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NCAA Women: Five Aussies remain in NCAA Tournament after solid first weekend
35 Aussies across 28 teams featured in the first weekend of the three postseason events, with 11 of those playing in the NCAA Tournament. All nine first round games featuring an Australian finished with an Aussie winner, with five of those making their way through to the Sweet 16. Elsewhere, three Aussies remain standing in the WNIT, whilst Nicola Mathews and Appalachian State have made their way through to the WBI semi-finals.
Alanna Smith was among Stanford’s best as the Cardinal advanced to the Sweet 16 to play a potential Cinderella in #11 seed Missouri State. Local foe UC Davis had no answer for Smith or Stanford as a whole, as the #2 seeds jumped out to a 29-9 first quarter lead on their way to a comprehensive 79-54 victory.
Smith led the way for Stanford with 21 points, knocking down 3 of 5 from deep in the process, and also collected 7 rebounds in just 21 minutes on court as the bench played extended minutes in the second half.
BYU proved to be a far tougher challenge, leading Stanford 15-11 after a quarter and trailing by just two at halftime before a 22-9 third quarter from the Cardinal broke the game open and helped deliver a 72-63 victory. There was no extended rest for Smith in this one though, as the senior played 38 minutes, racking up 23 points and 14 rebounds, as well as 3 assists, in leading Stanford over the line.
Morgan Yaeger and Oregon also progressed to the Sweet 16 as one of five Pac-12 teams to reach the second weekend. The Ducks cruised against Portland State in the opening round, with Yaeger seeing 18 minutes of playing time in the 78-40 win, collecting two rebounds and dishing a single assist.
Meanwhile, Courtney West’s college career came to an end with Portland State’s loss, with the senior tallying 5 points and 4 rebounds in her final outing. Indiana hung with the Ducks in the early stages of their second round contest, but in the end the Ducks’ class prevailed in a 91-68 victory. Yaeger once again came off the bench, connecting on her only attempt from the field to finish with 2 points in six minutes of action.
Syracuse’s season may have ended in the Round of 32 with a loss to #6 seed South Dakota State, but not before Tiana Mangakahia delivered once again for the Orange.
Syracuse rolled to a 70-49 victory in their first-round game against Fordham, with Mangakahia starring to finish within touching distance of a triple-double. The junior shot 8 of 20 from the field to finish with 21 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals to lead the Orange into the second round on their home floor. However, they came up against a South Dakota State side that showed no sign of being gracious guests, winning the final three quarters and outscoring Syracuse 39-26 in the second half on their way to the 75-64 upset win.
Mangakahia again top scored for the Orange, tallying 18 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds, breaking the program's career assists record in what may have been her last college game, with the WNBA beckoning should the junior so choose that route.
Buffalo may not have made a return trip to the Sweet 16 after going down to UConn in the second round, but Courtney Wilkins and the Bulls did manage to snag a first-round upset over Rutgers. A 23-10 final quarter put Buffalo over the top in what had been an incredibly tight game until the final couple of minutes, with Wilkins chipping in a vital 9 points and 5 rebounds in her 28 minutes on court in an 82-71 victory.
Facing UConn proved to be a vastly different proposition as the Bulls gave up an early double-digit lead. Whilst a late rally drew Buffalo within 8 at one point, UConn retained control of the game throughout the latter stages in securing an 84-72 victory. The loss would be the last game of Wilkins’ college career, tallying 2 points and 2 rebounds in her final appearance in a Buffalo uniform.
Lauren Mills and Iowa State may have been the second of #11 seed Missouri State’s victims, but not before the Tasmanian managed an achievement that may not have been expected given her lack of minutes throughout the season. With Iowa State up by 30 in the final minutes of their game against New Mexico State, Mills was afforded a couple of garbage time minutes, and connected on her only shot of the game to round out her freshman season with points in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cyclones were expected to be tested against Missouri State, but it was a test they were expected to pass. However, the Lady Bears had other ideas, maintaining a slender lead on their way to a 69-60 victory, with Mills spending the evening stuck to the bench as the Cyclones utilised a far shorter rotation in a tight game.
A trio of Aussies each saw their teams’ seasons continue despite not touching the court this weekend. Oregon State needed overtime to edge past Boise State in the first round, leaving no opportunity for any players outside Scott Rueck’s 7-player rotation, resulting in a night riding the pine for Jasmine Simmons. The Beavers were similarly pushed by Gonzaga in the second round, eking out a 76-70 victory as once again the same seven players were entrusted with getting the team through to the Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, injured duo Chantel Horvat of UCLA and Mississippi State’s Chloe Bibby saw their teams earn their way through to the Sweet 16, UCLA upset Maryland in the second round after defeating another injured Aussie in Louise Brown and Tennessee in their opener, whilst Mississippi State cruised to a pair of victories over Bethune-Cookman
A frustrating season for the injured Sara Anastasieska also came to an end as California fell to Baylor in the second round. The Golden Bears put together a spectacular second half against North Carolina in the first round to turn a 12-point deficit into an 82-62 victory, but Baylor proved to be on another level in the second round, rolling to a 102-69 win.
