There was no shortage of women's basketball action on Thursday night as the WNIT, which tipped off Wednesday, staged 20 more first-round games, leaving only eight spots unclaimed in the second round.
Two of the teams advancing Thursday, were Old Dominion and Auburn, and for historians of the women’s game, no second-round matchup will be more special than the one between these two teams. If you went into a time machine and traveled a quarter of a century into the past, you easily could have found the Lady Monarchs and Tigers playing for high stakes in the latter rounds of an NCAA or AIAW tournament. Theirs will be just one of the stories to emerge from a 32-team second-round field that’s almost set in place. We’ll know how the whole bracket looks after Friday’s five games close out the first round.
Opening Round, Day Two - Thursday, March 20
Oregon 90, Pacific 63
The Ducks prolonged the career of their accomplished head coach, Paul Westhead, for at least a few more days by sprinting past the Tigers. Westhead will not return next season, but he does have another NIT game in his future, thanks to a 22-0 run that carried Oregon to a big first-half lead. Five Oregon players scored at least 14 points, and the Ducks -- who usually suffer on defense -- managed to hold an opponent not just under 90 or 80 points, but under 70. That's a spectacularly rare feat for Oregon this season.
Up Next: Oregon (16-15) plays either Washington or Hawaii, each currently 17-13, in the second round, venue to be determined.
San Diego 82, Cal Poly 59
The Toreros sprinted to a 50-33 halftime lead and never looked back. San Diego was powered by a brilliant 30-point effort from Amy Kame, who hit 14-of-21 shots from the floor.
Up Next: San Diego (23-8) plays at Montana (23-10) in the second round on Mon., March 24, at 9 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. MDT).
Southern Utah 71, Colorado State 56
The Colorado State Rams won the Mountain West regular-season championship by two games over Fresno State, compiling a 15-3 record in the conference. Yet, that wasn't enough to get the Rams into the NCAA tournament.
It also wasn't enough to intimidate the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, who rolled to a convincing win on the road in Fort Collins, Colo. Southern Utah outscored Colorado State in the second half, 41-28, to pull away after a taut first half. SUU limited Colorado State to 35-percent shooting from the floor and 6-of-24 shooting from three-point range. The Thunderbirds also outscored the Rams by 10 points from the foul line (24 to 14) in a 15-point contest.
Up Next: Southern Utah (23-9) remain in the Mile High State, where they'll visit the University of Colorado (18-14) for the second round, to be played Sat., Mar. 22 -- 9 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. MDT).
SMU 84, Texas Southern 72
The Mustangs hit 50 percent of their field goals and went 10-of-19 from three-point range in their win over the visiting Tigers in University Park, Tex. SMU was paced by Keena Mays, who poured in 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field (5-of-8 from three-point range) and 7-of-8 free throw shooting. SMU forced 21 Texas Southern turnovers.
Up Next: SMU (18-13) takes the court at Minnesota (21-12) in the second round on Sun., Mar. 23 -- 6 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. CDT)
South Dakota State 78, Butler 61
The Jackrabbits ran past the Bulldogs, making more of the effort plays all night long. South Dakota State not only hustled on defense, limiting Butler to 35-percent shooting from the floor; the Jackrabbits also grabbed six more offensive rebounds than the Bulldogs (13-7), which enabled them to take a 16-3 advantage in second-chance points. The Jacks also got themselves to the penalty stripe, where they outscored Butler, 24-15.
Mariah Clarin was the MVP of the game for South Dakota State. She pulled down 12 rebounds, four of them off the offensive glass, to go along with 14 points for the double-double.
Up Next: South Dakota State (23-9) hosts Creighton (20-13) in Brookings in the second round on Sun., Mar. 23 -- 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT)
Creighton 77, Missouri 51
Trailing by one at halftime, the Bluejays outscored the Tigers by a 46-19 margin in the second half to win a game that was split into two distinct chapters. Creighton hit just under 56 percent of its shots while limiting Missouri to 32-percent shooting from the field. Missouri just couldn't develop any consistency on Thursday night -- the Tigers, known for their three-point shooting, hit only 4-of-23 threes and made only 7-of-16 foul shots.
Up Next: Creighton (20-13) advances to the second round to take on South Dakota State (23-9) on Sun., March 23 -- 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CDT) in Brookings, S.D.
Marquette 63, Indiana State 61
The Golden Eagles edged the Sycamores on the road, thanks to a 6-0 run in the game's final 65 seconds. Marquette trailed, 58-57, with 1:05 left before taking the lead on a Katherine Plouffe (19 points) layup at the 1:02 mark. The Golden Eagles produced stops on their next two defensive sequences and hit four foul shots to push their lead to 63-58 before Indiana State hit a three-pointer just before the final horn to set the final margin.
