14 Jan

2024 NBA picks, Jan. 10 best bets by proven model

The New Orleans Pelicans aim to maintain a hot streak on Wednesday evening in San Francisco. The Pelicans have won six straight road games as they visit the Golden State Warriors for a nationally televised matchup. New Orleans is 22-15 overall and 10-7 away from home this season, while Golden State is 17-19 overall and 11-10 at Chase Center. Zion Williamson (quad) and Jose Alvarado (illness) are listed as questionable for New Orleans. Draymond Green (reconditioning), Chris Paul (hand), and Gary Payton II (hamstring) are out for Golden State.

For this game, SportsLine consensus lists the Pelicans as 2-point favorites, and tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. The total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, or the over/under, is 234 in the latest Pelicans vs. Warriors odds. Before making any Warriors vs. Pelicans picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 12 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 112-62 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning well over $4,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Warriors vs. Pelicans and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Pelicans vs. Warriors:

Warriors vs. Pelicans spread: Pelicans -2
Warriors vs. Pelicans over/under: 234 points
Warriors vs. Pelicans money line: Pelicans -134, Warriors +113
New Orleans: The Pelicans are 9-6-1 against the spread in road games
Golden State: The Warriors are 8-13 against the spread in home games
Warriors vs. Pelicans picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Pelicans can cover
New Orleans has intriguingly strong defensive metrics, and the Pelicans are allowing only 111.6 points per 100 possessions, ranking in the top six of the NBA. New Orleans is also in the top six in both opponent field goal percentage (45.9%) and opponent 3-point percentage (33.7%). The Pelicans create more than eight steals per game, and New Orleans is firmly in the top 10 in fast break points allowed (13.5 per game) and second-chance points allowed (13.6 per game). Golden State is averaging 14.8 turnovers per game on offense, and the Warriors are averaging the fewest points in the paint (43.8 per game) and fast break points (10.4 per game) in the NBA.

On offense, the Pelicans have top-tier marks in field goal percentage (48.4%) and 3-point percentage (37.9%), and New Orleans is generating almost 25 free throw attempts per game. New Orleans also has impressive numbers on the road, including an active six-game road winning streak. In those six wins, the Pelicans have out-scored opponents by 20.0 points per 100 possessions, leaning on a dynamic offensive performance. The Pelicans scored almost 1.3 points per possession in those six games, posting a 66.5% true shooting mark. See which team to pick here.

Why the Warriors can cover
The Warriors have the benefit of home-court advantage and the presence of the best player on the floor in Stephen Curry. The two-time NBA MVP is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, including a 42-point eruption against the Pelicans in the first head-to-head battle of the campaign. Curry made 15 of 22 shots from the field and 7 of 13 attempts from 3-point range in that game, and he is the best shooter in the league. Curry leads the NBA in 3-pointers (155) with a top-three mark in free throw accuracy (92%), and he is a gravitational force to make life difficult for any opposing defense.

The Warriors are in the top four of the NBA in 3-pointers (14.8 per game), and Golden State makes waves on the offensive glass. Golden State is securing 32.3% of available offensive rebounds, averaging 15.9 second-chance points per game. The Warriors are also in the top ten of the league in assists (28.1 per game) and free throw accuracy (79.4%). On defense, Golden State boasts top-ten metrics in assists allowed (25.4 per game), defensive rebound rate (71.9%) and 3-point accuracy allowed (35.0%) this season. The Warriors also held the Pelicans to 1.02 points per possession in the first meeting. See which team to pick here.

How to make Pelicans vs. Warriors picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting 237 combined points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in over 50% of simulations. You can only see the model’s picks at SportsLine.

14 Jan

Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama records second-fastest triple-double in NBA history in under 22 minutes

The San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons entered their matchup on Wednesday with eight wins between them. In terms of combined winning percentage (.125), it was, literally, the worst matchup in NBA history at this point in the season.

The Spurs won the game, 130-108, but, honestly, nobody cares about that. There was one reason to watch this game: Victor Wembanyama. And man, did he deliver.

The Spurs rookie, who is playing on a minutes restriction, put up 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 21 minutes, making him the second player in history to record a triple-double in fewer than 22 minutes of action. The other is Russell Westbrook, who did it in 20 minutes back in 2014.

Victor Wembanyama put on a show and recorded his first-career triple-double on way to a Spurs W 👏🙌

16 PTS / 12 REB/ 10 AST

Wemby (21 MIN) is the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double while playing less than 22 MIN. pic.twitter.com/eIsUHo3fNn

— NBA (@NBA) January 11, 2024
Look at some of those highlights. It’s still impossible to get used to Wembanyama’s length, and some of those passes are next-level for a guy his size, particularly as he leads in transition under complete control.

This absolute bullet of an outlet pass deserves its own look:

WEMBY WILD FULL COURT DIME. 😱🤯 pic.twitter.com/e08qyTX5ua

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 11, 2024
This is the first triple-double of Wembanyama’s young career. He is now the youngest center in history to record a triple-double, and the youngest player, period, at 20 years and six days, to post one without any turnovers, surpassing Andre Iguodala, who was 21 and change when he put up a zero-turnover trip-dub in 2005.

Not everything went perfectly for Wemby. His streak of 19 consecutive games, which dates back almost two months, with at least one blocked shot came to an end. Over his previous three games, he had recorded 14 blocks. Since the start of December, he’s averaging over four blocks per game.

With the win, the Spurs are now 6-30 on the season, while the Pistons, who have once again lost six straight after finally snapping their 28-game losing streak, fall to 3-35.