20 Aussies across 14 teams were involved in the first round of the WNIT, and the results were expectedly mixed given the number of teams. With five of the matches featuring Aussies on both sides, six of the teams reached the second round and three followed up with a second victory to reach the Sweet 16.
A 40-14 advantage across the 2nd and 3rd quarters paved the way for Saint Mary’s to defeat Hawaii 67-43 in the first round, with Megan McKay leading the way. The Western Australian dropped in 16 points and also collected 10 rebounds for a double-double, with Sam Simons chipping in 6 points and Carly Turner adding 4 to see the Gaels move on to face Pepperdine despite 12 points from Hawaii’s Amy Atwell. The Waves had also faced a battle of Aussies against Cal Baptist, and whilst Georgia Dale tallied 8 points and 8 rebounds for the Lancers, it was Monique Andriuolo, Mia Satie, and Pepperdine who moved on with a 91-79 win.
Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s had split their regular season fixtures in the WCC, and it would be Pepperdine who took the rubber match 65-61 in a thriller. Once again it was a player on the losing side performing best among the Aussies, with Sam Simons tallying 13 points, whilst Megan McKay notched 9 points and 7 rebounds in her final college game. It was also the final game of Carly Turner’s storied Saint Mary’s career, with the redshirt senior adding 6 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.
Jade Kirisome had perhaps the best performance of the remaining Aussies, tallying 10 points off the bench in Furman’s 92-65 loss to Virginia Tech, whilst Ella Hellessey chipped in with 8 points in TCU’s 72-41 win over Prairie View A&M as the Horned Frogs eventually progressed to the Sweet 16 after knocking off UT-Arlington in the second round.
Meanwhile in other results, Isabelle Parker and Pacific moved past Fresno State’s Aussie duo of Genna Ogier and Bree Delaney before falling to Arizona, whilst Jess Sancataldo and Northwestern defeated Dayton in the last college game for senior Maddy Dennis before knocking off Toledo in the second round. Abi Curtin and Denver defeated Ahlise Hurst and New Mexico, but there was no Aussie winner in the other two games as Callie Bourne’s Idaho State and Emily Fisher’s American sides lost to Arizona and Pennsylvania respectively.
Appalachian State are the only team featuring an Aussie remaining in the 16-team WBI as Nicola Mathews played minor roles off the bench in wins over UNC Asheville and Marshall. Marshall had previously defeated Davidson in the opening round, with 16 points and 8 rebounds from Cassidy Gould not quite enough as the Wildcats fell to a heartbreaking 67-64 defeat to close out their season.
Megan Johnson also performed admirably for UTRGV, tallying 17 of her team’s 42 points against North Texas, but that total was never likely to be enough as the Mean Green edged to a 56-42 victory before taking on the Aussie-laden Utah State in the second round. Utah State had come into their game on the back of a 68-60 victory over UC Riverside, with junior Shannon Dufficy a dominant force in finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds to tie the program’s career double-double record with 31, of which 19 have come this season. Eliza West added 12 points and 9 assists, whilst Steph Gorman added 9 points and Rachel Brewster chipped in 6.
Unfortunately, the game against North Texas would be the final game of Brewster’s career as the Aggies fell to a 56-54 loss despite having a chance at the final shot in the dying seconds. Dufficy almost came up with what would have been the record-breaking double-double, finishing with 19 points and 9 rebounds, whilst Eliza West added 9 points and 7 assists. Brewster added 8 points and 4 rebounds in her final college game, whilst Gorman chipped in with 5 points.
Upcoming Schedule (AEDT)
Saturday March 30
10:00am: #6 UCLA (Chantel Horvat) v #2 UConn
12:00pm: #1 Mississippi State (Chloe Bibby) v #5 Arizona State
12:00pm: #4 Oregon State (Jasmine Simmons) v #1 Louisville
2:00pm: #2 Oregon (Morgan Yaeger) v #6 South Dakota State
Sunday March 31
9:00am: #2 Stanford (Alanna Smith) v #11 Missouri State
Thursday March 28
10:00am: Northwestern (Jess Sancataldo) v West Virginia
Friday March 29
11:00am: TCU (Ella Hellessey) v Arkansas
11:30am: Pepperdine (Monique Andriuolo, Mia Satie) v Wyoming
Sunday March 31
Appalachian State (Nicola Mathews) v Campbell