Click photo to enlarge
Connecticut freshman Katie Lou Samuelson, left, takes a shot against Tulane during a conference tournament game.

They are first-timers in the women's NCAA Tournament, highly touted recruits who as freshmen are already having an impact for No. 1 seeds getting ready for the Sweet 16.

Notre Dame has a pair of guards who score in double figures, Baylor boasts two big posts who among the Big 12's top shooters and Connecticut has a freshman starter whose two older sisters played for a Final Four team at Stanford.

"As far as freshmen, if you can play, you can play," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Wednesday. "What freshmen have to do quickly is learn the system at their respective schools, learn how to play defense, learn how to practice hard every day and have management of their time."

Going into the second weekend of the women's NCAA Tournament, here are some of the top freshmen:


KATIE LOU SAMUELSON, Connecticut: Samuelson moved into the starting lineup for the three-time defending national champion Huskies in mid-January. The California kid is averaging 10.9 points and shoots 39 percent on 3-pointers (72 of 184). In her first NCAA Tournament game, she scored a season-high 22 points.

"We're not going to be able to win the national championship without her," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

Samuelson's older sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, were on Stanford's team that lost to the Huskies in a national semifinal game two years ago. Bonnie has since graduated, but Karlie is a junior for the Cardinal, who play Notre Dame next.



MARINA MABREY and ARIKE OGUNBOWALE, Notre Dame: Mabrey has been an all-around player for the Fighting Irish, and Ogunbowale has been instant offense off the bench.

Ogunbowale averages 11.5 points while playing only about 19 minutes a game.

"I think she's the best sixth man in the game," coach Muffet McGraw said. "She's doing so many things that are exciting to watch. We get better when she comes in the game."

Mabrey scored 16 points in her first game for Notre Dame, and had a triple-double in her fourth. The younger sister of Irish senior team captain Michaela averages 10.8 points, and had 15 against Indiana on Monday.

"The thing I love about her is that she's just not going to back down from anyone," McGraw said. "That's really going to bode well for us in the future."


BEATRICE MOMPREMIER and KALANI BROWN, Baylor: Along with former Duke transfer Alexis Jones joining the 1-2 punch of Nina Davis and Niya Johnson, the Lady Bears this season added two McDonald's All-Americans inside — 6-foot-7 Brown and 6-4 Mompremier.

Brown leads the Big 12 in shooting 62 percent from the field (134 of 218), and had 16 points in 18 minutes of Baylor's second-round win over Auburn. Mompremier has started 24 games and is fifth in league shooting at 55 percent (114 of 208).

"They have the physical skills to be as good as anybody that's ever played at Baylor," Mulkey said. "What they have to learn is you don't just roll a ball out there and not absorb what you've been taught in the film room and what you're doing on scouting reports, and I've watched them grow in that capacity."


SEC STANDOUTS: South Carolina, the other No. 1 seed, doesn't have a true freshman playing in the NCAA Tournament. But there are three other SEC teams in the Sweet 16 with players who were on that league's All-Freshman team — 5-8 guard Te'a Cooper of Tennessee, 6-foot guard Maci Morris of Kentucky and 6-7 center Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State.

Friday's Games

SIOUX FALLS — #4 Syracuse vs. #1 South Carolina, 7 p.m. on ESPN

LEXINGTON — #7 Washington vs. #3 Kentucky, 7 p.m. on ESPN2

LEXINGTON — #4 Stanford vs. #1 Notre Dame, 9 p.m. on ESPN

SIOUX FALLS — #7 Tennessee vs. #3 Ohio State, 9 p.m. on ESPN2

Saturday's Games

BRIDGEPORT — #5 Mississippi State vs. #1 UConn, 11:30 a.m. on ESPN

BRIDGEPORT — #3 UCLA vs. #2 Texas, 1:30 p.m. on ESPN

DALLAS — #5 Florida State vs. #1 Baylor, 4 p.m. on ESPN

DALLAS — #6 DePaul vs. #2 Oregon State, 6 p.m. on ESPN