What we learned: Baylor, Colorado and Duke win on road to reach Sweet 16


What chalk? After higher seeds went 31-1 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament, No. 7 seed Duke and 5-seeds Colorado and Baylor erased the chalk and won on their opponents’ home court.

The Blue Devils had the biggest upset of the day, rallying from 16 down to beat No. 2 seed Ohio State in Columbus.

The Buffaloes upended fourth-seeded Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas.

And the Bears knocked off 4-seed Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Duke advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2018, Baylor is in its first since 2021 (but first since coach Nicki Collen took over in Waco) and Colorado is back for the second consecutive year.

We’re tracking all the action of Sunday’s second-round games, which are all on ESPN networks and the ESPN App.

Check out where every team landed as we reseeded the 32 remaining teams in the field. And be sure to check out everything we learned Friday on Day 1 and our Day 2 takeaways from Saturday.

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How did the Bears come away with a coveted win at Cassell Coliseum? Two words: Jada Walker. Virginia Tech simply had no answer for the junior guard in the second half, where she scored 26 of her career-high 28 points — her first 20-point game of the season. Her three-point play out of a timeout with 19 seconds left didn’t decide the game, but it put the Bears in the driver’s seat. And it might have seemed inconsequential at the time, but even her half-court buzzer-beater — her first made 3-pointer this month — to end the third quarter made a difference in the end.

While Virginia Tech’s Matilda Ekh (19 points) and Clara Strack (18 points) stepped up huge — the latter a freshman tasked with trying to fill in for three-time ACC player of the year Elizabeth Kitley — the Hokies needed just a bit more from All-American guard Georgia Amoore, who had a tough shooting night (7-for-22 from the field, 3-for-11 from 3). Amoore became more of a distributor in the second half, with 5 assists and 8 points.

Virginia Tech hit seven 3s in the second half, helping make up for the Bears’ edge in getting to the free throw line (by the night’s end, Baylor went 16-for-25 from the charity stripe while the Hokies converted 9 of 12 attempts). But in a contest that was otherwise incredibly even, Baylor — typically known for its offensive balance — had the hottest hand, and that’s what sent them through to Portland and snapped the Hokies’ 26-game home winning streak, which was the fourth-longest active one in Division I.

What it means for Baylor: Baylor makes its first Sweet 16 in Nicki Collen’s tenure after two previous second-round exits, a step in the right direction as the program looks to return to the sort of national contention and relevance it saw under Kim Mulkey. Given how shaky Big 12 play was at times for the Bears (where they suffered all seven of their losses), a second weekend appearance in the NCAA tournament must feel even more gratifying for Collen and her squad.

What it means for Virginia Tech: We’ll always wonder what could have been for the Hokies if Kitley hadn’t torn her ACL in the Hokies’ regular-season finale on March 3. Those shots of her at the end of the game during the broadcast, where she was clearly emotional about her team’s loss and her college career officially coming to an end, were tough to watch. But the legacy she left in Blacksburg — an ACC tournament title, a regular-season crown and, most impressively, a Final Four appearance — speaks for itself.

Amoore’s decision on whether to go pro or stay in college for her fifth year looms, but one silver lining of Kitley’s recent absence is that Strack showed she’s a great piece the Hokies can build around moving forward. They’ll also return their third-best scorer this season in Ekh. — Alexa Philippou

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1:20

Reigan Richardson fuels Duke comeback with 28 points

Reigan Richardson and Duke claw back from a double-digit deficit to upset Ohio State in the round of 32.

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Did Duke just change the makeup of this NCAA tournament? After higher seeds went 31-1 over the first two days, the most chalk the tournament has seen since it expanded to 64 teams in 1994, the very first game of the second round produced a big upset, as Duke stunned the Big Ten regular-season champion Buckeyes in Columbus. After trailing by as many as 16 points in the second quarter and going more than 11 minutes without a field goal in the first half, the Blue Devils took complete control. They scored 12 of the final 14 points of the second quarter and then completely dominated the second half.

The Buckeyes’ shooting percentage plummeted to 28% after halftime, preventing them from using their full-court press. Without it, and mounting foul trouble, Ohio State didn’t have a Plan B. The Buckeyes, who were also badly outrebounded, made just one 3-pointer, and it came when the outcome was already decided. Meanwhile, Duke made 61.9% of its shots in the second half, playing perhaps its best offensive game of the season.

