Women's NCAA Tournament recap: Virginia Tech joins South Carolina in Final Four
Half of the women's NCAA Tournament Final Four field was set on Sunday. The other half was settled Monday night.
The South Carolina Gamecocks and Virginia Tech Hokies will join Iowa and LSU in Dallas.
No. 1 South Carolina — the defending national champions — beat the second-seeded Maryland Terrapins. The Gamecocks are aiming to be the first repeat women's basketball champion since Connecticut won four straight national titles from 2013-16.
In the night's second game, another No. 1 seed, Virginia Tech fended off No. 3 seed Ohio State, 84-74. The Hokies have never reached the Final Four. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, last made the Final Four in 1993 when three-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion and future Hall of Famer Katie Smith was a freshman.
Follow along for updates on all the action from Monday's Elite Eight matchups:
Virginia Tech earns first Final Four berth
The top-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the No. 3 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, 84-74, on Monday in Seattle to earn the program's first trip to the Final Four.
The Hokies had an early lead with strong shooting from behind the arc, but the game was a fierce back-and-forth battle in the first half until they took control in the third quarter. Virginia Tech's largest lead was 13 points.
Virginia Tech's Elizabeth Kitley was the game's co-leading scorer with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Georgia Amoore added 24 points despite being shaken up in the second quarter. For the Buckeyes, Taylor Mikesell also had 25 points.
They will face LSU on Friday in the national semifinals in Dallas.
Virginia Tech starting to pull away after third quarter
After a fierce duel in the first half, the Virginia Tech Hokies are starting to take control, up 63-55 over the Ohio State Buckeyes at the end of the third quarter in Elite Eight action.
Georgia Amoore made a leaping three-point shot right before the buzzer to give the Hokies an extra boost of momentum. The Australian has 15 points, tied for a team-high, after suffering an injury in the second quarter. Elizabeth Kitley also has 15.
"I'll go anywhere in the world to find another player like that," head coach Kenny Brooks said of Amoore during the ESPN broadcast. "... Georgia's special to us. She makes us go. She is why we're here."
Ohio State's Taylor Mikesell is the game's leading scorer with 19 points.
Virginia Tech has slight edge at half
The Virginia Tech Hokies are up 48-45 at the half over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Both teams have traded off the lead several times, but Virginia Tech went ahead again after a layup from Taylor Soule with 1:10 on the clock.
Three players are in double digits for the Hokies, including Cayla King with 12, Soule with 11 and Elizabeth Kitley with 10. Georgia Amoore has eight, including a key three-point shot after going to the locker room when she slammed onto the court.
“We just said she’s carried us this far, so we’ve got to do it for her," King said of the team's mentality when their leading scorer in the tournament went down.
Georgia Amoore helped off court after landing hard on her back
Hokies guard Georgia Amoore was injured when Ohio State's Eboni Walker bumper her shoulder into her face with 8:31 on the clock in the second quarter. Amoore fell backwards and landed on her back. She laid on the court holding her face as her teammates ran over to check on her. She lurched as she stood to her feet with the help of a coach and walked with a wobble toward the bench. She was helped to the locker room with the help of two people.
Amoore returned to the bench soon after and made a three-point shot after reentering the game.
Ohio State leads after first quarter
Ohio State has surged ahead as the Buckeyes lead the Virginia Tech Hokies 23-22 after an intense first quarter of play.
The Hokies led from the start until Taylor Mikesell tied the game at 19 with a three-point shot with three minutes left in the quarter. Ohio State finally took the lead at 1:50 remaining when Jacy Sheldon made a layup. She followed that up with a jumpshot to close out the quarter.
Mikesell has nine points for Ohio State, while Cayla King has the same for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech, Ohio State start with splashfest
The second game of Monday night's action tipped off with buckets galore. Halfway through the first quarter, there are already five total three-point shots with the top-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies leading the No. 3 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes 17-14. Both teams are perfect from behind the arc.
The Hokies tipped off the action with back-to-back treys, one each from Kayana Traylor and Cayla King. King already has six points on the night as does Ohio State's Taylor Mikesell.
South Carolina marches into third Final Four in a row
It was a rocky start, but No. 1 South Carolina is still in the running to defend their national championship after beating the No. 2 seeded Maryland Terrapins, 86-75, in Elite Eight action on Monday. The Gamecocks are headed to their third straight Final Four. This game marks a school-record 36th win of the season and their 42nd in a row dating to last year's NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina star Aliyah Boston finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for her 82nd career double-double.