Up Next: Marquette (22-10) heads to Bloomington where they'll take on the Hoosiers (19-12) in the second round on Sat., Mar. 22 -- 7 p.m. EDT.
Indiana 48, Belmont 47
The Hoosiers nipped the Bruins at the wire in a game that had all the craziness of a March Madness mind-bender. Belmont barely fouled at all in the first 19 minutes of the second half, so when the Bruins -- trailing by one -- missed a three-pointer and surrendered the rebound to Indiana with 10 seconds left, they had to foul Indiana five times in a span of seven seconds in order to send the Hoosiers to the foul line for a one-and-one. Indiana's Nicole Bell missed the front end, but with only three seconds on the clock, Belmont was unable to get organized on offense. Indiana's Alexis Gassion produced a steal, sealing the win for the Hoosiers.
Up Next: Indiana (19-12) hosts Marquette (22-10) in the second round on Sat., Mar. 22 -- 7 p.m. EDT .
Northwestern 69, Ball State 65
Unlike its men's team, the Northwestern women's basketball team has actually reached the NCAA tournament in the past. On Thursday night, it prolonged its latest postseason stay by fending off Ball State. Northwestern trailed, 61-60, with 4:29 left before shutting out Ball State for the next 3:14 and holding the Cardinals without a made field goal for the remainder of the game. The Wildcats gained a 66-61 lead with 1:52 remaining and were able to preserve that advantage the rest of the way.
Up Next: Northwestern (16-15) plays host to IUPUI (23-9) in the second round, Sun., Mar. 23 -- 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT)
IUPUI 72, Central Michigan 66
The IUPUI Jaguars handled the Central Michigan Chippewas on the road in Mount Pleasant, Mich. The final score wasn't reflective of what was for the most part a lopsided game. IUPUI led by a double-digit margin for much of the night and built a 17-point lead (62-45) with 8:30 left. Central Michigan did pull within eight, at 67-59, with just over four minutes left to make IUPUI sweat a little bit, but the Jaguars' defense prevented the Chippewas from getting any closer than six from that point onward.
Up Next: IUPUI (23-9) visits Northwestern (16-15) for the second round on Sun., Mar. 23 -- 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT)
Bowling Green 72, High Point 62
The Falcons brought down the Panthers, thanks to superior defense down the stretch. After High Point forged a 52-52 tie with 9:30 left, Bowling Green limited the Panthers to only one point in the next five-and-a-half minutes. By the time High Point scored its next made field-goal, Bowling Green had attained a 63-56 lead with just under four minutes remaining. High Point pulled within four points, at 65-61, with 2:20 left, but Bowling Green scored on its next two possessions to alleviate pressure. The Falcons allowed the Panthers only one more point in the final two minutes.
Up Next: Bowling Green (28-4) plays either St. Bonaventure (23-10) or Charlotte (15-15) in the second round, site and venue to be determined.
Harvard 90, Iona 89
A great Thursday for Harvard hoops carried over from the men's tournament into women's basketball. The men won in the afternoon in the NCAA tournament, and the women were able to top the Iona Gaels in a high-scoring thriller that featured a wild conclusion.
Harvard's Christine Clark broke an 86-all tie with 11 seconds left, hitting a pair of free throws to give the Crimson an 88-86 advantage. Clark then went from hero to goat just five seconds later, as she fouled Iona's Aleesha Powell on a made layup. Powell knocked down the subsequent foul shot to give Iona an 89-88 lead with just six seconds remaining.
Yet, Clark wasn't ready to accept the blame for ending the Crimson's season. Harvard raced down the floor, making an effective outlet pass following Iona's made foul shot. Clark was able to get to the rim and release a layup before the buzzer. Her shot tickled twine with one second left, giving Harvard an exhilarating win on a very special day for the school's two basketball programs.
Up Next: Harvard (22-7) heads to Rutgers (23-9) for the second round in what should be another great match-up on Mon., Mar. 24 -- 7 p.m. EDT.
Rutgers 65, Delaware 61
The Scarlet Knights dealt with their NCAA tournament snub by taking care of the Blue Hens and advancing to the second round. Rutgers was able to keep Delaware at arm's length throughout the final 10 minutes of the second half. The Blue Hens kept the game within reach, never falling behind by a huge margin, but as the game moved toward its conclusion, Delaware was never able to get any closer than the final four-point difference. The Blue Hens missed three layups in the last half-minute of regulation that would have given them a chance for a comeback.
Up Next: Rutgers (23-9) hosts Harvard (22-7) in the second round, Mon., Mar. 24 -- 7 p.m. EDT.
