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March Madness: 5 takeaways from Day 2 of the women’s tournament

March Madness: 5 takeaways from Day 2 of the women's tournament

Day 2 of the NCAA women’s tournament was dominated by lower seeds. There wasn’t a single upset, but there was plenty of excitement.

From the return of Paige Bueckers to the scoring prowess of Dyaisha Fair, here are the highlights from Day 2:

Blue bloods in peak form: UConn and Tennessee

The two most historic programs in women’s basketball put on blue-blood performances on Saturday. Tennessee, which has appeared in every NCAA tournament, defeated Green Bay, 92-63. UConn, which has made it to March Madness every season since 1991, topped Jackson State, 86-64.

The No. 6 Volunteers went up against No. 11 Green Bay, which has made its mark on mid-major basketball. The Phoenix have 19 NCAA tournament appearances, and came into the postseason with regular-season wins over Creighton and Washington State.

After a tight first quarter, where Tennessee led by two, the Volunteers outscored the Phoenix 21-7 in the second quarter en route to the blowout victory. Rickea Jackson was dominant with 26 points and nine rebounds, showing why she’s slated to be a top WNBA Draft pick. Sara Puckett had 14 points, Jewel Spear had 13 and Tess Darby added 11 for a balanced effort.

A second-round matchup with No. 3 NC State awaits the Volunteers as they seek their third straight Sweet 16.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 UConn had three things to celebrate: a victory, coach Geno Auriemma’s 70th birthday and Bueckers’ return to March Madness. She missed last year’s tournament after sitting out all season with a torn ACL.

Bueckers was clearly ready to be back, finishing with 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. She was one of three Huskies with 20 or more points, as freshman Ashlynn Shade finished with 26 and Aaliyah Edwards had 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

UConn will play No. 6 Syracuse on Sunday for a Sweet 16 berth. The Huskies are playing for their 31st appearance, while Syracuse is seeking its second. The first came in 2016.

Freshman class continues to shine

UConn’s Shade was just one of the many freshmen to put up big numbers on Saturday. Hannah Hidalgo of Notre Dame continued her dominance on both ends of the floor and JuJu Watkins led USC to a first-round win.

Hidalgo had a double-double in No. 2 Notre Dame’s 81-67 win over No. 15 Kent State. She finished with 14 points, 11 assists and six steals.

Watkins did a bit of everything for her team in an 87-55 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. She finished with 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals. Watkins also broke the USC single-season scoring record with her performance.

Hidalgo and Watkins are the two frontrunners for National Freshman of the Year.

Iowa supporting cast steps up

Caitlin Clark nearly had a triple-double with 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a first-round win over Holy Cross, but it was her teammates who propelled Iowa to victory.

Clark, who is the all-time leading scorer for men’s and women’s basketball, said prior to the game that the Hawkeyes need a balanced effort in order to make a tournament run. They got one against Holy Cross, securing a 91-65 win.

Kate Martin secured a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds; Gabbie Marshall had 11 points, including three 3-pointers; and Addison O’Grady came off the bench to add 14 points and five rebounds.

Iowa ended the first quarter up just two points before going on a 25-9 run in the second for a firm lead.

Dyaisha Fair continues her scoring ways

The Syracuse senior willed her team to a 74-69 win over Arizona despite going down with an injury in the third quarter. Fair was on the ground for several minutes before being carried off the floor and into the locker room. Following the win, Fair said she “fell on, and twisted her leg,” and was unsure of the severity of the injury at the time.

Upon her return, Syracuse scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, with Fair going on a 13-point run herself to end the game and secure the win. Fair finished with 32 points and six steals — both program highs for an NCAA tournament game.

The heroic scoring effort also moves Fair closer to passing Jackie Stiles on the all-time scoring list. She is currently 11 points away from Stiles’ total of 3,393, which is fourth on the list behind Clark, Kelsey Plum and Kelsey Mitchell. Fair is also 20 points away from Mitchell’s third-place total.

The fifth-year senior will have a chance to rise up the list on Monday, as No. 6 Syracuse plays No. 3 UConn in the Round of 32.

Chalk on Day 2

Despite some close calls, there wasn’t a single upset during Saturday’s slate of games. There was just one on Friday — No. 11 Middle Tennessee’s 71-69 win over No. 6 Louisville.

No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast nearly upset No. 5 Oklahoma, but the Sooners came away with a 73-70 victory behind a 24-point effort from Skylar Vann. Arizona also challenged Syracuse before Fair’s heroics, and No. 9 Kansas needed overtime to defeat No. 8 Michigan.

The results go against the current trend in women’s basketball, where parity has been at an all-time high. South Carolina has owned the No. 1 spot in the AP poll all season, but the No. 2-ranked team has lost 11 times, which is the most in the past 25 years.

There may be upsets yet to come, as last season saw multiple No. 1 seeds go down in the second round. No. 9 Miami defeated Indiana, and No. 8 Ole Miss beat Stanford.

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