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made the Notre Dame v. Oregon State game mighty interesting. It was a four-point game with 2:21 left, and then the #2 Irish pulled away for the victory.

Despite the best game of sophomore Ruth Hamblin’s career (12 points, eight rebounds and nine blocks) and 18 points from Weisner, the Beavers’ quest for their first win over a ranked team since 2003 continues.

OSU has been close before: The Beavers took Cal down to the wire last season — the Bears would go on to play in the Final Four — and earlier this year led Penn State for long stretches before falling 61-56.

“I don’t know that I’m a believer in morale victories, but I’m a believer in progress and steps forward and learning lessons,” Rueck said. “I don’t know how you measure it, but we grew up a lot today.”

Less rusty and rust-free:

#25 Oklahoma over Samford by 25.

#23 Cal over Lafayette by 17.

#18 Nebraska over Oral Roberts by 36.

#15 Penn State over Hartford by 14.

#14 Iowa State over William & Mary by 20.

#12 Colorado over Southern Utah by 16.

#11 Oklahoma State over TX-Pan American by 42.

#8 Maryland over Charleston by 52.

#7 Louisville over SMU by 20.

#6 Kentucky over Grambling State by 63.

#5 Tennessee over Lipscomb by 68.

#1 Connecticut over Cincinnati by 33.

In other games, Indiana took down Xavier to stay undefeated.

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With conference play just around the corner…

Jan. 27: Notre Dame at Maryland, ESPN2
Feb. 2: Notre Dame at Duke, ESPN 
Feb. 2: Stanford at Cal, ESPN2
Feb. 9: Louisville at UConn, ESPN 
Feb. 10: North Carolina at Duke, ESPN2
Feb. 16: Kentucky at Tennessee, ESPN 
Feb. 23: Duke at Notre Dame, ESPN

…it’s intriguing to reflect how the top teams fared in their pre-Christmas games.

After watching South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia fall, Mike at Mel’s blog is still bullish on the SEC: Best Conference Race Ever Looms Ahead

As 2013 closes, one thing is sure in women’s college basketball: The mighty Southeastern Conference will chew up some teams and reward others. So here’s our best guess preview.

We have said all along Kentucky is the best team here. One loss to a higher-ranked team does not discount that. In fact, it gives them something to work on.

But it is Tennessee who is the defending regular-season champ. That’s a
”Yeah, But” thing. Someone else wins, yeah, but it’s because Tennessee stumbled in this or that game.

Meanwhile, Doug writes: UConn women have looked nearly unbeatable

The women’s basketball season is almost two months old and one thing is clear, the UConn Huskies are by far the best team in the country.

While some already see a record ninth title for Connecticut as a foregone conclusion, the rest of the nation can take some solace that Brittney Griner and Baylor looked just as unbeatable last season. That’s until Louisville stunned the Lady Bears with one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

Picking up on their earlier tweet exchange, Rebecca Lobo and Lin Dunn join David for a nice chat on “The UConn dilemma: Is dominance good for the game?”

From Logan Lowery at the Daily Journal: MSU women relishing their 12-1 start

Mississippi State is off to the second-best start in school history for women’s basketball.

After winning just 13 games during his initial season with the Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer has started his second year 12-1 before the Christmas break.

“We’re 12-1 at Christmas, that’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment for our group,” Schaefer said. “I’m excited for them.”

Learn a little about the 12-2 Missouri Tigers: Senior forward Kulas took circuitous route to MU

In a perfect world, Williams said it wouldn’t have taken Kulas three college stops to find the right destination. That said, Williams wouldn’t change her daughter’s journey if she could.

“She ended up where she needed to be. Finding a home at Mizzou has been a great, great thing for her,” Williams said. “Her journey has made her grow into a better person, a better ballplayer.

“The journey that she took, I’m not sure that’s how I would’ve wanted … but I feel like it did happen for a reason.”

Williams said her daughter’s year at Johnson County was “tremendous for her.” It proved to be a launch pad for Kulas’ basketball career.

How about that team in Indiana? Gerardot speaks to IU basketball success

 Today Tabitha Gerardot is, well, Brigitte, and not Indiana women’s basketball’s third-leading scorer. Tomorrow she could be Sophia or Carmela or Aisha.

It’s all about perspective, you see. It’s role playing with a linguistic purpose.

This matters to Gerardot, who is working on her masters in linguistics with visions of become an interpreter or a translator when the former Canterbury standout is done with helping the Hoosiers’ basketball resurrection.

Arizona is 3-7, so in honor of the holidays,  Zack Rosenblatt decided to put his own twist on “Festivus,” with a focus on the Wildcats and their season thus far.

