ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — It was a stellar day for the Pac-12 with Oregon State and UCLA both pulling off upsets to advance to the Elite Eight.
The sixth-seeded Beavers beat second-seeded Baylor, while the third-seeded Bruins knocked off No. 2 seed Texas.
It’s UCLA’s first trip to a regional final since 1999. It will face top-seeded Mississippi State on Sunday night for its first Final Four trip.
“I’m so happy for the seniors who were courageous enough to dream big and play big and have an opportunity to play for a spot in the Final Four,” UCLA coach Cori Close said.
The Beavers will face top-seeded Louisville on Sunday for a trip to their second Final Four in three seasons. That year, Oregon State beat Baylor in the regional final to advance to the school’s first Final Four.
The Cardinals spoiled a perfect night for the Pac-12, routing Stanford in the other semifinal in the Lexington Regional.
The other half of the Elite Eight will be set Sunday with the Albany and Spokane Regions set to play. The Mid-American Conference hopes for similar success to the Pac-12 by getting its two teams to advance. That would be a much taller order for the two 11 seeds: Central Michigan and Buffalo.
Both teams seem to be loose and ready to keep playing. Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack buried a half-court shot during practice Friday.
Legette-Jack will need shooting like that from her team to knock off defending champion South Carolina. The Chippewas face No. 2 seed Oregon.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves knows all about taking an 11-seed on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. He was the coach at Gonzaga when the Bulldogs made back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2011 and 2012. Graves has been the head coach of the last two double-digit seeds to reach a regional final — Gonzaga in 2011 as a No. 11 seed and Oregon last year as a No. 10 seed.
Graves was asked if he had any advice for the No. 11 seed based off his past success as a lower seed.
“Just play, be who you are. I don’t think at this point it helps anybody to change or to add new things or anything like that,” he said. “I think at this point pretty much every team has seen everything. They’re not running anything tomorrow that we haven’t seen before. I think just kind of be yourself, have fun with it.”
Here are a few other tidbits from the women’s regionals:
PERFECTION: Mississippi State star center Teaira McCowan was 11 for 11 from the field and made both of her free throws in the win over N.C. State.
“This time of year, you lose, you go home,” McCowan said. “You basically start over. So my team, my seniors — the four I got — I’m just trying to make it the best it can be, go as far as possible.”
TIMING: Louisville coach Jeff Walz complained about his team playing the late game Friday, more because of the burden on Cardinals fans having to make the drive with snow in the overnight forecast.
Turns out he had nothing to worry about from their fan base, which showed up for the Oregon State-Baylor semifinal and comprised much of the 5,715 that hung around for the nightcap.
Walz was feeling better after Louisville’s rout, but still clock-watching.
“Are you past your deadlines?” he asked reporters. “We’re past deadlines, so what you’ll see is you can ask me as many questions tomorrow as you all would love to because I’d like to get these kids back to get into bed and we have a noon game on Sunday.
“My cell phone, I’ll be happy to give it to you when we’re done, you can call me, I’ll give you as much as you want. But I’m finished with my statement because it’s 12:10 right now and we play a noon game on Sunday. So I want to get these kids back to sleep. It’s the student-athlete welfare that I think is important.”
AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and Gary B. Graves contributed to this story.