Women’s Big East Notebook

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Player of the Week: Kayla Alexander, Syracuse

The sophomore center led the Orange to two crucial wins over No. -/22 St. John’s and Cincinnati last week. Against the Red Storm on Saturday, Alexander helped her team to a 78-67 victory with 26 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

When Syracuse was down 32-24 against the Bearcats at halftime on Tuesday, Alexander led the comeback. She finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in a 55-53 win.

By taking the Orange on her shoulders, Alexander moved Syracuse closer to a national ranking and into a tie for the No. 8 spot in the Big East.

Game to Watch: No. 1/1 Connecticut vs. No. 18/19 Georgetown, Feb. 26, 2 p.m.

The Huskies reclaimed their status as the nation’s No. 1 team and will look to defend it against a hungry Georgetown squad looking to bounce back from two straight Big East losses.

Beating the Hoyas at home will be no easy task for Connecticut as Georgetown is 11-1 in the nation’s capital this season, but the Huskies are still unbeaten in the conference at 14-0.

No. 8/7 Notre Dame vs. No. 7/11 DePaul, Feb. 28, 8 p.m.

The Fighting Irish and Blue Demons will both be looking to build momentum heading into the Big East tournament in this regular season finale.

This will most likely be a battle for second place in the conference, although DePaul has already wrapped up a bye to the conference tournament’s quarterfinals.

20-game winners common in Big East

When Syracuse defeated Cincinnati 55-53 Tuesday, the Orange became the seventh Big East team to reach the 20-win plateau.

Connecticut, DePaul, Notre Dame, Marquette, Georgetown and West Virginia make up the other six teams that make the Big East the nation’s leader in squads with 20-plus victories.

The ACC ranks second with six, and next in line is the Atlantic-10 with four. St. John’s needs only one more win to become the eighth Big East team to reach the mark, and Louisville could also accomplish the feat by winning its last three games of the season.

This stat is a testament to the overall strength of the Big East and all but proclaims it the toughest conference in women’s Division I basketball.

Throughout the season these teams have taken turns beating each other up, and the result is a conference rife with parity. Whether or not this helps or hurts the Big East in the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen, but the possibility of putting nine teams into the NCAA Tournament earns the conference a great deal of respect.

Back in the driver’s seat

The Connecticut Huskies have spent the entire season as the leaders of the Big East conference and began it as the top squad in the nation.

A 71-59 road loss to No. 9/8 Stanford on Dec. 30 ended Connecticut’s record-breaking streak of 90 consecutive victories, and bumped the Huskies down to the No. 2 spot in The AP and USA TODAY/ESPN Rankings.

For the past few months the Huskies have uncharacteristically stood in the shadow of a team they beat 65-64 in the second game of the season, the Baylor Bears. That changed last week as Connecticut continued its conference unbeaten streak and, more importantly, then-No. 1/1 Baylor fell at Texas Tech in a 56-45 upset last Saturday.

Home victories over No. 8/7 Notre Dame, 78-57, last Saturday and Seton Hall, 80-59, on Tuesday propelled the Huskies back into the nation’s top spot.

They’ve already wrapped up a quarterfinal bye in the Big East Tournament, and if their dominance continues, they will likely enter the NCAA Tournament as the overall number one seed.

Whether or not the will of senior forward Maya Moore and coach Geno Auriemma can bring an unprecedented third straight title to Storrs, Conn., remains to be seen, but history would be on their side.

Since the NCAA championships began in 1982, 13 teams ranked No. 1 overall have gone on the win the tournament, including Connecticut, which has done it five times as No. 1.

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