Gamecocks rout Eastern Michigan 80-48 in women's tourney
|women's BASkEtBALL RESULTS
|South Carolina 80, Eastern Michigan 48
|Tennessee 72, Tennessee-Martin 49
|Arkansas 72, Dayton 55
|Kentucky 68, McNeese State 62
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- South Carolina showed it can do more than just play lockdown defense. The Gamecocks are now finding ways to score points.
The fifth-seeded team in the Fresno Regional closed the first half on a 14-2 run, opened the second half on a 9-3 spurt and routed 12th-seeded Eastern Michigan 80-48 Saturday in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament.
On Monday, South Carolina (24-9) will face fourth-seeded Purdue, the tourney host, or 13th-seeded South Dakota State, the Summit League champions, for a ticket to the regional semifinals.
Markeshia Grant scored 12 points to lead South Carolina, which is now one victory from tying the school's single-season record. Charenee Stephens had 11 points and Ashley Bruner finished with 10 points off the bench in the Gamecocks' first NCAA game since 2003.
The nation's second-leading scorer, Tavelyn James, was limited to 11 points, 13 below her season average. She finished her career with 2,461 career points. Paige Redditt scored 14 points and Natachia Watkins had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
But it wasn't nearly enough to prevent the Eagles (23-9), the Mid-American Conference champs, from falling to 0-2 all-time in NCAA play. Eastern Michigan shot a dismal 26.7 percent from the field, turned the ball over 17 times and finished with its lowest point total of the season.
The game sure didn't start that way.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who led Virginia to three Final Four appearances more than two decades ago, said she expected her players to have some early jitters.
They did, and Eastern Michigan took advantage quickly, scoring six straight points to take a 14-8 lead less than six minutes into the game against a defense that was allowing only 50.5 points a game.
But when the Gamecocks settled down, they reverted to form and never gave the Eagles a chance.
Two free throws from Ieasia Walker capped an 8-0 run that gave South Carolina a 16-14 lead. And after the Eagles tied the score on their next possession, South Carolina went on a 9-1 run to make it 25-21 with 7:57 left in the half. That was followed by the 14-2 spurt that made it 39-23 at the half, and the 9-3 run to open the second half, which gave the Gamecocks a 48-26 lead.
The Eagles never recovered, trailing by 25 or more points for most of the final 15 minutes.
Summitt, Tennessee advance past UT Martin 72-49
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- Pat Summitt made it quite clear she would have no qualms about knocking off her alma mater.
Meighan Simmons scored 20 points and second-seeded Tennessee gave its coach a victory over the school where she played, beating 15th-seeded Tennessee-Martin 72-49 Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Glory Johnson added 14 points and 12 rebounds as Tennessee (25-8) pulled away in the second half. The Lady Vols set up a meeting with the DePaul-Brigham Young winner on Monday, hoping for their first Final Four run since winning the championship in 2008.
The Lady Vols vowed to get back there and win a ninth NCAA title for Summitt, who shook the sport with her announcement in August that she has early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Earlier this week, the icon with the most wins in NCAA history said she wasn't sure she would coach beyond the season.
On the court, it hasn't been easy for the Lady Vols.
There were lopsided losses at Stanford and Notre Dame. They blew a halftime lead while dropping a close game at home to Baylor, the top seed in the region. But they seem to be hitting their stride just in time, breezing to their third straight SEC title and following up with a win on Saturday -- their 14th in 16 games against Tennessee-Martin (23-9).
Tennessee dominated on the boards 52-39 and shut down the nation's top scoring team, holding the Skyhawks to just under 29 percent shooting.
The Lady Vols didn't exactly light it up from the floor at 40 percent, but they made enough shots down the stretch after a slow start.
Heather Butler, the nation's third-leading scorer, had a rough afternoon for Tennessee-Martin, finishing with just 14 points -- about 10 below her average. She was 5 for 25 from the floor, including 1 for 8 on 3-pointers, and with no one else picking up the slack, the Skyhawks came up short.
They were within six after Butler started the second half with a 3, but Tennessee scored eight straight to take control at 43-29. It was 50-33 after Simmons made a 3 with 12:36 remaining, and the Lady Vols were in control after that.
They can't relax, though.
They're eyeing another big run and trying to bring their Final Four drought to an end. The only player left from the championship team is Vicki Baugh, who's in her fifth year. The rest of the seniors are trying to avoid becoming the first group to go four years at Tennessee without a trip to the Final Four.
Arkansas women beat Dayton 72-55 in NCAA opener
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Arkansas' defense clamped down and knocked Dayton out of the NCAA tournament.
Quistelle Williams scored 15 points, Keira Peak and Lyndsay Harris added 14 apiece, and Arkansas rallied from an early double-digit deficit to defeat Dayton 72-55 in the first round Saturday.
