Creighton upsets Iowa State in Sweet 16

  • Creighton guard Tatum Rembao (2) and guard Payton Brotzki (33) react during the second half of the team’s game against Iowa State in the Sweet 16. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Creighton took down a No. 6 seed, Colorado. It defeated second-seeded Iowa. Now it has become the rare No. 10 seed to reach the Elite Eight.

Creighton delivered its third consecutive upset by beating the No. 4 seed Iowa State, 76-68, on Friday night in the NCAA women’s tournament. The Bluejays will play South Carolina on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

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Iowa State left path after path open for Creighton, and the Bluejays’ young, sharp offense moved right in. On defense, Creighton denied inside baskets for Iowa State.

This was already Creighton’s first trip to the Sweet 16 in program history. Creighton was one of two No. 10 seeds still in the field after an upset win over second-seeded Iowa in the second round. The other No. 10 seed, South Dakota, plays No. 3 Michigan on Saturday in the Wichita region.

The Cyclones and Bluejays relied heavily on their outside shooters: Combined, the two teams attempted 50 3-pointers.

Creighton pulled away in the third quarter and led by as many as 13 points in the fourth. Guard Morgan Maly led the Bluejays with 21 points.

Ashley Joens, a senior guard for Iowa State who was a second team All-American, sat out much of the first half after committing two fouls. Emily Ryan instead led the Cyclones with 22 points.

The Bluejays let the clock run out and greeted a small but ecstatic group of Creighton fans, sealing their win with a ceremonial spritz of bubbles on the court.

The crowd was much diminished after the Greensboro Coliseum drew local fans for the South Carolina vs. North Carolina game. An energetic Iowa State band had distractions ready for Creighton at every drive.

But one fan favorite stuck around: Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s coach, greeted fans in the stands before taking a seat courtside to measure up the team that her Gamecocks would be facing on Sunday.

SOUTH CAROLINA 69, NORTH CAROLINA 61

GREENSBORO, N.C. — There could be only one winner in the battle of the Carolinas.

South Carolina, hungry for its first national championship title in five years, advanced past North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s tournament, defeating the Tar Heels, 69-61, on Friday night.

While the Tar Heels have been on a disruptive path in the Greensboro region, sending fourth-seeded Arizona packing on its home court in the second round, the young team was no match for the depth of the Gamecocks. Aliyah Boston, the star junior forward who has been the centerpiece of her team, secured her 27th consecutive double-double with 28 points and 22 rebounds, and senior forward Victaria Saxton delivered when her team needed her most with 14 rebounds and two key blocks.

Boston secured all 13 points for South Carolina in the fourth quarter.

But the win did not come easily. South Carolina struggled to keep up with the speedy Tar Heels in the first half as they repeatedly drove downcourt, staying low and fast down the lane. The Gamecocks allowed 23 points in the first quarter. Deja Kelly, North Carolina’s sophomore guard, danced around South Carolina’s defense to lead her team with 23 points.

But Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke responded with the speed and scoring the Gamecocks needed to stay afloat. Henderson finished with 13 points and Cooke scored 15, ending the second quarter on her back after a successful jump shot. When they missed a basket, Boston came in and finished it off with two, three, sometimes four Tar Heels nearly hanging off her.

“That was a tough game — hats off to North Carolina for playing an extremely efficient basketball game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “They pushed us to the limit.”

The game was the third Sweet 16 matchup between the programs since 2014, and North Carolina’s first appearance in the third round since 2015, when it lost to South Carolina. The Gamecocks will next face Creighton.

Gamecock and Tar Heel fans alike filled the Greensboro Coliseum, just a three-hour drive from Columbia, South Carolina, and an hour’s drive from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, creating a sea of light blue and red against South Carolina’s neon green and pink sneakers.

The Gamecocks were looking for redemption after losing to Stanford last year in the semifinals by 2 points. But coming into Friday’s game, a Gamecock win was far from a sure bet. While their ferocious defense, one of the best in the tournament, has denied its competition again and again, the Gamecocks’ offense has struggled to convert drives to points.

