March Madness 2022 recap: Tennessee survives scare, Notre Dame tops 100-point mark to reach women's Sweet 16

USA TODAY Sports

While Sunday's action in the NCAA women's basketball tournament featured a pair of No. 2 seeds going down to defeat, Monday was a little kinder to the high seeds -- although two had to go down to the wire to win on their home floors.

Meanwhile, No. 1 seed N.C. State advanced past Kansas State to set up a date with No. 5 seed Notre Dame, a 108-64 winner over Oklahoma.

The night ended with last year's national championship runner-up, Arizona, getting ousted by North Carolina.

Monday's games will determine which teams advance to the Sweet 16, which begins March 25. Eight women's teams, including No. 10 seeds South Dakota and Creighton, already punched their tickets on Sunday.

NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE:  Follow March Madness on the women's side

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Notre Dame guard Dara Mabrey was deadly from long range against Oklahoma on Monday night, hitting 7-of-12 of her 3-point attempts and scoring 29 points in a blowout Irish win.

Follow along for all the action on Monday in the women's NCAA Tournament:

North Carolina eliminates last season's runner-up

Mark down another upset in the women’s tournament. 

Late Monday, fifth-seeded North Carolina dominated fourth-seeded Arizona for long stretches, upsetting the Wildcats, 63-45, in Tucson. Arizona, last year’s runner-up, is the first team from the 2021 Final Four to be knocked out of the tournament. 

North Carolina was terrific offensively against Arizona, typically a stout defensive team. The Tar Heels shot 41% from the field — as opposed to Arizona’s 29% —  and outscored Arizona 30-18 in the paint. Three UNC players had 12 points or more, led by Kennedy Todd-Williams, who finished with 19 on 7-of-11 shooting. Alyssa Ustby chipped in with 12 points and 12 rebounds. 

Sam Thomas led Arizona with 15 points. Forward Cate Reese, the Wildcats’ best player, scored six points on 3-of-9 shooting, also grabbing five rebounds. Reese returned for the first and second rounds after missing the last few weeks with a separated shoulder, but struggled to find a rhythm Monday. 

Arizona tried to make a late run but at that point, the Wildcats had dug such a huge hole it was impossible to come back. UNC’s largest lead of the night was 24, and one point it reeled off 15 unanswered points. 

The Tar Heels advance to play No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the Sweet 16. 

-- Lindsay Schnell

UConn reaches Sweet 16 for 28th consecutive season

Central Florida started strong, but the depth of No. 2 seed UConn was too much as the Huskies made history once again, advancing to their NCAA record 28th consecutive Sweet 16.

Freshman Azzi Fudd led the way 16 points, including a pair of game-clinching free throws with 15 seconds left to propel the Huskies to a hard-fought 52-47 victory over the No. 7 seeded Knights. 

Christyn Williams added 12 points and Paige Bueckers had nine for the Huskies (27-5), who have not allowed an opponent to score more than 51 points in their last 10 games.

UCF jumped out to an 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and held the advantage until just over four minutes before halftime, when Nika Muhl's 3-pointer gave UConn a 22-20 lead.

The Knights trailed by 11 with 4½ minutes to play, but whittled the margin to just three on a pair of Diamond Battles free throws with 53 seconds left. However, UConn went 4-for-4 at the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win and a matchup with third-seeded Indiana.

Ohio State keeps its composure in front of pro-LSU crowd

BATON ROUGE, La. – Jacy Sheldon had 23 points, eight assists and three steals, and sixth seed Ohio State beat No. 3 seed LSU 79-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night.

Taylor Mikesell scored 18 and Rebeka Mikulasikova had 12 points for the Buckeyes (25-6), who responded to a large, loud and hostile crowd in the Tigers’ home arena by seizing momentum in the opening quarter and putting LSU in the deepest deficit it had face all season at 24 points late in the third quarter.

LSU (26-6), which overcame a 10-point deficit inside the final five minutes of their first round game against Jackson State two days earlier, lacked the firepower to climb out of a bigger hole against Sheldon and Co.

Khayla Pointer, the Tigers’ second-team All-America guard, scored 32 points, but also missed 18 of her 30 shots, her dry spells coming as the Buckeyes pulled away.

-- The Associated Press

Hoosiers hold on in 56-55 thriller

Princeton threw away its shot at the Sweet 16.

