All 16 teams were in action on Saturday as the league hits its final days of regular-season play.
No. 1/1 Connecticut (28-1, 15-0 BIG EAST) dispatched No. 18/19 Georgetown (21-8, 9-6 BIG EAST) by the score of 52-42 and wrapped up its 19th regular-season conference title. The Huskies had a season-high 26 turnovers, but held on and will be the No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Championship beginning March 4. UConn has won each of the last five regular-season titles since 2007.
Connecticut won by countering with some solid defense of its own, holding Georgetown to 26 percent shooting. The Huskies, who returned this week to the top of the Associated Press poll, had their lowest point total in nearly four years but they won their 16th straight game—15 of them by double digits.
Georgetown faltered in part because it turned the 26 turnovers into only 20 points.
“If you look at some of the statistics, we gave that one away,” said Monica McNutt, Georgetown’s only senior and the special honoree during pregame Senior Day ceremonies.
The Huskies pushed a 33-19 halftime lead to 35-22 early in the second half, but three turnovers were converted into back-to-back 3-pointers by McNutt and a pair of free throws by junior Adria Crawford. Sophomore Sugar Rodgers’ 3-pointer with 5:13 to play cut the lead to 44-40, but the Hoyas didn’t score again until Rodgers hit a jumper in the final minute. The Huskies closed the game with an 8-2 run.
UConn senior Maya Moore led the way with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in 40 minutes. Only six Huskies checked into the game.
The 2,000-seat McDonough Gymnasium was packed, and there were people seeking extra tickets outside the entrance before tipoff. There was even a show of support from the Georgetown men’s team, who walked through during the first half, after returning from their defeat to Syracuse at the Verizon Center.
In Milwaukee, No. 24/22 Marquette posted an impressive win over No. 7/11 DePaul 60-53. Senior Angel Robinson made a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left and classmate Tatiyiana McMorris scored 16 points to help Marquette beat DePaul for its first win in seven meetings against the Blue Demons.
“Top 25 wins get you to a place of good seeding,” Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell said. “It doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed, but you’re more likely to be able to win the tournament. That’s how we’re looking to position ourselves.”
Marquette (22-6, 10-5, BIG EAST) had a 17-point second half lead, but DePaul (25-5, 12-3 BIG EAST) went on a 22-5 run to tie it at 49 on senior Deirdre Naughton’s 3-pointer with 6:21 to go.
“Absolutely, we expended a lot of energy (during the run) but that was because we were in the hole,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “The reason we were in the hole was because Marquette dug the hole and did a great job throwing the dirt back in.”
Senior Paige Fiedorowicz scored 14 points and senior Jasmine Collins added 13 for Marquette. It was the second time this season Marquette has beaten a top 10 team. The Golden Eagles also beat then-No. 6/7 West Virginia 69-54 on Jan. 11.
DePaul’s leading scorer, junior Keisha Hampton, fouled out with 1:39 left and the Golden Eagles leading 53-51. She scored 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
“One of the good things about this is usually at this time we are fighting our way into the tournament,” Bruno said. “It is better to take a crash and burn on the 26th of February than it is to have to take it three weeks from today when we are playing NCAA tournament basketball. Hopefully these will be great learning experiences for us.”
The Blue Demons have lost two consecutive games and host No. 8/7 Notre Dame on Monday night. Marquette opened the BIG EAST portion of its schedule with a slew of top teams and finishes Monday night at Cincinnati.
“They took their medicine in this league early and we are taking our medicine in this league late,” Bruno said.
At the Notre Dame Senior Day, senior Becca Bruszewski scored 12 points in her final home game and No. 8/7 Notre Dame topped Cincinnati 66-48 before a sellout crowd of 9,149.
Sophomore Skylar Diggins added 12 points for Notre Dame (24-5, 13-2 BIG EAST), which jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes, pushed it to 15-6 with 8:24 remaining in the first half and then started the second half with a 21-0 run that put the game away.
McGraw called Bruszewski the “most amazing competitor, I think, I’ve ever coached. I think her contribution over four years has been outstanding,” McGraw said. “But the contribution that she’s made this year from a leadership perspective has way surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
Freshman Kayla Cook had a career-high 18 points for Bearcats (8-19, 1-14 BIG EAST), while senior Shareese Ulis added 14 points. An injury-riddled roster limited Cincinnati to just seven dressed players. Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliot knows that her team is at a disadvantage every time it steps out onto the floor, but she was proud of the way the Bearcats performed.
“We play extremely hard,” Elliot said. “We compete, we fight, we’re scrappy.”
