The Big Ten women’s basketball is off to its best start since 2006-07 winning 20 of the first 23 games, and the conference’s 14 schools combining for a 45-9 record through Monday.
No. 15 Maryland — picked to finish second in the Big Ten — split their two games last week with a 92-65 win against Niagara before losing by 25 points to No. 1 Connecticut.
Kaila Charles held her own against the Huskies with a double-double finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. She’s averaging 22.5 points — fourth in the Big Ten — and 8.3 rebounds in four games this year.
No. 24 Michigan was the latest victim to a talented and undefeated Louisville Cardinals squad — the No. 5 team in the country. In their lone game on Thursday of last week, Michigan, who won last season’s WNIT, was blown out 74-49 in the Preseason WNIT Semifinal. Louisville, who beat then-No.5 Ohio State in an overtime thriller on Nov. 12, will face off against Indiana, their final Big Ten opponent this year.
Ohio State rebounded from that OT loss with three consecutive wins against Idaha, Quinnipiac and Washington. Kelsey Mitchell — the three-time All-Big Ten and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year — has been averaging 26.2 points per game which is slightly above her career-high of 26.1 ppg set in 2015-16.
Michigan State — one of eight Big Ten teams to be ranked or receive votes in the polls — joins Penn State, Iowa, Rutgers, Northwesterm and Minnesota as the conference’s undefeated squads.
Rutgers might be the biggest surprise sitting at 4-0 after going just 6-24 last season. The Scarlet Knights — the former national powerhouse that advanced to the Sweet 16 or further eight times between 1998-2009 — will face defending National Champions No. 4 South Carolina.
Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell and Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris were named the Big Ten’s Co-Players of the Week — each for the first time of their careers.
Bell, a junior guard from Minneapolis, recorded double-doubles in all three of Minnesota’s wins against Rhode Island, VCU and Boston College. She averaged 24.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists to go along with 2.0 steals to lead the Gophers.
Sharing the honors with Bell was Harris, a sophomore forward from Indianapolis. Like Bell, Harris posted double-doubles in each contest last week as the Boilermakers improved to 3-0 before losing on Monday to Utah. Harris, scored 22 points with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots against Miami (Ohio) before posting 18 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists against Lamar.
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, Northwestern’s Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, and Ohio State’s Linnae Harper each were named to the conference’s Weekly Honor Roll. Minnesota was also represented by Destiny Pitts, who was named Freshman of the Week. The Detroit native averaged 13.7 points and 14.3 rebounds as she posted two double-doubles against VCU and Boston College.