09 Jan

Stanford, Cameron Brink survive overtime test against Duke

It’s only been two weeks into the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season, yet it seems as if we’ve already seen it all: broken records, upsets, overtime thrillers, players absent without explanation, you name it.

South Carolina and UCLA are the only undefeated teams from the preseason top 10. The Iowa Hawkeyes suffered their first loss against Kansas State, while the LSU Tigers dropped their season opener to Colorado and are dealing with a mysterious situation regarding the status of star Angel Reese.

Here are some of the top moments from Week 2, as well as some of the main storylines and games to watch over the coming days.

Bucket of the week: Mikaylah Williams, LSU
OK, so this this one isn’t one particular basket, but it’s an offensive performance even the WNBA felt was worth talking about. LSU freshman Mikaylah Williams went off for 42 points in her team’s 109-79 win over Kent State last Tuesday. That is the most points scored by an LSU freshman in the NCAA era.

“She can score anywhere. Mikaylah, as good as she is, I don’t think she knows how good she is. A lot of it’s going to come just having her play extended minutes as hard as she can,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “She’s a special talent. This is those moments where you’re feeling that rim is as big as the ocean.”

42!!! 😳 As a freshman!!! 😳 https://t.co/EVjmfyOqN8

— WNBA (@WNBA) November 14, 2023
Dish of the week: Anna DeWolfe, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s game against Northwestern last Wednesday was Anna DeWolfe’s first home contest with the Fighting Irish, and she certainly made an impression. This behind-the-back dime — which helped Hannah Hidalgo score a layup plus the foul — was one of six assists DeWolfe had that night, and she also recorded 10 points, four rebounds and three steals in the 110-52 win.

Are you KIDDING me on this pass?!?

🎥 @ndwbb | ACC Networkpic.twitter.com/Ha2MYgjlyG

— ACC Women’s Basketball (@accwbb) November 16, 2023
Game of the week: Duke vs. No. 6 Stanford
The Blue Devils came in unranked, but there is no doubt they are a good team. Even though they were down by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, they pushed the Cardinal to overtime thanks to an outstanding second-half performance by sophomore guard Ashlon Jackson, who drained five 3-pointers.

AJ3!!! pic.twitter.com/nqvYdJES7M

— Duke Women’s Basketball (@DukeWBB) November 19, 2023
In the extra period, Stanford star Cameron Brink took over and scored all but two of her team’s 11 points. She went on to finish the night with a career-high 29 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks.

“There are things we can do better, but I’m really excited about how our team stuck together, battled and found a way to win,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Stop of the week: Kansas State
Yes, the whole team. The Wildcats arrived to Iowa City unranked but left with a 65-58 victory over then-No. 2 Iowa to make it two consecutive wins in the matchup.

The Hawkeyes’ 58 points was 34 points below their season average. It was also the fewest points Iowa has registered with Caitlin Clark on the roster. Kansas State outscored the Hawkeyes 23-14 in the last quarter, including a 12-0 run to finish the game. Lisa Bluder’s squad did not score any points in the last 2:43.

Kansas State senior center Ayoka Lee wasn’t part of last year’s victory because she was out with an injury, but on Thursday she led her team with 22 points and 12 rebounds to along with two blocks and a steal.

.@Yokie50 says no 🙅‍♀️#KStateWBB x @FS1 pic.twitter.com/YpSFMfpRWd

— K-State Women’s Basketball (@KStateWBB) November 17, 2023
Biggest storylines from Week 2
Angel Reese gets benched, then disappears
The LSU star was not with the team during the Tigers’ 73-50 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Friday. Mulkey did not give an explanation and just said the team hopes to have her back “sooner than later.”

Reese was benched during the second half of the previous game against Kent State. Reese, who is usually not shy on social media, hasn’t commented much on the situation — except for one quick message on Sunday.

“Please don’t believe everything you read,” Reese wrote on X.

please don’t believe everything you read.

— Angel Reese (@Reese10Angel) November 19, 2023
Reese was also missing from Monday’s 106-47 win over Texas Southern, and her absence remains a mystery.

Maryland drops out of the AP Top 25
The Terrapins had the second-longest active streak in the sport by staying in the AP Top 25 for 251 consecutive weeks. However, a 32-point loss to UConn on Thursday knocked them out for the first time in 13 years.

With Maryland’s streak over, here’s a look at the current leaders (via college poll archive):

UConn: 567
South Carolina: 209
Indiana: 77
Notre Dame: 37
The Terrapins are 1-2, as they also fell to South Carolina during opening week. Maryland’s game against UConn was already going to be tough, but the Huskies came in even hungrier than usual as they looked to bounce back from their first loss of the season to NC State.

Props to Maryland for playing a tough non-conference schedule, though. Those efforts haven’t been unnoticed as the Terrapins are still receiving Top 25 votes and they’ll likely be back at some point this season.

Interesting stats
On the Brink of a record: Stanford senior forward Cameron Brink, a 6-foot-4 center, has made 72 straight free throws. She needs three more to tie the current women’s college basketball record of 75, which belongs to Michelle Gaislerova from North Dakota State. Brink could break the record Wednesday when the Cardinal host Belmont at 4 p.m. ET.
Caitlin Clark chasing another record: The Iowa senior has registered 39 games with 30-plus points, already passing Kelsey Plum’s 2017 women’s college basketball record from her time at Washington. Clark needs one more 30-point game to tie former Detroit Mercy guard Antoine Davis for the overall record. She has a chance to do it Friday as the Hawkeyes take on Forth Wayne at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Saint Peter’s ends losing streak: The Peacocks found a 61-57 victory over Central Connecticut last Monday, marking their first win in 616 days. Their previous win came against Marist on March 8, 2022. Saint Peter’s went 0-30 last season.
South Carolina dominating: The Gamecocks reached the 100-point mark for the third straight game with their 109-40 win over Clemson on Thursday. This season marks the first time in program history South Carolina has won consecutive games by scoring 100-plus points.
Matchups to watch:
Maryland vs. No. 23 Washington State | Thursday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m. ET | FloHoops: Washington State earned its first ever preseason AP Top 25 ranking heading into the campaign, and so far the Cougars have remained there by staying undefeated. Meanwhile, Maryland had been ranked 251 consecutive weeks but just dropped out of the Top 25 because of a tough loss against UConn. The Terrapins are very much still a talented team and have just suffered because of their tough non-conference schedule. This will be a good test for both programs.

