-2) defeated the Baylor Lady Bears (33-4) 77-68. With junior star Jewell Loyd struggling for the second straight game, sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen once again stepped up. Allen tallied 23 points, on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor, and doled out seven assists. Allen was selected as the Oklahoma City Regional Most Outstanding Player.
“Well, she’s like my twin, and really, and she’s unstoppable,” Loyd said following the game. “I think people have underestimated her, and she’s been awesome all year. It’s been awesome to see how talented she is.”
Michaela Mabry, who only played two minutes in the second half due to light-headedness, scored 14 points while Loyd added 13 points and Briana Turner added 12.
Mabry is expected to be available for the Final Four, according to head coach Muffet McGraw.
“I think she’s going to be fine, probably didn’t eat enough before the game,” McGraw said. “I think she’s going to be fine. She sure looked good in the first half.”
Baylor was led by sensational sophomore Nina Davis, who produced a double-double. Sune Agbuke also recorded a double-double as she contributed 12 points and 10 caroms.
Notre Dame will face South Carolina in the Final Four on Sunday.
Preview of the Elite Eight game featuring UConn and Dayton follows.
Albany Regional final: No. 1 Connecticut Huskies (35-1) vs. No. 7 Dayton Flyers (28-6)
The UConn Huskies are playing in their 10th consecutive regional final — the Huskies are 7-2 in their last nine Elite Eight contests — while the Dayton Flyers are attempting to reach their first ever Final Four.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN. Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke will provide the commentary. The game is also available on the Watch ESPN app.
UConn has won 34 straight and is coming off a NCAA Tournament Regional semifinal 51-point victory (105-54) over Texas. Junior Breanna Stewart led the way for the Huskies with 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Stewart made 11-of-16 shots from the field. Junior Moriah Jefferson set a career-high with 25 points to go along with six assists and four rebounds. Freshman Kia Nurse added 13 points while sophomore Morgan Tuck chipped in 14 points and senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tallied 10 points, including two three-pointers.
With the victory, Geno Auriemma became just the second coach in NCAA tournament history to win 100 games, according to the school’s athletic website. Former Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summit has 114 wins.
Connecticut has run rough shot through the tournament field so far. The Huskies have won each of their first three tournament games by at least 35 points becoming the second team to do so according to ESPN Research and Stats. UConn defeated St.Francis (NY) 89-33 in the opening round and then routed Rutgers 91-55 in the second round.
The Huskies, who have five players averaging double figures, have outscored their opponents by an NCAA record 42.5 points a game (98.2-47.6). Stewart leads the way with 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 54.3 percent from the field. Mosqueda-Lewis, who needs just five just five three-pointers to break the NCAA all-time mark, is second on the squad with 14.8 points. Tuck (14.0 ppg), Jefferson (12.4 ppg) and Nurse (10.5 ppg) round out the Huskies double figure scorers.
While UConn is the prohibitive favorite, Auriemma made his team aware of how dangerous Dayton is, according to the Hartford Courant. Auriemma compared the Flyers to his 1991 team.
“They’re exactly in the situation that we were in. I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down when they won [Saturday] night. They play a style of play that’s really fun to watch. They’re fearless, they play. They’re not intimidated by anybody or anything.This is going to be a h**l of a matchup and a challenge for us.”
Dayton is the seventh team from the Atlantic 10 to reach the Elite Eight, but the conference has yet to have a team move onto the Final Four. The Flyers, who started the season 1-3, have tournament wins over Iowa State (78-66), Kentucky (99-94), and Louisville (82-66). Dayton’s last three losses has come against Atlantic 10 champion George Washington.
One thing is for sure is that Dayton can score. The Flyers average 76.7 points a game and have three 1,000 point scorers in Andrea Hoover, Ally Mallot, and Amber Deane. Dayton is 24-1 when they score 70 or more points this season.
Hoover, who shoots 45.2 percent from beyond the arc, leads the Flyers with 17.5 points to go, along with 3.2 assists a game. Hoover tallied a game-high 26 points against Louisville as she was 15-of-15 from the free throw line.
Mallot is second on the team with 15.5 points to go along with a team-high 7.9 rebounds. Deane is the only other Flyer in double figures with 10.7 points a game.
Update: Mosqueda-Lewis shot the lights out, knocking down 9-of-18 shots, including 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, to help UConn overcome a slow start and routed Dayton 91-70. Mosqueda-Lewis, who became the NCAA all-time three-point leader, finished with 27 points. Stewart and Tuck added 23 points apiece. Stewart, who was named the Region’s Most Outstanding Player, added 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Huskies trailed 44-43 at halftime but scored the first nine points of the second half to take control of the game.
Connecticut will face the winner of the Maryland-Tennessee game, which is scheduled to tip-off at 9 p.m.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/ Getty Image]