WASHINGTON — They are a college basketball couple who has seen very little of each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now both of their teams -- one a contender, the other a Cinderella story -- are headed to the Sweet 16 of the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments.
Anna Dreimane plays center for Texas A&M, the No. 2 seed in the women's Mercado region which just advanced Wednesday night after an 84-82, buzzer-beating overtime win over No. 7 Iowa State.
Francis Lacis is a starting forward for Oral Roberts, the upstart No. 15 seed from the South region that stunned No. 2 Ohio State in the first round of the men's tournament, then followed that up with a win over No. 7 Florida. Oral Roberts is the second No. 15 to ever make it to the Sweet 16.
USA TODAY reports Lacis and Dreimane are from Latvia and played for the same basketball club. Although they had not been friends, they started dating three months after attending a New Year's Eve party together in 2016.
Now they're both dancing, from long-distance: Lacis in Indianapolis and Dreimane in San Antonio, where the two tournaments are being held in a bubble to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
When Oral Roberts upset Ohio State, Dreimane was watching on a big screen with her teammates. She sat on the floor nervously as the final seconds ticked off, then leaped to her feet and gave the TV a kiss.
The couple spent some time together last summer, USA TODAY reported, but have only been together twice since before the season started.
“He's always super positive,” Dreimane told USA TODAY about Lacis. “I just love that about him, like how positive he always is and just the support when I'm hard on myself, he's like, ‘no Anna, you got it. Focus on the good.’”
“I like that she points out my mistakes," Lacis said about Dreimane. "I like that she wants me to get better, so she tells me what I'm doing wrong and that's what I really appreciate about her."
The two won't have much of a chance to watch each other play in the Sweet 16. Oral Roberts faces third-seeded Arkansas Saturday at 7:25 p.m. ET. The Texas A&M women tip-off with Arizona, also a 3-seed, at 8:00 p.m. ET.