No. 19 Tennessee vs. No. 21 Indiana | Thursday, Nov. 23, 6 p.m. ET | FOX: A battle between two ranked opponents is certainly something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving day. Both teams have already faced ranked opponents this season and lost, so this will be a good chance to enhance their resume. Tennessee has six players averaging double figures led by Rickea Jackson’s 22 points and 12 rebounds per game. Sara Scalia and MacKenzie Holmes are leading Indiana with 18.5 and 17.5 points per contest, respectively.

No. 6 UConn vs. No. 2 UCLA | Friday, Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m. ET | FloHoops: If there is one game you watch all week, let it be this one. The Huskies were handed their first loss of the season by NC State on Nov. 12. They were “embarrassed” by their defensive effort and responded with a blowout win against a ranked Maryland team. Paige Bueckers and the Huskies will have their hands full against UCLA, a team so deep even their veteran leader Charisma Osborne doesn’t have to shine every night. Sophomore center Lauren Betts leads the team with 19.5 points and 10.8 per game, while shooting an impressive 78.6% from the field.

No. 3 Colorado vs. No. 10 NC State | Saturday, Nov. 25, 1 p.m. ET | ESPN+: These are two teams responsible for the entertaining chaos we have seen in the first two weeks of the 2023-24 season. NC State got ranked after handing UConn its first loss thanks to a breakout performance by junior guard Saniya Rivers. Meanwhile, Colorado took down reigning national champion LSU in the season opener with stellar performances by upperclassmen Frida Formann, Aaronette Vonleh and Jaylyn Sherrod.

No. 19 Tennesse vs. No. 22 Oklahoma | Saturday, Nov. 25, 1:30 p.m. ET | Women’s Sports Network: It won’t be an easy week for Tennessee, but it will be a fun one and the Lady Vols will learn a lot about themselves. They will take on a solid Oklahoma team that managed to start the season 5-0, including a statement-making win over then-No. 12 Ole Miss on Nov. 9.

09 Jan

No. 4 Marquette downs No. 1 Kansas in Maui, Washington tops Florida State in College Football Playoff Rankings

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

Marquette and Purdue both had disappointing NCAA Tournaments. The Boilermakers became the second 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed, infamously falling to Fairleigh Dickinson. Shortly thereafter, Marquette fell to Michigan State, a nightmare ending to a dream season that included the Big East regular-season and tournament titles.

A win Tuesday night in the Maui Invitational final wouldn’t erase those memories, but it would definitely help.

The No. 4 Golden Eagles took it to No. 1 Kansas, 73-59, for their third win over a No. 1 team in program history. Dwyane Wade, who had a triple-double in Marquette’s first win over a No. 1 team (Kentucky, 2003) was courtside to see Oso Ighodaro be the star.

Ighodaro had 21 points and 9 rebounds, holding Jayhawks standout Hunter Dickinson to just 13 points.
Marquette was outstanding on both ends, but especially on defense, forcing 18 turnovers.
This was Kansas’ largest loss as a No. 1 team since 2011.
With No. 2 Purdue up next, Marquette is looking to become the first team to beat the nation’s top two teams in consecutive games since Kansas did it in the 2008 Final Four.

The Boilermakers battled for a 71-67 win over No. 7 Tennessee. Reigning national player of the year Zach Edey guaranteed Purdue would be really good by returning to school, but just how good depends on his teammates. Tuesday, one in particular was terrific. Fletcher Loyer tied a career high with 27 points to complement Edey’s 23-point, 10-rebound effort. David Cobb says Loyer “looked like the potential secondary star the Boilermakers so desperately need.”

👍 Honorable mentions
LeBron James hit 39,000 career points.
The Padres promoted Mike Shildt to manager, meaning all eight openings this offseason have been filled.
The Yankees hired Brad Ausmus as bench coach.
East Carolina’s Bobby Pettiford has an early nominee for buzzer-beater of the year.
If you like points, you definitely liked the Pacers’ 157-152 win over the Hawks. It went way, way over the highest over-under this millennium. The Pacers and Lakers advanced to the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals.
😬 And not such a good morning for …
Getty Images

Angel Reese was the face of women’s college basketball entering the season. Now, her face is nowhere to be seen.

Reese missed her second consecutive game Monday (against Texas Southern) and coach Kim Mulkey has provided no answers, likening Reese’s absence to “disciplining your own children.”

Reese also missed last Friday’s win over Southeastern Louisiana after which the star forward posted on social media, “Please don’t believe everything you read.”
That came after Reese was benched for the second half of a win over Kent State on Nov. 14, a move Mulkey deemed a “coach’s decision.” The Tigers led by just two at halftime but ended up winning by 30.
LSU lost its season opener to then-No. 20 Colorado, and Mulkey said she was “disappointed and surprised in some individual players that I thought would just be tougher and have a little fight and leadership about them.” She did not name names.
Looking forward, Mulkey had no update on whether Reese would join the team at the Cayman Islands Classic. The No. 7 Tigers are set to face Niagara on Friday and Virginia on Saturday, though she said, “Angel will be back sooner than later.”

