The third day of the women’s NCAA Tournament saw eight teams punch their tickets to the Sweet 16, including three from the SEC. Top-seeded Stanford is headed home while defending champion South Carolina, Iowa and Virginia Tech have secured their spots in the next round.
The Athletic has you covered with takeaways from the biggest games of the day:
Ole Miss stuns Stanford for its first signature win of the season
After a day full of chalk in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Stanford fell victim to one of the biggest upsets in recent history. The Cardinal’s streak of 14 straight Sweet 16 appearances came to an end, and they became the first No. 1 seed to lose before the Sweet 16 (the eighth overall) since Duke in 2009. The Blue Devils had the misfortune of playing on the road against Michigan St. while Stanford lost a home game to Ole Miss, making this defeat even more surprising.
Cameron Brink, the Cardinal’s best player and a second-team All-American, returned from a stomach bug that kept her out of the first round and was fantastic defensively with seven blocks and 13 rebounds. However, she didn’t have her normal touch around the rim, and her poor finishing was compounded by aggressive pressure from the Lady Rebels, the eighth-best defense in the country, per Her Hoop Stats. Brink still scored 20 points by earning 10 free throws; she just didn’t get enough offensive support from her teammates. The remaining 10 Cardinal players who saw the floor combined to shoot 12-of-39 from the field and 3-of-6 from the foul line, totaling 29 points. Haley Jones in particular struggled with her shot and added five turnovers in what could be the final game of the 2021 Final Four most outstanding player’s career.
The Hokies advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history and the first time since 1999 by beating South Dakota State 72-60. It couldn’t have been a smoother start for Virginia Tech, which held a 23-point lead at intermission thanks to a near double-double (12 points and nine rebounds) from Elizabeth Kitley and eight 3-pointers from the rest of the roster. The spigot turned off in the second half while the Jackrabbits figured out new ways to attack the Hokies’ interior defense. But the gap never got closer than 11 thanks to four second-half 3s from Georgia Amoore, who has now hit multiple triples in 12 straight games, all Virginia Tech wins. — Merchant
Iowa holds off Georgia
Iowa (28-6) advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2021 with a 74-66 win against Georgia in a hard-fought battle from tip-off to the final buzzer. Georgia’s length and athletic ability prevented Iowa from driving and making passes into the paint and negated most second-chance opportunities after a missed shot. With 3:50 left in the game, Iowa had only two second-chance points.
But the Hawkeyes were solid from the perimeter, which is where they were most effective. Caitlin Clark was more of a facilitator rather than an outright scorer but when she needed to score, she did. With 42.8 seconds left and the shot clock dwindling, Clark drove the lane, put the ball off the glass and gave Iowa a four-point lead. Georgia’s Jordan Isaacs and Javyn Nicholson each were whistled for intentional fouls in the final 3.8 seconds. Clark closed it out with four free throws and cupped her ears toward the crowd after her final make. She finished with 22 points and 12 assists. — Scott Dochterman
Iowa beats Georgia 74-66, heads to the Sweet 16. Loud all game today pic.twitter.com/fJtVDKnn6i
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) March 19, 2023
South Carolina’s defense stifles USF in second half
For 20 minutes on Sunday, top-seeded South Carolina found itself locked in a tightly-contested matchup with No. 8 USF. The Gamecocks trailed 16-12 after the first quarter and led by just four at halftime. But coming out of the locker room, the undefeated reigning national champions looked very much like their dominant selves. They allowed only 16 points in the second half — the same number the Bulls scored in the opening frame — and stretched their lead to 31, winning 76-45.
Senior guard Zia Cooke led South Carolina with 21 points, while 2022 National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston finished with an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double. With the victory, South Carolina became the ninth Division I women’s basketball team to win 40 consecutive games, a streak that dates back to the start of last year’s NCAA Tournament. They’ll look to extend their success even further in the Sweet 16 when they’ll play the winner of No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Oklahoma. — Ben Pickman
(Photo: Tim Cowie / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)