Mississippi State is sending out a message to the rest of the field

All right, Sam Purcell. We see you.

The Mississippi State coach as a freshman struggled with all the people who overlooked the Bulldogs, even checking them by name after his team won their First Four game. Candace Parker, A’ja Wilson, the current President of the United States AND one of her predecessors in the Oval Office…

“You know what was the best? These young women in this dressing room believed in each other. You couldn’t ask for more,” said Purcell before the game. “We have fun with people who don’t believe in us, but again, it’s important that these young women in this dressing room believe in each other.”

Well, a lot more people will believe after 11th seeded Mississippi gave up early-round favorite Creighton on day one of Friday’s women’s tournament. The Bulldogs made a 3-pointer 18 seconds into the game and never gave up the lead. They had five players in double figures, led by JerKaila Jordan’s 20 points, and posted a season-high 11 3-pointers.

Mississippi State's JerKaila Jordan celebrates after a 3-pointer against Creighton.

Mississippi State’s JerKaila Jordan celebrates after a 3-pointer against Creighton.

It was rare drama on the first day of the women’s tournament while most of the other games went according to law. Defending champion South Carolina cruised, as did No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech and No. 2 seeded Iowa and Maryland.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers of Friday’s opening games:



Princeton is now a basketball school.

The women’s team joined the men in the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 64-63 win over seventh-ranked NC State. The Tigers also became the first Ivy League school to reach the second round in consecutive years.

However, it took a wild ending to get there.

Grace Stone grabbed an inbounds pass with 12 seconds left and immediately called for a timeout. When play resumed, Stone flew just past the 3-point line and made the basket to knock Princeton by a lead.

NC State got the ball back with four seconds remaining but failed to get a playoff.

Princeton finished the game with a 9-0 run past the final 3:09, with all of his points coming from behind the arc. Stone hit two threes during the run and Kaitlyn Chen added another. The two led the Tigers by 22 points each.


How to score? Then you’ll love the Utes, who play one of the best offenses in women’s basketball. Utah shot 59% from field en route to hanging 103 points on Gardner-Webb. Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Alyssa Pili, a down-to-earth squad who scored 33 points (on 12-of-17 shots), grabbed eight rebounds and dished out eight assists. Utah outclassed Gardner-Webb 60-26 in color. Yes, you read that correctly.


The Wildcats had a rough end to the regular season, dropping two of their last three before being eliminated in their first game of their conference tournament. After that, coach Adia Barnes, who was just two years away from a national title shot, bluntly said she couldn’t get her team to play hard or play proud.

Obviously the message got through. Cate Reese scored 25 points, Shaina Pellington had 18 and Esmery Martinez recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds as Arizona never fell behind on their way to a 75-62 win.


The Irish have no use for wallowing.

A day after Notre Dame announced that Oliva Miles would be benched alongside Dara Mabrey for the NCAA tournament because of a knee injury, third-placed Ireland overran Southern Utah 82-56. They opened the game on a 16-0 run and went 13 of 16 in the first quarter as if to let the rest of the field know, ‘Yes, we lost two of our top four scorers. What of it?”

Maddy Westbeld scored 20 points to lead four players into double digits while Lauren Ebo and Cassandre Prosper had 10 rebounds each. The Irishman also had 24 assists – a not inconsiderable number considering Miles is the presenter of Notre Dame. She has 192 assists this year, which is more than Notre Dame’s next three players combined.

“The resilience of this group, the toughness they’ve shown over the last month, several weeks with our injuries, I’m super proud,” said coach Niele Ivey.

Caitlin Clark and Monica Czinano

The Hawkeyes’ terrific double strike – perhaps the best sentry combination in the country – earned them 48 of their team’s 95 points in Iowa’s 95-43 win over SE Louisiana. In typical Caitlin Clark fashion, the junior guard also dished out 12 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds while Czinano caught 8 boards himself.

The duo, who were both named AP All-Americans earlier this week, are uniquely focused and determined to take Iowa to the Final Four. Good luck stopping them.

South Carolina

A win over a 16 seed No. 1 GC and defending champion would not normally be noteworthy. But with a 72-40 win over Norfolk State, South Carolina has now gone through a full calendar year without a loss.

The Gamecocks haven’t lost since last year’s SEC tournament finals. Given their performance against the Spartans, it seems unlikely that their 39-game winning streak will end anytime soon. Although Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere were South Carolina’s only players in double figures, both finishing with 11s, the Gamecocks picked up points from all but two of the 14 players who played against Norfolk State.

Seven of those players had six points or more. South Carolina also picked up 41 points from the bench.




A year ago, Creighton was the tournament darling, the brave underdog who defeated Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena en route to the school’s first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight. This year, the Bluejays finished before the end of Day 1, upset with 11th seeded Mississippi State.

Creighton never attended either. The Bulldogs won the opening tip and knocked down a 3-pointer, a lead they would never give up.


Talk about a meltdown. After leading South Florida for 38 minutes, the Golden Eagles fell apart at the end of regulation and needed two free throws from Mackenzie Hare with three seconds left to force overtime. There were six lead changes in overtime, and Hare had a good look at a 3 that would have won it, but it rolled off the rim and 8th-place South Florida survived 67-65.


What a tough end to the season for the Zags, a top-25 team all year. Upset in Portland’s WCC Tournament Championship, Gonzaga received a 9 seed. The 8-9 game was supposed to be each region’s most competitive first-round game, but instead Gonzaga was knocked out of the gym by Ole Miss, losing 71-48. The Rebels finished the first half on a 17-5 run and didn’t let up in the second, keeping the Zags 29% from the field and 6% (6!) from 3

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women’s NCAA Tournament Winners, Losers: Mississippi State Dominates


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