STORRS, Conn. » True to her players, committed to her beliefs, Prairie View coach Dawn Brown used top-seeded motivation to inspire her team for Sunday’s NCAA first-round game against No. 1 UConn.
"Why not us? Why not now?" Brown asked prior to its latest insurmountable task.
Of course, women’s basketball already knows the answer to this rhetorical question. Sentiment aside, the sport isn’t capable of shocking its own system with a seismic upset.
The Panthers did what they could against the nation’s No. 1 team, which really wasn’t much. The competitive challenges were more than they could handle.
And as result, the Huskies, playing for the first time since March 10, easily moved into the second round with an 87-44 win before 5,018 at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn (35-0), winner of 41 straight, will play No. 9 St. Joseph’s on Tuesday at 7 for the right to move on to Lincoln regional final.
"This time of the year, all you really want to do is get the first one out of the way," said Geno Auriemma, who turned 60 on Sunday. "We did a lot of great things, even though you know you are not going to play your best game of the year."
The Hawks (23-9) defeated No. 8 Georgia, 67-57, in Sunday’s first Gampel game. They hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since beating Texas in the first round in 2000.
UConn and St. Joe’s have not played since the 2003 regular season. The men’s teams from both schools opened the NCAA tournament in Buffalo last Thursday, with the Huskies winning in overtime.
Each of the Huskies’ starters scored in double figures. Breanna Stewart had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 13 points and eight rebounds. Bria Hartley scored 16 points. Moriah Jefferson had 14 points and five steals in just 26 minutes. Stefanie Dolson had 11 points, six assists and six rebounds.
"We were really in sync on offense," Hartley said. "We have great chemistry. We know what each other is going to do before we do it."
LaReahn Washington led the Panthers (14-18) with 13 points. But Brown literally pressed UConn to the buzzer, backcourt style. They even outscored the Huskies 29-27 in the last 16 minutes.
"I told them at the half that this was a milestone time for us," Brown said.
They led 44-12 at the half and then scored the first 14 points in the second, the sprinkles on the frosting of a cake game.
This win was as preordained as any in the tournament’s history of squashing underdogs. The Panthers began the season 0-11 and didn’t win for the first time until Jan. 6. They were the only team in the field of 64 with a losing record.
Let’s face it, they had more of a chance of winning the billion from Warren Buffett. And their bracket was busted early.
The Huskies scored the first 15 points over 5:32 before Prairie View’s Gabrielle Scott put it on the board. But things were already spinning out of control by then and it was inevitable that UConn’s lead would be 44-12 at the half.
UConn was 16-for-28 from the field. It outscored the Panthers 16-0 in the paint, 10-0 off turnovers and 9-0 on second-chance opportunities.
"We wanted to emphasize getting a lot of looks in the paint," Dolson said. "And we did a really good job of that to start until they began to pack it in (defensively) a little more.
SAINT JOSEPH’S 67, GEORGIA 57
STORRS, Conn. » Erin Shields had 18 points and seven rebounds to lead ninth-seeded the Hawks (22-9) over the Bulldogs (20-12).
Ashley Robinson added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who won in the tournament for the first time in 14 years. Natasha Cloud added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
JAMES MADISON 72, GONZAGA 63
COLLEGE STATION, Texas » Kirby Burkholder had 28 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Dukes (29-5) over the Bulldogs (29-5).
A 3-pointer by Shaniqua Nilles put Gonzaga up by four points before James Madison used a 12-0 run to take a 59-51 lead with 31/2 minutes left. Burkholder had six points and two steals in that stretch.
TEXAS A&M 70, NORTH DAKOTA 55
COLLEGE STATION, Texas » Courtney Walker had 19 points and eight rebounds and Texas A&M (25-8) used a big run to pull away from North Dakota (22-10).
The Aggies, who won the national title in 2011, were making their ninth straight appearance in the tournament and North Dakota was one of five women’s teams in the tournament for the first time.
