MTSU upsets Louisville with 3rd-largest comeback in history of NCAA women’s tournament

Middle Tennessee guard Savannah Wheeler, the Conference USA player of the year, missed her first six shots, committed two fouls and a turnover during the first 18 minutes of the Blue Raiders’ women’s tournament opener against Louisville.

But when she finally scored her first points on a layup with 1:16 left in the first half, a game that Louisville had dominated early was about to change.

Wheeler scored 20 of her 22 points in the second half, and No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee stormed back from 18 points down to defeat sixth-seeded Louisville 71-69 in the first round.

Jalynn Gregory scored 24 for MTSU (30-4), which has won 20 straight and has not lost since falling to Grand Canyon on Dec. 30. MTSU will play Sunday against No. 3 seed Louisiana State University.

Centre Anastasiia Boldyreva had 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Blue Raiders, who matched the third-largest comeback in women’s tournament history to advance to the second round of the tournament for the fifth time and first since 2007.

Olivia Cochran had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Nina Rickards scored 12 points for Louisville (24-10), but Cochran was whistled for her fourth in the middle of the third quarter, and was subbed out with Louisville still holding a five-point lead.

Ottawa’s Merissah Russell added nine points for Louisville along with five rebounds and four assists.

LSU fends off Rice

LSU star Angel Reese couldn’t seem to make a shot and the Tigers turned the ball over a season-high 24 times.

The defending champions just had to be thankful — if not relieved — that they’re good enough to overcome even that.

Reese overcame 1-of-7 shooting to finish with 10 points and 19 rebounds, and third-seeded LSU fended off a feisty performance by No. 14 seed Rice for a 70-60 victory.

Aneesah Morrow added 15 points, while Flau’Jae Johnson and Mikaylah Williams each scored 14 for the Tigers (29-5).

LSU had a hard time putting the Owls (19-15) away. Reese turned the ball over six times. Williams and fellow guard Hailey Van Lith each committed five turnovers and reserve point guard Last-Tear Poa, who as coming back from a concussion, had three turnovers.

LSU is in the second round for the third straight season. They’re one victory away from advancing to the Albany 2 regional semifinals and two wins from possibly meeting Iowa and NCAA all-time leading scorer Caitlin Clark in a rematch of last season’s national title game.

South Carolina blows by Presbyterian

Chloe Kitts wanted to improve her confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament. She likely gave everyone who picked South Carolina to win it plenty of good feelings going forward.

Kitts tied her career high with 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting with a game-high 13 rebounds as the No. 1 overall seed Gamecocks blew past Presbyterian 91-39 on Friday to begin their March Madness run.

The Gamecocks (33-0) moved five wins away from the 10th perfect championship season by overwhelming the Blue Hose (21-15) of the Big South Conference for a second time this season. Next comes another rematch against No. 8 seed North Carolina on Sunday.

The Tar Heels gave up almost all of a 16-point lead before holding on to defeat No. 9 seed Michigan State earlier Friday.

Texas thumps Drexel

Shaylee Gonzales scored 21 points, Taylor Jones added 18 and No. 1 seed Texas beat No. 16 Drexel 82-42.

Gonzales converted 5 of 6 three-point attempts while matching her season-high in scoring, and she made three steals. Jones hit 7 of 11 shots inside for the Longhorns, who have won 13 of their last 14 games.

Drexel (19-15) had only one starter taller than six feet — 6-2 Hedda Staatman. Texas (31-4), rotating four post players who are between 6-1 and 6-4 most of the game, outscored Drexel 44-18 in the paint and 22-6 on second-chance points thanks to a 26-10 edge in offensive rebounding.

Freshman Madison Booker had a season-best 14 assists, the most ever by a Longhorn in an NCAA Tournament game. DeYona Gaston had 11 points and 10 rebounds — eight on offense — in a game she considered missing because of illness. Guard Shay Holle had seven rebounds, four blocks, three steals.

Amaris Baker led Drexel with 10 points. The Dragons shot 35 per cent and committed 21 turnovers.

Duke advances to face Ohio State

Reigan Richardson scored 25 points and had seven rebounds as Duke rallied in the second half to overtake Richmond 72-61.

No. 7 seed Duke (21-11) advances to play Ohio State on Sunday, following the Buckeyes’ 80-57 rout of Maine in a first-round contest earlier in the day..

The Blue Devils battled back from a nine-point deficit at halftime, going ahead 42-41 with 4:42 left in the third quarter and never relinquishing the lead again.

Ashlon Jackson added 14 points and Kennedy Brown had 10 for Duke. 

Duke’s Emma Koabel of Port Colborne, Ont., finished with three points and one assist.

Grace Townsend led Richmond (29-6) with 18 points, Addie Budnik had 17 and Maggie Doogan added 15.

Baylor pulls away from Vanderbilt

Bella Fontleroy scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lift fifth-seeded Baylor to an 80-63 victory over No. 12 Vanderbilt.

Fontleroy hit 6 of 12, including four three-pointers, for the Bears (25-7), who broke open a close game at halftime with a dominating third quarter in winning for the seventh time in their past eight games.

Sarah Andrews added 13 points, and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 11 for Baylor.

Iyana Moore led the Commodores (23-10) with 15 points, but made just 3 of 14 from the floor.

Kansas State uses big 1st quarter to top Portland

Gabby Gregory had 22 points and Ayoka Lee scored 21 to lead Kansas State to a 78-65 win over Portland.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats built a big first-half lead and then kept the No. 13 seed Pilots at an arm’s reach the rest of the game. They led 25-10 after one quarter and 34-14 at one point, but the Pilots closed the gap to 40-28 at halftime.

K-State will face the winner of the Colorado vs. Drake game on Sunday in the second round.

Serena Sundell added 16 points for Kansas State (26-7).

Portland (21-13) was led by Maisie Burnham, who had 17 of her 21 points in the second half. The Pilots also got 12 points from Kianna Hamilton-Fisher.

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