LINCOLN, Neb. — BYU has come up with two of the biggest upsets in the NCAA women's tournament to get to the school's first Sweet 16 since 2002.
The 12th-seeded Cougars will need a monumental effort to pull off a third upset against top-ranked UConn in the region semifinals today.
No one has played UConn (36-0) within single digits during the Huskies' 42-game win streak, which includes victories over Prairie View A&M and Saint Joseph's by a combined 82 points in the first two rounds of the tournament. Their average margin of victory this season is 36 points.
"It's very intimidating, and they've been here every year, so they're not nervous or excited probably as much as we are," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said Friday. "Anybody on any given night — a team can be off, foul trouble, injury, some team can be really on, so you just don't know."
The Cougars (28-6) beat No. 5 seed N.C. State and No. 4 Nebraska to become the third No. 12 to reach the region semifinals. The other two 12s were beaten soundly — Kansas, 93-63 by Notre Dame last year, and San Francisco, 72-44 by UConn in 1996.
The Huskies haven't played a game decided by fewer than 11 points since they lost 61-59 to Notre Dame in last year's Big East championship game. They haven't lost since.
Huskies center Stefanie Dolson said she's not surprised she and her teammates have been so dominant, largely because coach Geno Auriemma finds ways to challenge them every day. No extra motivation is needed this time of year, she said.
"It's the tournament, and every team is going to play their best, and you know that you lose, you go home," Dolson said. "We don't look at what they're ranked or what their season was like. We just go out there and play as hard as we can and focus on our game and not the team we're playing."
Judkins said the Cougars will have to play their best game to win. "And they can play their worst game. That's what we're hoping for," he said.
BYU's Morgan Bailey is a niece of Thurl Bailey, a star of the 1983 N.C. State men's team that upset top-seeded Houston in the NCAA title game game. Thurl texted Morgan and her teammates to share the story of the '83 Wolfpack.
Like that team, BYU is hot at the right time, having won 12 of its past 13.
"I think we've been underrated the whole season, so it's been really nice to come to such an incredible tournament and be able to be playing our best basketball," guard Kim Beeston said. "I really do think we've peaked at the perfect time."
minnesota: Coach Pam Borton was fired a day after a loss to South Dakota State in the Women's NIT, ending a fifth straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Women's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
|Region semis||Region finals||Final Four||Championship||Final Four||Region finals||Region semis|
|lincoln||Lincoln, Neb.||1 UConn||1 Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||notre dame|
|Today, 4:30, ESPN||Nashville||Today, 2:30, ESPN|
|12 BYU||5 Oklahoma State|
|3 Texas A&M||3 Kentucky|
|Tonight, 7, ESPN||Today, noon, ESPN|
|7 DePaul||2 Baylor|
|April 6||April 8||April 6|
|stanford||Stanford, Calif.||1 South Carolina||1 Tennessee||Louisville, Ky.||louisville|
|Sunday, 7, ESPN2||Sunday, noon, ESPN|
|4 North Carolina||4 Maryland|
|3 Penn State||3 Louisville|
|Sunday, 4:30, ESPN2||Sunday, 2:30, ESPN|
|2 Stanford||7 LSU|