The Madness continues in Tampa Bay

Taylor Jordan, Courier Staff

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It may be the start of April, but Tampa will be feeling March Madness for another week as we enter into the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Amalie Arena.

On Sunday, the powerhouse UConn women punched their ticket to the tournament, marking the program’s 12th straight trip to the women’s Final Four. Oregon joined them, winning their regional final to advance to their first Final Four.

Oregon was led by star guard Sabrina Ionescu, who finished with 31 points. Satou Sabally chipped in 22 points in the 88-84 win over No. 1 Mississippi State. Ionescu, who is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft, has already had a triple-double in the tournament to join Stanford’s Nicole Powell as the only players in Division I history with multiple triple-doubles in the NCAA Tournament.

This was Oregon’s second consecutive Elite Eight appearance after falling to then-No. 1 UConn, 90-52, to end their 2017-18 season.

University of Connecticut’s first upset came when they weren’t rewarded a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The No. 2 Huskies were on the verge of another more costly upset Friday when the No. 6 UCLA Bruins entered the fourth quarter with a narrow 50-49 lead.

The Huskies made a comeback for a 69-61 win to continue their historic streak. The win over the UCLA put UConn into the Elite Eight for the 14th consecutive tournament. No other team in history has an active Elite Eight streak longer than two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Notre Dame is heading back to the Final Four for the ninth time after a 84-68 win against Stanford on Monday night. Jackie Young scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the defending national champions back to the Final Four.

The Fighting Irish will face UConn in Tampa Bay on Friday in a semifinal rematch from last year. They beat the Huskies and Mississippi State on last-second shots by Arike Ogunbowale to claim their second NCAA title.

Joining Notre Dame with other spot, is No. 1 seed Baylor. The Bears upset the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes 85-53 in the Greensboro Region final of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Baylor earned its first Final Four berth since 2012.

Lauren Cox has 22 points and 11 rebounds, Didi Richards added 16 points and 10 rebounds, Chloe Jackson had 14 points and the Bears (35-1) the top overall seed, won their 27th straight game by shooting 53 percent, clamping down on the All-American Megan Gustafson and her teammates, holding the nation’s best shooting team to a season-worst of 32 percent.

The 6-foot-4 Cox who is a third-team AP All-American pick and 6-7 second-team All-American, Kalani Brown, dominated both the glass and the matchup with Gustafson, the nation’s leading scorer at 27.9 points per game.

Baylor is the third team to win each of their game by 25 plus points en route to the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994, joining 2010 and 2013 UConn. Both teams went on to win the national championship game.

On Friday, the No. 2 seed Oregon will face off against No. 1 seed Baylor at 7:00 p.m. Following that game, No. 2 seed UConn matches up with No. 1 seed Notre Dame in Tampa. The National Championship will be held on Sunday at 6 p.m.

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