Star freshmen have often taken center stage this season, but the biggest matchup of this pre-Christmas week puts a spotlight on sophomores. Monday, UCLA travels to Ohio State in what would be a very good win on either résumé.

Lauren Betts, a transfer from Stanford, is the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker for the Bruins, who continue their hold on No. 2 in ESPN’s women’s college basketball Power Rankings. Fellow sophomore Kiki Rice leads the Bruins in assists and steals.

Gabriela Jaquez and Londynn Jones, two other Bruins sophomores, are averaging in double figures in scoring, along with Betts and Rice. They are all starting, along with fifth-year senior Charisma Osborne.

UCLA is averaging 92.7 points but now must face an Ohio State team that is holding opponents to 59.5 points and is forcing 22.7 turnovers per game. The Buckeyes have their own sophomore star in Cotie McMahon, who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding.

The Buckeyes’ only loss came in the season opener to UCLA’s cross-city rival, USC, on Dec. 6 on a neutral court in Las Vegas. Ohio State got an early look at USC freshman JuJu Watkins in that game (32 points). Now the Buckeyes have a chance to put their defense to another test against a UCLA squad that already has victories against ranked UConn and Florida State.

Next year, of course, UCLA and Ohio State will be in the Big Ten. But for now, the Bruins are still carrying the Pac-12 banner for a game that shows us the best of the sport right now, and in the future.



Baylor hands Miami first loss of season to move to 9-0

Baylor beats Miami by 18 points to continue its perfect start to the season.

Andrews has been probably the biggest “glue player” for the Bears since Nicki Collen took over as coach in 2021-22, a guard whom Baylor can count on for consistency. This past week, she had 18 points and six assists in helping Baylor hand Miami its first loss of the season, 75-57. And in a rout of Delaware State, Andrews had 12 points and five steals. Baylor’s success has been predicated on a balanced attack — five players are averaging in double figures in scoring — with Andrews leading the way at 12.9 PPG.

The No. 19 Golden Eagles are off to an 11-0 start, their best in program history. On Wednesday, they notched a 76-70 win over Big East rival Creighton behind Liza Karlen’s 25 points and 12 rebounds. Marquette had to fight off Appalachian State 99-91 on Sunday, and did so with Karlen and Jordan King combining for 53 points and Frannie Hottinger grabbing 21 rebounds.

Marquette finishes nonconference play against Bucknell this week, then has a Big East showdown on New Year’s Eve vs. UConn in Hartford.

The UNLV Lady Rebels were off to their best start (9-0) since they began the 1990-1991 season 14-0. But the Seton Hall Pirates took control from the tip, getting a 15-2 lead and controlling the game the rest of the way. UNLV star Desi-Rae Young came in averaging 19.0 points but scored just six on 2-of-12 shooting. Azana Baines led Seton Hall with 23 points and 11 rebounds. The Pirates are 8-3 and play their first Big East game Wednesday at Georgetown.

Brooks got his 500th career win as the Hokies topped Rutgers 84-59 on Sunday behind 17 3-pointers. Brooks, who coached at James Madison for 14 seasons, has been at Virginia Tech since 2016-17 and led the program to its first Final Four last season. The Hokies’ only losses this season are to fellow 2023 Final Four teams Iowa and LSU.



No. 1 South Carolina improves to with win over Presbyterian

Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley scores 18 points as the Gamecocks pull away early to beat Presbyterian, 99-29, earning their third straight 10-0 start to a season.

Power Rankings

1. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Bowling Green Falcons (Tuesday)

Nothing against South Carolina’s defense, but coach Dawn Staley’s offense continues to grab headlines. The average intrasquad scrimmage is far tougher for the Gamecocks than their 99-29 romp over fellow South Carolina school Presbyterian on Saturday. Seven Gamecocks scored in double figures, led by freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley’s 18 points. It’s the seventh time this season South Carolina has had at least five players score in double figures, the most such games of any Division I team.

2. UCLA Bruins (9-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Ohio State Buckeyes (Monday), vs. Hawaii Rainbow Wahine (Thursday)

The Bruins were off last week and next face what could be their toughest test yet: on the road against the Buckeyes. Yes, they previously beat UConn, but that game was at a neutral site. UCLA also confirmed that forward Emily Bessoir will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury she suffered last month in her native Germany at the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 qualifiers.

3. NC State Wolfpack (11-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Old Dominion Monarchs (Wednesday)

Saniya Rivers missed her second game in a row with a back injury as the Wolfpack won 66-54 at South Florida on Saturday. However, it’s not thought to be serious, and she could return this week. Guard Aziaha James is making the most of her playing time. She has eight games of 15 points or more this season; she had just four such games her first two seasons combined at NC State.

4. Texas Longhorns (11-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (Wednesday)

It was a big weekend for Texas athletics, as the volleyball team won the program’s fourth NCAA title. The Longhorns’ women’s hoops team would love to make its first Final Four appearance in 20 years this spring. Texas has the talent to do it. Behind Rori Harmon’s near-triple-double (19 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists), the Longhorns won at Arizona this past week.