What it means for Duke: The Blue Devils are a team built on defense and offensive balance. In this NCAA tournament, they might have also found a superstar. Reigan Richardson is not only Duke’s best player — she is one of the best in the entire tournament. Against Ohio State, she scored 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting. That follows a 25-point outing on 10-of-18 shooting against Richmond in the first round, a game in which Duke also made a furious comeback after trailing by nine at the half. Richardson — the first Duke player with back-to-back 25-point games in the tournament since Alana Beard in 2003 — is a sophomore, and coach Kara Lawson plays five freshmen, making Duke one of the youngest teams in the NCAA tournament. They are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018.

What it means for Ohio State: Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff predicted that rebounding would be the key to this game. He was right. His team lost the battle on the glass 38-20. After last year’s Elite Eight trip, this is a huge disappointment for the Buckeyes. In three postseason games, they made just 28.5% of their 3-pointers. Cotie McMahon, whose season has been up and down, played one of her best games of the season with 27 points, but she got little help. Jacy Sheldon was the only other Buckeye in double figures with 13. Now McGuff says goodbye to Sheldon, Celeste Taylor, Rebeka Mikulasikova and possibly Rikki Harris, adding to the disappointment of bowing out of the NCAA tournament so early. — Charlie Creme

How does Duke’s upset impact the bracket? The Buckeyes’ loss disrupts the Portland 3 bracket in terms of a potential Sweet 16 matchup with UConn. Last year, the Buckeyes beat the Huskies in the regional semifinals in Seattle, ending UConn’s Final Four streak that dated to 2008.

When the bracket came out this season, people immediately saw that Ohio State and UConn could meet again in the same round. Would it be the Huskies’ chance at revenge, or would the Buckeyes eliminate UConn two years in a row?

The Huskies still have to get through their second-round game against Syracuse. But if they do, they won’t be meeting Ohio State in Portland. — Michael Voepel

Big Ten suffers another (eerily similar) loss: McGuff talked about rebounding being a problem in the Buckeyes’ Big Ten tournament quarterfinal upset, and it hurt them again in their season-ending loss Sunday.

It’s also bizarre how Ohio State’s season ended so similarly to Indiana’s last year. Like the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten regular-season title, lost their regular-season finale at Iowa, didn’t make the league tournament final, and then got upset at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

In both cases, it was a shocking, heart-wrenching end to an otherwise great season. — Michael Voepel

Surprising, yes, but inconsistencies have plagued OSU: It seemed incomprehensible a month ago that Ohio State, which had won 15 consecutive games to start the 2024 calendar year, wouldn’t make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. At their best, the Buckeyes looked like a team that could improve upon last year’s Elite Eight run and make it to Cleveland, and the urgency was there given how many seniors are on their roster.

While Sunday’s loss was shocking in many respects, the Buckeyes have been prone to in-game inconsistencies for multiple years now, particularly on the offensive end, because they can’t set up their trademark press if they can’t make shots. But even with that in mind, being outscored by 22 in the final 30 minutes on Sunday, and letting a six-point lead slip away in the game’s final 17 minutes without a real last push, was still surprising. Ohio State, which was up four at the break, had been 19-0 when leading at the half entering Sunday’s contest. — Alexa Philippou

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0:17

Madison Booker amped up after contested jumper

Madison Booker hits the long jump shot over her opponent and is visibly excited after draining it.

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Are muscle and Madison enough for Texas to win a championship? This wasn’t an artistic success for the Longhorns. They won for two reasons: 23 second-chance points and Madison Booker’s midrange shooting acumen. Texas dominated the glass, especially early in the game, and Booker made 9 of 16 shots on her way to 21 points. She took control with her scoring after deferring to teammates with 14 assists in the Round 1 win over Drexel. The defense was also suffocating at times and held Alabama to its third-lowest point total of the season. Nothing came easy for the Crimson Tide against Texas’ size and physicality.

