Caitlin Clark put No. 5 seed Iowa on her back on Tuesday as the Hawkeyes defeated a Kentucky team that began the season at No. 11 and was ranked as high as No. 9. The Wildcats were seeded just one spot higher than Iowa, but had a very high ceiling for a 4-seed and a two-time SEC Player of the Year in Rhyne Howard who might be preparing to go No. 1 in the WNBA Draft right now if she were eligible. Iowa was not receiving votes in the preseason and did not enter the rankings at all this year, but now it is headed to the Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, Michigan impressed with a 15-point victory over a very talented Tennessee team that took No. 1 seed UConn down to the wire and beat No. 1 seed South Carolina. The Wolverines advanced to the first Sweet 16 in program history on a huge day for the Big Ten that saw two of its teams beat high-ceiling teams from the SEC, the best conference in the country.
Iowa Hawkeyes 86, Kentucky Wildcats 72
Iowa dominated the first half to go up 47-20 at the break, which is the same lead No. 3 seed Arizona had over No. 14 seed Stony Brook at halftime in the first round. Clark scored 24 of her 35 points in the opening 20 minutes and went 6-of-8 from distance. Kentucky cut the deficit to as little as 16 in the third and Howard’s physicality looked like it could overtake the speed and 3-point shooting of Clark. But a McKenna Warnock triple calmed Iowa down and Clark converted on a 3-point play one minute and 20 seconds later to push the Hawkeye lead back to 22. Iowa led by at least 19 from that point until 54 seconds left in the fourth when things were wrapping up.
Clark, who has 58 total points in the tournament, added seven rebound and six assists, while Monika Czinano was good for 14 points and eight boards. Warnock was 2-of-2 from deep, Gabbie Marsahall was 2-of-3 and Iowa was 10-of-19 as a team.
Howard had 28 points, five rebounds, eight assists and six steals in defeat.
Michigan Wolverines 70, Tennessee Lady Volunteers 55
Tennessee led 6-2 early and cut its deficit to nine three times in the fourth, but Michigan was in control for most of this one. The Wolverines started to pull away with a 5-0 run in the final 1:59 of the first half that featured a Naz Hillmon layup and a 3-pointer from Hailey Brown (14 points, 4-of-6 from distance). They led by as many as 19 in the third. Hillmon finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds while teammate Leigha Brown scored a game-high 23 to give her 51 in the tournament. Rennia Davis had 12 points in defeat.
Michigan’s All-American Naz Hillmon got emotional talking about the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16.
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 24, 2021
UConn Huskies 83, Syracuse Orange 47
UConn was led by four players in double-figure scoring: Paige Bueckers (20), Aaliyah Edwards (19), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (17) and Christyn Williams (11). Aubrey Griffin added nine points. Bueckers was also good for five rebounds, four assists and three steals while Edwards matched her in rebounds and assists and Nelson-Ododa hauled in eight boards. Bueckers and Edwards are both freshman so their performances were impressive and Bueckers now has 44 points in the tournament. Nelson-Ododa has 39 and Edwards has 36. Emily Engstler had 12 points and eight rebounds for Syracuse, which trailed by just five after one but lost the second by 10, the third by 12 and the fourth by seven.
Baylor Lady Bears 90, Virginia Tech Hokies 48
Aisha Sheppard was quiet in Virginia Tech’s first round win over Marquette and while she she scored 15 points against Baylor, the Lady Bears were able to hold Elizabeth Kitley to just six points after she had 23 in the first round. Baylor prides itself on defense, but its offense followed up its 101-point performance in the first round with another outstanding performance. Moon Ursin and DiJonai Carrington led the way with 21 points apiece while Big 12 Player of the Year NaLyssa Smith added 15 and Queen Egbo added 12 to go along with 13 rebounds. DiDi Richards got in on the fun too with nine assists. Georgia Amoore led Virginia Tech with 18 points and dished out four assists.
Stanford Cardinal 73, Oklahoma State Cowgirls 62
The Cardinal led by just one after the first before going up 15 at halftime. Oklahoma State then cut its deficit to 10 with 52 seconds remaining in the third. The closest the Cowgirls got in the fourth was within nine, but by then there was only 1:22 remaining. Stanford’s sophomore star, Haley Jones, who was held to six points in the first round, recorded her highest scoring output since Feb. 13 with 17 while freshman Cameron Brink added 12 points and nine rebounds for the winners. Oklahoma State star Natasha Mack had 13 points and 10 boards.
South Carolina Gamecocks 59, Oregon State Beavers 42
South Carolina led by just one after the first, but won the second by 11 and the third by 12 to pull away. Aliyah Boston had another great performance with 19 points and seven rebounds for the Gamecocks. Aleah Goodman had the Beavers’ best stat line with 10 points, four rebounds and six assists in defeat. Destanni Henderson (12 points) and Zia Cooke (10) joined Boston in double-figure scoring for a South Carolina team that outrebounded Oregon State 50-32. Brea Beal had 11 rebounds, Laeticia Amihere had nine, Destiny Littleton had seven and Victaria Saxton had six.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 73, West Virginia Mountaineers 56
Georgia Tech, like Iowa, is an unranked team headed to the Sweet 16. Lotta-Maj Lahtinen (22) and Lorela Cubaj both went for 20-plus points and Cubaj added 12 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets comfortably defeated the Mountaineers. The winners held a prolific scorer in Kysre Gondrezick to just three points while Esmery Martinez led West Virginia with 13 points and nine boards. Kierra Fletcher had a solid game for Georgia Tech with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while Kari Niblack added 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks for West Virginia. Georgia Tech trailed by two after one before winning the second by six and the third by 13. It led by double digits throughout the fourth.
NC State Wolfpack 79, South Florida Bulls 67
The Bulls gave the Wolfpack all they could handle and even led 36-35 at halftime. Playing without its third-best scorer in Kayla Jones, who is questionable for the Sweet 16 with a patella tendon injury, NC State was able to win the third 24-11 and lead by at least eight throughout the fourth. Jakia Brown-Turner led the Wolfpack with 19 points while Jada Boyd notched 18 and 10 rebounds. Elissa Cunane also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards and guards Raina Perez (12 points, four assists) and Kai Crutchfield (11 points, six assists) were key contributors as well. Elena Tsineke had 22 points in defeat, while Elisa Pinzan added 18 points and six assists for the Bulls. South Florida’s rebounding machine, Bethy Mununga, fouled out with 3:03 to go in the third. She had nine boards and just two points. Cunane, who is NC State’s best player, was held to three points in the first half.