Hofstra (25-8) at Florida Gulf Coast (31-5) – This is the first-ever meeting between these teams. Hofstra is making a postseason run despite some serious headwinds. First, the Pride lost early in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, which was a shock to the roster; the team has also been hampered with injuries and forced to improvise in terms of a lineup. Hofstra’s starting five on March 22 (a 65-57 victory against Virginia) featured three players who had combined for just ten total starts on the season before that game: Olivia Askin, Aleana Leon and Jakelle King-Gilchrist. The Pride has two double-digit scorers in Kelly Loftus (12.3 ppg) and Ashunae Durant (11.6 ppg).
Florida Gulf Coast puts a lot of stock on the 3-point shot to drive its offense, ranking third nationally in made 3-pointers on the season. However, that doesn’t mean the Eagles stand and watch their jumpshots – they hustle back on defense and give up under 50 points per game. FGCU has used the disappointment of an upset loss in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament to fuel its run in the WNIT.
"It's still do-or-die time," said FGCU senior Whitney Knight, the two-time A-Sun player of year. "We know that if we lose a game, that's the end for us. We want to continue playing as long as we can. That's motivating us. We're all playing together as a team because of that. We want to keep winning."
Temple (23-11) at Michigan (20-13) – Surprisingly, these two longtime power programs in women’s basketball have met only once previously – Temple prevailed, 65-58, in November of 2005. With four players scoring in double figures, the Owls have been able to use their depth to make this WNIT run that includes two road victories. Alliya Butts leads the way with 15.3 points per game, and she’s the team’s most reliable option from the 3-point line. The team has to work around shooting less than 30 percent from long distance.
Both Michigan and Temple are trying to repeat as WNIT semifinalists from 2015. The Wolverines played much better in the second half of the Big Ten schedule to close at 9-9 overall, and they’ve been offensively potent in the WNIT, averaging about 85 points per game on 54 percent shooting (48 percent from 3-point range). Katelynn Flaherty, a sophomore, now owns the program’s single-season scoring record with 738 points, and she was an all-Big Ten first team selection.
Oregon (23-10) at UTEP (29-4) – This will be the second meeting between these programs; Oregon won the first time, 90-70, in January of 1994. Before the Ducks began their WNIT run, they lost three straight games where they shot below 30 percent from 3-point range – in their three WNIT victories, their shooting better than 52 percent.
“Young kids are getting valuable minutes and they’re producing,” said Oregon head coach Kelly Graves. “Just for their psyche and for the offseason inspiration, it can be big for them. This is a valuable experience for us and on top of that, we’re winning and having some success.”
UTEP will look to ride its large, enthusiastic home crowd to the semifinals. The Miners aren’t typically effective from the 3-point line, shooting just 26 percent overall, but they have a way of causing trouble on defense, forcing more than 20 turnovers a game on average.
“This was a great, great win for us,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said after the Miners topped TCU on Thursday. “I thought we played extremely hard. TCU has some really good guards who can really shoot the basketball. They have a really good team. What has really happened here is that the city of El Paso is coming to life here in the Haskins Center and our players are really feeding off that. They’re having fun and it’s just great energy.”