What we learned: UCLA survives a scare, UConn squeaks past Syracuse

No. 7 seed Duke and 5-seeds Colorado and Baylor all won on their opponents’ home court Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16.

So far, Monday’s second-round games — every contest is on ESPN Networks and the ESPN App — have not brought us more upsets. No. 2 seed Notre Dame and 3-seeds NC State and UConn will return for the second weekend. No. 1 seed Iowa and Caitlin Clark survived a scare. So did No. 2 seed UCLA.

Come back all day for game-by-game analysis as the Sweet 16 continues to take shape, and check out everything we learned from Sunday and how we reseeded every team in the second round.

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How critical was Lauren Betts’ return for the Bruins? Beating Cal Baptist without Betts was one thing. But UCLA would not have survived Creighton without her. The Bruins’ 6-foot-7 center and leading scorer sat out Saturday’s win over the Lancers with a sore foot. Her 20 points and 10 rebounds were critical against the Bluejays. As the rest of her team struggled in the first half, Betts kept the Bruins within striking distance. She was 7-of-11 from the field in the opening 20 minutes while her teammates were 7-of-22, and they still trailed by eight at the half.

Creighton also exposed UCLA’s 246th-ranked 3-point percentage defense with five first-half 3s. The defensive turnaround and offensive play of Kiki Rice in the second half changed the game. After making 17 of 29 first-half shots, Creighton made just nine in the second. UCLA turned those misses into 18 defensive rebounds and a faster pace where Rice flourished. She picked up where Betts left off, scoring 17 of her game-high 24 points after halftime.

What it means for UCLA: This is the season UCLA has targeted to break through nationally. Charisma Osborne came back for her fifth year to see that vision through. The dream of the program’s first-ever Final Four is still alive after surviving a Creighton team that was a difficult matchup because of its experience and perimeter-shooting abilities. Osborne had only five points, but her pull-up jumper with 1:27 left gave UCLA a two-possession lead and was the biggest shot of the game.

What it means for Creighton: An inexplicable Big East tournament semifinal loss to Georgetown might have cost the Bluejays a seed line, giving them this tough matchup with the Bruins. All five Creighton starters are four-year seniors and played on the Elite Eight team of two years ago. A fifth-year return for some or all might give coach Jim Flanery a chance at another run. — Charlie Creme

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Paige Bueckers’ 32-point game helps UConn to 30th straight Sweet 16

UConn star Paige Bueckers drops 32 points to go with 10 rebounds and 6 assists as the Huskies defeat Syracuse 72-64.


Just how far can Paige Bueckers take UConn? We’re about to find out. The Orange had no answer for the 2021 national player of the year, who exploited openings in the paint against Syracuse’s zone. Bueckers’ scoring Monday will get the headlines — and for good reason, as she finished with 32 points, her best in an NCAA tournament game — but she did it all for UConn with 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and a block. And she was tasked with even more offensive and defensive responsibility once Nika Muhl fouled out with 5:17 left to play.

Geno Auriemma said Sunday that no player is playing better in the postseason than Bueckers, who also had a stellar Big East tournament when Aaliyah Edwards was sidelined. She is the first player in Division I with 60 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists through the first two games of an NCAA tournament in the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. She also has the most points (60) of any UConn player through the first two NCAA tournament games in the past 25 seasons (and the second most all-time behind Kerry Bascom’s 62).

What it means for UConn: The Huskies are headed back to the Sweet 16 — their NCAA-record 30th consecutive appearance. And with Ohio State falling to 7-seed Duke Sunday, UConn could be well-positioned to make it back to the Final Four after a one-year hiatus. Still, the Blue Devils are one of the hottest teams in the tournament, and a potential meeting against No. 1 seed USC looms. As the final minutes of UConn’s win over Syracuse underscored, the Huskies’ margin for error in future rounds will be thin.

What it means for Syracuse: The Orange fell short of making their first Sweet 16 since 2016 (and what would have been their first since coach Felisha Legette-Jack took over in 2022). But Syracuse still had a remarkable season, finishing ACC play tied for second despite being picked to finish ninth in the league. Dyaisha Fair — who ends her career as the third-leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history, behind only Caitlin Clark and Kelsey Plum — cemented herself as a Syracuse great in her two years there. Legette-Jack now gets to build around younger standouts in Georgia Woolley, Alyssa Latham, Sophie Burrows and Kyra Wood. — Alexa Philippou

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Indiana takes advantage of Oklahoma turnover with big jump shot

Indiana’s Yarden Garzon knocks down the jump shot to give Indiana a 68-64 lead late in the fourth quarter.


