Women's hoops: UCLA, UConn each plunge six spots in Power Rankings


South Carolina was challenged but stood firm, UConn tumbled out of the top 10 after a double-digit loss at home, and the ACC and Pac-12 especially are making ranking teams difficult. And it all led to more shake-up in the top five of ESPN’s women’s college basketball Power Rankings.

All eyes were on Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last Thursday, as defending champion LSU tried to give South Carolina its first loss of the season. But the Gamecocks keep triumphing over the chaos that nobody else has fully escaped — the kind that makes poll voters feel like they’re playing Jenga on roller skates. No matter how hard they try, they’re likely to slip up somewhere.

At least No. 1 is easy: SEC leader South Carolina has won 19 games in a row and remains the country’s only unbeaten team. Eight other programs are currently on double-digit winning streaks. The group includes Kansas State, which has won 15 games in a row and jumps to No. 2 in the Power Rankings prior to what could be one of the Wildcats’ tougher weeks in Big 12 play.

The Big Ten has a three-way tie at the top between Iowa, Ohio State and Indiana — with the Buckeyes and Hoosiers meeting Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

In the ACC, Notre Dame gave the league a lift with a marquee nonconference win at UConn. However, it doesn’t help the Irish in the ACC standings, where the difference between first place and seventh is just two games. Meanwhile, Stanford was picked to finish third in this final season of the Pac-12, but the Cardinal will enter February leading the league.


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Player of the week: Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame

The freshman takes this award for the second time this season. Last Thursday, Hidalgo had 23 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists but couldn’t get the Irish past Syracuse, which has beaten them twice this season. But on Saturday, in her first taste of the Notre Dame-UConn rivalry, Hidalgo had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as the Irish won 82-67 in Storrs, Connecticut.

Hidalgo is averaging 24.4 points, well on her way to breaking the Notre Dame freshman scoring average record that has stood for 30 years: 17.9 points per game by Beth Morgan in 1993-94.

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Oregon State takes down No. 3 Colorado

Donovyn Hunter and Talia von Oelhoffen score 16 points apiece as No. 25 Oregon State defeats No. 3 Colorado.

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And we have a repeat winner here as well. The Beavers were our top team in an admittedly slow week just before Christmas when they got two wins at the Maui Classic. But this time Oregon State stood out on a very busy week — and helped contribute to Pac-12 drama — with upsets of No. 3 Colorado, 68-62 last Friday, and No. 16 Utah, 91-66 on Sunday. Against the Utes, the Beavers shot 69.4% (34-of-49) — led by Raegan Beers’ 8-of-8 — including 65% from 3-point range (13-for-20).

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Washington State holds on to knock off No. 2 UCLA

Washington State nearly gives up its halftime lead, but hangs on to grab a big home win over No. 2 UCLA.

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Washington State had never defeated a team ranked in the top two before, nor had the Cougars won a true road game against a top-five team. But Washington State accomplished both with Sunday’s victory at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. Bella Murekatete (20 points) and Eleonora Villa (18) led the way for the Cougars.

But it was bittersweet for the defending Pac-12 tournament champions because senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (17 points) suffered a knee injury in the third quarter. Coach Kamie Ethridge was concerned after the game that it could be serious. If so, it’s a very tough blow for the senior who has been so important in Washington State’s improvement and who was the Pac-12 tournament’s most outstanding player last season.

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Coach of the week: Dawn Staley, South Carolina

One more repeat award winner. Staley kept the Gamecocks calm in the storm of a sold-out crowd Thursday at LSU, where South Carolina rallied with a 24-14 fourth quarter to win 76-70. There was no letdown Sunday from that emotional game, as South Carolina beat Vanderbilt 91-74. Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Staley’s Gamecocks are 90-3.


Power Rankings

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South Carolina remains undefeated, beating LSU in thriller

No. 1 South Carolina wins a thriller against No. 9 LSU to maintain its undefeated record.

