09 Jan

Angel Reese leads LSU to ranked win in return, UConn loses again

This continues to be a women’s college basketball season in which most top-ranked teams and historical powerhouses have been reminded they are not untouchable. South Carolina is still at the top of its game, but even the Gamecocks have had a few scares.

North Carolina gave Dawn Staley’s team one of its toughest battles last week. The Tar Heels didn’t win that game on Nov. 30, but they will try to build off their strong efforts against UConn on Sunday. The Huskies, meanwhile, are scrambling to make adjustments after already suffering three losses over the first month of the 2023-24 campaign.

But UConn is not the only team struggling, as Stanford and Tennessee also suffered some tough losses this past week. LSU had one of those those tough losses in its season opener against Colorado, but the Tigers seem to be getting back on track as Angel Reese returned to the lineup and coach Kim Mulkey celebrated her 700th win.

Here are some of the top moments and storylines from the past week, and a guide for games to watch over the coming days.

Bucket of the week: MiLaysia Fulwiley, South Carolina
This is not the first time MiLaysia Fulwiley wins this category, and it probably won’t be the last. The South Carolina freshman has been impressive since Day 1 and keeps finding ways to score in eye-popping fashion. Case in point: On Sunday against Duke, Fulwiley made an almost mid-court shot as the clock was running out in the first quarter.

FULWILEY FROM THE LOGO OH MY GOODNESS 😱@milaysiaf | 📺 ABC https://t.co/ItgFQLQzd4 pic.twitter.com/kQmBNLzL8y

— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) December 3, 2023
Dish of the week: Kaylynne Truong, Gonzaga
The Zags picked up their biggest win in program history by blowing out then-No. 3 Stanford 96-78 on Dec. 3. Truong is leading the team in assists with 61 dishes this season, and on Sunday she served up one of her best, a no-look pass to Yvonne Ejim.

this pass 😍 this layup 😤 @Twinballerz @vonnyyy pic.twitter.com/Inpjc5DKp7

— Gonzaga Women’s Basketball (@ZagWBB) December 3, 2023
Stop of the week: Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
The top-ranked Gamecocks had a bit of a scare against then-No. 24 North Carolina on Nov. 30. However, South Carolina was able to hold the Tar Heels to 31.3% shooting from the field and avoided the upset.

Cardoso contributed to the Gamecocks’ defense with four blocks and two steals, and she pulled down 16 rebounds to tie a career high. This being a rivalry game, it was certainly an intense battle, and it led to an epic block and stare down from Cardoso.

Kamilla Cardoso 😂 pic.twitter.com/Kdv7JbXD9A

— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) December 1, 2023
Game of the week: No. 18 Notre Dame vs. No. 20 Tennessee
The Fighting Irish have struggled with numerous injuries this season, and Cassandre Prosper joined the list as she missed her team’s Nov. 29 game against Tennessee with a lower leg injury. Even with Prosper sidelined, Notre Dame pulled off an exciting comeback win against the Lady Vols after trailing for over 36 minutes.

Notre Dame shot under 28% from the field over the first two quarters. Kellie Harper’s team then found a 16-point lead early in the second half, but Notre Dame made adjustments and fought back. The Irish finished the third quarter on a 15-3 run and got within five points to start the final frame.

Notre Dame’s Maddy Westbeld, Kylee Watson and Nat Marshall only had a combined 11 points in the first half. However, they stepped up in the second half and combined for 27 points.

The score was tied with 1:49 remaining, then Notre Dame found a 70-68 lead via a jumper by KK Bransford with just 48 seconds left in the game. The Irish held tight to that advantage and walked away with a win.

“We’ve had a lot of lessons. You hope we’re learning as we go. I want them to be a better basketball team at the end of it, but it’s just hard right now to see those lessons because this one really hurts,” Harper said after the game. “That’s the lesson here. You have to get this win. There’s a thousand different plays, but we have to make sure we know who we are and stay consistent with that.”

Less than a minute and we’re still fighting in Knoxville

📺 ESPN2 #GoIrish☘️ pic.twitter.com/tZTwnwTbns

— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) November 29, 2023
Biggest storylines from the week
Angel Reese returns to LSU lineup
Angel Reese, LSU’s leading scorer and rebounder last season, missed four straight games for undisclosed reasons heading into last Friday’s matchup against Virginia Tech. She was back just in time for LSU’s 82-64 win against a ranked Hokies team they beat in last season’s Final Four.