What it means for Texas: Improvements will have to be made if Texas is to win a national championship. This is the third Sweet 16 appearance in four years under Vic Schaefer, but the number of missed shots (the Longhorns missed 15 at the rim) and lack of 3-point shooting (only five attempts and one make) are areas Texas will have to shore up.

The Longhorns seemed to be dominating, and the outcome never felt in doubt, yet it wasn’t until the final minutes that they put Alabama away. Aaliyah Moore’s 21 points — 13 of which came in the second half — and 10 rebounds helped supplement Moore’s performance, but no other Longhorn scored in double figures.

What it means for Alabama: Kristi Curry has brought stability and success to the Crimson Tide, but the streak without a Sweet 16 appearance now extends to 26 years. Decisions await by a number of fourth-year players about whether they’re staying for their COVID-19 bonus season. — Charlie Creme

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Should the Tigers be worried about their slow start in the second round? In the first half, LSU didn’t look like the defending national champion. Instead, the Tigers appeared a little discombobulated and trailed 36-32 at the break. In some ways, this wasn’t a surprise considering the Blue Raiders won 30 games this season and beat No. 6 seed Louisville in the first round. Middle Tennessee came into this game fully believing it could win.

Still, the concern was more about how LSU played, especially considering the Tigers will need to be sharper in the Sweet 16. They were not playing well as a unit — consider Angel Reese was 3-of-10 from the field in the first half, and every shot she took was contested — and the Blue Raiders took advantage of it.

To the Tigers’ credit, once they got in gear, they took over the game and dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Blue Raiders 24-7. Middle Tennessee also lost 6-foot-6 starting center Anastasiia Boldyreva in the third quarter when she fouled out, which helped turn the tide as LSU advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 16th time in program history.

What it means for LSU: The Tigers are known for their rebounding, but they had trouble with it in the first half against Middle Tennessee. LSU ended up winning the board battle — barely, at 43-41 — with a combined 24 coming from Aneesah Morrow and Reese. Flau’jae Johnson led in scoring with 21 points. The bottom line is the Tigers won, but they might not advance further if they have the same kind of first-half woes in the next round.

What it means for Middle Tennessee: The Tigers snapped the Blue Raiders’ 20-game winning streak Sunday, but Middle Tennessee had a good season. The Blue Raiders went unbeaten in Conference USA play, winning the league tournament. And they got one of the rare NCAA early-round upsets this year. — Michael Voepel

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1:38

Oregon State Beavers vs. Eastern Washington Eagles – Game Highlights

Watch the Game Highlights from Oregon State Beavers vs. Eastern Washington Eagles

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How did Oregon State pull away with Raegan Beers on the bench? The game was mostly a defensive slog, as both teams combined for 34 points across the second and third quarters. And while the Beavers maintained the lead throughout, Nebraska managed to get the score within two possessions in the third period. But Oregon State had its best quarter and raced ahead for good in the fourth, even as All-American Beers sat on the bench because of foul trouble.

The Beavers were forced to go small, playing Lily Hansford, Kelsey Rees and Dom Paurova, but that also allowed them to stretch the floor: Oregon State hit five 3-pointers in the fourth period alone (two apiece from Hansford and Talia von Oelhoffen as well as one from Timea Gardiner). Those five marked half of the Beavers’ game total and one more than Nebraska made the entire contest, helping Oregon State build a sizable edge.

Defensively, the Beavers slowed down a Cornhuskers quad that put up 89 against Iowa earlier this month, not allowing it to surpass the 40-point threshold until there were fewer than two minutes to play and Oregon State was comfortably ahead. And after Nebraska sank 44 3s across its Big Ten tournament run, it started 1-for-15 from deep until hitting a few in the final couple minutes of the game.

Von Oelhoffen had a standout afternoon, combining to score or assist on 39 of Oregon State’s 61 points and converting 5 of 11 attempts from the 3-point arc. And with Beers limited, Gardiner’s 17 points (three 3s) and 7 boards were all the more critical.

What it means for Oregon State: Following a two-year hiatus from the NCAA tournament, Scott Rueck and his young Beavers are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019 and for the sixth time overall — a remarkable accomplishment for a team that had just four Pac-12 wins a season ago, was picked to finish 10th in the league in the preseason and has no seniors on its roster.

