SAN ANTONIO — Indiana knocked top-seeded North Carolina State out of the N.C.A.A. women’s tournament on Saturday in the round of 16, 73-70, making the Wolfpack the first No. 1 seed to fall from the field.
North Carolina State, down 10 points with less than three minutes left, stormed back after fourth-seeded Indiana had all but appeared to put the game away in the third quarter. The Wolfpack pulled within 2 points of the Hoosiers with less than 90 seconds to play.
But Indiana stopped N.C. State from tying the game several times in the final minute — including twice on one possession with a 2-point lead. After the teams traded points, Elissa Cunane, N.C. State’s leading scorer this season, missed a desperate 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“I’m proud of them, the way they fought, because we did have players out of position and that sort of thing,” N.C. State Coach Wes Moore said in a postgame interview.
Ali Patberg scored 7 of her 17 points in the third quarter as the Hoosiers built up a lead of as many as 14, forcing turnovers through steals and then scoring.
Indiana started its run toward the upset late in the first half, scoring 6 points while preventing N.C. State from scoring over the final 2½ minutes before halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the Hoosiers were up by 10, and N.C. State’s defense was slowing down as its players watched a carousel of Indiana’s scorers adding to the Hoosiers’ lead.
This is Indiana’s first trip to the round of 8.
“This is a dream to play for Indiana; I grew up right down the road, I’m a Hoosier,” Patberg, who is from Columbus, Ind., said through tears.
“Growing up, I was in Assembly Hall so much, it’s just a dream for me,” she said, referring to Indiana University’s arena.
Indiana will play in the round of 8 against Arizona, who will also be making their first appearance in a regional final after defeating second-seeded Texas A&M, 74-59, on Saturday night.
Texas A&M already had two close calls this tournament, first in a tight win over Troy then with a buzzer-beater win over Iowa State in overtime. Aari McDonald put up 31 points for Arizona to snuff out the chances for a third thriller.
Earlier Saturday, top-seeded UConn turned a much hyped matchup against fifth-seeded Iowa into a rout, 92-72. There, fans who turned up for a showdown between UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark got something much better — a glimpse at what the Huskies and Hawkeyes look like when they are largely relying on other players.
Two juniors, Christyn Williams and the redshirt Evina Westbrook, carried the show for UConn. Williams scored 27 points and — perhaps more importantly — prevented Clark, the top scorer in Division I, from finding her footing. Westbrook missed only two shots and finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists for the Huskies. Together, they spent much of the afternoon in a tag-team, poking holes in Iowa’s defense to help UConn’s lead grow.
“I am a complete player and I feel like people have forgotten that,” Williams said in a postgame interview. “I’m just trying to showcase my game from here on out.”
Clark finished with a below-average 21 points. Bueckers scored 18 points but spent most of the game deferring to her older teammates.
Bueckers had 6 points in the first half, but finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists as she repeatedly handed the ball off to teammates and celebrated as the lead grew. After one play as the game started to turn into a rout, Bueckers ran along the sideline in celebration and smacked her coach, Geno Auriemma, on his backside, prompting him to turn around with a dumbfounded look.
In a postgame interview, Auriemma explained that the tap was in response to a basket by Anna Makurat, after he had hesitated to play her and said he wanted her to contribute more throughout the season. Two assistant coaches had urged him to play Makurat, saying she would come through. She hit two 3-pointers in the last five minutes of the game.
“I think Paige was letting me know: She never passes up an opportunity to let me know when I’m wrong,” he said.
Auriemma was back with his team after isolating because of a positive coronavirus test, which prevented him from coaching during the first two rounds of the tournament. He joined his team in San Antonio on Wednesday, and after the win over Iowa he pulled Clark aside to offer her a pat on the back and some words of encouragement.
It was the first game with paying in-person spectators of the women’s tournament, and Huskies fans came out — even if they did not go to UConn.
Chris Aranda, 32, of San Antonio, ran a 5K then came to see the player nicknamed “Paige Buckets” with his brother. While Bueckers did not break any records, Aranda said he was not disappointed.
“I mean, UConn is dominating, aren’t they?” he said after UConn took a 14 point lead before halftime.
On the other side of a big black curtain, which divides the Alamodome into the two courts that the remainder of the tournament will be played on, Baylor’s ride to the round of 8 was not so easy.
The Bears held off Michigan, 78-75, in overtime after Michigan mounted a frantic comeback in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines started the quarter down 7 points, but forced overtime with 15 seconds left on a layup by forward Naz Hillmon.
The teams went back and forth in overtime until Baylor’s DiJonai Carrington ran clear across the court on a turnover for a layup with 1 minute and 11 seconds left, which set the Bears on a path to win.
Moon Ursin had 20 points for Baylor and Carrington had 19. NaLyssa Smith was the game’s top scorer, though, with 24 points. Leigha Brown of Michigan had 23 points and 7 rebounds.
“I thought she was an all-American on the floor for us tonight,” Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey said of Smith in a postgame interview.
Plenty of Baylor fans were in attendance — its campus in Waco is about a three-hour drive from San Antonio — and offered the Alamodome its first curtain-rattling roar.
“We did not think it would go into overtime, and they wasted a little bit of time there at the end, but the Lady Bears came out on top,” said Loretta Rodriguez, 43, a graduate of Baylor who lives in San Antonio.
Looking ahead, Mulkey hopes that her players show the same resilience in the next round.
“I’m certainly not going to out-coach Geno so our players better compete and outplay his players,” she said.
Marisa Ingemi contributed reporting.