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Roberts, Williams emerge as unlikely heroes as Hurricanes, Lady Tigers advance to the Elite Eight

Friday afternoon in Greenville, SC, both the Miami Hurricanes and the LSU Lady Tigers advanced to the Elite Eight. The Canes and the Tigers will meet on Sunday afternoon, with a Final Four berth on the line. Here’s our recap of the Sweet Sixteen action:

the No. 9 seed Miami Hurricanes at the No. 4 seed Villanova Wildcats, 70-65

While the Wildcats retreated, the Hurricanes hung on!

Although Miami established a 21-point lead that Villanova would erase, the Hurricanes came back to hold, earning a five-point victory to earn the program’s first Elite Eight appearance.

The game started with great scoring from both the teams. Kane had no problem puncturing the Cats’ defense for easy buckets at the basket, exemplified by Lashey Dwyer coming off the bench to score six first-quarter points off layups. The March Madness madness continued for Villanova, with the country’s scoring queen Siegrist putting up nine points in the first period.

Miami led 25–19 after the first quarter, using physical strength and power to build on their lead in the second quarter. At half court, Cain continued to cut down the Cats for points in the paint. Miami’s dominance of glass also increased. At the half, the Hurricanes had a 21 to 9 rebounding advantage. However, the Wildcats stayed in touch behind Siegrist until the Hurricanes went on an 11–0 run that gave them a two-point lead. While Villanova salvaged a few late buckets, Miami entered halftime with a 13-point lead, 46–33.

Siegrist led all scorers at the half with 15 points. Jasmine Roberts had 12 points for Miami.

The Keys appeared to come out of the halftime break with an extra dose of aggression, allowing them to open up a 20-point lead in less than a minute. In the opening moments of the second half, Miami suppressed the jump shooters of Siegrist and Nova with inflated, infectious swagger. However, Miami foul trouble, along with Villanova’s improved effort and execution, turned the tide of the contest. Villanova opened up a fullcourt press that effectively prevented Miami from attacking at half court. The Cats’ comeback was more than conceivable as a 14–0 run narrowed the gap, which had grown from 57–51 to 21 by the end of the quarter.

Mistakes and missed shots characterized the opening fourth. Scoring continued to be a problem for the Hurricanes, while the Wildcats were able to score substantially. Siegrist scored his 30th point of the afternoon to give Villanova the lead from the free throw line. From there it was a back-and-forth affair.

Second-round hero Destiny Harden responded with a three to regain a slight advantage for the Canes. Back at the other end, Siegrist earned another trip to the line, sinking the first before the second spun out (the first and only free throw miss of the afternoon). After an empty possession for the Hurricanes, the Wildcats scored on a layup by Christina Dales to take a one-point lead, one of several points scored at critically important junctures. Roberts then hit a pair of two free throws to swing the minuscule margin back to Miami.

After several scoreless tries from both sides, Villanova’s Lucy Olsen drove and made a competitive layup, giving the Wildcats back the lead. After this, Harden had the ball in his hands at the other end. She missed a layup attempt, but Roberts grabbed the rebound, converted the putback, drew the foul and missed two free throws to put Miami up by a pair.

Villanova then got Siegrist a relatively good look on a low block that didn’t fall, allowing the Wildcats to start a foul play. With Haley Cavinder splitting the free throws, Villanova survived only three downs. The Wildcats were again able to move the ball down to Siegrist, but, again, the nation’s top scorer could not convert her lofted effort. Siegrist finished the afternoon with 31 points and 13 rebounds, and (presumably) his collegiate career.

Jasmine Roberts, who scored a career-high 26 points, then sank two free throws to seal a 70–65 victory for the Cinderella Canes.

No. 3 seed LSU Lady Tigers over No. 2 seed Utah Utes, 66-63

Unlike Kim Mulkey’s jacket, this was no glamorous affair.

Things went bad quickly with the Tigers’ fast start allowing the Utes to tie the score 16–16 at the end of the first. The disparity continued as, midway through the second quarter, superstars on both teams were forced to go to the bench with fouls, with Utah’s Alyssa Pili and LSU’s Angel Reese each accumulating two. Both All-Americans also had five points. Although the Utes held the advantage when Pilley took the seat, the Tigers went on a quick 7–0 run to close the margin. The sharpshooting Utes responded with a pair of 3-pointers to earn a four-point halftime edge, 33–29.

After the half, the Stars were back on the court, and the two would affect the action. Pili started with seven points, while Reese improved as the third period progressed, eventually scoring nine points. Reese also captained LSU’s ownership of Glass. At the end of the third, the Tigers held a 29–21 advantage, including nine offensive boards, four of which came from Reese. However, the Utes were better from deep, resulting in a single point, 47–46, moving Utah into fourth place.

Trouble struck for Reese early in the fourth, but he persevered through leg cramps and a (temporarily) lost shoe. His Tigers then appeared to take control with a 10–0 mid-quarter run. A 3-pointer by Alexis Morris gave LSU an eight-point lead, the largest advantage for either team on the afternoon.

But the Utes prevented the Tigers from claiming all the momentum. Minutes later, Gianna Nipkens responded with a 3-ball of her own, followed by a transition bucket. After a pair of defensive stops from the Utes, he then committed a foul on the break and missed his two free throws. Kneepkens would end the game with a team-high 20 points.

Shortly thereafter, the Utes took the lead at the line with two free throws from Isabel Palmer. Reese then committed a foul, going 1-for-2 to put LSU down by one. On the other end, Williams, the scoring engine for the Tigers, came up with a key defensive play that stopped Pilley in the low post. After LSU’s possession, Reese struggled to convert several contested opportunities. Yet Morris would scoop up a loose ball and force a shot, resulting in a fifth foul on Pilley, who exited the game with 14 points. Morris made both free hits to give LSU the lead with 10 seconds remaining.

The Utes attacked the basket offensively, drawing a fifth foul on Reese in the scramble for the rebound. Reese finished with a double-double of 17 points and 12 boards. At the line with just under five seconds, Jenna Johnson airballed her first attempt before attempting a second. LSU recovered the rebound and Morris made the final two free throws to seal the 66–63 victory.

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