Princeton 94, Virginia Commonwealth 76
The Tigers clobbered the Rams, as four Princeton players scored at least 18 points. The Tigers hit 50 percent of their shots from the field and outscored VCU by a 24-13 count at the free-throw line. Alex Wheatley and Annie Tarakchian co-starred for Princeton, combining for 40 points and 22 rebounds.
Up Next: Princeton (21-8) takes to the road at Seton Hall (19-13) in the second round, Sun., Mar. 23 -- 5 p.m. EDT.
Seton Hall 63, American 60
The Pirates outlasted the Eagles, hitting three of four foul shots in the final two minutes of regulation after American sliced a 10-point Seton Hall lead to only two.
Free throws proved to be a defining element in this game. Seton Hall outscored American by an 18-1 margin from the charity stripe.
Up Next: Seton Hall (19-13) stays home to host Princeton (21-8) in the second round on Sun., Mar. 23 -- 5 p.m. EDT.
Mississippi State 77, Tulane 68
The Bulldogs stopped the Green Wave, using a 10-0 run midway through the second half to establish a 53-41 lead and cruise from that point onward. Five MSU players scored in double figures, and the Bulldogs outscored Tulane at the free-throw line, 22-11.
Up Next: Mississippi State (20-13) will host Southern Mississippi (27-6) for the second round on Mon., Mar. 24 -- 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT)
Southern Mississippi 75, Lamar 60
The Golden Eagles pasted the Cardinals in a battle of the birds on Thursday night. This was a make-or-miss game. Southern Mississippi hit 57 percent of its shots while Lamar converted only 36 percent of its field-goal attempts. Lamar grabbed 21 offensive rebounds but was not able to finish plays near the rim. Southern Miss guard Jamierra Faulkner turned in one of the more special individual performances of the night in the WNIT, handing out 13 assists to go along with 14 points on efficient 7-of-11 field goal shooting.Up
Up Next: Southern Mississippi (27-6) visits Starkville to meet Mississippi State (20-13) in the second round on Mon., Mar. 24 -- 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT)
Auburn 78, Furman 64
After a close first half, Auburn broke the game open early in the second half and coasted to the finish line. The Tigers limited the Paladins to 37-percent field goal shooting and forced 17 turnovers by Furman. Auburn collected a whopping 13 steals, a reflection of the extent to which its defense set the tone in this game.
Up Next: Auburn (18-14) plays host to Old Dominion (18-15) in the second round on Mon., Mar. 24 -- 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. EDT)
Old Dominion 68, Navy 60
The Lady Monarchs survived a game effort from the Midshipwomen, largely because they were stronger near the basket and generally more aggressive. Old Dominion limited Navy to only six free-throw attempts. The Lady Monarchs made only 10 of their 16 foul shots on Thursday, but Navy was that much worse, converting only three of the six in a game that was ultimately decided by eight points.
Old Dominion grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, four of them by Shae Kelley, who paced the Lady Monarchs with 22 points and 13 boards. Her tally in this game pushed her past the 1,000-point mark, making her just the fifth player in program history to achieve that landmark in just two seasons.
Up Next: Old Dominion (18-15) heads south to play Auburn (18-14) in the second round, Mon., Mar. 24 -- 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. EDT at Auburn)
Stetson 70, Miami (Fla.) 63
In one of the night's more eye-opening results, the Hatters embarrassed the Hurricanes on the road Thursday to advance to the WNIT second round. Stetson's defense locked down Miami's offense, limiting the Hurricanes to paltry 29-percent field goal shooting. Despite out-rebounding Stetson, 59-46, and collecting 21 offensive boards, Miami could not convert a high enough percentage of the putback chances it gained, leaving the two sides tied at 15 apiece in second-chance points. Miami didn't improve its chances by turning the ball over 20 times.
The game was not as close as the score indicated, either. Stetson gained a 10-point lead with 10:10 left and maintained a double-digit advantage until Miami scored a few baskets to narrow the gap in the final 35 seconds.
Up Next: Stetson (27-7) advances to the second round, where the Hatters will face either South Florida (19-12) or North Carolina A&T (24-6), time and venue to be determined.
Opening Round, Day Three: Friday, March 21, 2014 (All Times Eastern Daylight Time)
Charlotte (15-15) @ St. Bonaventure (23-10) -- 7 p.m.
Stony Brook (24-8) @ Michigan (18-13) -- 7 p.m.
North Carolina A&T (24-6) @ South Florida (19-12) -- 7 p.m.
Mount St. Mary's (19-13) @ Duquesne (19-12) -- 7 p.m.
CSU Bakersfield (19-11) @ Saint Mary's (22-9) -- 9 p.m.
Arkansas State (22-11) @ Texas-El Paso (24-7) -- 9 p.m.
Hawaii (17-13) @ Washington (17-13) -- 10 p.m.