What we learned: Duke's offense played its best game of the season to upset Ohio State

What chalk? After higher seeds went 31-1 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament, Duke delivered an upset in the first game of the second round Sunday.

The Blue Devils advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2018 after rallying from 16 down to eliminate No. 2 seed Ohio State in Columbus.

We’re tracking all the action of Sunday’s second-round games, which are all on ESPN networks and the ESPN App.

Check out where every team landed as we reseeded the 32 remaining teams in the field. And be sure to check out everything we learned Friday on Day 1 and our Day 2 takeaways from Saturday.

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Did Duke just change the makeup of this NCAA tournament? After higher seeds went 31-1 over the first two days, the most chalk the tournament has seen since it expanded to 64 teams in 1994, the very first game of the second round produced a big upset, as Duke stunned the Big Ten regular-season champion Buckeyes in Columbus. After trailing by as many as 16 points in the second quarter and going more than 11 minutes without a field goal in the first half, the Blue Devils took complete control. They scored 12 of the final 14 points of the second quarter and then completely dominated the second half.

The Buckeyes’ shooting percentage plummeted to 28% after halftime, preventing them from using their full-court press. Without it, and mounting foul trouble, Ohio State didn’t have a Plan B. The Buckeyes, who were also badly outrebounded, made just one 3-pointer, and it came when the outcome was already decided. Meanwhile, Duke made 61.9% of its shots in the second half, playing perhaps its best offensive game of the season.

What it means for Duke: The Blue Devils are a team built on defense and offensive balance. In this NCAA tournament, they might have also found a superstar. Reigan Richardson is not only Duke’s best player — she is one of the best in the entire tournament. Against Ohio State, she scored 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting. That follows a 25-point outing on 10-of-18 shooting against Richmond in the first round, a game in which Duke also made a furious comeback after trailing by nine at the half. Richardson — the first Duke player with back-to-back 25-point games in the tournament since Alana Beard in 2003 — is a sophomore, and coach Kara Lawson plays five freshmen, making Duke one of the youngest teams in the NCAA tournament. They are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018.

What it means for Ohio State: Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff predicted that rebounding would be the key to this game. He was right. His team lost the battle on the glass 38-20. After last year’s Elite Eight trip, this is a huge disappointment for the Buckeyes. In three postseason games, they made just 28.5% of their 3-pointers. Cotie McMahon, whose season has been up and down, played one of her best games of the season with 27 points, but she got little help. Jacy Sheldon was the only other Buckeye in double figures with 13. Now McGuff says goodbye to Sheldon, Celeste Taylor, Rebeka Mikulasikova and possibly Rikki Harris, adding to the disappointment of bowing out of the NCAA tournament so early. — Charlie Creme

How does Duke’s upset impact the bracket? The Buckeyes’ loss disrupts the Portland 3 bracket in terms of a potential Sweet 16 matchup with UConn. Last year, the Buckeyes beat the Huskies in the regional semifinals in Seattle, ending UConn’s Final Four streak that dated to 2008.

When the bracket came out this season, people immediately saw that Ohio State and UConn could meet again in the same round. Would it be the Huskies’ chance at revenge, or would the Buckeyes eliminate UConn two years in a row?

The Huskies still have to get through their second-round game against Syracuse. But if they do, they won’t be meeting Ohio State in Portland. — Michael Voepel

Big Ten suffers another (eerily similar) loss: McGuff talked about rebounding being a problem in the Buckeyes’ Big Ten tournament quarterfinal upset, and it hurt them again in their season-ending loss Sunday.

It’s also bizarre how Ohio State’s season ended so similarly to Indiana’s last year. Like the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten regular-season title, lost their regular-season finale at Iowa, didn’t make the league tournament final, and then got upset at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

In both cases, it was a shocking, heart-wrenching end to an otherwise great season. — Michael Voepel

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South Carolina plays flawless basketball in rout of UNC

The Gamecocks are on to the Sweet 16 after dominating North Carolina in a 81-44 win.


Is South Carolina invincible? The Gamecocks sure looked unbeatable in Columbia. South Carolina jumped to a 20-point lead after the first quarter and never looked back. South Carolina seemed to capitalize on every mistake UNC made: a missed rebound, a turnover, a bad shot selection. The Gamecocks played like the best team in the country and national championship favorite they are, getting 32 points and a perfect performance from beyond the arc (6-for-6) from the bench in the first half.

It was an incredible half of basketball. South Carolina shot 80 percent from 3 and held UNC to 17 points. The 37-point halftime difference was the largest deficit for an ACC team in NCAA tournament history. South Carolina absolutely looked invincible.

What it means for South Carolina: This was a statement win from South Carolina. The Gamecocks won 65-58 when these two teams met on Nov. 30. Freshman star Fulwiley played just three minutes. It was a battle start to finish. It was also a battle that took place in Chapel Hill.

On Saturday, South Carolina guards Raven Johnson and Te-Hina Paopao talked about the need to be the aggressor in Sunday’s matchup. Mission accomplished. This game was a completely different story. Fulwiley led all scorers with 20 points, shooting 4-for-7 from 3, snagging 9 boards and contributing 3 steals and 3 blocks. Dawn Staley said Fulwiley told her she’d be a different player Sunday. If she plays like this throughout the tournament — alongside the rest of South Carolina’s talented squad — it might spell doom for the field. Oh, and Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall are back. No big deal.

What it means for North Carolina: The Tar Heels ran into a buzz saw on Sunday. Given the result of the first game between these two teams, UNC likely expected to be more competitive. Foul trouble dogged North Carolina early and the Tar Heels were never in the game. Coach Courtey Banghart will look to rebuild next season with the core of this team eligible to move on. — Katie Barnes

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