This is bad. There’s Mulkey’s unwillingness to cede information, leaving Reese to fend for herself via social media. There’s Mulkey’s comment after the season-opening loss. And there’s a huge absence for the reigning champs, one that has no end in sight.

👎 Not so honorable mentions
In a surprising move, the Colts waived three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard. We have potential landing spots.
Dan Campbell is a good football coach with bad Thanksgiving food takes.
Brazil lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time … ever. Here are eight crazy numbers from Argentina’s 1-0 win.
🏈 Washington joins top four of College Football Playoff Rankings
Claire Komarek, CBS Sports
Dennis Dodd made the move Monday. So did the CBS Sports 133. Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee followed suit. Washington is fourth in the latest CFP Rankings with Jerry Palm explaining why. Here’s the top eight:

Georgia (previous: 1)
Ohio State (2)
Michigan (3)
Washington (5)
Florida State (4)
Oregon (6)
Texas (7)
Alabama (8)
We touched on the reasons for the Huskies jumping the Seminoles yesterday, but it’s worth exploring more. Washington …

is undefeated
has wins over three teams in the current top 20 (No. 6 Oregon, No. 15 Arizona and No. 16 Oregon State)
Seems good to me! Barrett Sallee has overrated and underrated teams.

🏈 NFL Power Rankings: NFC dominates, topsy-turvy AFC West
A.J. Brown, Eagles WR USATSI
They say that in order to be the best you have to beat the best, and the Eagles certainly held up their end of the bargain with a 21-17 comeback victory over the Chiefs in a matchup between Pete Prisco’s then-No. 1 and then-No. 2 teams. So Philadelphia keeps its spot atop Pete’s newest NFL Power Rankings, but there are plenty of changes behind that.

Eagles (previous: 1)
Lions (3)
Cowboys (4)
Chiefs (2)
49ers (5)
I think Pete is a little high on the Lions but a little low on the 49ers (fifth) and Ravens (eighth). That’s the beauty of the NFL season, though: differing opinions that can be proved right or wrong any week … and change again the following week.

If the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East represent the peaks of stability, the AFC West is a rollercoaster. It wasn’t that long ago that the Broncos were a train wreck that had us wondering if Sean Payton would even make it through the year, and it was even more recent that the Chargers looked to be getting things in order. Now, Denver is tied for the NFL’s longest winning streak at four, and Los Angeles is reeling after an awful loss to the Packers. The Broncos are up six spots, and the Chargers are down seven.

Prisco: “16. Broncos — Sean Payton has this team back on track with four straight victories, and he has indeed fixed Russell Wilson after last year’s disaster. …

“26. Chargers — They are in big trouble right now after falling to 4-6 in losing to the Packers. Facing Baltimore this week won’t be easy as the heat intensifies for Brandon Staley.”
The Chargers were this week’s biggest fallers while the other Los Angeles team, the Rams (26th to 20th), tied the Broncos for biggest leap.

🏈 Ranking NFL wild card contenders in each conference
Listen, I love the NFL as much as anyone … and more than almost everyone. Every offseason I miss it, and every season I’m smitten. But Tom Brady wasn’t wrong when he said there’s a lot of mediocrity, and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t wrong when he agreed.

However, that also means a lot of teams are in playoff contention. In the AFC, there are nine teams between 6-4 and 4-6. In the NFC, there are seven. One on hand, it’s great; we’re going to get a ton of meaningful games down the stretch. On the other hand, it’s a mess that needs cleaning up.

So, we ranked the 12 teams in each conference not leading their divisions. And speaking of all over the place, the Bills and Josh Allen are exactly that. Jordan Dajani ranks them third on his AFC list.

Dajani: “The Bills offense ranks top 10 in yards per game and points per game. All they need to do is not turn the ball over and avoid silly penalties. Allen either leads or is tied for first in passing touchdowns (22) and total touchdowns (29). However, he also ranks first in interceptions (12) and giveaways (15). … Next up are the Eagles, then the bye week followed by the Chiefs and Cowboys. Allen has a chance to engineer an impressive turnaround.”
Jordan hits the nail right on the head. Allen is going to have to play some of the best ball of his career, and a large part of that has to be taking better care of the ball.

Over in the NFC, the Cowboys are an easy pick as the best team not leading its division, but after that, it’s wide open. Cody Benjamin says No. 2 is …

Benjamin: “2. Vikings (6-2) — The Broncos proved Sunday night that the Josh Dobbs magic has a limit, outlasting Minnesota for a close prime-time win. … But Brian Flores’ aggression has enabled their ‘D’ to overachieve all year, Kevin O’Connell could soon have Justin Jefferson back in the lineup, and Dobbs really has been improbably poised considering his abrupt takeover for the injured Kirk Cousins.”
These were two really fun, insightful articles … and great primers for what’s ahead.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday
🏀 No. 7 Tennessee vs. No. 1 Kansas, 2:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 4 Marquette, 5 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Bruins at Panthers, 7 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Bucks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Golden Knights at Stars, 9:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Warriors Suns, 10 p.m. on ESPN

09 Jan

UConn guard Azzi Fudd out for remainder of the season with knee injury

UConn junior guard Azzi Fudd will miss the remaining 2023-24 season after suffering a medial meniscal tear and an ACL tear in her right knee, the program announced on Wednesday.

“We’re all just so upset for Azzi. She worked hard to be healthy for this season, and it’s unfortunate when you put in a lot of hard work and have a setback like this,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. “Azzi loves the game and works tirelessly. I’m confident she’ll rehab with the same work ethic and come back better than ever.

