|FSU's Natasha Howard, Samford's Hannah Dawson and Christian Hunnicutt.|
#3 FLORIDA STATE 76, #14 Samford 46 – Cierra Bravard had 23 points and 13 rebounds and the Seminoles used brawn and smothering defense in rolling to a win over Samford on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think we played a couple players on some teams that if you put them together would be her size,” Bulldogs coach Mike Morris said of Bravard. “It’s just hard to simulate that in practice.”
And no easier to stop in games.
Florida State (24-7) made it through the tournament opener for the seventh straight year after advancing to the regional final last season.
Courtney Ward, a native of nearby Montgomery, scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in the first half for the third-seeded Seminoles. Chelsea Davis also had 13 points in 13 minutes off the bench. Freshman Natasha Howard grabbed 10 rebounds to help Florida State forge a 52-23 advantage on the boards.
#3 MIAMI 80, #14 Gardner-Webb 62 – Riquana Williams scored 17 of her 28 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds as the Hurricanes beat Gardner-Webb in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament.
The victory was the first in the tournament since 1993 for Miami (28-4), and kept alive a dramatic turnaround season. They went from 12th in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season to regular-season champions this year, earning Katie Meier league coach of the year honors.
They showed why against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, using a 19-5 run in the first half to build a 45-28 lead by halftime, and then going into cruise mode too soon as Gardner-Webb hung around.
#4 MARYLAND 70, #13 Saint Francis 48 – The Terrapins scored the game’s first 13 points, led by 23 at halftime and cruised to an opening-round 70-48 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) on Sunday.
Alyssa Thomas scored 10 of her 16 points in the first half for the Terrapins (24-7), who have no seniors and six freshmen (including Thomas) on the roster.
Maryland’s youth—and the fact that all but three of its players were making their debut in the NCAA tournament—proved irrelevant against the overmatched Red Flash (22-12).