League's top teams to clash this week

Updated: January 17, 2004, 10:52 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Kelly Mazzante politely sounded like she really didn't know what the big deal was, all these folks wanting to ask her about "the record.''

Kelly Mazzante
Penn State's Kelly Mazzante goes for the Big Ten women's career scoring mark on Sunday.
It was pretty clear after about a minute of the Penn State star's teleconference on Wednesday that becoming the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer -- which will probably happen for Mazzante on Sunday at Illinois -- was not exactly going to be a life-changing event.

In fact, if no one had told her, she would not have noticed. She's busy thinking about how to get Penn State through the dangerous jungle of the Big Ten.

The league has two humongous matchups in five days. First on Sunday, undefeated Minnesota faces Purdue (1 p.m. ET) in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilermakers are promoting it as "Pack the Mack,'' correctly assuming that "Packy Mackey'' would sound stupid.

The game tickets are all of $1. Where else can you get a deal like that? And it all works out well for the Purdue fans who are also Colts fans ... the Horseshoes don't kick off until 3 p.m. ET.

Ah, but if you're not going to be anywhere near the state of Indiana on Sunday, the game is televised on Fox Sports Chicago. And if you don't have a satellite dish to get the various sports channels across the country ... good heavens, where are your priorities? At the very least, start leeching off somebody who does have one.

Shereka Wright is averaging 19.0 points to lead the Boilers, and she's hitting 52.9 percent of her shots from the field. Wright has never shot better than 50 percent for a season, so if she can keep that up, she's all the more a weapon for Purdue.

The Boilers' losses were to Duke way back in November and in the Big Ten opener to Penn State, a 47-42 clinker. In their second "marquee'' test in the league, Purdue very much wants to put on a better show.

Meanwhile, the Gophers won't be thinking about moving up in the polls, but that will happen if they win. Lindsay Whalen is at 22.3 points per game and Janel McCarville at 16.1; they've led an excellent supporting cast to 15-0 so far.

Then Thursday, Minnesota travels to Penn State for a 7 p.m. game. Fans of the respective schools -- and anyone else who wants to join in -- can have the Whalen vs. Mazzante debate. Should be a blast.

"We laugh at some of the hype of the two 'No. 13s' going against each other,'' Mazzante said of herself and Whalen. "We respect each other as two basketball players.''

Mazzante, who needs nine points Sunday to break Katie Smith's league record of 2,578 points, admitted she didn't know much about the Olympic gold medalist, WNBA standout and former Ohio State star Smith.

Smith was a Buckeye during 1992-96 and led Ohio State to the Final Four in '93. If you're an old-enough women's basketball fan, you surely remember what a sensation she was and ...

You know, I can't believe I'm talking about Katie Smith's college career as if it were in the '50s or something. Gee whiz, where does the time go? I first saw Smith in a televised victory vs. Virginia in 1993, in front of 9,177 fans in Columbus. And if it weren't for Sheryl Swoopes -- a big "if'' -- wouldn't everybody remember Smith's 28 points and 11 rebounds as a rookie in the '93 national championship game?

Well, everybody except these youngsters, of course.

"I never met her or talked to her,'' Mazzante said. "I just know she was a pretty good basketball player.''

Now, back to the teleconference ... somebody asked Mazzante if she was eager to get the "weight off her shoulders'' by breaking the record.

Oh, brother.

"To be quite honest, I really haven't thought too much about this record,'' she said. "There's no weight there. When I leave Penn State and have a chance to look back ... ''

But right now, there's too much to look forward to -- for Mazzante and everybody else in the Big Ten.

Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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