Does this win over Oklahoma erase the disappointment of last year’s second-round loss? The Hoosiers might never truly get over that loss to Miami in Grace Berger’s last collegiate game, but this helps. It was another close one, but this time Indiana made the plays down the stretch, particularly Mackenzie Holmes, who smartly got a touch on every key possession in the final minutes. She finished with 29 points — 20 in the second half on 8-of-12 shooting. Six of those points came during the key 10-0 run that turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead with 25 seconds left. Holmes made a steal and contested two Oklahoma misses during that stretch as well. Last year won’t go away, but Indiana is back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in Holmes’ career.

What it means for Indiana: Indiana entered the game ranked second in the country in effective field goal percentage, third in 2-point percentage and first in 3-point percentage. The Hoosiers proceed to miss 18 layups and shoot 19% from the 3-point line. They won this game completely outside of their comfort zone. It’s unlikely Indiana will get away with that kind of shooting against South Carolina in the Sweet 16, but those numbers make this win that much more impressive.

What it means for Oklahoma: A season that looked so bleak — the Sooners finished 6-5 in the nonconference slate — turned into a Big 12 regular-season title and was just a few possessions short of the Sweet 16. In freshman Sahara Williams and junior Payton Verhulst, Oklahoma has a solid core back next season that could grow if some seniors stay for their extra year. — Charlie Creme

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Ole Miss unable to slow down Notre Dame in NCAA tourney

The 7-seed Rebels cannot surpass 2-seed Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, falling 71-56.


Are the Irish one of the hottest teams in the country? They are, having won 10 games in a row, which includes the ACC tournament title. The Irish controlled Monday’s victory over Ole Miss from an offensive and defensive standpoint. They shot 50% from the field and forced the Rebels into 22 turnovers. Ole Miss at its best typically wins the turnover battle, but that wasn’t the case against Notre Dame.

The Irish’s big three of Hannah Hidalgo, Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld combined for 56 points, and Citron had her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds.

What it means for Notre Dame: The Irish are relying very heavily on their starters; Westbeld and Citron played 40 minutes and Hidalgo 38. But they are pretty used to the heavy workload, so this isn’t new and the Irish have handled it well so far. They will go against a good defensive team in Oregon State that is holding teams to 59.2 PPG.

What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels finished 24-9 overall and third in the SEC (12-4) for their highest finish since 1991-92 and most conference wins in program history. It was another step forward for the program under coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. — Michael Voepel

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Lady Vols’ comeback against NC State comes up short

Eleven-seed Tennessee erases all but two of a 20-point second-half deficit, but it comes up just short in falling to 3-seed NC State, 79-72.

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Will NC State be able to keep Stanford’s inside game in check? This will be a big X factor in the Sweet 16 game between the Wolfpack and Cardinal. Stanford survived an overtime battle with Iowa State in the second round, with Kiki Iriafen scoring 41 points. The Wolfpack are an overall stronger defensive team than Iowa State, but if both Cameron Brink (who fouled out against the Cyclones) and Iriafen are playing well, that makes the Cardinal’s offense all the more difficult to deal with.

That said, NC State’s physicality and quickness are both strengths. And even though the Wolfpack allowed a combined 43 points to the Tennessee post duo of Rickea Jackson and Tamari Key in Monday’s second round, they still won that game.

What it means for NC State: Guards Aziaha James, Saniya Rivers and Zoe Brooks showed they can be one of the best guard trios in the tournament. They combined for 58 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Wolfpack as a team had just four turnovers. If NC State protects the ball that well and defends at a high level, it is a match for Stanford.

What it means for Tennessee: The Lady Vols were 12-7 in late January and at that point were out of NCAA tournament contention, which would have been a first in program history. But they were able to compile enough wins and some “good” losses — including the near miss against undefeated South Carolina in the SEC tournament semifinals — to make the NCAA field. Tennessee finished 20-13 overall. Monday was the final college game for Jackson, who is expected to be a WNBA lottery pick in April. — Michael Voepel

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