OREGON STATE 55, MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 36
SEATTLE » Sydney Wiese made six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points, and the Beavers (24-10) ousted the Blue Raiders (29-5).
Wiese put on a shooting display midway through the second half, hitting five 3s in a six-minute span when the Beavers (24-10) blew the game open. Wiese made seven of 15 shots, had five rebounds and four assists.
NORTH CAROLINA 60, UT MARTIN 68
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. » Xylina McDaniel scored the go-ahead basket off an offensive rebound with 56 seconds remaining to help the Tar Heels (25-9) overcome an 18-point second half deficit and defeat the Skyhawks (24-8).
McDaniel scored 14 points, even converting a shot from sitting on the floor under the basket.
MICHIGAN STATE 91, HAMPTON 61
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. » Freshman Aerial Powers had 26 points and 18 rebounds, Annalise Pickrel added 21 points and the Spartans (23-9) defeated the Pirates (28-5).
Branndais Agee had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who shot 58 percent from the field in the first half to open a 32-point lead at the break en route to an easy win.
PENN STATE 62, WICHITA STATE 56
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. » Maggie Lucas scored 22 points, rallying the Nittany Lions (23-7) from an early scare in a win over the Shockers (26-7).
Lucas led the Lady Lions back from an 11-point hole and becoming an unwanted piece of tournament history: A No. 3 seed has never lost a game to a 14.
FLORIDA 83, DAYTON 69
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. » Cassie Peoples scored 21 points and all five Florida starters scored in double figures, leading the Gators (20-12) past the Flyers (23-8).
Andrea Hoover led the Flyers with 22 points and Celeste Edwards scored 15 points. Hoover and Edwards helped the Flyers storm to a 15-point lead in the second before Florida started to rally.
LOUISVILLE 88, IDAHO 42
IOWA CITY, Iowa » Sara Hammond led five players in double figures with 16 points and the Cardinals (31-4) rolled past the Vandals (25-9).
Louisville shook off a sluggish start with a 28-10 run late in the first half. The Cardinals then opened the second half with 23 points in eight minutes to push their lead to 63-30.
IOWA 87, MARIST 65
IOWA CITY, Iowa » Theairra Taylor scored 22 points, Bethany Doolittle added 21 and the Hawkeyes (27-8) blew out the Red Foxes (27-7).
Samantha Logic had 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes, who will face third-seeded Louisville on Tuesday for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
MARYLAND 90, ARMY 52
COLLEGE PARK, Md. » Alyssa Thomas had 13 points and 14 rebounds, Lexie Brown scored 21 and the Terrapins (25-6) closed the first half with 20 straight points to roll past the Black Knights (25-8).
Army went 10 minutes without a basket until Kelsey Minato connected early in the second half to end the Black Knights’ 0-for-10 stretch.
TEXAS 79, PENN 61
COLLEGE PARK, Md. » Imani McGee-Stafford had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Longhorns (22-11) rallied from a 15-point, first-half deficit to beat the Quakers (23-6).
McGee-Stafford went 8 for 11 from the field and made all four of her free throws for the Longhorns, who shot 61 percent in the second half to end a skid of four consecutive first-round losses.
LSU 98, GEORGIA TECH 78
BATON ROUGE, La. » Danielle Ballard scored 24 points and the Lady Tigers (20-12) led wire-to-wire in a victory over the Yellow Jackets (20-12).
Theresa Plaisance added 21 points and DaShawn Harden 17 for the Lady Tigers, who picked an opportune time to reach their highest point total of the season and led by as much as 20 in the second half.
WEST VIRGINIA 76, ALBANY (NY) 61
BATON ROUGE, La. » Christal Caldwell scored 26 points, Bria Holmes added 20, and the Mountaineers (30-4) defeated the Great Danes (28-5).
Averee Fields added 10 points for second-seeded West Virginia, which will try to win a second-round game for the first time in program history Tuesday night against No. 7 seed LSU.