UConn

The Huskies became the fourth Big East team to upset a top-10 team by defeating No. 3 Villanova on their home court this past Monday night. It was a crucial win for UConn after the Huskies struggled in losses to Syracuse and then Louisville, during which the Huskies shot 38 percent from the field in addition to turning the ball over 18 times.   But when expectations were low, UConn upset a Villanova team that sits atop the Big East. Kemba Walker led the Huskies with a career-high 29 points. Appearing at the free throw line 44 times, UConn shot 80 percent from the stripe and improved its field goal percentage to 67 percent. The Huskies’ defense proved effective as Scottie Reynolds scored only four points in the second half.   With this win came the end of Connecticut’s six-game road losing streak. There are five games left before the Big East tournament, and the Huskies will look to continue to improve on their 15-11 overall record with Rutgers next on their schedule.

Next: at Rutgers, Saturday, 4 p.m.; vs. GU: L 72-69, Jan. 9

 

West Virginia

After two tough losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh, West Virginia came out on top against Providence, taking down the Friars 88-74. Five days earlier, when playing Pitt, the Mountaineers blew a double-digit lead in a triple overtime heartbreaker, but they were able to close in on Providence to get the win.   West Virginia started off strong against the Friars with a 25-4 lead at one point in the first half. Devin Ebanks led his team with 21 points, while Wellington Smith and Da’Sean Butler both finished with 16. The Friars’ tallest player is shorter than four of the Mountaineers’ starters, so they were outsized and outrebounded all game long.   West Virginia is currently tied for third place in the Big East with a 9-4 record. Up next on their schedule is Seton Hall, and with the way they are playing now, the Mountaineers are showing serious potential for the upcoming Big East tournament.

Next: Seton Hall, Saturday, 12 p.m.; vs. GU: March 1, 7 p.m.

 

South Florida

After two losses, the Bulls’ most recent game was a victory against Cincinnati (65-57). USF star Dominique Jones scored 26 points, 19 of which were in the second half, and he helped his team bounce back from some mediocre shooting in the first half. Overall, the Bulls’ field goal percentage was under 50 percent, yet they still managed to achieve an 18-point lead at one point in the game.   The Bulls are currently 6-7 in conference play and 16-9 overall. Recent losses were against Marquette (63-52) and Notre Dame (65-62), which places them as one of the middle teams in the Big East standings. Jones must continue to lead his team if they have any hopes of competing against teams like Villanova and UConn in the coming weeks.

Next: St. John’s, Saturday, 12 p.m.; vs. GU: W 72-64, Feb. 3

 

Villanova

Following a sub-par defensive performance on the road against Georgetown, the Wildcats have continued to struggle slowing down opposing offenses despite winning two of their last three. After giving up a combined 156 points in wins over West Virginia and Providence, Jay Wright’s squad dropped an 84-75 contest to reeling UConn at home on Tuesday. Senior guard Scottie Reynolds poured in his customary 18 points, but the Huskies’ Kemba Walker lit him up on the other end, scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Despite its recent mini-slump, Villanova still remains in line to challenge for the Big East regular season title as well as a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. With eight players averaging more than five points per game, the Wildcats continue to bring a deep, balanced attack to the floor each night, and with their guard-heavy roster, they will provide match-up problems for teams with bigger lineups.

Next: at Pittsburgh, Sunday, 12 p.m.; vs. GU: W 82-77, Jan. 17; L 103-90, Feb. 6

 

St. John’s

After an encouraging finish to the 2008-2009 season, the Red Storm had many observers thinking that they had what it takes to sneak into the top half of the Big East standings and the NCAA tournament. But at 4-9 in the conference and 14-11 overall, St. John’s is playing below expectations. Head Coach Norm Roberts saw his team upset Louisville and Notre Dame to snap a five-game losing skid, but the Johnnies’ winning streak was short-lived as they went down to Seton Hall 59-50 on Wednesday. A 10-2 start in non-conference play seems like a distant memory, as the Big East has not been kind to the Red Storm. Yet with five games remaining, St. John’s is just two games out of the top eight in the league, and it still has South Florida, Marquette, Pittsburgh and Syracuse – all teams ahead of the Red Storm – left on its slate.

Next: at USF, Saturday, 12 p.m.; vs. GU: L 66-59, Dec. 31

 

Notre Dame

Senior forward Luke Harangody is in the midst of yet another monster season, averaging more than 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, but the Fighting Irish cannot seem to get out of their own way. Notre Dame is mired in a three-game losing streak, which includes losses to Seton Hall and St. John’s and an overtime defeat at the hands of Louisville. Senior guard Tory Jackson has taken a step back this season, as his numbers are down in nearly every statistical category, but Head Coach Mike Brey has received lifts from Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough and junior forward Tim Abromaitis, who have combined for more than 29 points per game this season. At 17-10 and 6-8 in the Big East, the Irish are looking like an NIT team, but there is still time for a final push.

Next: Pittsburgh, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.; vs. GU: Feb. 27, 12 p.m.

 

Marquette

After starting off 2-5 in the Big East, Marquette (16-9, 7-6) has recently found a rare thing in the nation’s toughest conference: a winning streak. The Golden Eagles won five straight games before falling to Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Senior forward Lazar Hayward has been the unquestioned team leader, topping Marquette’s stat chart as the scoring (18.6 ppg) and rebound (8.1 rpg) leader. Those numbers were lowered after Hayward managed just 11 points and six boards against the Panthers.   Marquette has been constantly mentioned as a bubble team: one week finding itself in the NCAA tournament and the next week counted out. However, of the Golden Eagles’ final five games, four are against teams in the bottom half of the conference. If they can storm down the stretch, expect Marquette to land a high seed in the Big East tournament in March and to make the Big Dance in April.

Next: at Cincinnati, 2 p.m.; vs. GU: W 62-59, Jan. 6

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