The N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament began on Friday with no early upsets, but a few close calls.
The foremost of those was Mercer’s bid to do what no other No. 15 seed had done: win a game in the tournament. The Bears were in range in the final minute, but second-seeded Iowa held on for a 66-61 victory in Iowa City in the Greensboro Region.
With 51 seconds left and Mercer trailing, 66-61, KeKe Calloway had an open look at the basket from about 18 feet. The ball bounced off the rim and hung in the air before it fell into the hands of Megan Gustafson, who had 30 points and 16 rebounds for the Hawkeyes (27-6).
Calloway scored 21 points and Amanda Thompson had 18 for Mercer (25-8), which had won 17 in a row.
“We personally liked our seed; we didn’t love our opponent,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “We played against somebody that was much more difficult than a 15 seed. Everybody can recognize and understand that.”
But in the end, the Bears ended up being the 101st No. 15 seed to lose in the tournament.
“It’s disappointing with the outcome,” Mercer Coach Susie Gardner said. “Our guys kept bouncing back. We had opportunities. We never went away.”
Marquette, a fifth seed, was pushed against 12th-seeded Rice, but prevailed in overtime, 58-54, in the Chicago Region in College Station, Tex.
The Golden Eagles (27-7), who are in the tournament for the third straight season, overcame a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Amani Wilborn made a jumper with three and a half minutes left in overtime to put Marquette ahead, 54-52. Allazia Blockton extended the lead to 4 with about a minute to go.
The Owls (28-4), who had won 21 in a row, ended a scoring drought of about seven minutes stretching back to the fourth quarter when Erica Ogwumike made a basket with 51 seconds left. But Natisha Hiedeman made two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to secure the victory.
“No matter what the score is, how much time is left, we’re going to give it our all,” Hiedeman said.
Missouri, the No. 7 seed, also were taken to overtime. The Tigers got past 10th-seeded Drake, 77-76 in a Greensboro Region game in Iowa City, where they will face Iowa.
Fifth-seeded Florida State (24-8) avoided overtime, overcoming a 4-point deficit in the fourth quarter and then holding on for a 70-67 victory against 12th-seeded Bucknell (28-6) in a Greensboro Region matchup in Charlotte, N.C. Kiah Gillespie had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Seminoles, who dominated inside. Bucknell almost tied it, but Kaitlyn Slagus and Kyi English missed 3-pointers on a frantic final possession.
Things were not nearly as stressful for other higher-seeded winners. Louisville, the top seed in the Albany Region, were short-handed but not challenged in a 69-34 rout of No. 16 Robert Morris. South Carolina, the No. 4 seed in the Greensboro Region, took care of No. 13 Belmont, 74-52 after a sluggish start. Texas A&M, the No. 4 seed in the Chicago Region, won by 84-61 against Wright State behind 27 points from Chennedy Carter. And No. 8 Michigan rolled over No. 9 Kansas State, 84-54, in the Albany Region.
No Coach, No Problem
Louisville did not need its coach or its starting point guard to roll at home. And with Robert Morris missing shots for much of the first half, the Cardinals did not really need that many baskets, either.
Asia Durr and Sam Fuehring each had 19 points, and Louisville (30-3) scored 27 straight points in the first half to overwhelm the Colonials (22-11).
The Cardinals rolled despite the absences of Coach Jeff Walz — who sat out ]-game suspension for a profane sideline tirade during last year’s Final Four — and the injured point guard Arica Carter. They led, 32-4, early in the second quarter by holding Robert Morris scoreless for nearly 15 minutes.
Though it was not Louisville’s first game this season without Walz calling plays, this was the N.C.A.A. tournament and the Cardinals are a No. 1 seed for the second consecutive spring.
“There was no pressure at all,” said Durr, who was 6 of 12 from the field with three 3-pointers. “We have to coach ourselves. We did a great job of playing as a team.”
Worst Time for a Foul
Jordan Roundtree won it for Missouri (24-10) with a free throw after being fouled with 1.1 seconds left in overtime while putting up a desperation 3-point shot.
The Tigers found Amber Smith open underneath for a 76-74 lead on a jumper with 20.8 seconds left. Maddy Dean pulled Drake (27-7) even at the line, but the Bulldogs star Becca Hittner hit Roundtree’s shooting hand on the ensuing possession. She missed the first free throw, hit the second and missed the third.
Drake got the rebound and after two timeouts, miraculously got Hittner — a 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc — a wide-open look at a 3. But the shot bounced off the back of the iron.
Food for Thought
On the eve of her team’s first N.C.A.A. tournament game ever, Bethune-Cookman Coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis summed up the task the Lady Wildcats face on Saturday against top-seeded Notre Dame, the defending national champion, in South Bend, Ind.
“Notre Dame has about eight McDonald’s All-Americans,” Blair-Lewis said she told her team before it left Florida. “We have about eight players who like to eat at McDonald’s.”
The Lady Wildcats (21-10), who earned the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference automatic berth by winning 10 of their last 11, face Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish (30-3), who have averaged 96 points in winning its last nine.
“We know we have a daunting task ahead of us, but we’ve been the underdogs all year,” Blair-Lewis said of having six players miss time for various injuries, including five knee operations.