“We’ll obviously miss her presence on the court, but Azzi will continue to be a great teammate and important part of this team this season. Our program will support Azzi through her recovery however we can,” Auriemma said.

After Paige Bueckers, the 2021 Naismith Women’s Player of the Year, tore her ACL in the summer of 2022, Fudd stepped up and was “far and away, 100% the best player on the floor,” according to Auriemma. However, she suffered a knee injury and only played 15 games in her sophomore campaign.

The UConn locker room has been plagued by injuries for the past few seasons. In January, the team was forced to postpone a game against DePaul because the Huskies did not have the minimum seven healthy players available. Fudd was ready to bounce back this season along with Bueckers, but she suffered her ACL tear during practice on Nov. 14. Auriemma said it was a non-contact injury.

“The way they all do, honest to God, the way they all do,” Auriemma said while describing what happened. “I’m standing here, she’s over here. Takes the ball, dribbles, stops, shoots it, and says ‘hmm that felt funny.’ And walks to the training room… Like most all the other ones that have happened. Nobody near them, just random stuff.”

Fudd will have surgery at UConn Health at a later date, the team said.

09 Jan

LSU’s Angel Reese, Kateri Poole not at the Cayman Islands Classic with the team

LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese and guard Kateri Poole do not appear to have traveled with the team at the Cayman Islands Classic this weekend. Both players missed the Tigers’ 99-65 win over Niagara on Friday.

The team will be taking on Virginia on Saturday, and if Reese doesn’t show up she will have missed four games this season for undisclosed reasons. Friday was the first game Poole hasn’t at least been on the bench. LSU has yet to comment on their absence from this trip.

While it is still unclear what is going on, the saga started against Kent State on Nov. 14. The Golden Flashes have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2002, yet the Tigers — the defending national champions — were only able to find a two-point lead by halftime. Reese, a consistent starter since last season, was benched for the last two quarters. Meanwhile, Poole was present but did not check into the game. LSU ended up winning that one 109-79, and head coach Kim Mulkey said after the game she had simply made a “coach’s decision” regarding Reese.

However, Reese was not in the building when LSU took on Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 17 or Texas Southern on Nov. 20. Poole didn’t play in the latter game either.

Mulkey has not explained much on the situation, and the only possible clue came during the press conference after the Texas Southern game when she said coaches, “always have to deal with locker room issues.”

“I’m going to protect my players, always. It’s like a family. If you do some disciplining of your own children, do you think we’re entitled to know that? That’s a family in that locker room,” she said that night.

The team has plenty of depth, but the Tigers could still be in danger of being short-staffed as starting forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to suffer a knee injury during the first quarter against Niagara.

LSU will be back on the court on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET as the Tigers take on the Virginia Cavaliers.

09 Jan

No. 2 UCLA makes statement with program’s first-ever win over No. 6 UConn

The No. 2 UCLA Bruins pulled off an early season statement victory, 78-67, against No. 6 UConn on Friday night at the Cayman Islands Classic, the program’s first-ever win over UConn.

Despite a couple of good runs and a 31-point performance by Paige Bueckers, the Huskies were handed their second loss of the season and now hold a 3-2 record.

“Obviously so much respect for UConn and the program they have become … but we really were confident that if we executed the game plan, we were going to win,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said. “I say that with great respect. I really believe in what this team is building. I didn’t think we played our best basketball, we had some moments that we really need to clean up. But I’m really proud of this next step and who we are becoming.”

UCLA sophomore guard Kiki Rice had a breakout game by registering a career-high 24 points, and she flirted with a triple-double by adding 11 rebounds and eight assists.

KIKI STEAL, KIKI SCORE! 🔥 @kiki_rice0 #NCAAWBB x 🎥 FloHoops / @UCLAWBB


— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) November 25, 2023
The Bruins looked confident from the beginning, starting the game on a 10-0 run with eight of those points belonging to Rice. UCLA went on to outscore the Huskies 28-12 in the first quarter, including going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc as a team.

However, the second quarter didn’t go as smoothly as the Huskies found their footing, and the Bruins only made four field goals in those 10 minutes to help UConn cut the deficit to just 39-34.

Close’s squad regrouped and UCLA came out strong again in the third quarter, scoring 22 points and holding UConn to just eight points. Charisma Osborne reminded everyone that she is the veteran leader for the Bruins with her 3-point shooting. Osborne finished the night with 18 points, all of them coming from beyond the arc.

A. ‘Nother. One.

5⃣🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 for 2⃣0⃣

📺: FloHoops (https://t.co/vTqaidLM19)#GoBruins | @FloHoops | @CharismaOsborne https://t.co/5cSy1zhTsN pic.twitter.com/PCpORWZvBQ

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) November 25, 2023
“I always laugh when people ask me what I said at halftime. It must have really sucked before the game,” Close said. “I just don’t think it relies on those kinds of things. I think it means we need cerebral, purposeful adjustments to be made, and I need a team that knows how to execute those. They don’t need me to fire them up.”

Although UConn rallied to outscore the Bruins in the final quarter 25-17 but the Huskies’ effort wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Their other usual leading scorer, Aaliyah Edwards, fouled out with 2:31 remaining, leaving the game with just five points via two fields goals and one made free throw.

With this win, UCLA improves to 5-0 this season. Next up for the Bruins is Niagara on 1 p.m. ET, Saturday. Meanwhile, UConn will try to bounce back against Kansas on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

The Kiki Rice stock is trending up
Rice was one of the top players of the Class of 2022. She was good as a freshman and averaged 11.6 points per game, but it looks like she is ready to take her game to the next level.

