The four No. 1 regional seeds will contest the semifinals of college basketball’s national women’s tournament for the first time in 23 years after the University of Connecticut and Notre Dame University won their respective games last night.
Connecticut defeated second-seeded Kentucky 80-65 to reach its fifth straight national semifinal, and Notre Dame eliminated No. 2 seed Maryland 80-49 in the regional finals.
The Huskies and Fighting Irish meet in the national semifinals April 1 in Denver, while undefeated Baylor plays Stanford for a place in the April 3 title game. The Bears beat Tennessee 77-58 and the Cardinal topped Duke 81-69 two nights ago.
“You have to beat the best teams in the end of the year because they don’t get beat by the lesser teams,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma told reporters.
The four top seeds last reached the semifinals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in 1989. Stanford, Notre Dame and Connecticut were in the Final Four last year, while Baylor played in the semifinals two years ago.
If Baylor wins the championship, it will become the first men’s or women’s team to finish a season with 40 wins in the history of the NCAA tournament.
At the Thomas F. Ryan Center in Kingston, Rhode Island, Tiffany Hayes scored 22 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 for the Huskies (33-4). Samarie Walker had 14 points for the Wildcats (28-7).
At PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, Skylar Diggins scored 22 points and Natalie Novosel had 18 points for the Fighting Irish (34-3). Alyssa Thomas led the Terrapins (31-5) with 17 points.