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Amna Subhan | | March 24, 2022

9 moments we won't forget from a thrilling, upset-filled start to the NCAA women's tournament

Sara Puckett on her game winning shot

With the Sweet 16 set, there has, indeed, been madness in the women's basketball tournament after only the first two rounds.
A total of six upsets headlined the wild opening rounds. Before more action continues Friday with the Sweet 16, take a look back at the biggest moments so far. 

MORE MADNESS: Sweet 16 full schedule

No. 10 Creighton shocks Caitlin Clark and No. 2 Iowa  

Creighton joined South Dakota as No. 10 seeds to pull huge second-round upsets to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.

Down two points with just 15 seconds left to play, former Hawkeye Lauren Jensen drained the go-ahead 3-pointer to put Creighton up one — silencing a sold-out Iowa crowd. 

"Obviously, I'm pretty familiar with the arena because I played here all of last year," Jensen said. "There's also some nerves with that because I'm wearing a different color this year, but I feel like it did help."

The Bluejays held the nation’s leading scorer Caitlin Clark to 15 points on a woeful 4-19 shooting. The Hawkeyes' Monika Czinano put up 27 points, but a missed shot to tie the game at the end of regulation secured the stunner. 

Creighton won on Iowa's home floor, which was sold out for the third time this year — and which hadn't happened since 1988 before this season. It contributed to the largest attendance record for the first two rounds in the women's tournament. 

“(It's) obviously a wonderful opportunity for the women's basketball game today on ABC in front of a sold-out crowd,” Clark said after the game. "I hope they come out and support us the exact same way next year. I know they will." 

No. 12 Belmont’s run including a double-overtime win against No. 5 Oregon 

In perhaps the most dramatic upset, No. 12 Belmont beat No. 5 Oregon 73-70 but it took two overtimes to get there. 

Only four 12 seeds in history have advanced to the Sweet 16, Belmont almost became the fifth with a close 70-67 loss to No. 4 Tennessee. 

Belmont held onto a two-point lead until Vols freshman guard Sara Puckett knocked down the game-winning 3 to put Tennessee up one. 

"This team can do some special things in March. And here we are," Vols coach Kellie Harper said.

Tennessee celebratesNo. 4 Tennessee celebrates Sara Pucketts' go-ahead bucket

No. 12 FGCU pulls the upset, despite Virginia Tech's star 42-point performance

Another upset came at the hands of No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 5 Virginia Tech, 84-81. 

FGCU wasn’t a typical 12 seed, routinely making the AP top 25 poll, finishing No. 23 in the last ranking — seven places behind Virginia Tech. 

Kierstan Bell led the Eagles with 22 points, scoring nine in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. 

VT lost despite a career-high 42-point effort by center Elizabeth Kitley scoring just over half of the Hokies total offense.  

No. 11 Princeton knocks off SEC tournament champion No. 6 Kentucky

Both No. 11 Princeton and No. 6 Kentucky won their tournament championship. Princeton beat Columbia, and the Wildcats took down the top team in the nation, South Carolina.

"People talk about there isn't any parity in women's basketball. And this is March Madness,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said

That parity continued in the second round matchup when Princeton rallied back from down 14 against No. 3 Indiana to almost solidify a historic Cinderella story, but came up short by one 56-55.

SWEET 16: Indiana to face toughest challenge yet 

5. Stanford’s Fran Belibi dunks in first round 

With No. 1 Stanford already routing No. 16 Montana State 29-6 in the first quarter at home, Fran Belibi decided to make an even bigger statement. 

The junior forward blocked a 3-point attempt on one end, picked the ball and took it coast-to-coast for and dunked it. 

"To be able to do it in a game and to have all those fans with us and to hear the crowd for, it was a really long time, it was like 30 seconds — that's a long time to be cheering," Belibi said. "Just to hear how loud it was in there, that was definitely a highlight."

Belibi became the third woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the first in nearly 10 years. She accompanies WNBA superstars in the record books. Brittney Griner threw it down in 2013 in a Baylor uniform. Candace Parker was the first to accomplish it in a 2006 first-round Tennessee game.

Near-historic wins from No. 14 seeds Jackson State, UT Arlington

Every No. 3 seed has won in the history of the women’s tournament, but 14 seeds Jackson State and UT Arlington came extremely close. 

Jackson State took No. 3 LSU to the brink of elimination after closing a 17-point deficit, but the Tigers pulled out an 11-0 run in the fourth to ward off a potential historic loss. LSU trailed by 10 points late.

No. 3 Iowa State encountered a similar fate against UT Arlington. The Mavericks jumped out to a 22-14 lead to end the first quarter, but the Cyclones kept it competitive and pulled out some late-game heroics to win 78-71.

LIVE COVERAGE: Follow updates as March Madness continues 

No. 10 South Dakota punches first-ever ticket to the Sweet 16 

Hardly anyone expected No. 10 South Dakota to play in the round of 16. Just 2.19% predicted it in our Women’s Bracket Challenge Game. 

The Coyotes upset No. 2 Baylor in the second round 61-47 after beating Ole Miss in the round of 64, both by double digits. From the tip, South Dakota jumped off to an 11-0 start and led the Bears wire to wire. 

It’s the first time ever in program history that South Dakota made the Sweet 16, breaking the Bears' 12-year record of playing past the round of 32.

No. 5 Notre Dame’s record-breaking second-round performance 

From the opening tip it looked like a typical competitive 4-seed vs. 5-seed matchup. No. 4 Oklahoma took a business-as-usual 7-5 lead over No. 5 Notre Dame … until the Irish went on a 20-0 run and never looked back. 

The high-volume scoring was largely aided by guard Dara Mabrey, who notched 17 of the Irish’s 35 in the first quarter including five 3-pointers. 

"To be honest, when you shoot like that, like I felt like I was unconscious," Mabrey said. "At one point, I wasn't thinking I just knew when I caught it, I was going to let it go and it was going in."

The game finished 108-64 — the most points scored in program history. The 44-point victory margin set an NCAA second round tournament record for men’s or women’s.

UConn’s Sweet 16 streak is alive…barely

No one born after 1994 has experienced a world where the UConn Huskies miss the Sweet 16, and it’ll continue to stay that way this year but No. 7 UCF put that historic streak in jeopardy Monday night. 

The Knights led the Huskies squad by eight and despite falling down the same amount to start the fourth UCF closed the gap to three, but couldn't get over the hump losing  52-47. 

UConn shot a lowly 29% from the field and went 6-20 on uncontested shots.

"This was a rather new experience for me," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. " We could have just as easily let that game get away from us, and we didn't. There's something to be said for that."  

UConn had a huge boost from the sold-out home arena. The crowd was loudly engaged from an early scuffle between Huskies Paige Bueckers and Knights Tay Sanders to the final buzzer. 


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