5. Colorado Buffaloes (9-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Northern Colorado Bears (Thursday)

The Buffs did nothing to drop a spot in the Power Rankings this week except be idle; Texas jumped ahead of them for now. But Colorado will have a chance to make an early statement in Pac-12 play against fellow ranked team Utah on Dec. 30.



Kim Mulkey ejected, has to be held back by Angel Reese

Kim Mulkey is ejected form the game after a heated moment with the officials following an offensive foul on Aneesah Morrow.

6. LSU Tigers (11-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Coppin State Eagles (Wednesday)

Despite two blowout wins, it was still an entertaining week for LSU. The Tigers set school records for points and margin of victory against McNeese State with the grotesque score of 133-44 on Tuesday. Then, late in an 81-36 victory over Northwestern State on Sunday, coach Kim Mulkey got animated and was tossed from the game for arguing with officials over a charge call against Aneesah Morrow.

7. Iowa Hawkeyes (11-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (Thursday)

Caitlin Clark had 38 points in her “homecoming” game in Des Moines on Saturday in a 104-75 victory over Cleveland State. With nine 3-pointers, she reached 403 for her career; she’s chasing NCAA career leader Kelsey Mitchell (497). Sophomore post Hannah Stuelke had her first double-double of the season (17 points, 13 rebounds) as well.

8. Stanford Cardinal (9-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. UC Davis Aggies (Wednesday)

Until last Friday against Portland, the Cardinal hadn’t played since their Dec. 3 loss to Gonzaga. After being limited by illness against the Bulldogs, Cameron Brink got right back into the double-double business with 23 points and 15 rebounds against the Pilots in an 81-51 win. She also added four assists and four blocked shots.

9. UConn Huskies (7-3)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Butler Bulldogs (Monday), at Toronto Metropolitan (Wednesday)

The Huskies got more unfortunate injury news last week: Reserve forward Ayanna Patterson won’t play this season due to knee surgery. But that was followed by a needed 86-62 victory over ranked Louisville on Saturday that lifted UConn’s spirits. Aubrey Griffin and Aaliyah Edwards combined for 47 points on 19-of-23 shooting (82.6%). This week, UConn starts Big East play vs. Butler and visits Toronto for Edwards’ Canadian homecoming game, then has some time to prepare for facing ranked conference foes Marquette and Creighton back-to-back.

10. Baylor Bears (9-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Providence Friars (Wednesday), vs. South Florida Bulls (Thursday), both games in the West Palm Beach Invitational in Florida

The Bears moved back into the top 10 of the Power Rankings — they were also there in Week 2 — after victories against Delaware State and ranked Miami. Along with Sarah Andrews’ Player of the Week-worthy performances, the Bears were happy to see Jada Walker, a transfer from Kentucky, get a confidence-building 14 points against the Hurricanes.

11. USC Trojans (8-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans (Monday), at Long Beach State Beach (Thursday)

Like Colorado, the Trojans really didn’t do anything to drop in the Power Rankings. They just got bumped down while being idle, while teams ahead of them beat ranked opponents. USC will finish its nonconference slate this week. Then comes the biggie at UCLA on Dec. 30.

12. Kansas State Wildcats (10-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (Monday), vs. Southern Jaguars (Wednesday)

Center Ayoka Lee was way too much for North Florida to handle: She had 36 points in 23 minutes, shooting 15 of 17 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free throw line in a 79-53 victory Saturday. For the season, her shooting percentage from the field is up to 68.1.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Western Michigan Broncos (Thursday)

The Irish have won eight in a row since their season-opening loss to South Carolina, including Sunday’s 76-39 pounding of Purdue. Irish superfreshman Hannah Hidalgo had 23 points and eight assists. All of which might have made the intensely competitive-looking new statue of retired legendary Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, unveiled before the game, smile when no one was looking.

14. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. UCLA Bruins (Monday), vs. Belmont Bruins (Sunday)

It’s not often a team gets to face two sets of Bruins back-to-back, but that’s the Buckeyes’ upcoming pre-Christmas slate. Ohio State beat Grand Valley State 73-49 last week in a game where no Buckeye played more than 21 minutes.



Utah’s Alissa Pili drops 20 in win vs. Southern Utah

Alissa Pili scores a team-high 20 points as Utah routs Southern Utah on the road.

15. Utah Utes (9-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Weber State Wildcats (Thursday)

The Utes swapped spots in the Power Rankings with Notre Dame, but they still took care of business 96-60 against Southern Utah on Saturday. The best part of that game for Utah was making 16 3-pointers, led by Alissa Pili’s four.

16. Virginia Tech Hokies (8-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. William & Mary Tribe (Thursday)

The Hokies’ 25-point win at Rutgers on Sunday was enough to put them back in the Power Rankings, jumping over idle Indiana. Matilda Ekh, a transfer from Michigan State, had her best game thus far for Virginia Tech with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds.