UConn women roll to record-setting 1st-round win

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The UConn women’s team was in an online group chat watching the UMBC men upset top-seeded Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The players assured each other that they weren’t going to let anything similar happened to them. All upset hopes ended in the first few minutes of this game as the Huskies went on to a record-setting rout.

Azura Stevens scored 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead six UConn players in double figures and the Huskies opened their NCAA Tournament with a 140-52 defeat of Saint Francis (Pa.) on Saturday.

“I don’t think (the UMBC) game put extra pressure on us, but watching a No. 1 go down kind of motivated us to kind of come out from the start to be ready to go,” Stevens said.

The women’s top seed set a record for points in a tournament game and all-time NCAA records for points in a period (55 in the first) and a half (94 in the first). And UConn’s 88-point margin of victory was the second-biggest in tournament history. Baylor beat Texas Southern by 89 in the 2017 tournament.

The previous record for points in a tournament game was 121. The previous mark for points in a half was 80 and for a quarter was 45.

“I don’t think we were really aware, said Katie Lou Samuelson, who had 18 points and 10 assists. “We were aware of how quickly we were going up and down the court at that first media timeout. But, we were just getting a lot of opportunities and taking advantage of them whenever we could.”

Kia Nurse finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Napheesa Collier had 25 points and nine assists.

UConn (33-0) shot 65 percent from the floor, 73.6 percent in the first half, and outscored the No. 16 seed 96-10 in the paint.

Haley Thomas had 12 points and Caitlyn Kroll 11 for Saint Francis, which finishes the season 24-10. Jessica Kovatch, who came in as the nation’s second leading scorer at just under 25 points per game, finished with nine, all in the second half.

Saint Francis coach Joe Haigh said his game plan was to outscore the Huskies, to run and gun, while leaving UConn’s post players open for mid-range jump shots. His team averaged nearly 81 points a game coming into Saturday. The strategy didn’t work.

“There was only one chance that we would have had to come close in this game and that was going to be to shoot a million 3s and hope that they go in,” Haigh said. “So, we shot a million 3s and we didn’t make them.”

The Red Flash attempted 57 shots from behind the arc, making just 10 of them.

Samuelson opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, the Huskies made their first nine shots. They took their first 30-point lead in the first quarter on Samuelson’s reverse layup that made it 41-10 and ended the quarter with a 55-19 lead.

Collier’s basket with more than six minutes left in the second quarter gave UConn a 68-26 lead, giving the Huskies the tournament record for points in a half. Nurse’s layup with more than three minutes remaining made it 82-28, giving them the NCAA record. UConn led 94-31 at the break.

UConn is looking for its 12th national title and fifth in six years. The Huskies haven’t lost in the opening round since 1993.


No. 3 Florida State 91, No. 14 Little Rock 49

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Shakayla Thomas scored 26 points and Florida State defeated Little Rock.

It is a tournament high for Thomas, eclipsing the 23 she scored against Western Illinois in the first round last year. Thomas, a 5-foot-11 senior forward who was playing in her 12th NCAA Tournament game, was 11 of 15 from the field in 19 minutes. She scored Florida State’s first six points and had 16 in the first half as the host team was ahead 53-30 at halftime.

The Seminoles (26-6), who were 35 of 60 from the field, put the game out of reach by going on a 23-0 run during an 8-minute span in the second and third quarters.

Chatrice White and Nikki Ekhomu each scored 13 points and AJ Alix added 12 for Florida State. White also had 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season.

Tori Lasker led the Trojans (23-10) with 13 points and Keanna Keys added 11.

No. 4 Georgia 68, No. 13 Mercer 63

ATHENS, Ga. — Caliya Robinson had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Mackenzie Engram added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Georgia held off Mercer.

Que Morrison finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs (26-6), who advanced to face Duke on Monday night.

Kahlia Lawrence scored 23 points and KeKe Calloway had 15 for No. 13 seed Mercer (30-3). The Bears had won a school-record 27 straight, the nation’s third-longest active streak.

Georgia had the game’s biggest lead at 11 early in the third, but let Mercer pull within one twice in the fourth quarter. After Robinson scored her team’s last field goal with 2:14 remaining, the Lady Bulldogs put Mercer away by hitting seven of their last eight foul shots.

No. 5 Duke 72, No. 12 Belmont 58

ATHENS, Ga. — Leaonna Odom scored a career-high 25 points, including nine in Duke’s dominant third period, and the Blue Devils beat Belmont in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Duke (23-8) led only 32-31 at halftime before outscoring Belmont 21-9 in the third period.

Kylie Smith led Belmont with 20 points.

Duke’s Rebecca Greenwell, who had 18 points, opened the third period with a layup and closed the quarter by sinking a 3-pointer to give Duke a 53-40 lead.

Belmont (31-4) saw its 22-game winning streak end. The Bruins were denied in their bid for their first NCAA win.

No. 11 Buffalo 102, No. 6 South Florida 79

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Cierra Dillard scored a career-high 36 points and Buffalo got its first women’s NCAA Tournament victory as it defeated South Florida.

It is the first time in an NCAA Tournament game that a Mid-American Conference team has gone over 100 points. It is also the first time since 1995 that Buffalo has scored more than 100 points.

Buffalo, which is making its second NCAA appearance, trailed 29-18 midway through the second quarter but went on a 20-7 run the remainder of the quarter to take a 43-38 lead at halftime. Wilkins had eight points during the run and Stephanie Reid added six.

Buffalo (28-5) was 14 of 27 from the 3-point line, including 7 of 13 from Dillard. Courtney Wilkins added 23 points and Reid 19. Buffalo was also strong from the foul line, making 22 of 24.

Kitija Laksa led South Florida (26-8) with 28 points and Maria Jespersen added 23 points and 11 rebounds. USF was 32 of 63 from the field, but was 7 of 23 on 3-pointers.

No. 9 Quinnipiac 86, No. 8 Miami 72

STORRS, Conn. — Jen Fay led a balanced ninth-seeded Quinnipiac offense with 19 points and the Bobcats beat Miami, eliminating the Hurricanes from the women’s NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season.

Paula Strautmane added 15 points and Edel Thornton and Carly Fabbri each had 14 for Quinnipiac (28-5), which extended its winning streak to 23 games, a new school record.

Next up for Bobcats is a game against in-state neighbor UConn. It’s the first meeting between the schools in 20 years.

Erykah Davenport led all scorers with 21 points for Miami. Emese Hof scored 16 and Endia Banks added 15 points in the losing effort.


No. 3 Ohio State 87, No. 14 George Washington 45

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stephanie Mavunga scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Ohio State routed George Washington.

Alexa Hart had 12 points and Kelsey Mitchell added 11 points and seven rebounds as the Buckeyes (28-6) never trailed, took off in the second half and overwhelmed the Colonials (19-10), who had earned a tournament bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Ohio State moves on to Monday to play Central Michigan, which outlasted LSU in the first game on Saturday.

Briana Cummings led GW with 14 points, and Neila Luma had 12 before fouling out late in the game.

No. 11 Central Michigan 78, No. 6 LSU 69

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tinara Moore scored 25 points to help Central Michigan get its first women’s NCAA Tournament win, beating LSU.

The Chippewas, who had lost in their first three trips to the NCAAs, got in the tournament for the first time in five years by upsetting Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Moore and Central Michigan dominated inside, outrebounding the Southeastern Conference team 40-27 and creating more second chances. Reyna Frost 12 points and 12 boards for the Chippewas before fouling out late in the game.

Central Michigan led by as many as 11 in the second half. A 6-0 LSU run reduced the lead to five, but the Tigers couldn’t get any closer, despite limiting their opponents to only foul shots in the last 2:43.

Micaela Kelly had 17 points for Central Michigan, and Presley Hudson added 12.

Chloe Jackson had 24 points, and Ayana Mitchell had 16 points and nine rebounds for LSU.


No. 1 Mississippi State 95, No. 16 Nicholls 50

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Victoria Vivians scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Mississippi State past Nicholls.

Mississippi State (33-1) started the game slowly, but scored 33 points in the second quarter to take a 54-24 lead into halftime and eventually cruise to the win. Teaira McCowan scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Blair Schaefer also scored 18 points.

Mississippi State shot 50 percent from the field, including 47 percent from 3-point range, and had a 51-29 rebounding advantage.

The Bulldogs bounced back from their only loss of the season, a 62-51 setback to South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament final. Mississippi State won a program-record 32 straight games to open the season.

Nicholls (19-14) was led by Tykeria Williams, who scored 16 points.

No. 2 Texas 83, No. 15 Maine 54

AUSTIN, Texas — Jatarie White scored 17 points and Texas used an overwhelming first half to romp to a win over Maine.

Hosting the first two rounds for the third consecutive year, Texas smothered the America East Conference tournament champions from the opening tip. The Longhorns led 45-18 by halftime with a combination of dominant rebounding and speed in transition led by guards Lashann Higgs and Brooke McCarty. Higgs scored 15 and Ariel Atkins scored 16 for Texas.

The Longhorns (27-6) didn’t let Maine (23-10) even grab a rebound the first eight minutes. Higgs had 11 points and Atkins scored 10 by halftime as the Longhorns emptied their bench early in the second quarter. Texas shot 68 percent and outrebounded Maine 25-4 in the first half.

No. 3 UCLA 71, No. 14 American University 60

LOS ANGELES — Monique Billings scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, Kennedy Burke added 15 points to lead UCLA to a win over American University.

Jordin Canada had 10 points and 11 assists for the Bruins (25-7), who advance to the second round.

Cecily Carl led American (26-7) with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Elina Koskimies added 13 points and Maria Liddane scored 12 points.

After the Eagles took an early lead to start the game, the Bruins countered with a 22-3 run over the final 4:33 of the opening quarter to build a double-digit advantage and take control.

No. 11 Creighton 76, No. 6 Iowa 70

LOS ANGELES — Jaylyn Agnew scored 24 points and Sydney Lamberty added 20 to lead Creighton to a win over Iowa.

The Bluejays (19-12) advances to the second round and will play UCLA on Monday.

Agnew and Lamberty combined to make 16 of 26 shots. Lamberty also had six assists and five rebounds and Audrey Faber added 12 points for Creighton.

Megan Gustafson scored 29 points and had 17 rebounds for the Hawkeyes (24-8).

No. 7 Arizona State 73, No. 10 Nebraska 62

AUSTIN, Texas — Robbi Ryan scored 16 points and Kianna Ibis added 14 to lead Arizona State over Nebraska.

The Sun Devils opened up a tight, defensive struggle with a 14-0 run late in the third quarter. Jamie Ruden scored five in the stretch and the Sun Devils pushed the lead as high as 16 early in the fourth quarter when Reili Richardson converted a 3-point play.

Arizona State moves on to the second round for the fifth straight season with a chance to make the Sweet 16 for the second time in four years.


No. 4 Stanford 82, No. 13 Gonzaga 68

STANFORD, Calif. — Alanna Smith scored 20 points, freshman Kiana Williams made a sensational women’s NCAA Tournament debut, and Stanford beat cold-shooting Gonzaga.

Williams scored 21 points and calmly pushed the pace on offense as the Cardinal created opportunities in transition. Early in the third, she stole the ball from Gonzaga’s Emma Stach and drove it the length of the court for a layup.

Stanford (23-10) used a 9-0 run late in the third to pull away and overcame a tough shooting performance by Brittany McPhee, who had 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. She also contributed 11 rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals.

No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast 80, No. 5 Missouri 70

STANFORD, Calif. — China Dow scored 21 points and played stingy defense in the paint against Missouri star Sophie Cunningham, and Florida Gulf Coast pulled off an upset in the Lexington Regional.

Cunningham took over on the low block to get Missouri (24-8) going and scored a season-high 35 points — most by a Tigers player in an NCAA tournament game — and made 14 of 16 free throws. But she didn’t get much help.

Dow made two free throws with 1:12 left as the Eagles kept pushing until the final buzzer to run their winning streak to 11 games with a 21st victory in the last 22 games.

By Paul Wager

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