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1. South Carolina Gamecocks (19-0)
Previous ranking:
1
This week: at Auburn Tigers (Thursday), vs. Ole Miss Rebels (Sunday)

All five Gamecocks starters scored in double figures in their victory against LSU. But South Carolina also got a nice lift from its bench, which was a difference-maker in such a close game. Then against Vanderbilt, starting center Kamilla Cardoso had one of her best offensive games, tying her season high with 23 points.

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No. 4 Kansas State surges late to fend off No. 13 Baylor

Kansas State scores the final six points of the game to beat Baylor and remain unbeaten in conference play.

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2. Kansas State Wildcats (20-1)
Previous ranking:
4
This week: at Oklahoma Sooners (Wednesday), at Texas Longhorns (Sunday)

Kansas State beat Baylor 58-55 and BYU 67-65 at home last week, and junior guard Serena Sundell continues to be the Wildcats’ do-everything player, averaging 11.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Are the Wildcats truly the No. 2 team in the country — especially with star center Ayoka Lee still out after ankle surgery — or is it more because of other top-five teams’ losses? A good answer would be defeating the Sooners and Longhorns on the road this week.

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3. Iowa Hawkeyes (19-2)
Previous ranking:
6
This week: at Northwestern Wildcats (Wednesday), at Maryland Terrapins (Saturday)

The Hawkeyes had a week to reflect on their overtime loss at Ohio State and rest a little. They looked sharp in a 92-73 victory over Nebraska this past Saturday. Caitlin Clark continued her career-long demolition of the Huskers with 38 points; she has scored at least 30 points all eight times she has faced Nebraska. Clark (3,389) needs 14 points to pass Jackie Stiles (3,393) and Kelsey Mitchell (3,402) to move into second place on the NCAA women’s scoring list.

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Cameron Brink’s deep triple helps Stanford beat Arizona

Cameron Brink drills the trey, 01/28/2024

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4. Stanford Cardinal (19-2)
Previous ranking:
9
This week: vs. USC Trojans (Friday), vs. UCLA Bruins (Sunday)

After all the emotion of celebrating coach Tara VanDerveer becoming the all-time leader in college basketball coaching victories, the Cardinal looked dominant in the desert. They won 80-50 at Arizona State and 96-64 at Arizona. Cameron Brink, injured early against Oregon on Jan. 19, returned to action with a vengeance on this trip, getting a combined 45 points and 35 rebounds. Fellow forward Kiki Iriafen was similarly dominant, with a combined 48 points and 23 rebounds.

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5. NC State Wolfpack (18-2)
Previous ranking:
8
This week: vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (Thursday)

The Wolfpack climbed back into the Power Rankings’ top five with double-digit road victories over Clemson and Boston College, led by senior guard Madison Hayes’ combined 38 points and 23 rebounds. NC State trails four other teams in the ACC but is entering the “prove it” part of its league schedule: Four of its next five games are against ranked teams.

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Staley: LSU-South Carolina ‘was a home-run event’

Dawn Staley joins The Paul Finebaum Show and says the No. 1 Gamecocks’ win over the No. 9 Tigers was an example of how much women’s college basketball has grown.

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6. LSU Tigers (18-3)
Previous ranking:
7
This week: at Mississippi State Bulldogs (Monday), vs. Florida Gators (Sunday)

Teams don’t usually move up in the Power Rankings when they lose their only game of the week. But it’s a little different when your opponent is No. 1 South Carolina and you play as well as the Tigers did for much of the game. A few costly mistakes hurt LSU, but it was close enough that it whets the appetite for a possible SEC tournament rematch.

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7. Ohio State Buckeyes (17-3)
Previous ranking:
10
This week: vs. Wisconsin Badgers (Thursday), vs. Indiana Hoosiers (Sunday)

After the emotional OT win over Iowa at home on Jan. 21, the Buckeyes didn’t have an easy time on the road this past week. They had to rally in the second half to win 67-59 at Illinois and then hold off Purdue 71-68. Now on a seven-game winning streak, Ohio State has another huge home game this week vs. Indiana.

