Connecticut and Notre Dame meet again
Also: Hockey teams start to hit the ice after holiday break
It may be a New Year, but the Connecticut-Notre Dame women’s basketball rivalry never gets old.
The top-ranked Huskies will host the No. 5 Irish on Saturday in a nationally-televised contest on CBS at 4 p.m. ET. The Big East Conference opener for both schools will be the ninth contest between the two programs in the last three seasons.
While UConn owns a 29-8 series advantage against the Irish, Notre Dame has won four of the last five meetings between the two teams, including an 83-75 victory in the NCAA semifinals in Denver last year.
The Huskies enter the contest with a perfect 12-0 record, which includes victories against five top-25 opponents, highlighted by a dominating performance (61-35) against then-No. 1 Stanford on Dec. 29. Following the win against the Cardinal, UConn regained the No. 1 spot in the top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season.
UConn boasts three players averaging in double-figures, led by sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who is contributing 16.9 points per game.
Notre Dame is off to an 11-1 start for the fifth time in the last six years, and is coming off a 128-55 blistering of Saint Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 31. It tied the Irish’s largest point total in school history. UND’s lone loss of the season came at the hands of defending NCAA champion Baylor in a rematch of last year’s national championship game.
The Irish have a balanced scoring attack with four players scoring in double-figures and Kayla McBride’s 15.4 scoring average leading the way. Natalie Achowna tops the squad with 9.3 rebounds per game, along with 14.4 points per game.
Saturday’s contest is sold out, marking the ninth regular-season game between UConn and Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion (10,167) to attract a sellout crowd.
• A meeting between the two top teams in ECAC Hockey highlights a full slate of action in Division I men’s hockey this weekend as No. 5 Quinnipiac hosts No. 8 Dartmouth on Friday. The Bobcats are riding an NCAA-leading 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-1), which is also a program record. Quinnipiac, which leads ECAC Hockey with an 8-0-0 mark, returns to league play after a pair of wins against then-No. 12 Nebraska-Omaha. Senior goaltender Eric Hartzell anchors the squad with the nation’s third-best goals against average of 1.43.
The Big Green has won three of its last four contests, including a 4-1 victory against then-No. 2 New Hampshire on Dec. 30. Dartmouth junior goalie Cab Morris recorded a career-high 31 saves in the win against the Wildcats, earning ECAC Hockey Goalkeeper of the Week for his efforts.
• The Holy Cross men’s hockey team cracked the latest USCHO.com national rankings for the first time since 2006 after compiling a 10-4-2 record to start the season. The Crusaders have won three consecutive contests, including a 5-4 win against then-No. 15 Yale on Dec. 30. Holy Cross will put its winning streak and new national ranking on the line when the Crusaders travel to No. 7 North Dakota for a two-game series beginning Friday.
•The Ohio State and Iowa wrestling teams open the New Year and Big Ten Conference action with a bang as the No. 4 Buckeyes visit the No. 5 Hawkeyes on Friday in a match that will air live on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. ET. While the Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 36-3 Ohio State won the most recent meeting, earning a 21-9 win in Columbus last year. The dual meet will feature 18 wrestlers ranked in at least one of three national powers. At 125 pounds, Iowa’s top-ranked Matt McDonough will be looking to extend his 36-match winning streak against Ohio State’s Nikko Triggas, who is currently ranked No. 16.
• In Division III men’s hockey, No. 7 Bowdoin will put its unbeaten record on the line at No. 10 Amherst for a New England Small College Athletic Conference game on Friday. The Polar Bears (9-0-1) are one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in Division III hockey. No. 1 Norwich is the other and boasts a perfect 10-0-0 mark.
Bowdoin is unbeaten after 10 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season, and ranks sixth in the nation in scoring with 4.60 goals per game.
Amherst is a coming off a 3-2 victory against No. 8 Plattsburgh State in the championship game of the 2012 Cardinal Classic, and has won three consecutive contests.
• Western Washington and Seattle Pacific will collide in a meeting of Great Northwest Athletic Conference nationally-ranked squads on Thursday. The defending NCAA Division II champion Vikings (10-0) are ranked fifth and riding a 16-game winning streak dating back to last season, while No. 7 SPU is off to a 9-1 start.
Senior guard John Allen, the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year, leads WWU with 18.4 points and 4.5 assists per game, while junior guard David Downs is contributing 13.0 ppg and 5.4 apg for the Falcons. The game will be a rematch of last year’s NCAA West Regional championship game, which WWU won 56-50.
•No. 2 Clarkson will host No. 5 Boston College in a battle of nationally-ranked women’s hockey squads on Thursday as both teams return to action after extended holiday breaks.
Clarkson won seven of its last eight games before the break, but will reopen play without two of the Knights’ top players – junior Jamie Lee Rattray (31 points, 15 goals) and freshman defenseman Erica Ambrose (21 points). Rattray and Ambrose will miss the opening games of 2013 as they play in the Meco Cup in Germany as members of Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team.
Boston College heads into the contest on a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2) and seven-game winning streak, but the Eagles have not played since Dec. 5.
•With a seven-foot-five wingspan and an amazing shot-blocking ability, St. John’s (N.Y.) freshman center Chris Obekpa broke into the Red Storm’s starting line-up in mid-December following his school-record performance against Fordham on Dec. 8 in which he swatted down 11 shots. Obekpa, a native of Nigeria, leads the nation with 5.33 blocks per game after knocking down 64 shots in 12 games (only two starts). Three years ago, Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside also led the nation in blocked shots per game (5.35) as a freshman, but played just one season for the Thundering Herd before declaring himself eligible for the 2010 NBA Draft.
• The Bentley women’s basketball team, ranked No. 2 in Division II, is off to a 10-0 start for the first time in 15 years following the team’s 76-58 victory against Bridgeport on Dec. 30. The win also extended the Falcons’ winning streak against East Region opponents to 23 contests. Bentley’s 1997-98 squad opened the season with 18 consecutive victories. The Falcons, who sit on top of the Northeast-10 Conference standings with a 6-0 mark, return to league play against Saint Anselm on Saturday.
• Entering the week, nine NCAA Division II men’s basketball squads are unbeaten – and one-third of the group hails from the Great Lakes Valley Conference. No. 4 Bellarmine, No. 9 Kentucky Wesleyan and No. 11 Indianapolis have all posted 8-0 records to start the season, giving the GLVC the most remaining undefeated squads in the nation. It is the second consecutive season the GLVC has had three unbeaten teams as of Jan. 1. Last year, Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Indiana and former member Northern Kentucky entered the New Year at 10-0.
• After posting a 10-0-0 record before winter break, the No. 2 Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team took off for a nine-day tour of Europe beginning Dec. 26. The Gusties visited various cities in Germany and Austria, sightseeing and playing a pair of games against a local team from Salzburg, Austria and the Austrian Women’s National Team. The Gusties, who have allowed just nine goals in 10 games behind the outstanding play of freshman goalkeeper Lindsey Hibbard, return to the ice on Jan. 11 for a non-conference series against UW-Stevens Point.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy