NCAAW what to watch: Can No. 1 South Carolina finally beat UConn? Plus ranked SEC games

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South Carolina guard Tyasha Harris gets a shot at UConn on Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
South Carolina guard Tyasha Harris gets a shot at UConn on Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It’s a big weekend for the Pac-12, with five games between ranked squads and No. 3 Oregon’s rematch with Arizona State still on deck for Sunday. There’s also two ranked games in the SEC, where No. 1 South Carolina is running away with the conference with plenty of room to move underneath.

An update on the Pac-12 weekend and what’s in store Sunday for the SEC, with the Gamecocks preparing to host No. 4 UConn on Monday night. They’re 0-8 against the powerhouse.

Pac-12 recap: No. 10 UCLA upsets No. 6 Stanford

UCLA (20-2, 9-2) moved into a tie with Stanford (20-3, 9-2) for second in the conference standings on Friday night when Michaela Onyenwere had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bruins in a 79-69 victory. Kiana Williams scored 25 for Stanford, whose 16-game home winning streak ended. The Cardinal are dealing with injuries, including star freshman Haley Jones.

UCLA plays at Cal on Sunday and Stanford hosts USC.

No. 9 Oregon State slid by No. 19 Arizona State, 64-62, this time around on a 10-foot buzzer-beater by Mikayla Pivec. Pivec had a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Beavers (19-4, 7-4) trailed most of the game and rallied from eight down with six minutes to play. It snapped a four-game losing streak against Arizona State (16-7, 6-5).

No. 3 Oregon had little problem with No. 12 Arizona, winning 85-52. Sabrina Ionescu reached 24 triple-doubles with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The Ducks will get their shot at Arizona State, the only blemish on their conference record, at 5 p.m. ET.

No. 16 Texas A&M (18-4, 6-3) at No. 8 Mississippi State (21-3, 9-1)

Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN

Mississippi State’s only SEC loss is by two points to South Carolina, a team it won’t see again in the regular season. The Bulldogs are coming off a stunning 17-point victory over No. 22 Tennessee and average 80.5 points per game, ninth in the nation. They’re up against a tough stretch with the Aggies, Kentucky and Auburn in the next two weeks.

Freshman Rickea Jackson has led the Bulldogs with 13.9 points per game and a third-best 4.5 rebounds per game. As the first true freshman to start for head coach Vic Schaefer, she ranks second among SEC freshman with 16.2 points per game in conference play and second with a 48.1 percent shooting clip.

The team shoots 47.2 percent, best in the conference and eighth in the country. Sophomore forward Jessika Carter has eased into the hole in the post well, averaging 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

Texas A&M junior Chennedy Carter, named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 last week, has not played since injuring her ankle on Jan. 9. There is no word if she will play on Sunday. She’s averaging 21.9 points per game, top 10 in the country before her injury. They’ve gone 4-2 without her, but against opponents with poor RPI rankings.

Aggies junior forward N’dea Jones is the only player in the SEC to have a double-double in every conference game this season. She’s averaging 16.0 points and 12.2 rebounds and has 10 consecutive double-doubles. In all this season she has 12, placing her 11th in the nation.

No. 15 Kentucky (18-4, 7-3) at No. 25 Arkansas (18-5, 6-4)

Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Kentucky and Arkansas could swap places in the top end of the SEC, which No. 1 South Carolina is running away with at a pristine 10-0. The Wildcats are also without a star performer in Rhyne Howard, a sophomore who suffered a fractured finger last month. She will miss her fourth straight game and is expected to return in mid-February.

Arkansas is coming off a bad 21-point loss to South Carolina on Thursday night and needs to hold on to its place in the conference standings with the postseason tournament coming up fast. The Razorbacks are 0-3 against top-25 opponents this season, but have the fifth-most prolific offense in the nation scoring 83.3 points. It trails South Carolina by one-tenth of a point.

“They’re a very explosive team. They just can put up points and put a team out there that can score at all five positions,” Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said, via the Kentucky Leader-Herald. “It’ll be a big challenge.”

Junior guard Chelsea Dungee averages a team-high 17.8 points per game, one of the 50 best in the country. Kentucky has one of the best defenses, allowing teams to score an average 56.1 points. The Wildcats score a third of their points off opponents’ turnovers.

Kentucky will have an easier time at the back-end of the conference schedule. Coming up is Mississippi, Georgia and Vanderbilt. All are below .500.

No. 4* UConn (10-2, 10-0) at No. 1 South Carolina (22-1, 10-0)

Monday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2

It’s another landscape-shifting Monday night in women’s basketball this week with Connecticut, the powerhouse it is, heading to Columbia to play the current No. 1 in South Carolina.

The Gamecocks, unlike the Oregon Ducks before them, have already won a national title and have established themselves as a power in the game in their own right. They lead the nation in attendance by consistently bringing in nearly 11,000 a game. They have already arrived, but they’ve still never defeated the Huskies.

South Carolina is 0-8 in the series dating back to 2007 and the closest the Gamecocks have come is 11 points in a road tilt at Hartford, Connecticut, in 2017. That was the title year for South Carolina.

They’re en route to a title again this season and are looking to break a skid of three consecutive home losses to UConn by scores of 29, 12 and 25 points. Connecticut wants to bounce back on the national stage after that demolishing at the hands of the Ducks a week prior. It also needs to reassert itself as a top team to move up to that No. 1 seed line in the NCAA tournament.

"Against the really, really good teams like we've played, every time we make a mistake, they take advantage of it," UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said, via ESPN. "We have to play more of a flawless game, and we haven't. We need to be tougher; that's the bottom line.

"[South Carolina] has never beaten us, so what do you think that atmosphere is going to be like?"

South Carolina averages 83.4 points per game behind freshman Aliyah Boston (13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.8 BPG, .631 FG%), senior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (13.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .467 3FG%), freshman Zia Cooke (12.4 PPG) and senior Tyasha Harris (11.8 PPG, 5.21 APG). They’re first in blocked shots and one of the best teams at getting offensive rebounds for second-chance shots.

Connecticut will need all of its players to come out with a big game in a way the Huskies haven’t this season for big games against Baylor, Tennessee and Oregon. Megan Walker had a poor shooting performance in all of those despite averaging a team-best 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game overall. Olivia Nelson-Ododa (11.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG) has also been largely absent inside in big games, and couldn’t keep up with Oregon’s Satou Sabally last week.

* AP rankings come out Monday at about 1 p.m. ET and this ranking will likely change due to UConn’s loss against Oregon last week. That game was played hours after the rankings were announced, as this one will be.

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