"I'm super excited," Boston said on the ESPN broadcast after the game. "The coaches did a great job on scout. We're going to the Final Four!"
Senior guard Diamond Miller led the Terrapins with 24 points. Abby Meyers finished with 14 points after fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Aliyah Boston exits with 82nd double-double
After a slow start, Aliyah Boston powered the South Carolina Gamecocks to what's been another dominant performance. The senior forward exited the game with 4:20 on the clock and her team up 79-63. She finished the night with 22 points and 10 rebounds for her 82nd career double-double.
South Carolina continues dominance in third quarter
South Carolina has all the momentum as it ended the third quarter up 62-50 over the Maryland Terrapins and are inching closer to a third straight Final Four appearance.
The Gamecocks went on a 7-0 run toward the end of the quarter and had a lead as large as 15.
Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke each have 18 points for South Carolina, while Diamond Miller has 15 points for Maryland. Abby Meyers has 14 but got into foul trouble after leading the Terrapins most of the game.
Despite South Carolina's surge, head coach Dawn Staley did not appear happy with her team's inconsistent performance. "Cookie's gotta cook," she said on the ESPN broadcast.
South Carolina takes over before halftime
The South Carolina Gamecocks might not have looked like themselves in the first quarter, but they shook off the dust and lead the Maryland Terrapins 38-30 at halftime.
Maryland took nearly two minutes to score in the second quarter as South Carolina inched closer to the lead. Star forward Aliyah Boston put the Gamecocks ahead with a layup and 4:55 on the clock. South Carolina went 9-2 to close the period and were up by as many as 10 points.
Boston is the leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 12 points and Zia Cooke added all nine of her points in the quarter.
Maryland is staying alive with 14 points from senior guard Abby Meyers. She scored a layup with eight seconds on the clock to keep the Terrapins from going into the break down double digits.
Maryland gives South Carolina a challenge in first quarter
The Maryland Terrapins are not making it easy for the South Carolina Gamecocks to reach the Final Four and are up 21-15 at the end of the first quarter. The Terrapins scored 12 unanswered points toward the end of the period as Dawn Staley's team failed to find a rhythm. South Carolina's Laeticia Amihere finally broke the streak with a pair of free throws.
Senior guard Abby Meyers is the game's leading scorer with seven points for Maryland. For South Carolina, star forward Aliyah Boston has six points.
Can Maryland buck the odds and topple undefeated South Carolina?
It’s not often that a No. 2 seed is considered a mammoth underdog to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s exactly what the Maryland Terrapins (28-6) are as they head into an Elite Eight showdown with reigning national champion South Carolina.
South Carolina has lost precisely two games in the past two seasons to Missouri and Kentucky in the 2021-22 season. The Gamecocks (35-0) have mostly steamrolled opponents this season and are riding a 41-game winning streak dating back to last year’s NCAA Tournament. Only five opponents have even kept the losses under single digits with two taking the Gamecocks to overtime – Stanford in November and Ole Miss in February.
So, Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who coached the Terrapins to the 2006 national championship, knows what her team is up against: experience, depth and size.
“Obviously, to be undefeated and to look at the depth and the size that they have, you bring the players off the bench, and they just even get better, Frese told the Washington Post. “It’s got to rank up there as one of the best when you talk about all the size being on their roster.”
Maryland is seeking its first Final Four since the Terrapins made back-to-back appearances in 2014 and 2015.
— Ellen J. Horrow
South Carolina guard savoring senior year ahead of WNBA draft
South Carolina senior guard Brea Beal has an additional season of COVID-19 eligibility available but said she doesn't plan to use it and will declare for the 2023 WNBA draft.
"School is not for me, I'll tell you that, so I definitely have (made a decision)," Beal said with a laugh. "So much of my career I feel like a lot of things went unnoticed, so to be able to close out my senior year, to see a lot of people putting me in mocks or just talking about me, it shows that I'm beginning to get noticed and how valuable I can be."
Beal has never been a headliner for the No. 1 Gamecocks, but she has anchored the starting lineup from the moment she set foot on campus. Last year, she earned All-American honorable mention honors for the first time in her career from the Associated Press and was named a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year alongside her teammate Aliyah Boston, the reigning winner of the award.
ESPN and The Athletic currently project Beal as the No. 7 overall pick in the WNBA draft on April 10.
