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TIPPING OFF: Defense key to victories in women’s Sweet 16

March 30, 2019
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Louisville head coach Jeff Walz cheers his team on during the first half of a regional semifinal game against Oregon State in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Defense was the key to teams advancing Friday night to the Elite Eight of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

It might also be the difference Saturday when eight more teams try to reach the regional finals, including top seeds Notre Dame and Baylor.

The defending champion Irish will face Texas A&M in the Chicago Regional.

Getting out of Chicago won’t be easy for the Irish as three of the four teams in the region have won NCAA championships. The one that doesn’t, Missouri State, is on its best run in nearly two decades. The Lady Bears face Stanford.

No. 1 Baylor will face South Carolina in the Greensboro Regional. The other game has Megan Gustafson and Iowa playing against N.C. State.

“Baylor, obviously, is a really great team,” Gustafson said. “We’re focusing on N.C. State right now and that’s our sole focus. And if we keep going, maybe we’ll run into them. Maybe we won’t.”

The Lady Bears are hoping to move one step closer to reaching their first Final Four since 2012.

“After a while, you get used to it — you expect it now,” Baylor center Kalani Brown said Friday of the team’s top ranking. “You’re expecting to get everybody’s best shot. (Being ranked) No. 1 just kind of made it a little bit worse — but better at the same time.”

Here are other tidbits from the tournament:

RECORD BREAKER

Teaira McCowan set the NCAA Tournament career rebounding record when she broke former LSU great Sylvia Fowles’ mark of 221 boards. McCowan had 13 in Mississippi State’s win over Arizona State and now has 225 in her tournament career. McCowan did it in three fewer games than Fowles.

“My hard work is paying off. I fight for those rebounds as well as anyone else,” McCowan said. “I’m just congratulating myself on just going in and scoring on every board.”

SPUTTERING PAC-12

After a strong opening two rounds of the tournament, the Pac-12 struggled in the Sweet 16. UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona State all lost. Oregon was the lone team from the conference to pull off a victory Friday night. Stanford will try to get a second win for the western schools on Saturday.

REMEMBERING WHO THEY ARE

Winning 11 national championships and reaching the Final Four in 11 straight years has given UConn confidence over the years. While this year’s group has struggled at times, something clicked in the third quarter Friday night when the team was down to UCLA.

“All of the sudden, something happened,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think they remembered that we’re UConn, and this is what we do. It doesn’t always work — don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, but there’s just enough times with four, five minutes left in the game. Our kids need to be reminded sometimes, we’re still UConn, you know. We’re not going to die easily. It’s not going to be that easy to get rid of us.”

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