Rice — who shot 41.1% from the field last season — shot 60% against UConn with nine field goals. Two of those were 3-pointers, which was a shaky area for her last year, going 13 of 60 from beyond the arc in 37 games.

“I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work on my shot to shoot behind that, just knock down the open three and make threes on defense,” Rice said when discussing what helped her have a successful day. “I came out confident and aggressive, and I also thought everyone was moving really well around me … everyone played off each other really well.”

Kiki Rice is locked the hell in

Also cannot say enough about her confidence from deep. That was the next step for her game imo, and she has ran with it pic.twitter.com/NuTmplw6hq

— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) November 25, 2023
UCLA is still Osborne’s team
The Bruins have a deep roster with five players averaging at least 12 points per game. Rice was the star on Friday, while sophomore center Lauren Betts leads this season’s stat sheet with 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. However, Osborne, who has returned for a fifth season, has been the key for this team to run smoothly.

She averages 17.4 points per contest, with some nights being more “quiet” than others. Against Purdue during the season opener, Osborne scored 11 points but gave her team’s offense a big push with seven assists.

Against UConn, Osborne hit six 3-pointers for the second time this season — as she put up 24 points and 10 rebounds against Bellarmine on Nov. 12. Osborne said she put in a lot of work in the summer to make her shot consistent, and her coach has definitely noticed.

“It took a lot of courage for her to come back. A lot of people can say whatever they want, but she is doing it,” Close said during the postgame media conference. “She had unfinished business. You show me a guard in the country that plays both ends at an elite level like her. She can facilitate. She shoots the three. She attacks the basket. She is an elite defender, and I think she is getting rewarded for her choice and she is the one that has made it all happen.”

Getting to that inside out game 👌

📺: FloHoops (https://t.co/vTqaidLM19)#GoBruins | @FloHoops | @AngelaDugalic x @CharismaOsborne pic.twitter.com/sb4skJ69xR

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) November 25, 2023
The Bruins start strong, but they have to be careful
UCLA has come out strong in each of its five games so far, outscoring opponents 120-39 in all the first quarters combined. It’s a dominant statistic for sure, but opponents are making adjustments quickly and outscoring the Bruins 107-92 in the second quarter.

The Bruins had an upset scare the previous game against Princeton, a game in which they were outscored 27-15 in the second quarter — the most points UCLA has given up in a 10-minute period all season.

On Friday, UConn was starting to gain momentum by holding UCLA to 26.7% shooting from the field in the second quarter.

Paige Bueckers with the 3️⃣

Huskies pull within 5. We’ve got ourselves a game 👀@UConnWBB| @CaymanClassic pic.twitter.com/YOkehI3XnM

— FloHoops (@FloHoops) November 25, 2023
However, UCLA once again regained control after the break. This was only the fifth game of the season and Close isn’t concerned, as long as her team keeps making adjustments. The coach said the main one they talked about at halftime was ball screen defense.

“I’m proud that we’ve started well every game, but there’s been different situations in every game and I think, yeah, we definitely have different things and challenges we have to respond to in every game,” she said. “But I wouldn’t agree that that’s a trend we need to be worried about.”

UConn has talent, but consistency is needed
If Friday’s game showed the Huskies anything it is that the consistency isn’t quite there yet. According to ESPN Stats & Info, this is the first time UConn has had multiple double-digit losses in the first five games of the season since 1991-92. The Huskies also lost 92-81 to N.C. State on Nov. 12.

As head coach Geno Auriemma pointed out, a 30+ point performance by Bueckers (or any other player) will not guarantee a win.

“You can can’t beat a really good team with one player,” he said. “So yeah, it was disappointing that we didn’t get more contributions from more people. Our combinations are all screwed up right now, so that’s got to get sorted out. We struggled, we had our runs and there is just not enough. We just didn’t have enough. It’s very disappointing.”

Bueckers, who sat out last season because of a torn ACL, is leading the team with 20.4 points per game. Aaliyah Edwards — who is contributing 15.4 points per game — is the only other double-figure scorer remaining now that Azzi Fudd has been ruled out for the remainder of the season because of a knee injury.

UCLA held Bueckers to 9-of-23 shooting, but she was still able to hit five 3-pointers. However, Edwards struggled more, going 2 of 12 from the field and fouling out as UConn attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter. KK Arnold and Aubrey Griffin contributed with 11 points each, but overall the team shot at 33.3% from the field through the night. Sure, they had a few runs, but UCLA kept finding an answer to their attacks.

Staying healthy continues to be a problem. Junior guard Caroline Ducharme was out because of neck spasms. She made the trip to the Cayman Islands but it’s unclear if she will play on Saturday because she is “day-to-day.”

09 Jan

Iowa star Caitlin Clark registers 40th 30-point game, ties NCAA record

No. 5 Iowa got its revenge against No. 16 Kansas State on Sunday with a 77-70 to win the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase at Estero, Fla., as Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark registered her 40th career game with at least 30 points.

Her 32 points against the Wildcats officially tied her with Antoine Davis for the most 30-point games in D1 college basketball over the past 25 years. Davis set that record with Detroit last season, but it seems like it will be short-lived because he already graduated and Clark still has plenty of games remaining in her senior year. She had already passed the women’s college basketball record set by WNBA star, and former Washington guard, Kelsey Plum (38).

Kansas State had handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season earlier this month, and their rematch could’ve really gone either way with 10 lead changes through the night. However, Clark stepped up with a performance that included seven 3-pointers. Along with her 32 points, Clark contributed with six assists, five rebounds and three steals.

Caitlin Clark, buzzin with the stepback in transition pic.twitter.com/vKJ30MGn1S

— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) November 27, 2023
Clark, who is already Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, now has 2,986 career points — which is in the top 25 of women’s college basketball history. Only 14 players in women’s basketball have reached the 3000-point threshold.

