First round of March Madness features double-digit comebacks

APTOPIX NCAA Alabama Baylor Basketball
Baylor's Bella Fontleroy, left, and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs embrace after their win against Alabama in the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
NCAA James Madison Ohio St Basketball
Ohio State forward Cotie McMahon (32) celebrates with Taylor Thierry in the second half of a first-round college basketball game against James Madison in the women's NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, March 18, 2023. Ohio State defeated James Madison 80-66. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
NCAA Miami Oklahoma St Basketball
Miami's Ja'Leah Williams (12) goes to the basket against Oklahoma State's Terryn Milton (21) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

No lead seemed safe on Saturday in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament. Baylor, Miami and Ohio State all rallied from double-digits deficits to advance to the second round.

The Bears trailed by 18 points against Alabama early on and overcame it for a 78-74 win. It was tied for the third-largest comeback in the history of the tournament. Baylor was down by 11 at the half and coach Nicki Collen took a calm approach at the break.

“No swear words, I gave those up for Lent, but a lot of challenges thrown out about how we needed to compete,” she said. “I challenged like, ’You have to be better, you just have to be better.”

Texas A&M still holds the biggest rally in NCAA history, coming back from 21-down against Penn in 2017. Oklahoma State's 19-point rally in 2010 against Chattanooga is No. 2 on the list.

Hours before the Bears' rally, Miami trailed Oklahoma State by 17 points at the half. The team had a heart-to-heart at the break and used a stellar third quarter to get back in the game. Miami then made enough plays down the stretch for the 62-61 victory.

“When you say encourage that means to put courage into someone’s heart and we had to put courage into each other’s hearts, including mine,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “They had to convince me. This is a huge wonderful memory, of sport, but it’s a lifetime memory, too.”

Haley Cavinder propelled the Hurricanes to the comeback with 12 of her 16 points in the second half.

“I think that’s March,” Cavinder said. “It was nerve-racking, but we finished the game strong and yeah, it’s something I’ll remember forever.”

Ohio State got the comeback trend started when the Buckeyes found themselves down 16 points to James Madison at home before finally getting going and pulling away for an 80-66 win.

"We had several open shots in the perimeter and then shots around the basket. We just weren’t finishing it,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We looked a little rusty from being off for a couple of weeks and so hopefully this allows us to settle in and we’ll get off to a better start on Monday.”

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AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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