The first round of the NCAA women’s tournament had its share of high-scoring games, last-second victories and even a few upsets.
Of course, UConn and Notre Dame both met little resistance in their openers to move a step closer to a showdown of unbeaten teams.
The most entertaining game of the opening round had to be the contest between DePaul and Oklahoma. They combined to score 204 points, the most in a regulation game in NCAA tournament history. The Blue Demons came away with a thrilling 104-100 victory.
“I would imagine, for the fans who were in the arena … that was a very entertaining basketball game,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “Lots of points scored, lots of big plays, very talented offensive players. … We could have hung our heads and gone to the corner, and we didn’t. We fought back.”
The Sooners rallied from 19-down to take a late lead before falling.
North Carolina had to make its own rally to avoid being upset by Tennessee-Martin. The young Tar Heels trailed by 18 points midway through the second half before coming away with a 60-58 win.
While the Tar Heels didn’t fall, ACC foe N.C. State was upset by 12th-seeded BYU. A pair of 11 seeds – Florida and James Madison – also pulled off first-round victories.
Five things to take away from the first round:
PARITY: While none of the top 16 teams in the tournament lost, the seven teams seeded 9 or lower that won tied for the second most in the last decade according to STATS. If not for a last-second shot by St. John’s Briana Brown and a late basket by Cal’s Brittany Boyd, two more low-seeded teams would have won.
“For the women’s game, I think you’re seeing a lot more, maybe not first-round upsets, but some teams that are projected to go on to Sweet 16’s (getting knocked out in the second round),” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, whose Lady Tigers knocked off No. 3 seeded Penn State in the second round last year.
“We were that team last year in some regard. It’s definitely happening in the second round, so you’re just talking about one more round prior to that.”
WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Freshmen across the country made their marks in the opening round. Oregon State’s Sydney Wiese scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Beavers to their first tournament win in nearly 20 years. Michigan State’s Aerial Powers had 26 points and 18 rebounds as the Spartans ran past Hampton. Nina Davis had 32 points and 10 rebounds in Baylor’s victory over Western Kentucky. Diamond DeShields, the ACC freshman of the year, had 13 of her 15 points during the second half to help North Carolina rally.
“It’s fun to watch,” Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. “We need some excitement in our game, and the youth is a positive. Hopefully, people get hooked on watching an Aerial … or a Nina. Or Diamond – obviously people love her. She’s a special, special player, clearly. It might bring fans back for four straight years, which is never a bad thing – and create some new ones.”
STILL LOOKING: It’s still not a good thing on selection night to be seeded 14 or 15. Those numbers remained winless in the history of the NCAA women’s tournament, falling to 0-80. … The SWAC and NEC are still looking for their first victories in the tournament, dropping to 0-23 and 0-21.
PUTTING UP POINTS: Teams averaged 67.8 points in the first round, up 3.6 points from last season. That’s the fourth highest total in the last 15 years according to STATS. With the new rules a point of emphasis this season, scoring was up over five points a game.
“The response to having more freedom of movement in the game this season was overwhelmingly positive and it was good to see it result in an increase in shooting percentage and over 5.6 points per game compared to last season,” said Anucha Browne, NCAA vice president for women’s basketball championships. “The women’s game we are seeing this season is the game people want to watch. The 2014 championship is off to an exciting start.”
BIG CONFERENCE DOMINANCE: It was a good opening weekend for BCS conferences. The ACC and SEC had six teams make it to the second round to lead the way. The Big Ten had five, while the Pac-12 and Big 12 had four. Only three mid-major programs made it past the first weekend with BYU, Saint Joseph’s and James Madison advancing.
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