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South Carolina nabs No. 1 overall seed in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

Aliyah Boston #4 and Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrate after their win over the Connecticut Huskies during the championship game of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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Dawn Staley has South Carolina six wins away from finishing off a historic season.

The Gamecocks are looking to become the 10th women’s basketball team to go undefeated for an entire season as the they enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

Staley’s squad has been challenged a few times this year but has always pulled through. The defending national champions will play Norfolk State in the first round of the tournament, the NCAA selection committee revealed Sunday night.

“It didn’t take a loss for us to learn from the lessons of a close game,” Staley said. “Now we found ourselves in a position where we can’t afford to lose.”

While the Gamecocks, led by star Aliyah Boston, have been a lock to be the top seed for most of the season, several schools were vying for the other No. 1s, including Iowa, Indiana, Virginia Tech, Stanford and Utah. The Hawkeyes, led by electrifying guard Caitlin Clark, have been a top seed twice before, in 1988 and 1992.

The committee ultimately chose the Hoosiers, Hokies and Cardinal. Indiana and Virginia Tech are first-time No. 1 seeds. Stanford has been a top seed 13 times now, including in the last three tournaments.

“We spent a lot of time on a variety of things. certainly the number one line and the right teams hosting,” selection committee chair Lisa Peterson said.

The tournament begins Wednesday with two First Four games. The full madness starts with 16 games Friday and 16 more the next day.

South Carolina may have the easiest path to the Final Four in Dallas as it won’t have to go far from home. The Gamecocks, who are the 18th team to reach the NCAA tourney unbeaten, will play their first two games on campus before potentially heading 90 minutes away to Greenville, South Carolina, for one of the two regionals. The Gamecocks just won the Southeastern Conference Tournament at that site.

“It’s great. When we got shipped out to Stockton (California, in 2017), we thought it was a drag, but we end up winning the national championship. So there are blessings in all types of situations,” Staley said. “We’re blessed that Greenville was a region. We’re blessed that we did enough to get to sent to this region and we have to make it work for us. We know it won’t be easy.”

The NCAA changed its format this season and is having two regional sites for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. Greenville hosts one and Seattle the other. Once again the top four teams in each region will host the opening two rounds.

The other top teams in South Carolina’s bracket are No. 2 seed Maryland, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 UCLA. The Gamecocks beat both Maryland and UCLA this season.

“I like it. Some familiarity. Take care of Norfolk State, then see where that takes us,” Staley said. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. Sometimes when you’re in a tournament setting like this it’s always a good thing to have played someone.”

Indiana is the other top seed in Greenville. Utah is the 2 seed with LSU third and Villanova fourth.

UConn, which was the last team to go unbeaten and win the title in 2015-16, is looking to extend its own history and reach the Final Four for the 15th consecutive year. The Huskies had a difficult year with injuries but finally started to get healthy heading into March. Star guard Azzi Fudd, who missed 22 games with a knee injury, returned for the Big East Tournament and helped the Huskies win it.

Geno Auriemma’s team, which has won a record 11 national championships, is a No. 2 seed in Seattle. The Hokies are the top seed in that part of the bracket. Ohio State is the 3 seed and Tennessee the 4. The Lady Vols have been in every NCAA Tournament since it started in 1982.

The Cardinal are the No. 1 in the other Seattle regional. Iowa is the No. 2, Duke the 3 seed and Texas 4.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has eight teams in the tournament with the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 each having seven. The Big 12 has six and the Big East five.

Four teams will be making their first appearance in the tournament: Southern Utah, Southeastern Louisiana, Sacramento State and Saint Louis.

Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts and Oregon were the first four teams out of the field.

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2022-23 Rivalry Series: Canada blanks U.S. 5-0 to complete hockey series comeback

Blayre Turnbull #40 of Team Canada
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LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — Blayre Turnbull scored twice in a 32-second span midway through the second period and Canada overcame a three-game deficit to win the Rivalry Series, beating the United States 5-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday night in the women’s hockey showdown.

Turnbull scored on a power play with 9:34 left in the second to chase U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley, then quickly beat Maddie Rooney to make it 4-0.

Ann-Renée Desbiens made 25 saves for Canada in the finale of the key warmup event for the world championships April 5-16 in Brampton, Ontario.

“It’s always a battle between these two teams, and their goaltender shut the door tonight,” U.S. coach John Wroblewski said. “It’s obviously not the way we wanted to close out the series, but we’ll regroup and look ahead to April.”

Ella Shelton opened the scoring with 2:58 left in the first period, and Marie-Philip Poulin made it 2-0 at 3:41 of the second. After Turnbull’s goals, Victoria Bach scored on a backhander on a breakaway for a five-goal lead with 7:26 to go in the second.

Canada tied the series — which began Nov. 15 in Kelowna, British Columbia — with a 5-1 victory Monday night in Trois-Rivieres.

The U.S. won the opener 4-3 in a shootout, then took the second game 2-1 in Kamloops, British Columbia, on Nov. 17 and the third 4-2 in Seattle on Nov. 20. Canada rallied with a 3-2 victory in Game 4 in Henderson, Nevada, on Dec. 15 and a 3-2 overtime win in Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

USWNT secures fourth straight SheBelieves Cup title with 2-1 win over Brazil

Alex Morgan of United States lifts the SheBelieves cup Trophy during the SheBelieves Cup match between Brazil and United States.
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FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson scored and the United States defeated Brazil 2-1 on Wednesday night to win the SheBelieves Cup for the fourth straight year.

Japan, which defeated Canada 3-0 in the earlier match at Toyota Stadium, was runner-up in the four-team, round-robin tournament. All four SheBelieves Cup teams will play in Women’s World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand.

Morgan’s curling goal sailed out of reach of Brazilian goalkeeper Lorena. Morgan now has five goals all-time in SheBelieves matches.

It was Morgan’s 14th goal since the birth of her daughter in 2020, giving her the national team record for most goals as a mom.

“That was huge,” Swanson said. “I think we needed it, we needed the momentum to kind of shift in our favor. (It was) Alex doing Alex things. Simple, left foot, classic. She was getting beat up all first half and ultimately she punished them.”

Swanson scored in the 63rd minute, her fourth goal of the tournament and seventh overall goal this year, matching her total of all of last year.

“I think honestly it’s been a good run. I’ve really just tried to focus on being present and just taking it day by day, game by game,” Swanson said.

Swanson, formerly Mallory Pugh, married Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson in December.

Ludmila scored in stoppage time for Brazil to avoid the shutout. It was the first goal the United States has allowed this year. The United States is undefeated in five overall matches.

“We need to be on the same page. But not only when it comes to reading the game, but also the emotional game, we need to be on the same page. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a great World Cup. If we can’t, it will be very difficult. So that’s why I’m saying we have a long way to go,” Brazil coach Pia Sundhage said.

Midfielder Rose Lavelle started for the United States after missing the first two matches of the tournament with a minor injury.

Japan snapped a four-game losing streak with its win over Canada. Japan had not scored in four straight matches, including two SheBelieves games, until Kiko Seike put her team in front with a goal in the 26th minute.

The Canadian players, in the midst of a labor dispute with their federation, again wore purple T-shirts reading “Enough is Enough” for the anthems and they wore purple wristbands during the match.

Players for the United States also wore purple wristbands in solidarity with Canada.

The SheBelieves Cup started in 2016. The United States has won six of the eight tournaments.

“I don’t think we’re going to talk a lot about the title. We’re actually going to talk a lot about the play and the details, and we’re going to use these games to prepare for the World Cup,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “So that’s what is good about this, it’s not necessarily the title — obviously we enjoy winning, we enjoy winning the title — but it’s the outcome of these game is what is more important for us.”