March Madness: 5 talking points as Sweet 16 concludes

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Following the conclusion of the Sweet Sixteen round, there are now just eight teams left in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. GiveMeSport Women look at five talking points from the weekend's matches.

This year's tournament is full of firsts

For the first time in the programme’s history, Indiana women's basketball team are through to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight round, beating top-seeded NC State in an empathic match-up.

Under head coach Teri Moren, the Hoosiers have won 21 games in six straight seasons. This is no surprise – Grace Berger is the catalyst behind the Hoosiers’ aggressive offence, which averages more than 75 points on 62 field goal attempts a game.

This was also the first time in three NCAA Tournament games that Stanford trailed. Missouri State scored the first basket of the game with eight minutes left in the first quarter, but Williams scored seven points to put the Cardinals in control. Tara VanDerveer’s side then went on to destroy Missouri State 89-62.

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If Texas are victorious against South Carolina, the Longhorns will be through to the Final Four for the first time since 2003. They would get there with first-year coach Vic Schaefer, who left a powerhouse programme at Mississippi State to start a new challenge with Texas.

This was also Michigan’s first ever appearance in the Sweet 16 round. For the first time, Michigan was in the rankings all season. Naz Hillmon became their first female player to earn All-American honours as a second-teamer.

Defending champions Baylor faced number six Michigan. They had defeated seventh seeds Virginia Tech 90-48 at Greehey Arena to advance to the sweet sixteen for the 12th time in a row.

Michigan’s inexperience didn’t show on the court as they put in one of their best performances yet, one their fans should be very proud of. However, this still wasn’t enough – second seeds Baylor edged them in overtime.

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This was a very exciting game that saw NaLyssa Smith once again shine by raking up 21 points. She is the seventh Lady Bear in history to be named AP First-Team All-American. She was named Big 12 Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 Championship, and is still a candidate for the Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award.

She has led Baylor to its twelfth Big 12 Regular Season Championship and eleventh Big 12 Tournament Championship in programme history. Smith has averaged 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 79.3 percent from the charity stripe.


Top scoring Maryland knocked out

One of the most surprising results in the competition so far saw Maryland beaten by sixth seed Texas. Their biggest downfall was their inability to respond to the physical play from their opponents. Their attitude towards the game was evident from the first quarter – they tailed 18-12, looked overconfident, and seemed shocked to be in such a close contest.

The team that are so strong offensively struggled defensively. When the Longhorns came out with more intensity in the second half, they went on to score 24 points and took a 49-47 lead into the fourth quarter.

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Charli Collier, a possible first-round selection in the WNBA draft, led Texas with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Celeste Taylor added 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Joanne Allen-Taylor chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Overall, Texas had a 41.4 percent shooting percentage.

The Longhorns will face number one seed South Carolina next. This will be another exciting matchup as Texas look to defeat another NCAA favourite.


Stanford continue winning streak to 17 games

Stanford – the number one overall seed – breezed past number five Missouri State, advancing to the elite eight with an 89-62 win as their winning streak continued. Stanford will now play number two Louisville and will hope to extend their streak to 18 games.

Stanford were a force throughout the game as they led 23-15 after 10 minutes and 49-26 at halftime. Stanford also forced nine turnovers in the first half and the Cardinal had a shot percentage of 43.9 percent.

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Kiana Williams, a senior guard who entered the game averaging 19.8 points in her previous four games, led the Cardinal with 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Cameron Brink, a freshman forward, was a force once again, blocking five shots in just nine minutes of action as Missouri State was consistently rejected in the paint.

Four players scored in double figures for the second-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team, as they continued their dominance in the NCAA tournament. However, head coach Tara VanDerveer still believes that her team has more to give, grading their performance a “B”. VanDerveer will hope to see an "A" performance when they play Louisville.


UConn vs Iowa matchup proves future of women's basketball is bright

UConn’s matchup with Iowa was an anticipated game. Two of the most talked-about freshmen – Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers – battled it out for a place in the elite eight. However, the game was led by Aaliyah Edwards, who had a strong first quarter. This was no surprise as Edwards was second in the nation for effective field goal percentage.

Evina Westbrook played an instrumental part as she ended the game one rebound shy of a triple-double. The most important player for UConn was Christyn Williams, however, who came close to breaking her career-high with 27 points.

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The freshmen Clark and Bueckers match-up didn’t live up to expectations. The high standards that Clark and Bueckers set means that even with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists game for Bueckers, and 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists game for Clark, it will still be deemed as a normal game for them both. This is a testament to their talents and the high standards they have set for themselves.

It was Clark’s Iowa that fell short in the end. The score of 92-72 was not a correct portrayal of the closeness of the game, however.


Oregon Ducks weakened by injuries

Louisville entered the game as one of the tournament favourites. They faced the region’s number six seed, the Oregon Ducks.

The Ducks already had a challenging contest with Louisville, and the injuries they suffered before and during the game didn’t help. They were without starting guard Te-Hina Paopao because of an injury. Maddie Scherr, the Ducks' starting guard, went down with a rolled left ankle late in the first period, and Nyara Sabally also went down with a rolled left ankle late in the third quarter.

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Oregon gained the first four points of the fourth quarter and had opportunities to cut the deficit deeper but struggled to convert. The Cardinals then went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game. The Ducks were trying to reach their fourth consecutive elite eight but instead saw their season end. The 60-42 win for Louisville means they will now face top-seeded Stanford.

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