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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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Big East/mid-major update: No. 5 UConn shows off its less-heralded players

Here’s a look at how notable teams outside the Power 5 fared:

The Huskies have dominated their last three contests and have done so without Azie Fad.

Imagine how cool this team would be with Fudd and Booker or just Fudd. Or even with Caroline Ducharme (concussion protocol). Ducharme also missed all three games and the first two before No. 4 Hoop Gurlz recruit Ayanna Patterson (concussion protocol) returned for the third. Ducharme averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, which is not insignificant. She is also shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

In the first game of the stretch, on January 17, the Huskies defeated Seton Hall, 103–58. Seton Hall defeated Marquette and St. John’s when those teams were ranked, and right now Seton Hall, Marquette, and St. John’s are all on the bubble. So UConn winning that game by 45 was pretty impressive.

The next two setbacks (Butler’s and DePaul’s) were more expected, but still impressive for the Huskies considering they are not at full strength.

Against Seton Hall, Aaliyah Edwards, Dorka Juhaz and Aubrey Griffin all scored more than 20 runs. Edwards averaged 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, four assists, two steals and 1.7 blocks over the three games.

number 17 gonzaga bulldogs (19-2, 9-0 WCC, No. 6 seed in espnJan 24 (Bracketology)

The Bulldogs had their two close calls in WCC play on January 14 (a 73–66 win over Portland) and last Thursday (an 81–78 win over Pacific). Portland is 14–6 overall and the loss is their only one in WCC play. But Pacific is 2-7 (7-13 overall) in last place in the conference. The 81 points scored were solid, but Gonzaga allowed a team-high 78 points (17.7 more than their average allowed) while averaging 68.1. It only gave up once more this season, in an 84–63 loss to the now-no. 3 Stanford. The Bulldogs bounced back last Saturday with an 82-57 win over St. Mary’s (10-10, 4-5 WCC). He has won 12 matches in a row and has not dropped out of the rankings since he entered on 28 November.

Yvonne Ageim averaged 23 points and eight boards last week (two games).

number 21 villanova wildcats (18-3, 9-1 Big East, No. 6 seed in espnJan 24 (Bracketology)

Last Tuesday, the Wildcats earned a season sweep of Xavier by winning 76–38. But this was to be expected as the Musketeers are 0-10 in Big East play (7-12 overall). Villanova faced more of a challenge last Friday at the Cretan Bluejays and dominated before pulling off a 73-57 win. The Bluejays entered the season ranked No. 21 and are responsible for the Wildcats’ lone Big East loss (a 67–46 decision on December 2). The Wildcats demonstrated how much they have improved since then, returning the favor on Creighton’s home court.

In the last two games, Maddie Siegrist averaged 25 points and nine rebounds. She became the program’s leading scorer during the Creighton game and now has 2,414 career points. Lucy Olsen averaged 19 points, 6.5 boards and 5.5 assists over the stretch.

Villanova’s next game is a contest with UConn on January 29 at the XL Center in Hartford.

No. 23 Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (16-2, 9-0 Conference USA, No. 8 seed in espnJan 24 (Bracketology)

The Lady Raiders’ last two games were both solid wins. They beat Charlotte 65-41 last Thursday and Louisiana Tech 68-50 last Saturday. The 49ers and Lady Techsters are both 4-5 in Conference USA play. The exciting news for Middle Tennessee is that it moved up to No. 23 from receiving votes in the rankings on Monday.

Ksenia Malashka led the way against Charlotte with 18 points, eight rebounds, two steals and five blocks. It was completely different against Louisiana Tech, as Savannah Wheeler shouldered the scoring load with 29 of the team’s 68 points. Malashka (16.2 points per game) and Wheeler (16.1) are the Lady Raiders’ top two scorers.

RV (31 points) South Florida Bulls (18-4, 7-0 AAC, No. 6 seed in espnJan 24 (Bracketology)

Like Gonzaga, the Bulls suffered a recent scare: They only beat Houston (6-13, 3-3 AAC) by two last Wednesday. The 58 points he scored are tied for his lowest output in a win this season. This past Sunday, they got a more satisfying result when they topped UCF 83-51.

The Bulls have had an interesting season with wins over Texas (projected No. 7 seed) and Arkansas (No. 8 seed) and close losses to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 13 Michigan and No. 20 NC State.

Over the past two games, Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds and two steals.

RV (1 point) UNLV Lady Rebels (19-2, 9-0 Mountain West, No. 12 seed in espnJan 24 (Bracketology)

The Lady Rebels begin this week with a single voting point after extending their undefeated opening run to 9-0 in Mountain West play. During the past week they have won 71-57 over Wyoming and 63-58 over Colorado State. Both the Cowgirls (12-7, 5-3 Mountain West) and the Rams (13-6, 6-2 Mountain West) are playing well, so they were quality wins.

Essence Booker averaged 22.5 points, six rebounds and two steals over the stretch.

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