C'eira Ricketts had 13 points and five assists for the sixth-seeded Razorbacks (24-8), who finished the game with a 20-2 run after trailing by as many as 14 in the first half.
Andrea Hoover scored 16 and Justine Raterman added 14 for the No. 11-seeded Flyers (23-7), who went the final 12 minutes without a field goal, missing their final 15 shot attempts.
The Razorbacks, back in the tournament for the first time since 2003, will play the winner of Saturday's second game between third-seeded Texas A&M (22-10) and No. 14 seed Albany (23-9).
Dayton shot 24 percent (7 for 29) from the field in the second half against the Razorbacks' 10th-ranked scoring defense. Arkansas also outrebounded the Flyers 47-37 for the game.
The Razorbacks were the ones having shooting problems at the start, missing 10 of their first 11 attempts. But they started attacking the basket to rally late in the first half.
Sarah Watkins, Arkansas' 6-foot-3 center, scored inside and converted a three-point play at the start of a 19-5 spurt. The speedy Peak drove for two layups during the run, and Ricketts' free throws in the final minute before the break tied the game at 35-35.
Arkansas went straight to Watkins on the first play of the second half, and she muscled inside to give the Razorbacks their first lead. Harris followed with a 3-pointer, but then fell hard on her back trying to guard Casey Nance. Harris returned to the game a few minutes later.
Hoover hit a 3-pointer and Raterman sank a pair of jumpers to put Dayton back in front. Ricketts answered with a pull-up jumper, then turned a steal into a fast-break layup.
Arkansas started controlling the boards and wearing down Dayton with its defense to finally pull away. Another offensive rebound led to Williams' jumper from the baseline, and Harris' 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining put Arkansas up 63-53.
Arkansas went to full-court pressure early in the game, but Dayton point guard Patrice Lalor handled it well and Samantha Mackey's 3-pointer with 12:30 left in the first half put the Flyers up 18-7.
Dayton's lead swelled to 30-16 as the Flyers continued to find cracks in Arkansas' defense.
No. 2 seed Kentucky gets by McNeese State 68-62
AMES, Iowa (AP) -- A'dia Mathies and Kentucky didn't look anything like the SEC regular-season champions in their NCAA tournament opener.
Keyla Snowden scored 11 points, Azia Bishop added 10 and second-seeded Kentucky squeaked by McNeese State 68-62 in the opening round of the women's tournament Saturday.
Mathies, the SEC Player of the Year, had just six points for the Wildcats (26-6), who struggled to put away the upset-minded Cowgirls until late in the second half.
McNeese State got within 63-57 on two free throws by Martika Hull with 40 seconds left, but the Cowgirls couldn't get any closer.
Caitlyn Baggett had 22 points and Hull scored 20 with 13 rebounds for No. 15 seed McNeese State (26-8), which forced the nation's leader in turnover margin to give the ball away 20 times. But the smaller Cowgirls were outrebounded 58-40 and couldn't pull off the upset.
Mathies and the Wildcats didn't look anything like the SEC regular-season champions in their NCAA tournament opener.
Mathies picked up two fouls in just over 2 minutes and wasn't a factor in the first half. The Wildcats also missed their first 12 3-pointers and half of their first 10 free throws, and the Cowgirls climbed ahead 27-23 despite some shooting struggles of their own.
Kentucky steadied itself with an 8-1 run to close the half, and Kastine Evans ended its 3-point drought to put the Wildcats ahead 42-33. Snowden followed with a jumper that finally pushed Kentucky's lead to double digits with 12:41 left.
But McNeese State didn't shrink away as many lower seeds might have, and Caitlyn Baggett's layup cut Kentucky's lead to just 46-42 with 9 minutes left.
Ashlyn Baggett, Caitlyn's twin sister, was held to five points for McNeese State.
Kentucky was knocked out of the SEC tournament with a surprising loss to LSU in the semifinals, and this win was a shaky first step in what the Wildcats hope will be their first trip to the Final Four.
The Wildcats appear to be in their best position yet to win a regional, having been seeded second for the first time since 1982. They also won their first SEC regular-season title in 30 years, and Kentucky's fast-paced, guard-oriented attack would seem to give it a strong chance for a long run through the tournament.
But for that to happen, the Wildcats can't afford to shoot 2 of 17 from 3-point range and 16 of 28 from the foul line as they did against McNeese State.
Samarie Walker was a bright spot for Kentucky with 13 rebounds, but Mathies finished 2 of 10 from the floor with five turnovers before fouling out.
Despite the loss, McNeese State is clearly a program on the rise under fifth-year coach Brooks Donald-Williams. The Cowgirls reached the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row and put forth a much better showing than last time, when they were bounced by eventual national champion Texas A&M, 87-47.