Missouri State crashes the Sweet 16 as 11 seed
NEW YORK (AP) — The Sweet 16 is set and Missouri State is crashing the party for the first time in 18 years.
The 11th-seeded Lady Bears last made it this far in 2001 behind now-assistant coach Jackie Stiles during the team’s historic Final Four run. They are the only double-digit seed to reach the regional semifinals after knocking off Iowa State on the Cyclones’ home court. It’s the ninth time in 10 years that a team seeded 10 or lower has reached the Sweet 16.
Missouri State had gone one-and-done in its previous four NCAA appearances.
“Wow. That was amazing,” said Missouri State coach Kellie Harper, who won three national championships as a point guard under Pat Summitt at Tennessee. “We did it our way. This is a dream come true.”
While Notre Dame and Baylor cruised to easy victories, Missouri State wasn’t the only lower seed to advance. Six seeds UCLA and South Dakota State also pulled off surprising wins, beating Maryland and Syracuse, respectively, on their home courts. It’s the first trip to the Sweet 16 ever for the Jackrabbits.
“It’s a great, great, great day to be a Jackrabbit,” said South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston, who suffered a fat lip in the postgame celebration.
Next up, UCLA will try to do something the school has never done — beat UConn. The Huskies have won all five meetings, including a 15-point win in the Sweet 16 in 2017. The Huskies won at UCLA by 18 points last year.
The Pac-12 had five of its six teams advance to the round of 16 — the most of any conference. Oregon State will join UCLA in Albany, New York. Oregon and Arizona State advance to play in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday. Stanford rallied to beat BYU and reach the Chicago Regional.
“For five teams to be in the Sweet 16 is a great statement about our league,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Congrats to UCLA and Oregon State. That’s awesome.”
It’s the second time in three years that the Pac-12 has had five teams in the Sweet 16. The SEC and ACC each have three teams, with the Big 12, Big Ten, American, Missouri Valley and Summit all having one team.
Three of the finalists for the Lisa Leslie Award, given to the best center in the country, are still playing. Baylor’s Kalani Brown, Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan and Iowa’s Megan Gustafson are still around. If the Lady Bears and the Hawkeyes win their next games, Brown and Gustafson will square off. McCowan could potentially face off with either one if two of the teams reach the Final Four.
Fans turned out, with no better place than Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The two-day total of 23,096 in Iowa City set a record for combined first- and second-round attendance, topping South Carolina (21,129 in 2015). They showed up to watch the Hawkeyes and Gustafson, the women’s Division I leading scorer this season.
Iowa drew an average of 11,548 over the first two rounds. The average attendance at the 16 sites was 5,299 — the highest average attendance for the opening rounds since 2008.
In 2015, the top 16 seeds were rewarded by hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with “the hope that the move would create a better in-arena atmosphere” and “improve attendance,” said Rhonda Lundin Bennett, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
She’s looking forward to the upcoming rounds after “three overtime games and competitive contests across the board.”
Iowa State star Bridget Carleton had 31 points in the loss to Missouri State. She finished just seven points shy of tying Angie Welle’s career scoring record at the school with 2,149 points.