The madness has met its unfortunate end for all four remaining Big Ten women’s teams, marking the seventh year in a row without a Final Four appearance for the conference. Each team fought hard, but three were eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen before the final team lost out in the Elite Eight. Nonetheless, all seven squads who participated in the Big Dance harbored strong showings throughout. Here is how the final bunch fared in weekend two:
Unfortunately, Indiana learned the hard way why success is so difficult to come by if you’re not a UConn Husky in March. The blue-blood program led by phenom Paige Bueckers was too much for Grace Berger and co., as the Huskies defeated the Hoosiers 75-58 in the Sweet Sixteen.
If you only caught the first half, you might have thought the Hoosiers had a chance—they entered the locker room down only four. However, the pure volume and subsequent efficiency of UConn’s play overwhelmed Indiana who still shot a productive 50% throughout. In the end, UConn put up nearly 20 more shots and pulled in 13 more offensive rebounds than the Hoosiers, and they just couldn’t catch up.
Graduate student Ali Patberg (who could give Jordan Bohannon a run for his money with how many years she has been in the NCAA) had a strong showing in her final appearance after five years with the Indiana program, putting up 16 points and pulling in two rebounds. Though she may not be returning, Patberg is survived by Berger and Mackenzie Holmes who, at the very least, will be fighting for a conference title next year.
After rolling through their first two opponents in dominant fashion, the Terps seemed poised for an upset against the Stanford Cardinal. What they did not know, however, was that they would be virtually without sharpshooting graduate student Katie Benzan on the offensive side of the ball. Why? Because she was completely shut down by Stanford’s defense.
Without Benzan’s usual point total in the mix and despite her five steals, Maryland was unable to overcome the Cardinal, even with the support of a 25-point performance from Angel Reese. Stanford out-rebounded the Terps 50-32 and held them to just 33.8 percent shooting — 10 points below their usual field-goal efficiency.
The 72-66 loss ended UMD’s tournament run in the round as last year, but one thing’s for sure: the Terps have an all-star lineup returning next season, and, as always under Brenda Frese, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes came oh so close to an Elite Eight appearance after a fourth quarter rally nearly stunned the two-seeded Texas Longhorns, but despite their late run, they fell in a heartbreaking 66-63 loss.
The Longhorns were never out of reach for OSU, though, which is a testament to the Buckeyes’ improvements and success over the past year. Transfer Taylor Mikesell proved to be a blessing throughout the season, and she left the court with a game-high 19-point performance in the books. Sophomore star Jacy Sheldon also gave it her all and notched 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals on the day.
Unfortunately, freshman phenom Rebeka Mikulasikova was virtually eliminated by Texas all game, and an all-hands-on-deck performance from the Longhorns brought the Buckeyes to their downfall. With Mikesell set to return next season, it will be up to her, Sheldon, and Mikulasikova to lead the Buckeyes in defending their regular season conference title.
It was none other than the Wolverines who served as the conference’s last hope in the Elite Eight, but they had to make it through 10-seed South Dakota first. The Coyotes were fresh off an exciting upset of 2-seed Baylor before their meeting with Michigan, and their momentum almost propelled them to yet another upset.
However, Naz Hillmon and co. were able to scrape by after trailing nearly the entire first half of play. Thanks to 31 combined points from Hillmon and Laila Phelia, Michigan defeated the Coyotes by a slim 52-49 margin and moved on to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
The only thing between the Wolverines and a Final Four appearance was the one-seeded Louisville Cardinals and a 22-point performance from Hailey Van Lith. Facing only a two-point deficit heading into the final frame, Michigan fell out of rhythm and added only seven points to their total. In contrast, Louisville did not slow down and punched their ticket to the third and final weekend of the tournament, winning 62-50.
Hillmon fought for every last ball in her final appearance in maize and blue, pulling in a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. The senior wraps up her career as one of the best players in program history and is projected as a first round pick in the WNBA draft next week.
Final Count from Week Two
Eliminated in Round of 64: 1 (8-seeded Nebraska)
Eliminated in Round of 32: 1 (2-seeded Iowa)
Eliminated in Sweet Sixteen: 4 (3-seeded Indiana, 4-seeded Maryland, 6-seeded Ohio State)
Eliminated in Elite Eight: 1 (3-seeded Michigan)