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8. Colorado Buffaloes (17-3)
Previous ranking:
3
This week: at Washington State Cougars (Friday), at Washington Huskies (Sunday)

The Buffaloes didn’t drop so much as they were passed by other teams after a 68-62 loss at Oregon State on Friday. That said, it wasn’t really a bad loss considering how well the Beavers are playing. Colorado then defeated Oregon behind Aaronette Vonleh’s 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Buffs lost at home to UCLA on Jan. 19, but Colorado still moves just ahead of the Bruins in the Power Rankings after a tough week for UCLA.

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9. UCLA Bruins (16-3)
Previous ranking:
2
This week: at California Bears (Friday), at Stanford Cardinal (Sunday)

It was a challenging week with three games, and the Bruins didn’t have star post player Lauren Betts (undisclosed medical issue) for two of them. She played in last Monday’s OT loss at Utah, then missed a win over Washington and loss to Washington State. After starting the season 14-0, UCLA has gone 2-3. The Bruins are staying in the top 10 for now but have some concerns.

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10. Indiana Hoosiers (17-2)
Previous ranking:
13
This week: at Maryland Terrapins (Wednesday), at Ohio State Buckeyes (Sunday)

Admittedly, the Hoosiers struggled in their two biggest marquee games this season: at Stanford on Nov. 12 and at Iowa on Jan. 13. But those are Indiana’s only two losses. The Hoosiers hit the 100-point mark for the third time in beating Northwestern on Sunday and move into the top 10. They can stay here if they play well on the road this week.

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11. UConn Huskies (17-4)
Previous ranking:
5
This week: at Villanova Wildcats (Wednesday), vs. St. John’s Red Storm (Sunday)

We’ve given UConn the benefit of the doubt thus far. And they’ve deserved it, battling multiple injuries and having played eight ranked teams (not counting NC State, which wasn’t ranked when they met). But Saturday’s 82-67 loss to Notre Dame at home had to worry coach Geno Auriemma considering the Irish shot 55% from the field and outrebounded UConn 37-27. It drops the Huskies out of the Power Rankings’ top 10 for the first time this season.

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12. Louisville Cardinals (18-3)
Previous ranking:
15
This week: vs. Syracuse Orange (Thursday)

The Cardinals cruised past Boston College and Pittsburgh last week and lead the ACC at 7-1. However, the only ranked ACC team they’ve faced, North Carolina, gave them their lone league loss. Louisville’s schedule gets much tougher the rest of the way: Seven of its remaining 10 ACC games are against foes that are currently ranked.

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13. Texas Longhorns (19-3)
Previous ranking:
11
This week: at Baylor Bears (Thursday), vs. Kansas State Wildcats (Sunday)

The Longhorns got coach Vic Schaefer’s fire and brimstone after he questioned their effort in a 91-87 home loss to Oklahoma last Wednesday and made them watch game film at 5 a.m. the following day. Texas then beat Cincinnati 67-50 Saturday, but there’s concern as point guard Madison Booker was out with a hamstring injury. Facing two ranked teams this week, Texas hopes to get her back but plans to be cautious with the star freshman.

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14. Oregon State Beavers (17-3)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: at Oregon Ducks (Sunday)

The Beavers make their Power Rankings debut this season after upsetting Colorado and Utah. Guard Talia von Oelhoffen had a combined 25 points and 12 assists in those wins. Oregon State’s only losses this season are to Stanford, UCLA and USC — all on the road.

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15. Virginia Tech Hokies (16-4)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: vs. Virginia Cavaliers (Thursday), at North Carolina Tar Heels (Sunday)

The Hokies have been in and out of the Power Rankings like some other ACC teams, which reflects how tricky the league has been both to play in and evaluate. But wins against Georgia Tech and at Syracuse this past week brought the Hokies back in. Now, can they stay there?

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16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-4)
Previous ranking:
16
This week: at Georgia Tech (Thursday), vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (Sunday)

Winning at UConn was big. But it followed a 79-65 loss at home to Syracuse. That’s why the Irish stay put at 16. They had plenty of competition for the spot, too — including the Orange, who could have taken it from them but then had the home loss to Virginia Tech. The Irish confirmed Saturday that guard Olivia Miles won’t play this season after suffering an injury toward the end of last season.

Dropped out: USC Trojans, North Carolina Tar Heels



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