All 16 BIG EAST teams were in action on Sunday, as the regular-season winds down and has one game left for each school. There are eight 20-win teams in the BIG EAST, more than any other league.
No. 3/3 Notre Dame (27-2, 14-1 BIG EAST) held off USF (15-14, 7-8 BIG EAST) 80-68 and clinched at least a share of the regular-season title. The Irish also secured the No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Championship.
Senior Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 32 points and redshirt-senior Devereaux Peters added 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Irish, giving the Irish their first league title in 11 years.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment for this group that has done so much for us over the last four years,” McGraw said. “It’s going to be really hard next year to go on without them because this is a group that is really in my heart. There’s going to be a big hole there.”
There’s still plenty of hoops to be played—a regular-season finale Monday at UConn, where the Irish could clinch the title outright. They shared the championship with the Huskies back in 2001.
“I really don’t want to share it,” McGraw said.
ND guard Skylar Diggins added 18 for the the Irish, who set a school regular-season mark with their 27th victory. But this one was not easy against the scrappy Bulls, who got 18 points apiece from junior Inga Orekhova and senior Jasmine Wynne.
No. 4/4 Connecticut (26-3, 13-2 BIG EAST) won at Marquette (13-15, 4-11 BIG EAST) 85-45. Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and senior Tiffany Hayes provided Connecticut with a one-two scoring punch. Mosqueda-Lewis scored a career-high 27 points and Hayes added 20, including 18 in the second half.
“It’s hard to beat us when those guys are playing like that,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
“You have to say to yourself, ‘Will the same stuff that worked tonight work Monday night as well’,” Auriemma wondered.
Connecticut shot 49 percent from the field while holding Marquette to just 21 percent shooting.
Sophomore Katherine Plouffe scored 16 points to lead the Golden Eagles, who have lost five straight and nine of their last 10 games.
No. 16/17 Louisville (20-8, 9-6 BIG EAST) beat No. 21/18 DePaul (20-9, 8-7 BIG EAST) 75-62 at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville senior Becky Burke scored 20 points and was one of three people honored in pregame Senior Day ceremonies.
DePaul junior Anna Martin had 18 points to lead the Blue Demons.
No. 15/13 Georgetown (22-6, 11-4 BIG EAST) squeaked past Syracuse (17-12, 6-9 BIG EAST) 65-62 at the Carrier Dome. With the win the Hoyas locked up a bye to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship and will begin tournament play on March 4.
GU junior Sugar Rodgers scored 21 points, including a three-point play in the game’s last minute, as Georgetown used a 5-0 run in the final 39 seconds to put the Orange away.
The Orange held the lead for most of the second half, going up 62-60 on senior Iasia Hemingway’s jumper with 1:03 to play. Following a Georgetown timeout, Rodgers, the league’s leading scorer coming in at 19.3 points per game, was fouled on the game-tying basket and sank the foul shot for a one-point lead.
After Syracuse sophomore Rachel Coffey missed her attempt at a go-ahead 3, the Orange fouled and Morgan Williams stepped to the line and sank both of her shots for Georgetown’s final margin with 11 seconds left. Syracuse got a last-second 3-point attempt off but it wouldn’t fall.
Hemingway finished with 20 points to pace Syracuse.
No. 24/20 Rutgers (20-8, 9-6 BIG EAST) topped Providence (13-15, 5-10 BIG EAST) 68-47 in the Ocean State. With the win the Scarlet Knights secured a bye to the Second Round of the BIG EAST Championship and will begin tournament play on March 3.
Redshirt-senior Khadijah Rushdan scored 21 points to lead Rutgers, extending the Scarlet Knights’ winning streak against the Friars to 19 straight games.
Rutgers outshot Providence 42.6 percent (23 of 54) to 30.2 percent (16 of 53) from the floor. The Scarlet Knights also went 20 of 26 (76.9 percent) from the foul line compared to just an 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) performance from the Friars.
Senior Rachel Barnes led Providence with 12 points, while classmate Teya Wright earned a double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
No. 20/25 St. John’s (20-8, 12-3 BIG EAST) knocked off Villanova (15-13, 5-10 BIG EAST) 69-49. The Red Storm have locked up a bye to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship and will begin tournament play on March 4.
Senior forward Da’Shena Stevens scored a season-high 21 points, her first 20-point effort of the season and the 12th of her career. She went 13-of-16 from the foul line, making 10 in the second period.
Stevens was helped by the offensive efforts of the junior class with Eugeneia McPherson adding 13 points, Nadirah McKenith with 11 and Shenneika Smith with 10. It was the fourth time this season four players scored in double figures. St. John’s has won all four games.
St. John's is the league's hottest team having won seven straight.
West Virginia (20-8, 10-5 BIG EAST) edged Cincinnati (15-13, 6-9 BIG EAST) 66-62 in the Queen City. West Virginia was led in scoring by redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell and junior Asya Bussie, who each had 15 points.
Cincinnati senior Bjonee Reaves led all scorers with 22 points, while redshirt-senior Chanel Chisholm followed with 12 points and a team-best six rebounds.
Seton Hall (8-21, 1-14 BIG EAST) won at Pittsburgh (8-20, 0-15 BIG EAST) 63-39. Senior Jasmine Crew had 17 points to lead a balanced scoring attack. Senior Tajay Ashmeade grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and added eight points. Junior Terry Green chipped in 11 points.
The victory also halted a 19-game BIG EAST regular season losing streak, dating back to last year. It also marked the first Seton Hall victory in Pittsburgh since 1998.
Redshirt-sophomore Ashlee Anderson scored 11 points to lead Pitt. The Panthers will try to avoid their first winless season in conference play as they take on West Virginia on Monday night. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET.
The regular-season wraps up Monday, with the BIG EAST tournament set to begin on Friday, March 2. The final game of the regular-season will be televised on ESPN2 as Notre Dame heads to UConn at 9 p.m. ET on Feb. 27. The Irish won the season’s first meeting between the teams 74-67 in overtime on Jan. 7.
Mon. 27 ST. JOHN’S at GEORGETOWN 4:00 p.m.
PROVIDENCE at USF (BMSC) 7:00 p.m.
SYRACUSE at VILLANOVA 7:00 p.m.
LOUISVILLE at SETON HALL 7:00 p.m.
PITTSBURGH at WEST VIRGINIA 7:00 p.m. CBS SN
MARQUETTE at RUTGERS 7:30 p.m.
CINCINNATI at DE PAUL 8:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at CONNECTICUT (XL) 9:00 p.m. ESPN2
All times are Eastern
Material from interviews, school websites, the Associated Press wire service as well as league and team sources was used in this report.