Texas upsets Maryland for spot in the Round of 8

By Gillian R. Brassil

Sixth-seeded Texas came back for a 64-61 win over No. 2 seed Maryland in a tight thriller that sent the Alamodome into a resounding roar, becoming the lowest seed of this year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament to make it to the round of eight.

Maryland had a seven-point lead at halftime before Texas figured out how to pass around their guards. After the teams went back and forth, a 3-point jumper by Celeste Taylor put Texas up by two points going into the fourth quarter.

Texas and Maryland continued to trade baskets, with Maryland’s Chloe Bibby putting the Terrapins up by two points on a second-chance layup with 1:28 remaining.

But Texas answered with a step-back jumper by Taylor and then a layup by Kyra Lambert off a turnover.

Maryland missed its next four fieldgoal attempts and a few trips to the free-throw line gave the Longhorns a five-point cushion. A missed layup by the Terrapins’ Ashley Owusu could have helped reverse their fate, but it was too late.

Taylor had 15 points and 11 rebounds; Lambert had 10 points. Charli Collier, Texas’ star center, led the Longhorns with 16 points.

Texas’ victory was not without difficulty. The Longhorns’ Audrey Warren hit her head hard on the floor with five minutes remaining and had to be helped into the locker room. Joanne Allen-Taylor, who had a team-high five assists, was knocked down and briefly left the game but was stiff the rest of the way. She had 14 points.

“Offensively, we have a ton of mismatches,” Taylor said in a postgame interview.

Texas will play top-seeded South Carolina in a regional final.

South Carolina flew past No. 5 seed Georgia Tech 76-65, with Zia Cooke attacking from the outside and others working inside as the Yellow Jackets focused their defensive efforts on All-American forward Aliyah Boston. Hours later, Stanford lapped fifth-seeded Missouri State in an 89-62 rout in which one-third of its points came from the bench.

With Boston struggling for South Carolina, Cooke shot from the perimeter while Laeticia Amihere, Victaria Saxton and Brea Beal fought through congestion in the paint to keep South Carolina ahead. Cooke had 17 points; Amihere had 15 points and seven rebounds.

“The bench is a big part of who we are,” Amihere said in a postgame interview. “Being able to go deep in our bench is going to be so important, especially down the stretch right now.”

Boston eventually figured out how to break Georgia Tech’s defense, finishing with 9 points even though she did not score in the first half. Still, the total was one of her lowest of the season.

Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s coach, said she needed to play Amihere down low because the team was thin at the position.

“Having her play both on the perimeter and in the post has really helped her confidence,” Staley said. “It’s given her the room she needs for us to see all that talent, all that skill set.”

South Carolina has not been able to play one of its senior guards, LeLe Grissett, who injured her right ankle in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and rolled around on a scooter during Sunday’s game.

Amihere’s scoring performance was her best this season and 1 point short of a career high. She said she drew inspiration from the resilience of a family friend, who received a diagnosis of cancer for the fourth time in early March.

“I wrote on my shoe to play for her — she’s a pillar of perseverance,” Amihere said. “Whenever I know I’m tired, I’ll tap my shoe.”

Georgia Tech did not go down easily. It converted turnovers into points when it could. But South Carolina’s defense picked up in the fourth quarter, making it impossible for the Yellow Jackets to come back.

Georgia Tech pulled to within 6 points with about four minutes left, but a quick surge in response by the Gamecocks positioned them to simply ride out the clock into the round of eight.

Stanford’s win was a much easier take — also relying on the team’s deep roster. Against Missouri State, guard Hannah Jump led Stanford with 17 points. She made five 3-pointers — two within a minute after taking the floor at the end of the first quarter. Kiana Williams had 16 points and Anna Wilson 13.

Despite their strong offensive output, the Cardinal allowed Missouri State to take some clean shots from beyond the arc. Elle Ruffridge led all scorers in the game with 18 points.

“Tara talks about this — she didn’t recruit any of us for our defense,” Wilson said in a postgame interview, referring to Stanford’s coach, Tara VanDerveer.

“I still don’t think we’re playing our best basketball yet,” she added, saying that she is hoping her teammates are going to be “peaking at the right time.”

Missouri State had a fourth-quarter boost, at one point going on a 12-0 run, but Stanford still rotated through the bottom of its bench and mostly kept control of the ball, dictating the pace.

“We needed to rebound better and we need to make our free throws going forward,” VanDerveer said in a postgame interview, giving her players mixed reviews.

Stanford will next face No. 2 seed Louisville, which beat No. 6 seed Oregon, 60-42, in a physical game that left the Ducks with two injured starters.

It was the Ducks’ lowest-scoring game since January, but Oregon started hot despite Louisville’s defensive pressure. Dana Evans, the all-American guard for Louisville, did not find her footing until the second quarter, when she scored 13 points. With 29 total points, she matched a career high and scored more than 15 points for the first time since Feb. 28.

Evans said it was a relief to land that first basket, but that was not what she was focusing on.

“You got to play defense, that’s what wins championships,” Evans said in a postgame interview.

Oregon was within eight points of the Cardinals in the third quarter before Nyara Sabally, the Ducks’ leading contributor Sunday, went down grasping her left ankle. She had 14 of Oregon’s 33 points and seven of its 31 rebounds by that point. The Ducks were already down another starter, Maddie Scherr, because of a first-quarter injury.

Two free throws by Oregon’s Sedona Prince at the top of the fourth quarter pulled the Ducks within six points of Louisville. But Louisville broke away; without Sabally, the Ducks’ defense could not withstand the Cardinals.

Sunday’s in-person crowd was much smaller than Saturday, when Indiana, a No. 4 seed, upset top-seeded North Carolina State, to earn its first trip to the round of eight in the women’s tournament.

Also Saturday, UConn blew past Iowa and Caitlin Clark on the shoulders of the Huskies’ juniors while their freshman star, Paige Bueckers, registered 18 points without trying to dominate.

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