Big Week For Big East

With a break for semester exams over for most Big East schools, it's a busy week of basketball games before Christmas.

FLYING HIGH

Five Big East teams remain ranked in the top 25s of both major national polls this week. All five ranked teams (Syracuse, West Virginia, Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown) are ranked among the top 14 in both polls.


ACTION CONTINUES

Wednesday's schedule has five Big East teams playing home games, beginning with a noon matinee between Georgetown and Harvard. Three 7 p.m. games have Louisville taking on Louisiana-Lafayette, St. John's hosting Bryant at Carnesecca Arena and Villanova entertaining Delaware. West Virginia faces Mississippi at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.


TOUGH SLEDDING

West Virginia, at 8-0, is one of only eight undefeated teams in the nation (Syracuse is 11-0). The Mountaineers are ranked sixth in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week. The next four games on the schedule figure to be serious challenges to their unblemished mark. On Wednesday, WVU hosts No. 15 Mississippi on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. Following their battle with the Rebels, the Mountaineers take on Big East foes Seton Hall (Dec. 26) and Marquette (Dec. 29) before traveling to No. 4 Purdue for a game on New Year's Day, which ESPN will televise at 2:30 p.m.


MIDWEEK ACTION

Wednesday's schedule has five Big East teams playing home games, beginning with a noon matinee between Georgetown and Harvard. Three 7 p.m. games have Louisville taking on Louisiana-Lafayette, St. John's hosting Bryant at Carnesecca Arena and Villanova entertaining Delaware. West Virginia faces Mississippi at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.


CINCINNATI
Cincinnati had little trouble with Winthrop as the Bearcats raced to a 16-point halftime lead on their way to a 74-57 decision at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday evening. Forward Yancy Gates scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half and forward Ibrahima Thomas and guard Deonta Vaughn had 11 points each. Cincinnati improved to 8-3 heading into Big East play.

CONNECTICUT
Connecticut improved to 8-2 as the Huskies pulled away from Maine in the second half for a 71-54 win at the XL Center on Tuesday. Guard Jerome Dyson had 22 of his game-high 27 points in the final 20 minutes, helping Connecticut break open a 26-26 halftime score. UConn coach Jim Calhoun improved to 13-0 all-time against his former assistant coaches with the win against Maine, which is led by former Huskies assistant Ted Woodward.

Forward Gavind Edwards leads the Big East in field goal percentage, shooting 71.7 percent from the floor. Guard Kemba Walker is second in the league in assists with a 6.0 mark.


DEPAUL
Tuesday, DePaul fell behind early and was unable to catch Florida Gulf Coast in a 64-61 setback in Fort Myers, Fla. Center Mac Koshwal returned from an eight-game layoff due to a foot injury and had 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, but it wasn't enough to keep the Blue Demons from falling to 7-5.

DePaul begins Big East play Dec. 28 at Pittsburgh.


GEORGETOWN
Saturday's loss to Old Dominion came at McDonough Arena. The Monarchs led by 18 points in the second half before the Hoyas cut the deficit to 59-57 with 1:16 remaining.

For the second straight game, center Greg Monroe scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Forward Julian Vaughn and guard Austin Freeman each added 13 points.

Monroe leads the Hoyas in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (9.9). His rebounding average is third in the BIG EAST. Guard Austin Freeman is the league leader in free throw shooting, making 95.2 percent.

GU returns to the Verizon Center Wednesday against Harvard.


LOUISVILLE
The Cardinals rolld past Western Kentucky in the Billy Minardi Classic on Saturday. Six players scored in double figures led by guards Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith who had 17 points apiece. Sosa added five assists and was named MVP of the game.

After forcing a season-high 21 turnovers in Wednesday's win over Oral Roberts, the Cardinals forced WKU into 25 miscues.

Under coach Rick Pitino, the Cardinals are 85-6 overall and 6-1 this season when scoring more than 80 points. The Cardinals host Louisiana-Lafayette Wednesday.


MARQUETTE
The Golden Eagles used an early 16-2 run to distance themselves from North Florida last Saturday. Forward Jimmy Butler scored 21 points and forward Joseph Fulce added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Lazar Hayward added 13 points and seven rebounds. MU held the Ospreys to 36.5-percent shooting from the floor.

Hayward is tops on the team and fifth in the Big East in scoring with an 18.3 average. Butler is second at 16.1.

The Golden Eagles host Presbyterian on Dec. 27 before their league schedule begins at West Virginia on Dec. 29.


NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame was effective from the outset in its 101-69 win against Bucknell at Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday. The Fighting Irish made their first five shots, shot 63 percent in the first half and were never threatened on their way to the easy win. Forward Luke Harangody had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his 56th career double-double while guard Ben Hansbrough added 16 points. The Irish wrapped up nonconference play with an 11-2 record.

Harangody leads the Big East in scoring with a 24.5 average and is fourth in rebounding at 9.8.


PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh cruised to an easy 74-49 win against Ohio at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday. The Panthers held a 17-point lead in the first eight-and-a-half minutes behind a 16-0 run that gave Pitt a 20-3 lead. Pittsburgh held Ohio to 23.9-percent shooting and had 26 assists on 29 made baskets. Guard Ashton Gibbs had a game-high 15 points, while guard Brad Wanamaker had an unusual double-double with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

PROVIDENCE
The Friars had to rally from a seven-point deficit in the second half to defeat Yale in a Monday evening contest. Forward Jamine Peterson recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

The Friars shot only 30.8 percent from the floor in a home loss to Iona on Dec. 12, but regained their shooting touch against Yale, making 50.7 percent.

The top PC scorers are: Peterson (17.8), Marshon Brooks (15.4) and Sharaud Curry (13.0). The team is averaging 84.6 ppg. Peterson is easily the top rebounder (10.9).

The Friars open Big East play Dec. 30 at Notre Dame. Last season, PC dropped a 103-84 decision to the Irish in Providence and has lost its last six games against ND. The Friars' last win in the series was 73-59 at the Joyce Center on Feb. 24, 2004.


RUTGERS
Rutgers has won six straight for the first time since 2001 as the Scarlet Knights rode a career-high 28-point effort from guard Mike Rosario to a 66-42 win against Saint Peter's at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Tuesday. Rosario made 10-of-16 field goal attempts, while center Hamady Ndiaye had 15 points and a career-high 10 blocks. Rutgers set a school record by blocking 18 shots, which limited the Peacocks to just 23.3-percent shooting.

RU announced that forward Gregory Echenique will miss the remainder of season while recovering from eye surgery. In seven games, he was averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds.


SETON HALL
Seton Hall bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 94-56 win against Navy at the Prudential Center on Tuesday. Guard Jordan Theodore scored a game-high 18 points and guard Jeremy Hazell was right behind with 17. The Pirates put the game away with a 20-2 run in the second half as Seton Hall outscored the Midshipmen 64-33 in the final 20 minutes.

Hazell is second in the Big East in scoring with a 20.3 average. Forward Herb Pope leads the league in rebounding with a 12.6 mark.


ST. JOHN'S
The Red Storm's loss to Cornell came in the title game of the MSG Holiday Festival on Saturday.

Guard Dwight Hardy scored 19 points and was 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Swingman D.J. Kennedy added 15 points and seven rebounds. St. John's was outshot from the field, 57.1 percent to 42.1 percent.

Kennedy is averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game and leads in assists at 3.5.

The Red Storm meet Bryant on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena before their Big East schedule begins Dec. 31 at Georgetown.


SYRACUSE
Syracuse powered its way to a 12-0 start as the Orange scored a 92-60 blowout of Oakland at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday. Freshman guard Brandon Triche scored a season-high 27 points, while forward Wes Johnson added 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Orange, who have won every game by double-digit margins this year. Triche made 9-of-11 shots from the field, was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and was 3-of-4 from the free throw line.

Forward Wes Johnson leads Syracuse in scoring (16.5 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg) and blocks (2.1). Guard Scoop Jardine is first in the Big East in assists with a 6.1 average. Guard Andy Rautins leads the league in steals at 2.8.


USF
Guard Mike Mercer scored a team-high 19 points to lead the Bulls past San Diego in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic last Sunday. The Bulls were 2-0 in the tourney which included a 69-49 win over San Francisco on Saturday. They are 10-2 for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

Against San Diego, guard Dominique Jones added 18 points. With the game tied 51-51, USF scored the next six points and never gave up the lead. Jones owns an 18.6 scoring average.

Forward Augustus Gilchrist, who is averaging 18.8 ppg, is expected to be out until at least mid-January with an ankle injury.

The Bulls' two losses are by three points each. USF has completed its non-league schedule. The Bulls play at Louisville on Dec. 30.


VILLANOVA
Forward Reggie Redding played his first game of the season after serving a university suspension and contributed 15 points and nine rebounds in the win over Fordham at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Five Wildcats scored in double figures. Forward Antonio Pena and guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher all finished with 17 points.

Four Villanova players average double figures in scoring, including Reynolds, who has a 16.7 scoring mark. Villanova is first in the Big East in free throw shooting, making 75.2 percent.

The Wildcats host Delaware on Wednesday.


WEST VIRGINIA
Forward Da'Sean Butler scored 18 points, including a layup with 1.2 seconds left, in the win at Cleveland State on Saturday. He also grabbed nine rebounds.

Kevin Jones posted his second straight career scoring high, finishing with 23 points. WVU committed a season-high 17 turnovers. Guard Casey Mitchell missed his second straight game because of a sore right knee.

Jones is the only WVU player to reach double figures in every game this year. He is second in scoring (15.5) and first in rebounding (7.3).

WVU hosts Mississippi on Wednesday. The Mountaineers have won 28 straight at home against non-conference foes.


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