LSU-OSU, Texas-Duke among Sunday highlights

Originally Published: December 1, 2006
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

To get straight to the point, the majority of so-called "big games" haven't turned out to be very interesting so far this season.

UConn-Purdue? Eh. Once the Huskies went on a run and took control, they held the Boilermakers at arm's length, as Katie Gearlds had one of those "please tell me this is just a bad dream" shooting nights. (Unfortunately for Purdue, that seems to have lingered. And about the Boilers' loss in South Bend on Wednesday … do Notre Dame's new uniforms make the players look kinda like boxes of Irish Spring soap to you, too?)

Tennessee-Stanford? I almost fell asleep watching it on my laptop. Admittedly, Stanford-Georgia two days later was much closer.

Tennessee-North Carolina? A ton of talent on the floor but … it wasn't an enjoyable game to watch, unless you like high-octane chaos. Each team had 24 turnovers.

Duke-Rutgers? Well, there was the surprise of Matee Ajavon playing, three days after Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer said that her star guard wouldn't be ready until the end of December at the earliest and she was even considering redshirting her. Apparently, Ajavon at the last minute told Stringer she was feeling pretty good. Guess that was fortunate … without her, Rutgers might have lost by 50 instead of 40.

So do we really have something to look forward to Sunday with No. 22 Texas at No. 4 Duke (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET) and No. 6 Ohio State at No. 10 LSU (3 p.m. ET)?

If we do -- in terms of a tight, down-to-the-wire battle -- it's probably going to be OSU-LSU. The first thing you think about, of course, is the matchup at center, with Jessica Davenport going against Sylvia Fowles. Thus far, there's not much to find wrong with either one.

Davenport is averaging 21.4 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 74.7 percent from the field. Fowles is hitting 67 percent of her shots, averaging 16.4 points and 9.1 boards.

The Buckeyes are coming off a five-point victory at home last Sunday against Washington, in which they had to rally hard. OSU is undefeated, but it hasn't really shown a lot yet, so this is a good chance to do that.

A win in Baton Rouge, even in the "post-Augustus era," would be a good notch on the Buckeyes' belts. And Davenport, by the way, will have another center showdown on the road Dec. 20, when OSU plays against Courtney Paris and friends at Oklahoma.

LSU's only loss was at Baylor -- but that has also been its most difficult opponent thus far.

As for the Longhorns and Blue Devils, it's up to Texas to prove it can really make this a game. We have seen already how good Duke is. But if the 'Horns don't show well, that doesn't mean we won't see a significantly better Texas team in a few months.

The 'Horns have been defined, unfortunately, by their injuries since last season. In fact, it was during the game against Duke in Austin a year ago that two standout freshmen, Carla Cortijo and Earnesia Williams, suffered knee injuries that kept them out the rest of the season. The good news is that they were both eligible to redshirt, and so they still have four seasons left to play in college.

Cortijo is the floor leader, and Texas really needs her to be in charge against Duke, which has a speedy, smart and versatile backcourt. Williams has sat out the past two games because she wasn't needed and it helped her knee, which still is subject to swelling. She's expected to play against Duke.

Two other Longhorns, though, are only "probable:" sophomore Crystal Boyd (ankle) and junior Katrina Robinson (knee swelling).

Texas senior Tiffany Jackson -- who at times felt like she was on a not-very-nice deserted island last year -- is averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. The Longhorns have played only one truly challenging nonconference foe thus far -- and they lost that game, at New Mexico.

Texas coach Jody Conradt certainly can get to the point, too. And she does, talking about Sunday's game: "Elementary school is over, and we are going straight to the graduate school program, beginning Sunday at Duke. It won't be easy. We need to see where we are. We don't have a road win. This is the real test. We are going in knowing that if we play hard, and stay connected and patient, that we have a chance."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

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