The Tigers trailed third-seeded Indiana by 2 with 29 seconds left to play, having erased a 14-point, third-quarter deficit. Kaitlyn Chen let the clock dwindle down to less than 10 seconds before driving to the basket. But Indiana double-teamed her, and she tried to dish the ball back to a teammate, only to have Ali Patberg intercept the pass.

The Tigers were forced to foul, and Aleksa Gulbe made a pair of free throws with a second left to give Indiana a 4-point cushion. Good thing, because Abby Meyers made a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin in the Hoosiers' 56-55 win.

Indiana advanced to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year. Last year’s appearance was the first in school history.

-- Nancy Armour

Tennessee survives scare from 12th-seeded Belmont

Whew!

Freshman Sara Puckett made a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left and then had a critical rebound as fourth-seeded Tennessee escaped with a 70-67 victory over Belmont on Monday night. It is the Vols’ first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2016.

Tennessee led the 12th-seeded Bruins by 14 with 6:53 left in the third quarter, only to have Belmont storm back. The Bruins ended the third quarter with a 17-5 run, and a layup by Destinee Wells with 5:48 to play gave Belmont a 57-56 lead, its first since the first quarter.

But Puckett made her 3, and Tamari Key extended the lead with a pair of free throws. Belmont’s Tuti Jones cut Tennessee’s lead to 69-67 on a free throw with 4 seconds left. She tried to miss the second in hopes that Belmont would get the rebound, but Puckett snagged the ball and Belmont was forced to foul.

Tennessee is now 59-1 in home games in the NCAA tournament. 

-- Nancy Armour

Tennessee players celebrate after holding off Belmont in the final seconds in Knoxville.

Notre Dame hits 100-point mark in rout of Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. – Dara Mabrey scored a season-high 29 points, and No. 5 seed Notre Dame rolled past No. 4 Oklahoma 108-64 on Monday night to earn a spot in the women’s Sweet 16.

Mabrey made 11 of 19 field goals, including seven 3-pointers. Sonia Citron scored 25 points and Maya Dodson added 20 for Notre Dame (24-8). According to Stats by STATS, Notre Dame became the first team, men’s or women’s, to beat a higher-seeded team by at least 40 points.

It’s the first Sweet 16 berth for second-year Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, The Fighting Irish will play No. 1 seed North Carolina State on Saturday in a Bridgeport Regional semifinal.

Taylor Robertson scored 19 points for Oklahoma (25-9). Skylar Vann had 11 points and nine rebounds and Liz Scott had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Sooners. Oklahoma committed 28 turnovers and shot just 32.3% from the floor.

Notre Dame led 13-7 before Mabrey scored 12 straight to push the Fighting Irish lead to 18. She banked in her last three points during the run to put Notre Dame ahead 25-7.

Mabrey finished with 17 points and made 5 of 6 3-pointers in the first quarter. The Fighting Irish shot 56.5% in the opening period to lead 35-12 heading into the second.

Notre Dame led 60-25 at halftime and 85-47 heading into the fourth quarter. The Fighting Irish hit the 100-point mark on a fast break layup by Dodson with just over four minutes remaining.

-- The Associated Press

Michigan women join Wolverine men in NCAA's Sweet 16

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Naz Hillmon had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five steals to help third-seeded Michigan pull away and beat No. 11 Villanova 64-49 in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night.

The Wolverines (24-6) earned a second straight trip to the Sweet 16 and will face 10th-seeded South Dakota on Saturday in the Wichita Region.

Michigan took control with a 10-0 run over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, turning what was a closely contested game into a lopsided victory. Leigha Brown, who has recovered from a leg injury, had 20 points for the Wolverines.

The Wildcats (24-9) led by three points after the opening quarter, but they simply could not stop Hillmon.

Villanova also struggled to overcome Maddy Siegrist being held to single digits for just the sixth time this season. Siegrist, who ranked second in the nation with 25.8 points per game, had 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting. The junior forward had fewer points just twice this season in November.

-- The Associated Press

Notre Dame off to sizzling start vs. Oklahoma

Senior guard Dara Mabrey could hardly miss as fifth-seeded Notre Dame exploded out of the blocks in a second-round matchup against No. 4 seed Oklahoma.

Mabrey connected on six of her seven field goal attempts in the first quarter, including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, as the Fighting Irish opened up a 35-12 lead on the Sooners. With 17 points, Mabrey outscored Oklahoma by herself with the Irish connecting on 58.3% of their shots in the quarter, while holding the Sooners to just 26.3% field-goal shooting.