Just replace the pole with a 10-foot basketball hoop (with “a great strength-to-weight ratio.”)

AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES

What’s been disappointing, or overlooked, for the Wildcats this season.

Bad start: For the first time in Butts’ six years at the helm, Arizona won’t have a winning record through non-conference play. Before 2013, she’d won about 75 percent of non-conference games. Entering Sunday’s non-conference finale with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Wildcats are 3-7, which included a recent five-game skid.

Getting in to the holiday spirit, Mark Carmin offered Purdue women’s basketball 10 Stocking stuffers

Graham offers up “10 players who have risen to the occasion” and his mid-major musings: Gonzaga remains No. 1

‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists. And while the end of the basketball year technically comes not with a ball dropping in Times Square but confetti on a court in Nashville, starting a new calendar signals a shift of sorts in the start of conference play across much of the country. So to match the reflective spirit of the week, and before we get to the top 10, what would an all-mid-major team for the first half of the season look like?

Shereesha Richards, F, Albany: She put up 20 points and seven rebounds against Duke — in the first half. No wonder Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said the 6-foot-1 forward was better than her league (and as a former America East coach, McCallie ought to know). Richards is averaging 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage but has taken nearly 50 more shots than those ahead of her.

Injury note: Maryland women’s basketball: Forward A’lexus Harrison to redshirt

Encouraging news: Hatchell eyeing return

Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible.

The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy with more ahead as she holds out hope of getting back by conference tournament time.

“You don’t realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don’t have it,” Hatchell said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“It was like a tsunami hit me and all of a sudden it’s taken away. But that’s my motivation, to get back out there.”

Equally encouraging news:  “Coach Holly Warlick said that freshman guard Jannah Tucker, who will be enrolling for the spring semester, is expected to join the team when it reconvenes after Christmas break.”

WATN? Ashley Battle: 2 local girls basketball coaches share Connecticut connection

While watching UConn and Duke on national television, Quaker Valley junior Karen Pugh felt a bond with the top team in women’s basketball.

“Our offense is very similar (to UConn),” she said, “as far as transition and passing and finding the open shot.”

How does a Western Pennsylvania high school team share traits with the most dominant women’s program in college basketball?

It’s no coincidence.

Speaking of the W, from India: Swin against the tide

The 6’1” tall frame of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend Swin Cash stands out from the group of U-16 basketball enthusiasts assembled at the St. Dominic Savio School’s court. The three-time WNBA champion’s role on the occasion is to serve as mentor for the students from 164 schools around Mumbai during what was the Reliance Foundation 3X3 Junior NBA Championship in the city. Yet as she spoke and advised the aspiring athletes, both boys and girls, she maintains that she was a tad biased towards the girls.

“You talk about the NBA, and all you think of are male athletes. So it’s good for them to see people like me to serve as role models,” she says, laughing.

Al Lee at Swish Appeal asks, What are the Big Three Rookies doing during their first offseason as pros?

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You kinda knew, but you sorta hoped, and then you saw: “Smoosh” as it was Another Big Game, Another Big Performance By The Huskies

From John Altavilla at the Hartford Courant: No. 1 UConn Women Dominate In 83-61 Win Over No. 2 Duke

You figured time might be on Duke’s side Tuesday. Maybe this would be the night the Blue Devils could put the past behind them and summon the resources to knock UConn off the mountaintop the Huskies have grazed upon for so long.

Yes, that would have made for a nice story.

But the reality was something quite different. Or should we say the same.

Folks had a hard time figuring out who UConn’s brightest star was. From the CT Post’s Rich Elliot: Stewart, No. 1 UConn trounce No. 2 Duke

STAR OF THE GAME: Mosqueda-Lewis made a career-high 7-of-11 3-pointers and scored 21 points.

From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: No. 1 UConn ‘Two’ much for Duke

Mosqueda-Lewis hit five 3-pointers in the second half, none bigger than the one after Duke had sliced the lead to 13 and right after she misfired for one of the rare times. When Breanna Stewart grabbed a tough rebound in traffic and the ball made it back to Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn senior guard Bria Hartley said to her teammates and coaches on the bench “she’s not missing two in a row.”

It’s likely Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had some other words going through her mind at that point.

Elliot and Jeff Jacobs shared headline writers: UConn’s Mosqueda-Lewis returns with a splash and  KML Makes A Big Splash In Her Return

The second brace Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tried?

“I don’t really feel it,” KML said after she hit a career-high seven three-pointers as UConn routed Duke 83-61 Tuesday night. “It’s better than that huge brace I had on before. It’s just like a sleeve.”