What it means for Nebraska: Nebraska fell short of the program’s third appearance in the second weekend (and first since 2013) but still comes away with the program’s first NCAA tournament win in 10 years, snapping a four-game losing streak in the Big Dance. And even before then, the Cornhuskers’ stunning run to the Big Ten tournament championship game, where they took Iowa to overtime, makes for a relatively high note on which to end the season. While Jaz Shelley is out of eligibility, coach Amy Williams will return junior Alexis Markowski as well as promising freshmen Natalie Potts and Logan Nissley. — Alexa Philippou

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1:40

Colorado Buffaloes vs. Drake Bulldogs – Game Highlights

Watch the Game Highlights from Colorado Buffaloes vs. Drake Bulldogs

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How good is Colorado’s defense? Statistically, Colorado has a good — but not great — defense. In Sunday’s game, particularly in the second half, the Buffaloes were great. They limited Kansas State star Ayoka Lee the entire game and held the Wildcats to 15 points in the second half. Kansas State missed 20 of its 26 shots and committed 11 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. Junior Aaronette Vonleh, who drew the assignment guarding the 6-foot-6 Lee in the post, was the defensive star. Vonleh had seven steals, all in the first half. Lee had just nine field goal attempts and 10 points.

Colorado also struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, failing to score a point until there was 3:42 left — yes, you read that right — further spotlighting the importance of how well the Buffs played defense. They had 17 steals and forced 22 turnovers vs. a Kansas State team that averaged 13.9 on the season. Balance ruled the day, with six Colorado players scoring at least nine points.

What it means for Colorado: A second straight Sweet 16 appearance is a big accomplishment for a program that last season made its first tournament appearance in 20 years and lost six of eight games entering this NCAA tournament. The Buffs had also blown leads in their last two losses. Holding on in the fourth quarter reversed that trend. The program hasn’t been to the Elite Eight since 2002 and has never been to the Final Four. Considering the Buffs’ experience, this could be the season they end those streaks. All eight players in the rotation are at least juniors, and four are playing in their fifth year.

What it means for Kansas State: After a good season — one that slightly exceeded expectations — this ending is tough. Lee hasn’t announced a decision on whether she’ll return next season for her bonus fifth year. If she does, with Serena Sundell, Jaelyn Glenn and Brylee Glenn back, the Wildcats can get back here again in 2025. — Charlie Creme

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2:08

South Carolina plays flawless basketball in rout of UNC

The Gamecocks are on to the Sweet 16 after dominating North Carolina in an 88-41 win.

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Is South Carolina invincible? The Gamecocks sure looked unbeatable in Columbia. South Carolina jumped to a 20-point lead after the first quarter and never looked back. South Carolina seemed to capitalize on every mistake UNC made: a missed rebound, a turnover, a bad shot selection. The Gamecocks played like the best team in the country and national championship favorites they are, getting 32 points and a perfect performance from beyond the arc (6-for-6) from the bench in the first half.

It was an incredible half of basketball. South Carolina shot 80% from 3 and held UNC to 17 points. The 37-point halftime difference was the largest deficit for an ACC team in NCAA tournament history. South Carolina absolutely looked invincible.

What it means for South Carolina: This was a statement win from South Carolina. The Gamecocks won 65-58 when these two teams met Nov. 30. Freshman star MiLaysia Fulwiley played just three minutes. It was a battle start to finish. It was also a battle that took place in Chapel Hill.

On Saturday, South Carolina guards Raven Johnson and Te-Hina Paopao talked about the need to be the aggressor in Sunday’s matchup. Mission accomplished. This game was a completely different story. Fulwiley led all scorers with 20 points, shooting 4-for-7 from 3, snagging nine boards, and contributing three steals and three blocks. Dawn Staley said Fulwiley told her she’d be a different player Sunday. If she plays like this throughout the tournament — alongside the rest of South Carolina’s talented squad — it might spell doom for the field. Oh, and Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall are back. No big deal.

What it means for North Carolina: The Tar Heels ran into a buzz saw Sunday. Given the result of the first game between these two teams, UNC likely expected to be more competitive. Foul trouble dogged North Carolina early, and the Tar Heels were never in the game. Coach Courtney Banghart will look to rebuild next season with the core of this team eligible to move on. — Katie Barnes





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