NC State moves onto the Sweet 16

The top-seeded Wolfpack ran away with it in the second half and toppled No. 9 Kansas State by more than 30 points, 89-57. NC State outscored the Wildcats by 16 points in the second half, by a margin of 46-30.

Forward Kayla Jones led all scored with 18 points and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

The Wolfpack will now play the winner between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 6 Oklahoma, which just tipped off at 6 p.m. ET.

North Carolina State's Jakia Brown-Turner (11) handles the ball as Kansas State's Brylee Glenn (5) defends during the second half on their second-round game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Stars on the post

Monday's game between No. 3 seed Michigan (23-6) and No. 11 seed Villanova (24-8) pits the Big Ten Coach of the Year, Kim Barnes Arico, against the Big East Coach of the Year, Denise Dillon. But the second-round game in Ann Arbor (6 p.m. ET) also features a fascinating duel in the post.

Villanova junior Maddy Siegrist averages 25.8 points per game — second-best in the country — and leads the Wildcats in rebounds (9.4), steals (1.5) and blocks (0.9). The forward also became the first Wildcat since the 1987-88 season to earn the Big East Player of the Year award.

“They have a great scorer in Siegrist, a really unbelievable player,”  Barnes Arico said. “If you’re Big East Player of the Year and you’re not on the UConn team, you must be really special.”

Likewise, the Wildcats will have to work together to contain highly decorated Michigan star Naz Hillmon. The first-team All-American leads the Wolverines in scoring (21 points a game), rebounding (9.5) and  steals (1.1).

— Julie Walker, Special to Detroit Free Press

Wolfpack running away with it

All indications, from the first half of Monday's first second-round game, are that the top-seeded NC State team will move on. The Wolfpack opened up a 43-27 lead at halftime against No. 9 Kansas State behind balanced and efficient scoring and solid defense on the other end.

NC State shot 55.2% from the field, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, as guard Raina Perez (10 points) led the way in scoring, trailed by forward Kayla Jones (9) and center Camille Hobby (8).

The Wildcats, meanwhile, struggled on offense, converting just 9-of-24 (37.5%) attempts and just 3-of-10 from three-point range.

By the middle of the third quarter, the Wolfpack extended their lead past 20 points, taking a 55-34 advantage with just fewer than five minutes to play in the period.

And we're off...

Monday's action is officially underway, as No. 9 Kansas State is looking to upset the No. 1 seeded NC State Wolfpack. For the Wildcats to do so, they're likely going to need a big day from center Ayoka Lee, who set the NCAA single-game scoring record with 61 points in a January game against Oklahoma.

“I haven’t really ever played with a post player as talented as Yokie, believe it or not,” freshman point guard Serena Sundell said recently. “It just makes it hard for defenses to have to choose if they want to guard inside (or) guard our guards.

“They struggle most of the time to guard her with one player, so it helps me get some assists.”

If Sunday was any indication of what's to come, buckle up

A pair of historic upsets shook the women's bracket Sunday, with two No. 2 seeds dropping their games — both against No. 10 seeds. 

The first of the day was Creighton, which pulled off a shocker in Sunday’s first game, slaying mighty Caitlin Clark and Iowa, 64-62, on the Hawkeyes’ home floor. Creighton advances to its first Sweet 16 in school history

The second was South Dakota taking down Baylor 61-47 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Coyotes never trailed, and led by as many as 16 in the third quarter.

— Lindsay Schnell and Nancy Armour

Are you not entertained? If not, the problem isn't women's basketball. It's you.

Can we finally be done with all the silly stereotypes, USA TODAY Sports' Nancy Armour asks?

As ratings have risen, attendance has grown and more sponsors have signed on, the fragile male egos who can’t handle the idea of women’s sports being mainstream have fumbled around in desperate search of a new excuse to knock the NCAA Tournament. The latest, that there are no upsets and that the tournament is too predictable, went down in a flaming heap Saturday.

Or maybe those flames were from all the brackets that are now toast after a day when utter chaos reigned.

Six double-digit seeds advanced to the second round, one shy of the NCAA Tournament record, and third-seeded LSU needed a furious rally to withstand what would have been a historic upset. Belmont, in shades of the Gonzaga and Butler men’s teams two decades ago, advanced to the second round for a second consecutive year with a double-overtime win over fifth-seeded Oregon.

But, please, tell me again how this tournament isn’t exciting.

— Nancy Armour