Here are four must-watch games I’ll have my eyes on:
Sunday starts off with a heated rematch between in-state rivals when No. 4 NC State faces North Carolina.
Earlier this month, the Tar Heels gave the Wolfpack their second loss of the season just days after NC State knocked off then-No. 1 Louisville. This was a game that came down to the wire and was decided by single-digit points.
It was North Carolina’s Alyssa Ustby’s clutch shooting that helped UNC come out on top. NC State allowed Ustby to go 8-for-10 from the floor, with the Tar Heels making 11 3-pointers as a team.
North Carolina will look to take away NC State’s inside play after the Tar Heels were overpowered by the Wolfpack. UNC will look to limit the Wolfpack’s touches inside to Elissa Cunane, who leads the Wolfpack in scoring.
There’s another rematch on Sunday, but this time in the Big Ten when No. 15 Ohio State takes on No. 11 Michigan. With three Big Ten games left until the conference tournament, Michigan will be looking to bounce back in order to strengthen their resume since falling to No. 14 Indiana on Thursday.
Ohio State gave Michigan their first loss of the season before the Wolverines were hit with a two-week COVID-19 pause. The Big Ten matchup marked a program-record performance for junior forward Naz Hillmon, who scored 50 points against the Buckeyes.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Hillmon made it a double-double performance, grabbing 16 boards. Hillmon went 20-for-30 from the floor and gained 10 of her points from the free-throw line, but it wasn’t enough to put away Ohio State.
Make sure you focus in on the paint in the Big Ten matchup, which features the Big Ten’s top-two rebounders. Ohio State’s Dorka Juhasz will be tasked with shutting down Hillmon without getting in foul trouble.
Sunday continues to heat up with another rematch in the SEC when No. 17 Kentucky battles No. 2 South Carolina. The Gamecocks walked away with the 75-70 victory when these two teams faced off in January.
In order to come out on top, the Wildcats will have to take control of South Carolina’s fast-pace tempo. This month, UConn and Tennessee were able to upset the Gamecocks by limiting their fast-break opportunities.
Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard led the offense with an impressive 32-point performance, but the Wildcats still shot only 37.8 percent as a team.
South Carolina’s inside game will also be crucial to shut down. The Gamecocks feature double-double machine and top scorer Aliyah Boston. The last time these two teams met, South Carolina outrebounded the Gamecocks, 46-31 while putting up 23 second-chance points.
Later on Sunday, No. 8 UCLA takes on Oregon State. The Pac-12 matchup was originally set to tip off the New Year. Oregon State has been plagued by many game postponements this season, but the Beavers will look to finish strong.
Oregon State’s Aleah Goodman will be the Bruins’ main target to slow down on offense, along with her backcourt duo Sasha Goforth. Goodman leads the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage, shooting 52.4 percent beyond the arc while averaging 16.3 points per game.
Taylor Jones brings an inside presence for the Beavers, averaging 12.1 points per game and is No. 2 in field goal percentage in the Pac 12, shooting 57.4 percent from the floor.
As for UCLA, the Bruins sit at No. 3 in the Pac-12 standings, with big wins over Stanford and Oregon. UCLA will look to their scoring duo of Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne, who are in the top four when it comes to scoring in Pac-12, averaging 36 points together.