Records were made to be broken. Except in Connecticut, apparently.
The Huskies notched another significant win after a week of rest and with two of their starters back on the floor. Though Florida State cut the deficit to four with 3:19 on the clock, the Huskies (8-2) closed out a 85-77 win to avoid their first back-to-back losses since March 1993.
The win wasn't without adversity. Head coach Geno Auriemma missed the game out of an abundance of caution when he began feeling unwell following shootaround, the program said. Assistant Chris Dailey moved to 14-0 as the acting head coach in his absence.
The Huskies led 17-4 to start, but let the Seminoles back in it after leading by as many as 23 points. They turned it over 20 times and couldn’t control the paint, trailing in rebounds (46-31) and paint points (40-28).
All are fixable with key players returning rather than exiting with injuries. Graduate forward Dorka Juhász (thumb) had a team-high nine rebounds and looked aggressive early in her first game since Nov. 14. Point guard Nika Mühl (concussion) came back in a big way with 12 assists, the fifth double-assist game of her nine-game season so far.
Aaliyah Edwards' move up in production has been all the difference. Her 16.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game are approximately double her numbers last season as she takes over games for UConn. Against Florida State, Edwards scored 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting. It followed her 25-point performance against Maryland last week. Her four 20-plus-point games are double the amount she had in her first two seasons with the Huskies.
UConn has ticked off boxes of a legitimate contender and is through the toughest of its nonconference schedule. It faces a struggling Tennessee squad on Jan. 26 and a solid No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 5.
Loser: Florida State’s opportunity
FSU (11-2), which received votes in the AP poll last week, missed its best nonconference opportunity at a quality win. Though it looked like an early blowout, Florida State battled all the way back to force an interesting fourth quarter.
Their momentum shifted away when star freshman Ta’niya Latson, who had 24 points (7-of-19 FG%, 9-of-10 FT%) in 27 minutes, fouled out at 6:44. It was the second game the nation’s top-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2022 fouled out. The Seminoles controlled much of the box score, except they couldn’t take advantage of turnovers that included 12 steals. Sophomore forward Makayla Timpson also fouled out.
It was a missed win, but FSU still showed its mettle and will have more chances in ACC play to improve its NCAA resume. Latson, the leading candidate for Freshman of the Year honors, will adjust to playing higher-caliber opponents and stay on the floor.
Latson is the second ACC player since at least 1999-00 to score at least 20 points in 10 straight games. Wake Forest star Dearica Hamby, who won her first WNBA title with the Las Vegas Aces in September, was the first when she had 11 straight games between 2013-14 and '14-15, per ESPN Stats and Information. The only Division I freshman to do it in the past decade is Iowa's Caitlin Clark.
Latson is averaging 25.3 points, ranking fifth, in 29.2 minutes per game (645th, via Her Hoop Stats). She ranks second in points per 40 minutes (34.7) and fourth in win shares.
Winner: South Carolina’s depth and future
South Carolina (11-0) head coach Dawn Staley told The State's Jeremiah Holloway last week next season will "bring different challenges" since the core will lean more younger than the older group she has now. She has the No. 2-ranked recruiting class coming in and one "birdie" is already "in the nest," as Staley tweets it.
Chloe Kitts is a 6-foot-2 five-star forward from Faith Christian Academy in Florida who ranks No. 17 in the ESPN class of 2023. Kitts opted to forgo her senior season after graduating high school this month and moved into her Columbia, South Carolina, dorm on Tuesday. She traveled on Thursday to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the win against South Dakota State.
And on Sunday, she played her first minutes as a collegiate player to roaring ovations from the home crowd. By the final buzzer of a 87-23 win against Charleston Southern she had 10 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists in 23 minutes. She was 4-of-9, including hitting her one 3-point attempt and making two free throws.
"I'm super, super surprised," senior guard Zia Cooke said postgame. "Just from coming out of high school, I know how I would have been. I probably wouldn't know what I was doing, but when she's out there, she's asking questions. She's even knowing the answers to some things I didn't even know my freshman year."
Younger does not mean less talented and bringing in a player like Kitts early won’t only help her skills, development and confidence. It will also incorporate her into the chemistry of the team Staley wants to continue, and allow her to better pass it along next season. South Carolina’s future is looking as bright as ever.
Loser: Triple-double tally
The triple-double count is on for Iowa's Clark and Notre Dame's Olivia Miles because, well, why not. They are nightly threats to notch one and potentially set records by the end of their careers. Already each are en route to joining Sabrina Ionescu as the only players to have one in four collegiate seasons.
