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Around the Big East: 1/23

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Cincinnati's Status: (9-10, 0-6) -- As always we will start off with a glance at UC's status in the BIG EAST. The Bearcats are now sitting a game under .500 after starting the season with six straight wins and a 6-0 record. UC has lost all six of its BIG EAST contests thus far; most recently a loss to St. John's at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats had their lowest output of the season with only 34 points against the Red Storm. On the bright side, the Bearcats allowed the least amount points in a BIG EAST game this season, allowing only 51 points. UC joins Seton Hall and Pittsburgh as the only other conference teams that remain win less. Jamelle Elliott's squad will take to the road for three straight road games -- starting in Philadelphia when they face Villanova; then onto Syracuse, NY for a clash with the Orange; and lastly they will be in Milwaukee to play Marquette on Feb. 1.

On a positive note:
Jeanise Randolph had her season-high in points with 10 and her season-high in rebounds with 7 to lead the Bearcats against St. John's.

Next home game: After a three-game road trip where the Bearcats will be in different parts of the country they will return to Fifth Third Arena for a game against No. 20 Georgetown on Feb. 4.

Inside the TOP 25 (AP Poll as of 1/23):
2. Notre Dame
3. Connecticut
11. Rutgers
16. Louisville
20. Georgetown
23. DePaul

Game of the previous week: DePaul v. South Florida -- Two teams in the middle of the pack in the BIG EAST played an overtime thriller last Tuesday (1/17) from Bob Martinez Sports Center in Tampa Bay. USF ended up defeating DePaul who was ranked No. 19 at that time. The Bulls' Akila McDonald converted a lay-up with only nine seconds left in regulation to force overtime and then a Jasmine Wynn led Bulls team rallied to beat the squad from Chicago 66-63. Kaneisha Saunders also had a big game and was tied with Wynn for the team lead with 16 points on Tuesday night. DePaul's Anna Martin had 23 points, but failed to lead her team to victory and the Blue Demons lost only their fourth game of the season, but saw their national ranking drop four spots because of the loss.   

Upset of the previous week: Rutgers v. St. John's -- The trio of Eugeneia McPherson, Nadirah McKenith, and Shenneika Smith all scored in double-digits and gave No. 8 Rutgers their first BIG EAST loss of the season. Coming off a loss against Marquette the Red Storm were able to overcome a half-time deficit and out score the Scarlet Knights by 11 points in the second half leading to their 62-57 victory. The biggest statistic of the game was St. John's proficiency from the free throw stripe where they made 26 of 32 and 14 of 16 during the last five minutes. St. John's has won three straight meetings against Rutgers after struggling to beat them for a decade. The Red Storm is now moving its way up to the upper-echelon of the BIG EAST standings and will meet Rutgers again in New Jersey on Feb. 12.     

Game of the upcoming week:
Tennessee v. Notre Dame -- Tonight the BIG EAST leaders, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the No. 9 team in the country -- the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Pat Summitt's teams are always ready to play in big games and will be a test for a Notre Dame team who is undefeated in conference play and haven't loss since Nov. 20 when they played No. 1 Baylor. The Fighting Irish are undefeated in South Bend this season and will be facing a Tennessee team that has already tasted defeat four times this season. Skylar Diggins will still be the topic of discussion during this match-up, but will face a tougher test than usual because Tennessee has four players averaging in double-figures and athletic guards such as Meghan Simmons and Shekinna Strickland who can limit Diggins' play-making ability.
 
Prediction: I give Notre Dame the slight edge. 72-64 Fighting Irish. 

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