NCAA women's tournament: Duke takes 53-45 loss to UConn, NC State advances to Elite 8

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Sunday, March 31, 2024
NC State Women's basketball joining Duke in Sweet 16
NC State women's basketball beat Tennessee Monday to keep dancing in the NCAA's Sweet 16 March Madness tournament.

PORTLAND, Ore. (WTVD) -- The No. 7 Blue Devils took the court on Saturday against No. 3 UConn, losing 53-45.

Oluchi Okananwa led Duke (22-12) with 15 points and Reigan Richardson added 10, but after ousting No. 2 seed Ohio State in the second round, the Blue Devils disappeared at the offensive end. They scored 13 first-half points and had 27 going to the fourth quarter before a flurry that put a scare into the Huskies.

UConn's Paige Bueckers had a role in causing the offensive issues for Duke, but it was a collective effort that kept Richardson from getting hot as she did while scoring 28 points against Ohio State.

"UConn did a great job with disrupting us," Richardson said. "We did have a lot of turnovers. It's something that we've been trying to work on the whole season. At the end of the day, UConn executed their game plan very well."

The Blue Devils had just 11 baskets through three quarters. Duke trailed by 20 late in the third but made a massive run in the closing minutes.

Okananwa's three-point play with 4:46 left cut the deficit to 10. She added a 3-pointer with 1:59 left to get Duke within five, but the Blue Devils got no closer despite a couple of UConn turnovers and a handful of good looks for Duke around the basket.

Bueckers' free throws with 19 seconds left put the final touch on a shaky victory for the Huskies.

"The fatigue factor became a big issue, because it forced us to change our game plan," UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said. "We got up 20 because we just pushed it, pushed it, pushed it. And then I felt like, OK, we need a breather here, or we're not going to be able to finish the game. And I think by doing that, we got a little bit; kind of took a deep breath. We were exercising, and then we decided to have a cigarette, and then we didn't feel like exercising anymore."

Duke had 13 turnovers and hit 5 of 24 shots in the first half. Ashlon Jackson's 3-pointer in the dying seconds of the second quarter assured Duke of avoiding a school record for fewest points in the opening 20 minutes. Its 13 points were tied for the third-fewest.

Up next: UConn faces Southern California on Monday at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN.

NC State advances to Elite Eight

Moments after the NC State men's basketball team knocked off Marquette in the Sweet 16, the women also clinched their spot in the Elite Eight, bouncing Stanford 77-67 on Friday night in Portland, Oregon.

Unrattled by Stanford's halftime lead, NC State answered with a big third quarter and shut down All-American Cameron Brink.

Aziaha James had 29 points and the third-seeded Wolfpack outscored the No. 2 Cardinal 28-10 in the third quarter.

NC State's Aziaha James went off for 29 points against Stanford on Friday night at the Sweet Sixteen in Portland, Oregon,
Howard Lao

Saniya Rivers added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Wolfpack (30-6), who are headed to the Elite Eight for the third time overall and second time in the last three years.

Brink fouled out with 8:10 left in the game. She finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks in her final game for Stanford (30-6). Kiki Iriafen led the Cardinal with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

"We just kept coming in the huddle and just saying, 'Keep your head up. Don't worry about our missed shots. Don't worry about the foul calls. Just keep going. Play our game,'" James said. "I think we handled that very well."

Stanford, under Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer, was vying for its 23rd appearance in the Elite Eight. They had reached that milestone in five of the last seven years.

N.C. State went on a 13-2 third-quarter run capped by a pair of 3-pointers from James to go up 49-45. The Wolfpack led 55-47 going into the fourth quarter and led by as many as 15 points down the stretch.

NC State center River Baldwin looks to shoot against Stanford's Cameron Brink on Friday at the women's Sweet 16 in Portland, Oregon,
Steve Dykes

James opened the final period with a 3-pointer that beat the shot clock.

"Aziaha was really clicking on the offensive end," Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. "We kept going to her and she kept making big shots."

Moore said he was proud of his entire team, winning "against a great team and Tara VanDerveer, who I have great respect for. Anytime you can win against them it's special."

The Wolfpack defeated Tennessee 79-72 in the second round in Raleigh. It helped erase the bad feeling from the season before when the team fell to Princeton in the opening round.

The Cardinal needed overtime to get past seventh-seeded Iowa State 87-81 in a second-round game at home in Maples Pavilion. Iriafen finished with 41 points after Brink fouled out.

Brink, who is from the Portland area, has already announced that she's declaring herself eligible for the WNBA draft, although she had one more season of eligibility.

Stanford star Cameron Brink (22) shoots over NC State's defense at the women's Sweet 16 on Friday in Portland, Oregon.
Howard Lao

"I feel like these four years, they say it goes by fast and you don't believe them, but it really does. I feel like a freshman. I feel like I'm still a kid at heart and I'm sure Tara probably says that I still am," Brink said, turning to her coach. "I am going to miss being coached by you even though I know you're going to be in my corner for the rest of my life."

Stanford was physical at the start. Brink had six rebounds and three blocks in the first quarter alone, but the Cardinal held a narrow 12-11 lead.

Hannah Jump led all scorers with 10 points in the first half for Stanford. Iriafen played just seven minutes because of foul trouble but had eight points and seven rebounds, and the Cardinal ended the first half on a 9-2 run to lead 37-27.

Brink picked up her third foul with 5:35 left in the third quarter and went to the bench. Soon thereafter N.C. State tied the game at 43 on Zoe Brooks' layup before James made back-to-back 3-pointers.

"Watching their game against Iowa State we knew we could get their bigs in foul trouble," Rivers said. "And just when we saw we got them in foul trouble, it definitely gave us momentum."

Stanford was among five Pac-12 teams - most of any conference - that advanced to the Sweet 16 as the league's days dwindle because of conference realignment. Earlier in the day, Oregon State earned a spot in the Elite Eight with a 70-65 victory over Notre Dame in the Albany Region.

Stanford and California both decided to join the ACC last summer, part of a collapse that left just two teams - Oregon State and Washington State - in a Pac-2. That will put the Cardinal in the same conference as N.C. State next season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.