Around the Big East WBB: Espinoza-Hunter putting league on notice

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When UConn rejoined the Big East this season, a lot of people assumed the Huskies would take over the league for women’s basketball, sweeping all of its awards and championships. However, Seton Hall graduate transfer Andra Espinoza-Hunter is making a very strong case for Big East Player of the Year with her recent performances. 

In what was an exciting week for the women’s side of Big East hoops, Espinoza-Hunter won her second consecutive Big East Player of the Week award. In Seton Hall’s 87-64 win over St. John’s last Wednesday, she had a career-high 30 points along with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. She had it going from deep in that game, shooting 4-for-9 from three. 

Then, Espinoza-Hunter followed that up with a 28-point performance against Xavier on Saturday, where she once again shot really well from three-point range (4-for-9). The Pirates won that game as well by a comfortable margin, 85-59. 

Espinoza-Hunter was supposed to sit out this year after transferring from Mississippi State, but she was granted a waiver to play at the end of December. Since then, the Pirates have won six of seven games, including the last five in a row. The duo of Espinoza-Hunter — who actually started her career at UConn — and Desiree Elmore, who herself averaged over 19 points in the two games last week, has brought Seton Hall to another level and right into the mix at the top of the conference. 

Aside from Seton Hall, there were some other good performances in the past week, perhaps none better than Villanova outlasting St. John’s in overtime on Monday. The Red Storm outscored the Wildcats 22-9 in the fourth quarter to force overtime, carried by  Leilani Correa, who scored 11 points in the quarter and 29 points overall. But Villanova was able to survive in overtime and win 81-78. 

Maddy Siegrist led the Wildcats with 24 points, ten rebounds and four steals. Brianna Herlihy also contributed a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, along with six assists. She also hit huge free throws at the end of the overtime period to ice the game. It was the Wildcats’ first game since Jan. 6 due to a COVID-19 pause, and although they got pushed to the brink by a relentless St. John’s squad, they were able to hold on to win. 

The other Big East women’s basketball team to really show out this week was Marquette, who dropped 95 points on Butler on Saturday. That’s pretty comparable to the 103 points UConn scored on them earlier in the week. Now, Butler is not a good team. Their 1-11 record shows that. But a 95-57 win is impressive nonetheless. 

Lauren Van Kleunen led the way with 21 points on an efficient 10-of-14 shooting. She was joined in double figures by Selena Lott (17), Claire Kaifes (12) and Camryn Taylor (11). With a 6-1 Big East record, the Golden Eagles are also among the top teams in the conference. 

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