Connecticut in top form
The No. 2 Huskies faced two of their toughest challenges since their lone loss to Stanford when they hosted then-No. 13 DePaul and visited No. 19 West Virginia. The Blue Demons came to Storrs, Conn. as the only other undefeated team in the Big East, but Connecticut ensured it would remain the conference’s top dog with an 89-66 rout.
Senior Maya Moore put up 34 points and collected 11 rebounds to lead the Huskies past a more than capable opponent.
The bigger test came Tuesday night when Connecticut found itself down 29-27 against the Mountaineers at halftime. The Huskies took their first lead of the game early in the second half and went up for good when Moore delivered a 15-foot shot with 12:01 left.
She finished with 27 of Connecticut’s season-low 57 points, but it was enough to rally the Huskies to their 11th straight victory.
Like it did against then undefeated No. 3 Duke, Connecticut continued to show its dominance when pitted against the nation’s best squads. The Huskies’ greatest strength lies in how they’ve performed against the nation’s second-toughest schedule. Their latest two victories kept them undefeated in conference play and 23-1 overall.
Furthermore, the current No. 1 team, the Baylor Bears, suffered its lone loss to Connecticut earlier this season. The obstacles keep coming with matchups against No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 8 Notre Dame on the horizon, but based on how this team has performed, it’s tough not to favor the Huskies.
The Big East maintained a strong presence in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls last week with its currently ranked teams going 13-4. The conference kept six teams in the AP and seven teams in the ESPN/USA Today rankings, with No. 2/2 Connecticut, No. 8/8 Notre Dame, No. 16/17 Georgetown and No. 21/22 Marquette all picking up two conference wins.
Syracuse and Rutgers also received votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll, but the Orange were the only Big East squad dropped from either poll. The No. 17/19 West Virginia Mountaineers and No. -/25 St. John’s Red Storm are both in dire need of victories to remain in the Top 25, and could soon find themselves replaced by the upset-minded Scarlet Knights.
The Big East looks to remain a powerhouse for the remainder of the season with a stable of talented teams already ranked and waiting in the wings. Though it’s good for the conference as a whole, the strength of the Big East has provided top-notch challenges for each of its programs that will hopefully translate into a battle-hardened class for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Player of the Week: Taneisha Harrison, Guard, Pittsburgh
In a season otherwise riddled with disappointment, Pittsburgh women’s hoops fans finally got something to cheer about Saturday. Senior guard Taneisha Harrison delivered in a 60-53 victory over Backyard Brawl rival West Virginia, scoring half of the Panthers’ points and pulling down seven rebounds.
Harrison helped Pitt (11-12, 3-7 Big East) snap the Mountaineers’ 31-game home win streak and was placed on the Big East Honor Roll for her performance.
Games to Watch:
No. 17 Georgetown at No. 25 St. John’s, Feb. 13
The red-hot Hoyas head to Jamaica, N.Y. to take on a St. John’s team fighting to stay ranked after a 55-52 loss to Marquette. Sophomore Sugar Rodgers leads Georgetown with 18.5 points per game and will look to carry her team to its seventh straight conference win.
No. 19 West Virginia at Louisville, Feb. 13
After dropping its last two Big East contests, the Mountaineers meet the Cardinals in a huge game for both squads. Louisville will look to add to its NCAA Tournament resume and its 6-4 conference record with a win over slipping West Virginia.
The Mountaineers find themselves in desperate need of a win to remain in the top half of the Big East.