South Carolina stays firmly planted at No. 1, UCLA jumps to No. 2 and the sports world is celebrating the greatness and longevity of Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. But keep an eye on UConn, as the Huskies are steadily climbing in ESPN’s women’s college basketball Power Rankings.
The Huskies are 8-0 in the Big East and have won 12 games in a row overall. Admittedly, their Big East games have been snooze fests, but that’s not UConn’s fault. The Huskies are used to dominating conference play, whether in the “old” Big East, the American (where they literally never lost) or in the “new” Big East.
We have watched many times how the Huskies improve when their competition is challenging. Could this week bring a challenge? Possibly, as UConn travels to Marquette on Tuesday and then hosts Notre Dame on Saturday.
The Huskies clobbered Marquette 95-64 on New Year’s Eve at the XL Center in Hartford. The Golden Eagles are 4-3 in the Big East and coming off a 66-63 loss at Villanova on Wednesday. But Marquette went 11-0 in nonconference play and at least this time will have the home-court advantage against the Huskies. We’ll see if it means anything.
As for the Irish, they are back in the Power Rankings this week; their only ACC losses are to the two teams atop the league: North Carolina and Syracuse. It will be intriguing to see two outstanding guards at different stages of their college careers. UConn’s Paige Bueckers is having a terrific junior season while coming back from a knee injury, and Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo is one of the most exciting players in a thrilling freshman class.
The Huskies’ losses were to NC State and Texas on the road, and to UCLA at a neutral site. Looking at the remainder of their schedule, they are favored in every game but one: Feb. 11 at South Carolina. So this week could rock the Huskies’ boat a little — or be two more big steps toward a highly anticipated matchup with the Gamecocks.
The junior forward’s profile has been rising all season, and she had a career-high 36 points, along with 12 rebounds, Sunday against Oregon State. That included her first made 3-pointers of the season. With Cameron Brink out with an injury, there was even more on Iriafen’s shoulders as the Cardinal didn’t want to miss out on celebrating VanDerveer’s NCAA record-breaking victory at home at Maples Pavilion.
Iriafen made sure the party happened. She has led the Cardinal in scoring the past five games, including 21 points and 15 rebounds Friday against Oregon.
The Lobos got two big Mountain West wins, handing both UNLV and Wyoming their first conference losses of the season. New Mexico topped the Cowgirls 68-61 Wednesday. Then they snapped UNLV’s 29-game winning streak against conference foes Saturday behind Viane Cumber‘s 22 points and seven rebounds. Cumber hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the 69-66 win over UNLV.
Ohio State storms the court after upsetting Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Ohio State outlasts Caitlin Clark and her season-high 45 points as the Buckeyes beat Iowa in an overtime thriller.
Cotie McMahon (33 points, 12 rebounds) and Jacy Sheldon (24 points, 7 rebounds) led the way for Ohio State. The victory helped tighten the Big Ten race and gave the Buckeyes a lot to celebrate with their gutsy fourth-quarter rally. The ending of the game, unfortunately, was marred when a fan ran out on the court and collided with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who luckily wasn’t injured.
Tara VanDerveer’s journey to college basketball’s all-time wins record
Chiney Ogwumike looks back at Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer’s journey in college leading her to having the most wins in college basketball.
Coach of the week: Tara VanDerveer, Stanford
All the tributes paid to VanDerveer — including from the great Mike Krzyzewski, whose NCAA victories record she broke — were well-deserved for one of college sports’ most-revered coaches.
VanDerveer now has a 1,203-267 career record, and her Cardinal are hoping to win the program’s 27th conference regular-season title.
Staley says No. 1 South Carolina still has work to do
Despite yet another win — this time 99-64 over Texas A&M — Dawn Staley says the top-ranked Gamecocks continue to seek improvement as date with LSU looms ahead.
In SEC play, no one has come close to the Gamecocks, who are winning conference games by 34.6 points. That includes blowouts last week against Kentucky and Texas A&M. What could be South Carolina’s toughest test in the league comes up this week, as the Gamecocks travel to LSU on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
UCLA shines down the stretch to defeat Colorado
No. 5 UCLA makes the plays down the stretch to go on the road and beat No. 3 Colorado.
One week after dropping out of the No. 2 spot after a loss at USC, the Bruins are back with a 76-68 road win Friday before a packed house at Colorado. Guard Charisma Osborne led the way offensively with 22 points, while Lauren Betts and Angela Dugalic combined for 26 of the Bruins’ 44 rebounds. Another test in the mountains comes Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App) at Utah in a busy week for UCLA.
The Buffaloes got a record-setting crowd for their matchup with UCLA last Friday. While the game didn’t go their way, they bounced back Sunday to defeat USC 63-59 behind Quay Miller‘s 19 points and 12 rebounds. But it’s a challenging next month for Colorado, which has seven of its next nine games on the road, including the next four in a row.