While Reese (19 points and nine rebounds) flirted with a double-double in her return, she wasn’t the only LSU player to shine. Mikaylah Williams registered 20 points on 60% shooting, while junior guard Aneesah Morrow collected her 56th career double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds to go along with two blocks and three steals.

After the game, Reese did not explain the reason for her absence, but she said she needs coach Kim Mulkey in her life and always will.

“I’m going to say that today, tomorrow, next year, ’til the day I die. That’s just how I feel,” Reese said. “I’m at LSU because of Kim Mulkey.”

Texas beats UConn for the first time in program history
No. 10 Texas found a 80-68 victory against No. 11 UConn on Sunday at the Moody Center, and it was an important one as the Longhorns failed to win their first 10 games against the Huskies. Rori Harmon lifted Texas with a double-double of 27 points and 13 assists, while freshman forward Madison Booker scored a career-high 20 points.

UConn shot 59.1% from the field to mark their highest shooting percentage in a loss in at least the last 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info. However, they struggled to take care of the ball as Texas was able to score 36 points off their 21 turnovers.

“They’re a team that has very, very few, if any, weaknesses that I can see,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Texas.

UConn’s loss led to the team dropping out of the top 15 in the AP Top 25 rankings for the first time in 357 weeks.

Interesting stats
Sunday was a bad day for powerhouses: UConn, Tennessee and Stanford all fell on Sunday. These women’s college basketball powerhouses had not lost on the same day since Dec. 29, 2004.

JuJu Watkins continues to set records: Sunday against San Diego, Watkins recorded her third straight 30-point game — tying Cheryl Miller’s USC record (1984-85) of consecutive 30-point games. Watkins’ performance helped her team get an 89-58 win to remain undefeated. The freshman has registered 30 or more points in five out of seven games this season.

UConn is off to a historically bad start: This is the earliest the Huskies have suffered three losses since the 1980-81 season, when the team started 0-3 after a loss to Dartmouth on Dec. 2.

Mulkey makes college basketball history: The LSU coach earned her 700th win against Virginia Tech, becoming the fastest coach in college basketball history to reach the mark. Here is a comparison of how many games it took other coaches to reach 700:

Kim Mulkey — 813 games
Geno Auriemma — 822 games
Adolph Rupp — 836 games
Pat Summitt — 847 games
Matchups to watch:
(all times Eastern)

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 20 Florida State | Sunday, 12 p.m. | ESPN2: Florida State suffered back-to-back blowout losses against then-No. 4 Stanford and an unranked Arkansas team. The Seminoles took care of Kent State on Sunday, but they have another tough challenge coming up against an undefeated UCLA team. The Bruins beat Arkansas 81-66 on Sunday, and they are going to be the favorites in this matchup. A loss could leave Florida State out of the top 25, so the Seminoles will need to come into this game with everything they have.

No. 25 Penn State vs. No. 12 Ohio State | Sunday, 1 p.m. | B1G+: Penn State is back in the AP Top 25 rankings this week for the first time since 2014. The Lady Lions’ only loss this season has been to a tough USC team on Nov. 22 — and that one was a really tight 71-70 result. There is no better way to put their fresh ranking to the test than by facing an Ohio State team that just kicked Tennessee out of the top 25 with a 78-58 victory.

No. 11 Utah vs. No. 1 South Carolina | Sunday, 2:30 p.m. | ESPN: The Gamecocks didn’t put North Carolina and Duke away as easily as they had their previous opponents, but there is no doubt Dawn Staley’s team is still a force to be reckoned with. Utah’s only loss so far has been to Baylor on Nov. 14. However, the Utes recently lost star guard Gianna Kneepkens for the remainder of the season because of a foot injury. This matchup will require the rest of the team to step up if they want to upset one of the hottest teams in the country.

No. 24 North Carolina vs. No. 11 UConn | Sunday, 5 p.m. | ESPN: Having Paige Bueckers back this season has not been a magical cure-all for UConn. Geno Auriemma’s team has still very much been affected by the injury bug, and the Huskies are struggling with consistency. What saves them is that their three losses so far have been to teams currently ranked in the top 10. Meanwhile, North Carolina gave South Carolina one of its toughest battles so far. If they bring the same energy, the Tar Heels will be giving the Huskies another difficult night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *