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Irish handle Stanford, Florida State hangs on against Arizona State, UNC falls in last seconds to South Carolina
GREENSBORO, N.C. – At about 12:15 a.m., Sue Semrau ran into the Florida State locker room and yelled, “It’s past my bedtime!”
FSU (29-6) stayed up late to beat Arizona State (29-6) here in the Greensboro Regional Semifinal, and the Seminoles needed every last second to advance to the Elite Eight for the second time in program history.
Leticia Romero scored an FSU career-high 21 points, but it was Maegan Conwright’s steal with one second to go that finally secured a 66-65 victory.
The Seminoles can clinch a first-ever visit to the Final Four with a win over No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday.
“It’s going to be hard to wind down a little bit, but that’s OK,” Semrau said as the clock pushed toward 1 a.m. “It’s this time of year, and who needs sleep?”
Despite Romero’s heroics, a missed free throw from Emiah Bingley gave Arizona State the ball with five seconds on the clock and a one-point deficit.
But as she rushed down the court, ASU’s Peace Amukamara built up a little too much speed and lost control of the ball just enough to open a window for Conwright to make a pass at it with her left hand.
“She was on a full head of steam and I was quicker than her, so I could go across and steal the ball,” Conwright said. “It’s like a trick that I do – the team makes fun of me because I do it so well.”
Added guard Brittany Brown, “She does that all the time. It wasn’t a surprise but it was a great feeling.”
Even better in that it came just a few moments after Conwright missed an open layup that might have sealed the game.
“I’m so, so proud of her,” Romero said. “You saw her face and how she was (disappointed). The way she came back – I told her, she’s the leader of the team. We all look up to her.”
Florida State coasted through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament but found a much tougher test in the Sun Devils.
Blending a slow, methodical offense with a defense that was among the most physical FSU has seen this season, ASU seemed to disrupt the Seminoles as the teams traded blows in the early goings.
FSU gained some separation thanks to an 11-2 run at the end of the first half, but, as they did in their second-round win over Arkansas Little-Rock, the Sun Devils quickly rallied back.
They outscored FSU 22-11 over the first eight-plus minutes of the second half to tie the score at 44-44.
“We scouted them, we know that they’re a comeback team,” Conwright said. “We know that they’re a second-half team. So, knowing that, we knew we still had to battle.”
The Seminoles never trailed in the second half, but they never led by more than two possessions during the game’s final 10 minutes, either.
That they staved off ASU’s comeback was thanks in large part to Romero, who shot 10 of 16 from the field while adding four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“She just made play after play,” Semrau said. “It was her turn to put the team on her back. And she did that.”
Four times in the last 5:42, the Sun Devils made a shot to either tie the game or cut their deficit to two or three points.
Each time, Romero made a shot to give FSU some breathing room. The last bounced off the rim and in with 23 seconds and proved to be the game-winner.
ASU’s Elisha Davis then knocked down a 3-pointer that made it 66-65, but the Sun Devils could get no closer.
“My mind was just like ‘Leti, you have a game today. You’re hot right now,’” Romero said. “’You’ve got to do it for the team.’”
As she spoke, Romero wore evidence of the game’s physicality. She had cuts on her hands, scrapes on her knees and her white jersey was stained by sweat and blood.
Romero smiled and attributed that to her own clumsiness, but Semrau said that she “adjusted more to American basketball tonight than any other game we played.”
Not that she minds.
If cuts and bruises are the prices for entrance to the Elite Eight, Romero is more than happy to pay.
“I just was bleeding all over,” Romero said. “But when you’ve got a game like this, you’ve got a team like this, you can’t let anything get you down.
“You’ve got to keep going.”
Romero kept going, and now the Seminoles are going to the Elite Eight.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Lindsay Allen scored a career-high 28 points to help top-seed Notre Dame defeat Stanford 81-60 in the NCAA women's Sweet 16 on Friday night.
Jewell Loyd scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half for the Fighting Irish (34-2), who advanced to play Baylor (33-3) on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four. The Fighting Irish beat Baylor 88-69 in a regional final last year.
Bonnie Samuelson scored 17 points and Erica McCall and Amber Orrange each added 12 for No. 4 seed Stanford (26-10).
It was the first postseason meeting for veteran coaches Tara VanDerveer of Stanford and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, and just the third ever meeting between the schools. Stanford won the previous meetings in 1990 and 1991.
Allen scored nine quick points to help the Irish take a 20-11 lead.
The Cardinal trimmed Notre Dame's lead to 34-29 with about 3 minutes left in the first half before Allen drained two 3-pointers to help the Fighting Irish close the half on an 8-2 run. Allen matched her career high of 24 points in the first half, and the Irish led 42-31 at the break.
Stanford cut its deficit to 48-44 early in the second half before Loyd got going. Her 3-point play with just over 10 minutes remaining put Notre Dame up 59-47. The Fighting Irish shot 52 percent in the second half to pull away.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Tiffany Mitchell drove to the basket and scored with 4.2 seconds left and South Carolina edged North Carolina 67-65 on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.
Mitchell finished with 18 points for the No. 1-seeded Gamecocks (33-2), who had to fight the entire way to push past UNC in a rematch of last year's Sweet 16 game and advance to the Greensboro Region final.
Alaina Coates also scored 18 points, including two key free throws for the lead with 46.1 seconds to go. Then Mitchell, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, answered a tying basket from Jessica Washington in the final minute by driving past Brittany Rountree for what turned out to be the winning score.
Fourth-seeded UNC (26-9) had one more chance, but freshman Jamie Cherry's desperation runner hit all backboard as the horn sounded, sending the Gamecocks into an oncourt celebration.
South Carolina had reached the Elite Eight only once before, losing to Duke in 2002.
Now Dawn Staley's Gamecocks are back to face the Arizona State-Florida State winner on Sunday to go to the Final Four.
Latifah Coleman scored 10 of her 15 after halftime for North Carolina, which led 63-60 with about 90 seconds left but couldn't quite close out the Gamecocks.
The teams met in nearly this exact situation last year, though on the opposite coast at Stanford. The Gamecocks entered as a No. 1 seed while the Tar Heels were a No. 4 then, too, but UNC won 65-58 to end the Gamecocks' 29-win season.
This time, they were both much closer to home.
They were treated to a tense finish, one that very nearly ended in a repeat of last year's disappointment.
Olivia Gaines hit a contested 3-pointer that bounced around the rim and dropped through to tie the game at 63 at the 1-minute mark.
Then, after a missed 3 from Washington led to a foul on Stephanie Mavunga while battling for a rebound, Coates hit two free throws with 46.1 seconds left to put the Gamecocks back ahead.
Washington answered with a tough drive to tie it again with 27.2 seconds left only to see Mitchell come up with the winner.