They again came close in games on Sunday. Miles came three assists short of one with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. The sophomore point guard could be more aggressive in getting her own shot going when the Notre Dame offense sputters as it did in the first half. She scored 13 of her points in the second on 5-of-9 shooting and had four assists. The Fighting Irish won, 63-52, against Virginia Tech in the first top-10 matchup in Blacksburg.
Clark kept on pace with her scoring average with 26 points in a 88-74 win over Northern Iowa for the in-state season sweep. She added eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Her assist mate Monika Czinano scored 22 points. They combined for 23-of-25 day at the free-throw line.
𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐓𝐄 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐒 😤#Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/9F12cWwHLa— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) December 18, 2022
Tennessee attended Cameron Brink's block party on Sunday and it wasn't a pretty painted picture for them. The 6-4 junior forward tied her career high with six blocks in the 77-70 win at home on Sunday. She had two in the first quarter and a deafening four in the fourth quarter, which the Cardinal entered trailing by five points. They outscored the Lady Vols, 24-12, in the final 10 minutes.
Brink’s layup gave Stanford the lead back at 7:58 and an ensuing block turned into a 3-pointer by Hannah Jump to push the lead to four. Tennessee kept going into the paint and kept being denied.
CAMERON BRINK IS DOING IT ALL 😤 @StanfordWBB | @cameronbrink22 pic.twitter.com/SiJqxyKVr6— espnW (@espnW) December 18, 2022
Brink’s parents deserve a shoutout for their reactions to the blocks while sitting directly under the basket in the second half. Brink finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds in 27 minutes while again dealing with foul trouble.
Back on the East Coast, Villanova's Maddy Siegrist and Christina Dalce had their own block party in a 74-62 loss to Iowa State. Siegrist had four to go with another monster 32-point, 12-rebound game. She moved into third place on the program's all-time rebounding list with 876. Dalce had three with five rebounds and three points in 26 minutes. The Wildcats kept up with the Cyclones, but need more scoring beyond Siegrist.
What to watch
No. 21 Creighton (8-2) at No. 2 Stanford (11-1), 10 p.m. ET — Creighton, led by the trio of Morgan Maly (17.7 ppg), Lauren Jensen (16.8 ppg) and Emma Ronsiek (12.2 ppg), is coming off an eight-point loss to Arkansas in its toughest three-game stretch. After Stanford, it faces UConn on Dec. 28 at home.
Seton Hall (9-3, 2-0 Big East) at No. 9 UConn (8-2, 1-0 Big East), noon ET — UConn is averaging 1.21 points per scoring attempt (second) aided by a 41.6% 3-point clip (second).
Miami (7-4) at Florida State (11-2), noon ET on ACCNX — Haley and Hanna Cavinder, the senior TikTok stars who transferred from Fresno State, will have their first taste of ACC action. Haley is averaging a second-best 11.5 points per game (Destiny Harden averages 11.9).
Virginia (12-0, 1-0 ACC) at Duke (10-1, 0-0 ACC), 7 p.m. ET on ACCNX — Duke and Virginia each rank top-10 defensively, though without serious competition so far.
Louisville (9-4) at DePaul (8-3), 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1 — Aneesah Morrow is averaging a double-double of 26.1 points (fourth in Division I) and 12.1 rebounds (seventh) per game. For Louisville, Hailey Van Lith is averaging 20 points a game and Chrislyn Carr is averaging 10.5 points as the team's only double-digit scorers.
Florida (11-1) at No. 23 Oklahoma (9-1), 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 — Oklahoma is one of the nation's best offenses (86.8 ppg) and hits 46.6% of its field-goal attempts, mostly from inside the arc.
Cal (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12) at No. 2 Stanford (11-1, 0-0 Pac-12), 3 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks — The Cardinal begin their Pac-12 schedule with Cal, whose notable game is a 90-79 loss to Notre Dame in November.
AP Top 25 poll (as of Dec. 19)
1. South Carolina (11-0)
2. Stanford (11-1)
3. Ohio State (11-0)
4. Indiana (11-0)
5. Notre Dame (9-1)
6. North Carolina (9-1)
7. NC State (11-1)
8. Virginia Tech (10-1)
9. UConn (8-2)
10. LSU (11-0)
11. UCLA (11-1)
12. Utah (10-0)
13. Iowa (9-3)
14. Iowa State (8-2)
15. Maryland (9-3)
16. Oregon (9-1)
17. Arkansas (13-0)
18. Arizona (9-1)
19. Michigan (10-1)
20. Kansas (10-0)
21. Creighton (8-2)
22. Gonzaga (10-2)
23. Oklahoma (9-1)
24. Baylor (8-3)
25. St. John’s (11-0)