— Emily Adams, Greenville (South Carolina) News
South Carolina, Virginia Tech guards are March Madness power couple
On the morning of the 2023 SEC championship game, the first thing South Carolina women's basketball point guard Kierra Fletcher did was text her girlfriend Kayana Traylor good luck.
At nearly the same time as Gamecocks tipped off against Tennessee on March 5, Traylor and Virginia Tech women's basketball were hoisting the ACC championship trophy. Fletcher and South Carolina went on to win the SEC title hours later.
"It was crazy, because right after we played I checked the score and I was like, 'Wow, they won,'" Fletcher said. "I called her as soon as I got time, and we were just talking about how crazy it was that both of us won the conference tournament together."
Traylor, a 5-foot-9 senior guard for the Hokies, first connected with the Gamecocks' starting point guard on social media. They bonded over being from the Midwest — Fletcher is from Michigan and Traylor from Indiana — and have now been together for nearly three years.
Now, South Carolina and Virginia Tech are the only 1-seeds left. If Virginia Tech beats Ohio State and the Gamecocks take down Maryland, Fletcher and Traylor will head to Dallas with a legitimate chance to face each other for the national championship.
— Emily Adams, Greenville (South Carolina) News
Should No. 1 seed Virginia Tech be worried about Ohio State's full-court press?
It didn't take a miracle for Ohio State to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993. The Buckeyes, in a 73-61 win over Connecticut on Saturday, simply outplayed the Huskies for the majority of the game.
"As long as we play our game," Ohio State senior forward Eboni Walker said, "we have the utmost confidence in ourselves and in each other."
For Ohio State, playing its game goes hand-in-hand with its full-court press. When the Buckeyes get their press set and start forcing turnover after turnover after turnover, as they did against the Huskies, they can be almost impossible to stop.
Now, No. 1 seed Virginia Tech will have to grapple with Ohio State's press just as UConn did. During the Hokies' Sweet 16 win over Tennessee, the Lady Vols used their own press to come back from an 18-point deficit early in the third quarter to get within one point.
Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks knows Ohio State will employ the full-court press Monday night and says his team will have to play smart but aggressive offense.
"We have to get downhill, break the pressure, and get some easy opportunities, and I think that that will kind of ease it up a little bit," Brooks said. "But they have been doing it all year long. They're really good at it."
— Bailey Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch
LSU coach Kim Mulkey has no doubt South Carolina will be in Final Four
Kim Mulkey is already calling South Carolina in the Final Four.
The defending national champions don’t play their Elite Eight game against second-seeded Maryland until Monday night, but Mulkey doesn’t need to wait around for that. The top-seeded Gamecocks will be in Dallas next weekend, LSU’s coach said Sunday night.
“South Carolina is going. I’m just telling you that, flat out,” she said after LSU clinched its own spot in the Final Four with a 54-42 win over Miami. “That’s nothing against who they play. I just know how good they are.”
South Carolina thumped LSU by 24 points, 88-64, in their one meeting in the regular season. If Mulkey’s team sees the Gamecocks again, a national title would be on the line.
“I’d sure love to be in that championship with them,” Mulkey said.
— Nancy Armour
Iowa star proves she's college basketball's most electrifying (men's or women's) player
To get an idea of just how intoxicating Caitlin Clark’s game is, all you had to do Sunday — if you weren’t near a TV to watch her pile up 41 points, hand out 12 assists and grab 10 rebounds — was scroll Twitter.
In the second half as her Hawkeyes pulled away from Louisville and everyone in Climate Pledge Arena went on triple-double watch, Clark became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. And as Clark led No. 2 seed Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993, it became clear: the junior guard is the superstar women’s basketball needs, right when the game needs it.
On Saturday, women’s basketball bid an early goodbye to UConn, the program that had made an NCAA-record 14 consecutive Final Fours but will be watching from home this April. On Sunday, it said hello to Clark, the most electrifying player in college basketball, men’s or women’s. Her passes in transition causes gasps, her tendency to pull up from the logo makes opponents shake their heads.
She’s a transcendent talent, a player of the year candidate who elevates everyone around her and loves the big stage. Sunday when Iowa built as much as a 22-point lead she played to the crowd, motioning to fans to cheer louder, cupping her ear to see if they complied. Asked afterward what it’s like to have an entire arena wrapped around your finger, Clark leaned into the mic and admitted sheepishly, “I feel kinda powerful.”
— Lindsay Schnell
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women's March Madness Elite 8 recap: Virginia Tech in Final Four