Syracuse women beat Lady Vols 89-67, head to 1st Final Four

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) Alexis Peterson ran to midcourt at the final buzzer, dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands. She cried tears of joy as her Syracuse teammates swarmed her.

The Orange are going to the women’s Final Four for the first time, and Peterson is the one leading the way to Indianapolis after an 89-67 victory over Tennessee on Sunday in the Sioux Falls Regional final.

“We have all worked relentlessly to get to this point,” she said. “I was overcome with emotion.”

Peterson scored a season-high 29 points in a performance that earned her Most Outstanding Player of the regional and followed a 26-point night in an upset of top-seeded South Carolina on Friday.

“She’s a special kid. She’s competing. It’s her time to shine,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “She stepped up and made things happen. She ran her basketball team. She kind of put them on her back and said, `We’re not going to be defeated.’ “

The fourth-seeded Orange (29-7) will play No. 7 seed Washington in a national semifinal next Sunday in Indianapolis.

“We did what we had to do,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We knew we had to control the paint, and we did a good job of that. We knew we had to make 3s, and to be 14 for 30 behind the arc is really knocking down shots. That was the key to the game.”

Brianna Butler hit three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to break open the game and finished with 18 points. She made a total of 10 3s in the regional.

“Every time she faces the basket, I think it’s going to go in,” Hillsman said. “She’s the best shooter in college basketball right now, and she proved it in this tournament.”

The Orange also got a huge lift from reserve Cornelia Fondren. She made all six of her shots and had 13 points as Syracuse rolled to its 15th victory in 16 games.

Diamond DeShields scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols (22-14) in the loss that finished their surprise NCAA run. They came into the tournament after a 13-loss regular season that was the worst in program history, and their No. 7 seed was their lowest ever.

“As much as we want to be proud of how far we’ve come, based on the season we had, we could have gone farther,” DeShields said. “We know that. I think that’s what hurts the most. So our season got cut short, we all feel like. So we’re not happy about that. Never happy about losing. We never will be. This is a program full of winners. Winning is what we do. That’s always going to be the goal.”

Peterson has scored 20 or more in each of the Orange’s four tournament games. She played with a sore hip and was 11 for 20 from the field, 3 for 4 from 3-point range. She also had six assists and three steals. After she got up from the pile of celebrating teammates, she flashed a No. 1 with her right finger as she embraced Brittney Sykes.

Butler’s back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Orange a double-digit lead after the Lady Vols pulled to 63-59 early in the fourth quarter. Syracuse was up 12 after Peterson’s jumper that followed DeShields’ offensive foul, and the bulge eventually grew to 23.

Jaime Nared added 14 points for Tennessee, which committed 21 turnovers against the Orange’s pressure 2-3 zone defense. The Orange converted those turnovers into 25 points.

“Our toughness determines our destiny,” Butler said, “and so far our toughness has gotten us here.”

Peacock Classic 2022: How to watch Gonzaga vs. Baylor, live stream info and game preview

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Two of men’s college basketball’s elite programs are set to face off when the No. 6 Baylor Bears and No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs play in the inaugural “Peacock Classic” Friday night. The game marks a rematch of the highly-anticipated 2021 NCAA National Championship Game, and the Zags will certainly look to get some revenge after Baylor ended their bid at an undefeated season.

The two programs boast two of the best coaches in the country, with Scott Drew of Baylor and Mark Few of Gonzaga working the sidelines. The “Peacock Classic” also marks a crucial point in the development of name, image and likeness deals at the collegiate level. Read on to learn everything you need to know ahead of the event.


How to watch the 2022 “Peacock Classic”

Only those with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan can stream the event. Sign up here or, if you have a free account, upgrade to Premium by going to your account settings.


A new world of NIL opportunities

For the first time, college athletes will be able to earn money by promoting a game in which they are playing.

Eligible players for both Baylor and Gonzaga can opt-in through NBC Sports Athlete Direct – a NIL community connecting student-athletes, advertisers and fans – and promote the game’s sponsors on their personal social media channels.

All participating players will be paid the same rate for their involvement.


Rematch of 2021 NCAA National Championship Game and series history

Baylor’s 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 championship game marked the Bears’ first-ever NCAA men’s basketball title. The game carried added stakes since the Bulldogs entered it with a 31-0 record – the first team to make the championship game without a loss since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1979.

That matchup was a rightful bout between the two behemoths of that season – it was the first championship game that featured the tournament’s top two overall seeds since North Carolina beat Illinois in 2005. Baylor jumped all over Gonzaga in the early going, playing an aggressive style that prevented the Bulldogs from getting into their fluid offense and opened up its own attack for 3-pointers. Gonzaga was a -4.5-point favorite but never led in the game.

Gonzaga leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, having won all their matchups with Baylor before the championship game. The previous meeting before 2021 saw Gonzaga eliminate Baylor from the 2019 NCAA tournament in the second round by a score of 83-71.


How Baylor and Gonzaga match up with each other

Both teams have been tested multiple times early in their seasons. Gonzaga (5-2) has defeated two teams currently ranked – No. 20 Michigan State and No. 19 Kentucky – but lost to No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Purdue. The Zags last played on Sunday, when they outlasted Xavier 88-84 to secure third place in the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Baylor (5-2) has had it slightly easier but has still had to deal with talented teams; they lost to No. 3 Virginia and defeated No. 21 UCLA in back-to-back games earlier this month. They’re coming off a surprising 96-70 loss to Marquette in Wisconsin Tuesday night as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Gonzaga will face a tough task in trying to slow down Baylor’s offense, whose 88.1 points per game ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears are paced by a duo of strong guards. LJ Cryer leads the team at 17.9 points per game, and Adam Flagler is not far behind at 16.9 points per contest while averaging 6.9 assists.

Baylor also boasts the services of freshman Keyonte George, another talented guard who could be a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Naismith Player of the Year Award candidate Drew Timme leads the way for the Zags, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s flanked by Julian Strawther, who’s putting up 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per night.

Timme and Strawther are two of the six Gonzaga players left over from the 2021 finalist team, so vengeance will be top of mind. Baylor also has six holdovers from that championship matchup, including Cryer and Flagler.

With both teams ranked and looking to prove themselves early in the season, Friday will be a statement game – in more ways than one.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.