Big East women’s notebook

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Notre Dame, Villanova fighting for first

The Fighting Irish entered Wednesday 5-0 in the Big East – good for first place. Villanova, a dark horse team that was picked to finish 10th in the preseason by Big East coaches, is challenging Notre Dame with its perfect 4-0 record. It even has an edge over 4-1 Connecticut.

The Wildcats are undefeated in the Big East for the first time in 26 years, and it’s due in large part to senior Laura Sweeney, who has four double-doubles on the season and averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last week.

Although the Wildcats are not nationally ranked, they are still receiving votes for a Top 25 appearance. The longer the streak persists, the higher the possibility that the Big East will pick up its fifth ranked team.

Rutgers in need of a winning streak

Entering today, the Scarlet Knights maintained a less-than-impressive 2-3 conference record. Rutgers was selected to finish fifth in the Big East in the preseason coaches’ poll. The Scarlet Knights dropped their first three Big East games – though two were against nationally-ranked Notre Dame and Louisville – but are back to their old selves after two convincing wins over Providence and Georgetown. The team will hope to climb to an even .500 when it travels to Seton Hall this Sunday.

Three winless teams at the bottom

With its loss to DePaul Tuesday night, Cincinnati fell to 0-5 in conference action. Providence and Pittsburgh, both 0-4, are the other two winless teams in the Big East. All three teams were picked to finish in the bottom tier of the conference. Cincinnati is last in the league in scoring (54.5 ppg) and 14th in field goal percentage (35.5 percent). Providence is 14th in scoring defense (67.2 ppg) and defensive field goal percentage (44.4 percent). Pitt is 13th in three-pointers made (2.8 per game) and 14th in steals (7.2 per game).

Cincinnati’s next three games will be daunting challenges: the Bearcats host Connecticut this Saturday and then hit the road for Georgetown and Notre Dame.

Providence plays at Notre Dame this Saturday, returns home for a matchup with St. John’s and then hits the road for Syracuse.

Pitt, which did not win a single Big East game all of last season, has a chance next week to break its losing streak. The Panthers play at Georgetown and DePaul, then return home to play 2-3 South Florida.

Player of the Week

Stefanie Dolson, UConn

Not only did the junior center cross the 1,000-point milestone in UConn’s recent victory over Syracuse, she also averaged 20.5 points and 8 boards in UConn’s 2-0 week. Dolson shot a scorching 63 percent from the field and also dished out 4.5 assists per contest. She scored a career-high 25 points against Syracuse last Saturday, and the Huskies will be hoping to ride her luck as they play at winless Cincinnati this Saturday.

Game of the Week

No. 2 Notre Dame @ No. 9 Tennessee, Monday, Jan. 28

Although it isn’t a Big East game, it will surely be a treat for basketball fans to watch these two high-powered programs battle. Both teams are allowing only 36 percent shooting and forcing plenty of turnovers (UT 18.0 per game, Notre Dame 22.1). Their rosters feature seven double-digit scorers. Notre Dame has yet to lose on the road, but don’t expect the Irish to win by their average margin of victory of nearly 25 points per game.

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