It is still early in the 2023-24 campaign, but Clark already leads the nation in scoring. Last season, when she was named Naismith Player of the Year, she was No. 2 in the country averaging 27.8 points per game.

This weekend, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder also put her name in the history books by picking up her 500th win at Iowa when her team beat the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 100-62 on Saturday. Sunday’s victory over Kansas State was win no. 501.

The Hawkeyes (7-1) will be back on the court on Saturday Dec. 2 as they host the Bowling Green Falcons at 1:30 p.m. ET.

09 Jan

South Carolina and UCLA still on top, USC seeing best ranking since 1994

South Carolina and UCLA defended their No. 1 and No. 2 spots, but almost everybody else is seeing some movement. It’s still only November, but the 2023-24 season has already been one to remember for the city of Los Angeles.

No. 2 UCLA beat UConn for the first time in program history on Friday behind a career-best performance by sophomore guard Kiki Rice that included 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Meanwhile, USC is shining bright with freshman star JuJu Watkins, who has already put up three 30-point games — tying a USC freshman record set by Lisa Leslie and Paula McGee. The Trojans moved up two spots to No. 6 this week, which is their best ranking since 1994.

Speaking of the West Coast, Stanford moved up to No. 3 after a 100-88 victory over a ranked Florida State team. Five Pac-12 teams are currently ranked: UCLA, Stanford, USC, Colorado and Utah.

But things are also looking good on the opposite side of the country. Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team keeps taking care of business and blowing out every opponent. The Gamecocks have already reached the 100-point mark four times this season. Their latest result was a 101-19 win over MVSU — the fewest points ever allowed for an opponent in South Carolina history.

North Carolina State started the season unranked, but three weeks in the Wolfpack have earned a spot in the top 5 following a 78-60 win over then-No. 2 Colorado on Saturday. That was their second win over a ranked opponent this season, as they also took down UConn on Nov. 12.

Iowa is No. 4 after getting revenge against Kansas State. The Hawkeyes won the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase with a 77-70 win against the Wildcats — a team that had upset them earlier this month. Per usual, Caitlin Clark led the Iowa offense with 32 points. That was her 40th 30-point game, tying an NCAA record.

09 Jan

Caitlin Clark, Iowa catch fire late to avenge Kansas State loss

The first month of the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season is almost over, and the action isn’t slowing down any time soon. South Carolina and UCLA have been holding strong, but not everyone is experiencing smooth sailing.

UConn is struggling to find consistency because the Huskies haven’t been able to shake the injury bug that has been disruptive for a few seasons. Coach Geno Auriemma’s latest nightmare was losing junior guard Azzi Fudd for the rest of the 2023-24 campaign. Amid all the chaos, UCLA was able to get the program’s first ever win against UConn on Friday.

Another noteworthy matchup in Week 3 was Iowa’s redemption game against Kansas State. There are more exciting games coming this week, including a rematch from the 2023 Final Four as No. 9 Virginia Tech will battle No. 7 LSU.

Here are some of the top moments from the past week, as well as some of the main storylines and games to watch over the coming days.

Bucket of the week: Zoe Brooks, NC State
NC State entered the top five in the AP Top 25 poll after a 78-60 win over then-No. 2 Colorado on Saturday. The Wolfpack starters have been solid this season, leading the team to a 7-0 record including a big win against UConn earlier this month. However, the talent goes well beyond NC State’s starting five.

Zoe Brooks is still a freshman, and she has been a solid player off the bench. She recorded seven points against Colorado, but the stat sheet didn’t show her full potential. Here she is using her patience and footwork to drain a contested turnaround jumper over Colorado’s Jaylyn Sherrod, a 2023 Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection.

Just IMPRESSIVE by @zoebrooks35 🤩

Catch the second half live on ESPN+. pic.twitter.com/g30Ndmbuyo

— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) November 25, 2023
Stop of the week: South Carolina
The Gamecocks have been outstanding offensively by reaching 100 points in four of their first five games this season, but they are still playing the elite defense Dawn Staley’s teams have been lauded for. South Carolina held Mississippi Valley State to just eight made field goals during the Gamecocks’ 101-19 win on Nov. 24.

That was their largest margin of victory since Staley became South Carolina’s head coach in 2008. It was also the fewest points the Gamecocks have ever allowed in program history.

South Carolina currently leads the nation in blocks per game (12.4). The team recorded 15 rejections against MVS, with Kamilla Cardoso getting five of them. Cardoso also registered her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Esto de Kamilla Cardoso 🥵🔥 pic.twitter.com/Q1SbqcA23J

— Manu Fresno (@Maanuf96) November 24, 2023
Game of the week: No 16 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Iowa
Kansas State handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season earlier this month, but Iowa got a chance at redemption in the Gulf Coast Showcase final on Sunday. The Hawkeyes walked away with a 77-70 victory, but the final score doesn’t quite show how close the game really was.

By halftime, Kansas State only trailed 39-38 and the beginning of the third quarter was tight. The Hawkeyes started pulling away, but Kansas State’s Serena Sundell made a statement just before the quarter ended with this buzzer-beating jumper:

Buckets of sunshine from @serena_sundell ☀️#KStateWBB x @GCShowcase pic.twitter.com/Y6QQI884HO

— K-State Women’s Basketball (@KStateWBB) November 27, 2023
Kansas State found a 68-67 lead with 2:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Lisa Bluder’s squad turned up the heat to avoid another loss. Kate Martin and Caitlin Clark scored the next 10 points for Iowa, while the defense held the Wildcats to only field-goal make, a layup from Sundell.