Who knew that the second black brace came equipped with a GPS device? Or maybe it was some crazy, high-tech thingamajig that only some ingenious Dukie could invent. Who knew that KML would be able to punch a few buttons and it would direct the basketball directly from her fingertips to the bottom of the basket? Or maybe the artist — the “artiste,” Geno Auriemma called her — just got into the beautiful shooter’s groove.

Kate Fagan over at ESPN offered a counter-point: Stefanie Dolson is heart of Huskies

Dolson isn’t the most talented player on the UConn roster. That title belongs to Stewart, who scored 24 points against Duke. Nor is Dolson the smoothest member of the squad. That would be junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who played for the first time in eight games and dropped 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

But Dolson is the most important player.

When UConn coach Geno Auriemma walked into the press room after the game, he looked at the stat sheet and said, “How many assists did Stefanie have? Six? There are some centers in the country who don’t get six assists in a full year.”

Nate agrees:

Stefanie Dolson might not be focal point of the highlights from UConn’s 83-61 win over Duke last night, but her presence in the game was undeniable.

Perfectly receiving the ball in the high post, turning and finding the open player. Beautifully stepping into a 3-point shot as the ball is rotated to her after a defensive breakdown. Setting the screen that frees up the player who ends up scoring.

Of course, playing without much fanfare is not new for Dolson

From the News & Observer’s Jacobs: No. 2 Duke women again fall short vs. No. 1 UConn

“I’m looking for a shift,” McCallie said earlier this year. “Something’s going to shift. Something’s going to go – boom! And you’ll know it when you see it. That will be the beauty of it.”

But the long-awaited shift did not come against UConn, which instead lowered the boom in a suspenseless 83-61 victory.

The game stayed close only through the first media timeout. Then the Huskies went on a 24-4 tear as Duke displayed almost breathless impatience, fumbling the ball, losing concentration, and employing what McCallie described as “horrible shot selection.” Afterward the coach said, “It’s very disappointing, because we didn’t fight throughout.”

From Rob Clough over Full Court (UConn 83, Duke 61: Same song, seventh verse) and at DWHoops: Different Season, Same Story Again

There were a few stats that truly defined UConn’s relatively easy win over Duke in the Jimmy V Classic. UConn had 25 assists on their 30 field goals, a testament to their extremely precise and unselfish passing. The second telling stat is their 20-4 edge in second chance points, which reflects how much they outhustled the Devils. When one combines skill, speed and hustle, it’s hard to defeat that team, especially if their jump-shooting is highly effective. What was a close game in the first five minutes of the game turned into a “tough shot” contest that UConn won going away over the next ten minutes, a span that coach Geno Auriemma described as when “we did nothing wrong”. Duke started taking contested jump shots, one-dribble jumpers, one-pass jumpers, etc. instead of at least trying to attack the basket.

Who knows what the future holds...for the Duke v. UConn series.

Other ranked teams did their fair share of Smooshing: Georgia, Tennessee, Louisville and LSU.

In other news… some GOOD news: Sylvia Hatchell doing ‘really good’ – UNC coach still hoping for possible return to sideline by season’s end

The first thing Sylvia Hatchell does is reassure you. Yes, she’s feeling OK. Better than that, in fact.

“I am doing really good right now,” Hatchell said, then adds with a chuckle, “My biggest problem is I get bored.”

Hatchell would love nothing more than to be at work with her North Carolina women’s basketball team, deep into her daily to-do list. Cancer has a way, though, of shoving itself to the top of that list and trying to force off everything else.

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No. 2 Duke hasn’t come close to No. 1 UConn, Register
No. 2 Duke Ready To Take Another Swing At No. 1 UConn, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Duke, Courant
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Tuesday at No. 2 Duke, Post
No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke, Post
UConn women in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, Post

No. 2 Duke women set for No. 1 UConn challenge, News & Observer
No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten, Durham Herald Sun

Mechelle Voepel: Can Duke compete with UConn?, ESPN

There are some “big” games you anticipate with confidence … and others with trepidation. In women’s basketball, Connecticut vs. Duke — No. 1 vs. No. 2 Tuesday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET) — is the latter.

For this one, we’re all a bunch of Fox Mulders saying, “I want to believe.” Yes, I’d bet even most UConn fans would like to see this be an exciting game between two 10-0 teams that sit atop the rankings.

Rebecca Lobo: X factors to keep an eye on – Fouls? Free throws? Offensive flow? These elements might impact showdown

The top two teams in the women’s game meet Tuesday night when top-ranked UConn heads to Durham, N.C., to play No. 2 Duke. The Huskies have beaten the Blue Devils six straight times with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. (Duke kept it close for a half last season, down only two points at the break, but UConn blew it open in the second half.)

Does Duke have the talent and experience to beat UConn? Yes, without a doubt. Will the Blue Devils finally be able to play a full 40 minutes in order to get the W? We’ll have to tune in to see (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Here is what I’ll be keeping my eye on while watching the game.

Charlie Creme: The history behind 1-vs.-2 matchups – Blue Devils riding 24-game home winning streak into showdown

Just more than a month into the season, there is little to no debate over which are the two best women’s college basketball teams in the country. With possible apologies to those in Knoxville, South Bend and Lexington, Connecticut and Duke entered the season at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and neither team has done anything up this point to indicate any errors in that assessment.

The real question, as we embark on another 1-versus-2 matchup on Tuesday night (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 ET) in Durham, N.C., is whether the Blue Devils are right there with the Huskies as a true threat to the top spot … or merely closer to the rest of the pack that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame, Kentucky and a few others.

From espnW: Demanding Perfection – Top players for UConn describe what practice is like playing for coach Geno Auriemma.

From Doug: No. 2 Duke ready to meet No. 1 UConn

Today will mark the 52nd meeting between the top two teams in the poll, with the No. 1 team holding a 31-20 edge in the series. UConn has been in that game 17 times, including going 10-1 as the top-ranked team. Duke has played in this game six times, going 3-3. The two teams met once as the top two teams in the nation in 2003, with No. 2 UConn beating top-ranked Duke 77-65.

In other news:

As Rutgers women’s basketball continues to roll, No. 16 Georgia looms

Somewhat surprisingly, little has gone wrong thus far in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season.

After losing four of their top-six scorers from a year ago, the Scarlet Knights, who feature no seniors, have quietly blended youth into balanced offense. Four Knights — three underclassmen — are averaging double figures through 10 games. As a team, Rutgers is actually scoring 12 more points per contest (68.1) than last season (56.0).

Buckeyes try to shake out of slump

The Ohio State women’s basketball team gathered for a film session yesterday that served as a double feature without the box of popcorn.

The Buckeyes (7-6) had to watch the postmortem of their 64-49 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday and follow that with a look at Tennessee Martin (6-3), their opponent tonight at Value City Arena.

Coach Kevin McGuff entered the room knowing that his young, largely inexperienced team is at a crossroads.

From the .com: Sheryl Swoopes Embraces New Role as Head Coach at Loyola Chicago

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

“My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back,” Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call – one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Stinky news for Asjha Jones and the Sun: She’ll Miss WNBA Season

Meanwhile, the Lynx continue their Roster Review: Janel McCarville

 … coming into the season, though, McCarville hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. 

The center quickly answered any and all questions. As she got into shape during Training Camp, her knack for finding open teammates became obvious and it seemed like she was perfect for a team with offensive threats like Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Throughout the season, her role became extremely important for the Lynx and she averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game while helping the Lynx win the 2013 title in her first season with the squad. 

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So, you’ve got to believe other teams are thinking “now’s the time” when it comes to beating UConn this year. Down two players, they also got their bigs in foul trouble — and yet the Terps couldn’t take advantage.

Let’s see how well Penn State fares.

George Washington surprised #10 Cal.

My fault: Iona beats Pacific.

Let’s see how this plays out across the rest of the season: St. Bonaventure defeated Green Bay, 68-62.

Nice early season win for St. Joseph’s over Wichita State.

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Baylor’s stomping of Grambling State (Sims), Louisville’s smothering of Loyola (Swoopes’ coaching debut) or UConn’s smooshing of Hartford (front court)…except Connecticut does meet up with Stanford on Monday… and, while the Cardinal (Ogwumike) did exit Boston with a victory over Boston College, I’m going to give a stink eye to their defense in the second half.

Not much to say about Notre Dame’s (Loyddismissal of UNC-Wilmington, other than it’s a great opportunity for the “other” players to get experience as they await the return of the injured.

So, Iona, I see we should keep an eye on you.

Debbie would have enjoyed the Ducks/Bakersfield game: 131-91.

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(and some of the coaches, too)

UConn Women’s Basketball Kicks Off BTS Tour of Champions

In Support of LGBTQ Inclusion

University of Connecticut women’s basketball went 35-4 during the 2012-2013 season, capturing its eighth NCAA Division I national championship title. As some of the most recognizable names and faces in the country, the Huskies understand the importance of using fame and notoriety to impact social change. UConn women’s basketball partners with Br{ache the Silence Campaign as the first team to kick off Tour of Champions, a national initiative to increase the visibility of positive role models by highlighting NCAA Division I women’s national champions who advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in women’s college sports.

UConn women’s basketball student-athletes, Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Brianna Banks used their own creative vision to share the importance of being not only the best in the game, but champions of respect and inclusion on and off the court.

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