This is the first time in the history of the women’s tournament that the First Four has been implemented. The jury is still out on how much people like this format, but one thing is for certain: Wednesday night brought entertainment.
Howard vs. Incarnate Word kicked things off and gave us the most compelling game of the night, with Howard winning 55-51. Then Dayton simply had too much firepower, overwhelming the DePaul Blue Demons 88-57.
Howard wins a close one
Howard was tested Wednesday night, squeaking out a narrow victory against Incarnate Word. The Bison trailed for most of the game, but not by much; they always seemed to be a couple of possessions away from striking distance. That changed when Iyanna Warren hit a jumper with 8:24 left in the fourth to give Howard a one-point lead. The game was a back-and-forth event from there on, and the Bison were able to hit just a few more big shots and grab a couple of big boards down the stretch to pull away.
It was a heartbreaker for Incarnate Word; they entered the First Four as a 13-17 team that shocked the world by winning the Southland Conference Tournament as a five seed. This earned the Cardinals their first NCAA berth, and unfortunately for this potential Cinderella, midnight came early due to this defeat.
The margin of victory was narrow, and Incarnate Word lost due to being dominated on the boards 53-33, making a few too many turnovers, and committing too many fouls. Had the Cardinals just reduced these errors even slightly, they wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.
For Howard, the Bison got a sensational performance from their two bigs, Krislyn Marsh and Brooklynn Fort-Davis. They scored 14 and 15 points, respectively, and both had double-digit rebounds. It was all about the starting five as they played heavy minutes and got significant contributions from the unit late in the game. Their reward for winning this game is a matchup against South Carolina in the Greensboro region.
Dayton flies high
The Dayton Flyers were in a class of their own against the DePaul Blue Demons. They dominated the competition from the jump and easily won, blowing out DePaul 88-57. Dayton put on an offensive show, shooting 57 percent from three and 45 percent from the field and beating DePaul in every significant statistical category by a wide margin. A game that was supposed to demonstrate two offensive teams going toe to toe quickly became a Dayton Flyers mixtape with the team being up 55-32 at halftime and never looking back.
It just wasn’t DePaul’s night. Nothing was going in, rebounds were a rarity, and several players were in foul trouble. Exiting the NCAA Tournament after a 22-11 campaign is never fun, and the only silver lining the Blue Demons have is that Annesah Morrow had a great game. The freshman had 28 points and 17 rebounds in the defeat. Being so young and playing so well on this stage, I’m sure her future is bright and she will be a key player DePaul can build around in the coming years.
Dayton had a phenomenal game. Erin Whalen led all scorers with 28 points, Jenna Giacone contributed 21 points off the bench, and the Flyers had three players in double digits. When an entire team gets hot like Dayton did, it’s hard not to win. There isn’t much analysis needed. The Flyers just had an amazing offensive night and were able to run the opposing team out of the gym because of it. Dayton will play Georgia next in the Greensboro Region.