“This shows it’s only going to get tougher and tougher,” Cooke said after the game. “We have keep our foot on the gas the whole time.”

TEXAS 66, OHIO STATE 63

SPOKANE, Wash. — Texas advanced to the Elite Eight for the second straight tournament with a 66-63 victory over Ohio State on Friday, aided by decisive play from its senior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor and the team’s go-to post players, Lauren Ebo and Aaliyah Moore.

The Buckeyes’ best two scorers all season, Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell, combined for 36 points, not enough to overcome the Longhorns’ physical defense.

The Longhorns took an early lead, staying ahead until Texas’ point guard, freshman Rori Harmon, picked up two fouls in the first quarter when a charge and a blocking call didn’t go her way in quick succession.

From that point, it started to look as if Ohio State might beat Texas at its own game, pressing the Longhorns from baseline to baseline every time they inbounded the ball. Texas coach Vic Schaefer said that the press “is just who we are” before the game, but it was the Buckeyes who threatened turnovers every time the Longhorns had to take the ball across halfcourt.

The Buckeyes ended the first quarter with a 4-point lead thanks in large part to Sheldon, who kept finding ways to score even when opportunities to shoot were hard to come by.

Allen-Taylor, who finished the first half with 13 points and added 4 in the second, allowed Texas to go into the locker room with a lead by muscling to the basket with just three seconds left and coming away with the bucket and the foul. That she was able to escape the first half without a single personal foul was particularly notable, given how physical the game was to that point. The teams combined for just one successful 3-pointer in the first half, and players had to battle for every attempt whether it was beyond the arc or inside it.

The Longhorns found a little momentum midway through the third quarter, forcing turnovers and scoring off them while getting second-chance points. But Ohio State’s senior guard Braxtin Miller hit all but one shot she attempted that quarter, scoring 8 points and keeping Texas from getting comfortable.

Still, the Buckeyes started to look a little less energized and began to lay off their full-court press. Entering the final frame, Texas had stretched its lead to 5 points.

Texas would lead by as many as 10 points, until Ohio State forced a series of turnovers that brought the game right back within reach with just four minutes remaining. The Longhorns’ lead shrank to 1 point as the game clock wound down, and the Buckeyes had the ball. But Texas was able to use the defense that has been its calling card all season long, force a turnover and make its free throws to seal the win.

STANFORD 72, MARYLAND 66

No. 1-seeded Stanford looked better than ever Friday night as it cruised to its 23rd straight victory, lengthening the longest active winning streak in Division I.

Stanford, the defending national champion, beat fourth-seeded Maryland, 72-66, to earn a trip to the Spokane regional final. For the second consecutive year, the Terrapins will head home after the Sweet 16.

Stanford’s Haley Jones proved to be a problem early on for the Terrapins, sinking a 3-pointer for the game’s first basket and scoring 8 points in the first quarter. The Cardinal looked so in control of both ends of the floor that Fran Belibi almost replicated her dunk from Stanford’s first-round game, blocking Chloe Bibby’s 3-point shot and racing to the other end to lay in a finger roll.

Maryland was able to stifle Stanford’s offensive output somewhat in the second quarter, but could not translate its stops into successful possessions. Then Stanford would find a way to get the ball to its 6-foot-4 sophomore Cameron Brink miles away from the basket, and she would still make a 3-point shot — and Maryland’s hard work on defense would suddenly seem meaningless.

Stanford’s Hull twins, Lexie and Lacie, grew up in Spokane. When they hit their first shots of the game within a 30-second span late in the first half, the arena erupted. Stanford took its largest lead of the game to that point, cementing the sense that the Cardinal were already staunchly in control of the outcome. They led 39-23 at halftime.

The Terrapins were fighting to get back in the game early in the third quarter when guard Diamond Miller picked up her fourth personal foul as she was fighting for a jump ball. From that point the game started to get out of hand, with Stanford’s lead stretching to 26 points late in the third.

Though Maryland pulled within 6 points down the stretch, it only served to make the dominating Stanford win look a little closer on paper than it was. Jones finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Lexie Hull completed the hometown tour as Stanford’s leading scorer with 19 points.

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