Ohio State looks to snap long Elite 8 drought against Texas
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Rikki Harris didn’t seem interested in a brief history lesson on how long it’s been since Ohio State reached the Elite Eight in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“I’m pretty sure we didn’t know that,” Harris quickly said of the nearly 30-year drought, drawing chuckles. “We just want to win and play. At this point we’re coming in as the underdogs in most of our games right now. Just playing hard and playing together, no chip on our shoulders.”
The sixth-seeded Buckeyes have a chance to end their 29-year drought on Friday night against No. 2 seed Texas in the Spokane Region semifinals.
The other game in the bracket features defending national champ No. 1 seed Stanford facing No. 4 seed Maryland. It’s the first meeting between the powerhouse programs in the NCAAs since the Cardinal beat the Terrapins in the 2008 regional final in the same building.
If Ohio State (25-6) makes it to Sunday, it would be the Buckeyes’ second straight upset, following their win over No. 3 seed LSU on Monday in Baton Rouge.
The last time Ohio State advanced past the round of 16 was 1993, reaching the national championship game before falling to Sheryl Swoopes and Texas Tech. Since then, they’ve made the Sweet 16 five times and fallen short of advancing every time, including a loss to Tennessee as a No. 2 seed in 2016.
“It would obviously be a huge milestone,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We have a very passionate fan base who takes a lot of pride in our program. For them, I think it would be a huge deal. Certainly then for our players, what we’re trying to accomplish, who we’re trying to be as a program. That would be an obvious next step for us.”
Texas (28-6) arrives in the regional semis riding a 13-game win streak; it hasn’t lost since a three-game streak in early February. The Longhorns hold the second-longest active win streak of any remaining team in the NCAA — behind only Stanford’s 22 straight.
The Longhorns reached the Elite Eight last year before falling to South Carolina. This group is younger, led by freshman guard Rori Harmon.
“Having the team that you have and the coach that you have, they just play so experienced,” Harmon said. “You kind of pick up from that. It’s been so exciting.”
Since the 2008 regional final in Spokane, Maryland (23-8) and Stanford (30-3) have played only once. That was earlier this season in the Bahamas, where Stanford picked up an 86-67 win over the then-No. 2 Terrapins, who had just seven healthy players due to illness and injury.
The 2008 meeting was a seminal game for the Cardinal, who won 98-87 to end an 11-year drought between Final Four appearances. Candice Wiggins was the star that night, scoring 41 points and starting a run that has seen Stanford reach the Final Four eight times in the past 14 years.
“It was a phenomenal game. Maryland and (coach) Brenda (Frese) do just a great job,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “They have an outstanding team. They did then and they do now. It was a big, big win for our program.”
Coming to Spokane is not all bad memories for the Terrapins. The last time Maryland reached the Final Four in 2015, it came through the Spokane Regional.
“To beat Tennessee, their storied history and program to go to the Final Four was also an incredible memory that that I’ll never forget,” Frese said.
GIVE THEM MOORE
Texas has received an unexpected boost from freshman Aaliyah Moore, first during the Big 12 Tournament and now the first two games of the NCAAs.
Moore had a game-high 21 points in the second-round victory over Utah, her third straight scoring in double figures. Moore made 9 of 10 shots in just 21 minutes off the bench.
She began the season in the starting lineup, but an ankle injury knocked her out for nearly two months. Moore struggled when she returned, scoring in double figures only once until popping for 12 points in the Big 12 title game win over Baylor. She had 18 in the NCAA opener against Fairfield, followed by the big game against Utah.
“I think with (Aaliyah), you see now in these last few games a really confident kid, a kid that’s happy, that’s excited about getting back to her old self,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said. “I think she’s really brought a lot to our team.”
UKRAINE FUNDS ON THE RISE
VanDerveer’s pledge to donate $10 for every 3-pointer made in the women’s NCAA Tournament toward humanitarian efforts in Ukraine has become a regular topic at every tourney venue on both the men’s and women’s side.
VanDerveer said she’s received great response, commenting that even her dentist has agreed to chip in. WNBA star Brenna Stewart announced on social media on Wednesday she would be matching up to $20,000.
“I put it out there as a challenge. I’m really trying to focus on our team and coaching, but I’m getting help from other people to give it traction and just say as a basketball community, can we do something,” VanDerveer said.
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