The Wildcats got bad news, as star center Ayoka Lee is expected to be out the next four weeks due to ankle surgery. Because TCU forfeited its game against K-State on Wednesday (not enough players available), the Wildcats had one game: the Sunflower Showdown with Kansas on Saturday. K-State won 69-58 behind Serena Sundell‘s 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. She and her teammates will need to keep coming up big until Lee returns.
5. UConn Huskies (16-3)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Marquette Golden Eagles (Tuesday), vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Saturday)
The Huskies cruised past Seton Hall and DePaul; they have won their Big East games by an average of nearly 35 points. In league play, four of the Huskies’ five starters are shooting 50% or better from the field, led by Bueckers at 61.9%.
Caitlin Clark addresses being ‘blindsided’ by court-storming fan
Caitlin Clark recounts her collision with a fan that stormed the court after Ohio State’s win over Iowa.
The Hawkeyes appeared in good shape for their 16th win in a row, but the game got away from them in the fourth quarter at Ohio State, leading to an overtime loss. Hannah Stuelke, who missed Iowa’s win over Wisconsin with an injury Tuesday, seemed a bit rusty and was 4-of-12 from the field. Clark had 45 points — her 11th career game of 40 points or more. The Hawkeyes made the most of learning from their only other loss, Nov. 16 vs. Kansas State. We’ll see if they do the same with this.
Williams expresses appreciation for LSU’s faith in her
After scoring a game-high 21 points to pace the No. 10 Tigers in a 99-68 rout of Arkansas, Mikaylah Williams says her teammates knew she had the hot hand early.
7. LSU Tigers (18-2)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (Thursday)
The Tigers bounced back from their upset loss at Auburn with victories over Alabama and Arkansas. Angel Reese had a combined 36 points and 33 rebounds to lead LSU. Next up is the biggest showdown in the SEC this season, as the top-ranked Gamecocks visit.
After a rough 73-59 loss at Miami on Thursday in which the Wolfpack shot just 28.1%, NC State rebounded with a 72-57 win at Duke on Sunday. Guard Aziaha James had a career-high 33 points against the Blue Devils. More good news for the Wolfpack: Center River Baldwin returned against Duke (six points) after missing the past three games with an ankle injury.
It was an emotional weekend celebrating VanDerveer, but also an important one in the Pac-12 standings. The victories over Oregon and Oregon State put the Cardinal at 6-1 and tied with Colorado for the league lead. Along with Iriafen’s combined 57 points and 27 rebounds, the Cardinal got 27 points and 14 assists from Talana Lepolo.
Tara VanDerveer reflective, humbled after wins record
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer reflects on her career after breaking Mike Krzyzewski’s record for the most wins in NCAA hoops history.
The Buckeyes have won five in a row since an upset loss at Michigan on Dec. 30. They didn’t stop Iowa on Sunday with their usual relentless press. But by the fourth quarter, they started to wear down the Hawkeyes’ offense, plus got some clutch shooting themselves to send the game into overtime, where they prevailed.
The Longhorns dominated Kansas 91-56 and outlasted Oklahoma State 76-66 last week. They continue to get strong play from Madison Booker, another of the outstanding freshmen this season. She had a combined 34 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the two games.
After their big win over crosstown rival UCLA on Jan. 14, the Trojans had a challenging trip to the mountains. They fell at Utah 78-58 and then at Colorado 63-59. Freshman JuJu Watkins had a combined 46 points but fouled out for the first time in her young career against the Buffaloes.
The Hoosiers topped Minnesota 85-62 behind Mackenzie Holmes‘ 32 points, and then beat Purdue 74-68 despite Sydney Parrish (foot injury) being sidelined. Defensive stopper Chloe Moore-McNeil had a career-high 20 points to help make up for Parrish’s absence.
Victories at Georgia Tech and at home against Louisville last week propelled the Tar Heels into a first-place tie with Syracuse for the ACC lead at 6-1. Deja Kelly led the way with a combined 50 points and 10 assists. UNC’s challenging nonconference schedule is paying off with how the Heels are doing in league play.
The Cardinals defeated Clemson 81-64 Thursday, but then fell for the first time in ACC play this season with a 79-68 loss at North Carolina on Sunday. Keys were rebounding (the Cardinals lost the battle 42-28) and free throw shooting. Louisville was just 12-of-23 from the line — 11 misses in an 11-point defeat.
Last week, Notre Dame beat Virginia and Wake Forest, with Hidalgo getting a combined 44 points, 13 assists and 9 steals. The Irish’s only ACC losses are to the current top-two teams in the league: North Carolina and Syracuse. This week, Notre Dame gets another chance at the Orange, this one at home.