In Queens, N.Y., St. John’s had three players score in double figures to earn its 20th win of the year with a 72-63 victory over Pittsburgh. The Red Storm (20-8, 9-6 BIG EAST) were led by junior Da’Shena Stevens’ 15 points. St. John’s recorded its second-consecutive 20-win season, while head coach Kim Barnes Arico hit another milestone with her 150th win as the Red Storm’s head coach.
“It was a great win for us in our quest to reach the NCAA tournament. I was really proud of our seniors and thought they did a tremendous job,” remarked Barnes Arico. “Everybody else stepped up and did what they needed to do to send them out on a great note. I can’t say enough about Sky (Lindsay) and Coco (Centhya Hart) and what they have brought to our program over the last four years and I’m really proud that they were able to go out on a great note.”
St. John’s used a 19-8 run midway through the second period to take a 14-point lead over Pittsburgh. St. John’s outscored Pittsburgh 26-6 in the paint in the second half and 44-18 for the game.
Pitt redshirt freshman Ashlee Anderson had a career afternoon with 20 points. Senior Taneisha Harrisonadded 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who dropped their third-straight (13-15, 5-7 BIG EAST). Senior Chelsea Cole had 12 rebounds, her 19th double-digit rebounding effort of the season.
St. John’s will conclude the 2010-11 regular season at No. 18/19 West Virginia on Monday. The Red Storm will play the Mountaineers in front of a national crowd for ESPN2’s Big Monday telecast. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET at the WVU Coliseum.
In Piscataway, N.J., Rutgers (17-11, 10-5 BIG EAST) pulled out a 67-58 win over No. 18/19 West Virginia (21-8, 7-8 BIG EAST). Junior Chelsey Lee hit a go-ahead three-point play with 1:02 to play and Rutgers rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit for the win.
Sophomore Erica Wheeler scored a career-high 22 points and junior April Sykes added 18 as the Scarlet Knights won their third straight game and kept their hopes alive for the No. 4 seed in the BIG EAST Championship. It also was the third straight win for the Scarlet Knights and their second over a ranked team in eight days.
Redshirt junior Khadijah Rushdan added 11 for Rutgers, which outscored West Virginia 12-2 in the final 2:35 and held it without a basket for the final 3:19.
“Our record is not impressive, but I would challenge anybody else to play this type of schedule,” said Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer, whose team has losses to Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, DePaul and Notre Dame, just to mention top 10 teams. “Of course, we count on someone from the NCAA to remember that.”
West Virginia seniors Liz Repella and Korinne Campbell combined for 34 points. Repella led the team with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.
“I thought we were pushing and getting up and down the floor,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “Korinne Campbell did a good job and was more aggressive offensively and that was good to see. We executed, but when we really needed to execute we didn't and when we did, we missed some easy shots. When they needed to execute, they hit some shots and that's what it came down to.”
The Mountaineers held the lead for nearly 35 minutes of the game, but lost their second straight.
Louisville (19-10, 10-5 BIG EAST) won its third in a row, following a 59-49 victory at home over Seton Hall (8-20, 1-14 BIG EAST).
Junior Monique Reid scored 16 points, while senior Keshia Hines added 12 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Cardinals. Louisville led 28-21 at halftime and broke things open early in the second half and led 41-26, extending it to as many as 20 points (50-30) with 9:43 left.
Seton Hall was led by 19 points from freshman Jazzmine Johnson.
In the BIG EAST television network Game of the Week, USF (11-18, 2-13 BIG EAST) rallied for an exciting 59-58 victory at Villanova (10-18, 2-13 BIG EAST).
Senior Leondra Doomes-Stephens scored a game-high 19 points and sophomore Tiffany Conner added 13 points for the Bulls, who snapped a seven-game losing streak. The duo also shared team-high rebounding honors with seven boards apiece.
But it was junior Andrea Smith who hit the game winner with six seconds left on the clock to ice the victory.
Villanova junior Linsdsay Kimmel scored a team-high 17 points to lead the Wildcats.
In Syracuse, the Orange (21-7, BIG EAST) knocked off Providence (12-15, 5-10 BIG EAST) by the score of 63-47. Sophomore Kayla Alexander scored a game-high 18 points to lead Syracuse. Senior Mi-Khida Hankins had 17 points for the Friars.
Eight BIG EAST teams have reached the 20-win plateau, more than any other conference. In addition, ten teams are ranked in the top-50 of the latest NCAA RPI rankings released on Feb. 20.
Material from interviews, the Associated Press wire service as well as league and team sources was used in this report.