Women’s Big East Notebook

Mountaineers deserve some recognition

West Virginia boasts one of the youngest rosters in the Big East this year, with just one senior and two juniors on a team that is 16-6 overall and 6-3 in Big East play.

Yes, the Mountaineers don’t have many quality wins on their resume and have some bad losses to boot against Cal State-Northridge and at Providence. Nonetheless, the Mountaineers currently sit in seventh place, ahead of No. NR/23 DePaul and are in a five-way tie for third place with Georgetown, Louisville, Rutgers and St. John’s. Despite this standing, they did not receive a single vote in the Associated Press or USA Today/Coaches Poll this week.

West Virginia has done a good job defending its home floor, going 11-2 with its losses coming against St. Bonaventure (20-2) and Georgetown (17-5).

Sophomore guard Taylor Palmer leads the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game, and the team is allowing just 49.2 points per game, the No. 2 mark in the Big East.

West Virginia also ranks second in the conference in field goal percentage defense (30.6 percent) and three-point percentage defense (24.9 percent).

Three of the Mountaineers’ six losses have come against either ranked opponents (Connecticut, Georgetown) or a team receiving votes in both polls (St. Bonaventure).

West Virginia has a big opportunity to make a move in the conference standings, with its next four games all coming against ranked opponents, including home games against Louisville, Rutgers and DePaul.

If the Mountaineers can win even one of those games, the team could finish 10-6 in Big East play and earn a bye in the first round of the Big East Championship Tournament.

The beat goes on for Notre Dame

There was certainly reason to expect Rutgers to pull an upset on Tuesday night against Notre Dame at home. The Scarlet Knights were 3-3 against ranked opponents this season entering the game and were 10-1 at home.

The Fighting Irish had other thoughts, however, demolishing Rutgers 71-41, extending their winning streak to 19 games, the third longest in school history.

Notre Dame won 20 straight games in 2000-’01, when it won the school’s only national championship, and can match that mark with a home game against DePaul on Sunday.

Notre Dame’s only loss came on Nov. 20 at No. 1/1 Baylor and has achieved wins over Duke, Connecticut and Tennessee.

In fact, four of the Fighting Irish’s seven wins against ranked opponents this season have come by 20 or more points, including the last three by at least 28 points.

Senior forward Deveraux Peters scored 10 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds in the win over Rutgers, becoming the first Fighting Irish player to have three straight double-doubles since Jaqueline Batteast in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

Junior guard Skylar Diggins added 18 points and senior guard Natalie Novosel chipped in 15 points as the Irish outrebounded Rutgers 52-24. Notre Dame ranks third in the Big East in rebounds per game (42.6).

The win completed a perfect month of January for Notre Dame for just the fifth time under coach Muffet McGraw and first since 2001.

The conference is certainly Notre Dame’s to lose, with just three games remaining against ranked opponents, although two of those games come on the road at Louisville and Connecticut.

Player of the week

Tiffany Hayes, senior guard, Connecticut (#3)

Hayes scored a career high 35 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-8 from three-point range. She also recorded seven rebounds and three assists in the Huskies’ 95-54 win over Syracuse last week.

Hayes followed up that performance with 33 points and 10 rebounds on 10-of-15 shooting against South Florida. Hayes’ back-to-back 30-point performances marked the first time a Connecticut player posted consecutive such games since Maya Moore in 2010-’11.

Game of the week

Connecticut at Louisville, Tuesday, Feb. 7

Both teams face difficult games before this contest, with the Huskies hosting Rutgers on Feb. 4 and the Cardinals traveling to West Virginia on Saturday as well.

Louisville is hurting a bit after an 86-61 loss at DePaul on Tuesday but has won 12 straight games at home and are 22-2 all-time at the KFC Yum! Center.

Connecticut hammered Duke 61-45 on the road on Monday for its eighth-straight victory and leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (30.0 percent).