A total of 10 lead changes occurred throughout the game. Clark led all scorers with 32 points, while Ayoka Lee and Sundell led Kansas State with 18 points each.

“Kansas State is obviously a great team, and it feels really good to get the redemption win,” Bluder said in her postgame press conference.

Biggest storylines from Week 3
UConn’s Azzi Fudd out for the season
UConn guard Azzi Fudd suffered a non-contact injury during practice on Nov. 14. Eight days later, the program announced the diagnosis was a medial meniscal tear and an ACL tear in her right knee, which will keep her out for the rest of the season.

“We’re all just so upset for Azzi,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She worked hard to be healthy for this season, and it’s unfortunate when you put in a lot of hard work and have a setback like this.”

LSU’s Angel Reese, Kateri Poole miss Cayman Islands trip
Angel Reese and Kateri Poole did not join the Tigers for the Cayman Islands Classic this past weekend. Reese has now missed four games this season for undisclosed reasons. Poole had at least been on the bench for all the other games, until this trip. LSU coach Kim Mulkey has not given much of an explanation, saying she wants to keep it private.

“I’m going to protect my players, always,” Mulkey said on Nov. 20 after LSU’s win over Texas Southern. “It’s like a family. If you do some disciplining of your own children, do you think we’re entitled to know that? That’s a family in that locker room.”

UCLA beats UConn for the first time
The No. 2 UCLA Bruins entered Friday’s matchup against UConn with an 0-7 all-time record in the matchup. However, this has been a strong season for Cori Close’s team, and they made a statement by beating then-No. 6 UConn for the first time in program history. Not even a 31-point performance by former national player of the year Paige Bueckers was able to prevent the Huskies’ second loss of the 2023-24 campaign.

“Obviously so much respect for UConn and the program they have become … but we really were confident that if we executed the game plan, we were going to win,” Close said.

UCLA has a deep roster with five players averaging double figures in scoring. Friday was Kiki Rice’s turn to shine, as the sophomore guard recorded 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against UConn.

Top clips from tonight’s 𝘁𝗼𝗽 𝟭𝟬 𝘄𝗶𝗻 in the Cayman Islands!#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/9DeHazquss

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) November 25, 2023
USC’s JuJu Watkins keeps shining
Freshman sensation JuJu Watkins currently leads the undefeated Trojans with 26.2 points per game while shooting 50% from the field and 50% from 3-point range. In the first five games of her college career, Watkins already has three 30-point games, tying a USC freshman record previously set by Lisa Leslie and Paula McGee. Her most recent performance was 31 points, 12 rebounds and three assists against Penn State.

Watkins has been named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week in each of the first three weeks of the season. With her help, the Trojans were ranked No. 6 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, giving the program its best ranking since 1994.

Trojans improve to 5-0 ✌️

JuJu Watkins scores 31 points to lead No. 8 USC over Penn State. Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/DnDYEW7wSv

— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 23, 2023
Interesting stats
The Gamecocks don’t lose at home: South Carolina’s 101-19 win over Mississippi Valley State on Friday was the Gamecocks’ 45th consecutive home win, which ties a program record. Dawn Staley’s squad has a chance to break the record when it hosts Morgan State on Dec. 6 at 9 p.m. ET.
Caitlin Clark reaches another record: The Iowa guard registered her 40th 30-point game against Kansas State. This tied her with Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis for the most 30-point games in Division I college basketball over the past 25 years.
Matchups to watch:
(all times Eastern)

No. 18 Notre Dame vs. No. 20 Tennessee | Wednesday, 5 p.m. | ESPN2: The Fighting Irish and Lady Vols will be facing each other in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. These are two teams that made it to the 2023 Sweet 16 and have carried that momentum into this season. Although Tennessee holds a 22-8 advantage in their all-time series, Notre Dame has won eight of the last 10 meetings.

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 24 North Carolina | Thursday, 7 p.m. | ESPN: This battle in Chapel Hill will also be part of the ACC/SEC Challenge. Since 2000, the Tar Heels have registered a 7-4 record against their rival Gamecocks. However, South Carolina has grown into a powerhouse, and Dawn Stalely’s team has been blowing opponents out of the water this season. North Carolina suffered back-to-back losses in the Gulf Coast Showcase, and they’ll face an even greater challenge in South Carolina’s suffocating defense and outstanding offense.

No. 9 Virginia Tech vs. No. 7 LSU | Thursday, 9 p.m. | ESPN: Both teams returned star players from last season, and this will be a rematch from the 2023 Final Four in which LSU took down Virginia Tech and went on to win the national title. LSU’s leading scorer and rebounder from last year, Angel Reese, has been away from the team. But even if Reese doesn’t suit up Thursday, the Tigers still have plenty of talent to give the Hokies one of their toughest non-conference challenges. Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore will need big games if they want a redemption win.

No. 11 UConn vs. No. 10 Texas | Sunday, 3 p.m. | ABC: The Huskies have a talented roster but haven’t found consistency yet. They suffered their second loss of the season against UCLA, then bounced back with a 71-63 win over Kansas the next day — although coach Geno Auriemma wasn’t 100% content and admitted his team is struggling. However, it’s important to point out that a struggling UConn team is still a tough challenge for anyone, and this will be Texas’ first ranked opponent of the season.

No. 16 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Tennessee | Sunday, 5 p.m. | ESPN: This will be the Lady Vols’ second ranked opponent this week. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ only other meeting with a ranked team was their season opener, which resulted in an 83-74 loss to USC. Ohio State has been taking care of business since then, but they’ve still been dropping in the rankings. A win against a solid team like Tennessee is what the Buckeyes’ resume needs.