NCAA women's tournament winners, losers: Miami stuns again; Kim Mulkey, crazy outfit still standing
How far can a superstar carry her team?
That was our question the other day about Maddy Siegrist. The supernova for fourth-seeded Villanova, the nation’s leading scorer, was trying to channel Jackie Stiles circa 2001 and deliver her squad to the Final Four.
But the question is better asked about Caitlin Clark.
As a junior, Clark is already a household name, praised by NBA All-Stars and talked about constantly on ESPN. (Sometimes to the point it bugs other women’s basketball coaches, who feel their players should be getting a little more love.) She’s a terrific scorer, and a better passer.
Clark didn’t have a great first half Friday against Colorado, scoring just 12 points and shooting 4-of-11. But she exploded in the second half, finishing with 31 points and shooting 7-of-11 after the break. Clark has talked about improving her ability to reset, particularly when she’s shooting poorly.
WOMEN'S RECAP: LSU, Miami, Iowa, Louisville advance to Elite 8
"It's something I've been working on, especially this year," Clark said. "I knew if we wanted to go far, I can't get too hung up on other plays, I can't get hung up on turnovers, missed shots.
"Being mentally tough (is) understanding everything's not going to go your way. You're not going to shoot incredible for four games (to get to Dallas). That's unrealistic ... I think buying into the four people who are on the court with me, knowing they have my back has been really good for me."
That type of maturity and perspective go a long way, especially in the postseason. They make you a winner. And on Sunday, we'll find out how far this winner can carry her team.
Here are the other winners and losers from the first batch of women's Sweet 16 games.
Twelve women head coaches advanced to the Sweet 16, the most since 2015, when 13 women head coaches took their teams that deep (three of them are the same: South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, Maryland’s Brenda Freese and Iowa’s Lisa Bluder). Only once in tournament history have all 16 teams been coached by women — the first year, in 1982.
Three of the 12 are Black women — Staley, Ole Miss’ Yolette McPhee-McCuin and Notre Dame’s Niele Ivey — a number that resonates in a sport with 44% Black athletes.
“It’s important just because I have aspirations of wanting to coach,” said Tennessee’s Jordan Walker, a senior guard. “To be able to see Dawn Staley and Coach Yo in those positions it’s just like, wow, little Black girls, they can do it, too. It’s really inspiring. It makes you want to push harder, because the foot is in the doo. With three (Black women) in the Sweet 16 right now, what can it be later down the line?”
Four days after hitting the game-winner to knock off No. 1 Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home court, the 6-foot senior forward hit a crucial 3 with 5:03 to play that helped the Hurricanes hold off a feisty Villanova team, winning 70-65 and advancing to the program’s first-ever Sweet 16. Harden finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists.
Asked afterward what it’s like to be riding such a remarkable wave of momentum — Miami lost four of its last seven games before the NCAA Tournament tipped off, and barely survived its first round game — Harden said she’s just trying to "enjoy these moments because this is my last year with this team and this group of ladies.”
Miami was led by Jasmyne Roberts (26 points, 9 rebounds), but it was the play of Harden that helped Miami regroup after Villanova went on a 23-2 run in the second half to pull ahead.
LSU forward Angel Reese typically owns the spotlight for the third-seeded Tigers. But in its Sweet 16 game against Utah, the best forward on the floor was Williams. The 6-foot-4 graduate transfer (from Missouri) scored 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, grabbed 6 rebounds, blocked 2 shots and nabbed 2 steals, helping LSU to a 66-63 win.
LSU is the third stop for Williams, who played her freshman year at South Carolina before moving to Missouri. And on Friday, she made fans in Baton Rouge not just for her scoring, but her defense. Shutting down Utah forward Alissa Pili was a team effort, and Williams played a big role in that. She helped hold Pili to just 14 points — she took only eight shots — and forced her into six turnovers. She also helped Pili get in foul trouble; Pili played just 27 minutes before fouling out.
Let’s hear it for the subs.
Louisville handled upset-minded Ole Miss in the last game of the night Friday, stretching a five-point halftime lead to a 72-62 win. The Cardinals used a short rotation — just seven players got significant minutes — but their second string was terrific, outscoring the Rebels’ bench 27-6.
Production from the bench is critical this time of year, especially if you want to play in, say, Dallas. If the Cardinals keep this up, they could be headed to their second consecutive Final Four.
How many pretty pink birds had to die to make Kim Mulkey’s outfit?
The LSU coach is unmatched in her game ‘fits, though Friday might have been a new low.
Time for a drip check: LSU's Kim Mulkey arrives in head-turning pink frills for the Tigers Sweet 16 game 👀
Follow along for live #MarchMadness updates: https://t.co/1aHVwnk3OP pic.twitter.com/n199Eo1DEr
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) March 24, 2023
The three-time national champion evoked Elton John in a wild, green-and-pink patterned blazer with a little extra embellishment. The jacket itself was a statement, but it was the pink feathers stitched onto the arm seams that really caught everyone’s eye — and generated some of the internet’s best commentary.
Mulkey is famously glib and surely doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her wardrobe. Besides, she has the best clapback. To paraphrase Elton, she and the Tigers are still standing.
It’s rough to shoot poorly at a crucial moment. It's worse to have the ball hit nothing but air.
That’s exactly what happened when Utah’s Jenna Johnson stepped to the line with four seconds to play and the second-seeded Utes trailing 64-63 to third-seeded LSU: Johnson airballed her first attempt. Badly.
It was brutal moment on a huge stage. She missed the second, too, likely, because her confidence was so shaken. (She’s typically a 75% free throw shooter.) Utah went on to lose 66-63.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women's Sweet 16 winners, losers include Miami, Kim Mulkey's outfit