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The Phoenix remained unbeaten on the season with a win at Wisconsin on Dec. 23 and improved to 32-1 in the 2011 calendar year. When the only team that beats you in a 12-month period has Brittney Griner in the middle, you're doing something right. Julie Wojta (20.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.4 steals per game) remains a marvel and tormented new Wisconsin coach Bobbie Kelsey as much as she did old Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone, scoring 29 points in a 65-49 victory against the Badgers. And while this team isn't quite as reliant on takeaways for defensive success as that other team that plays in Green Bay, the Phoenix remain among the best in the nation at making you give up the ball.
The road to an unbeaten regular season still runs through road trips to James Madison and Hofstra, among other challenging Colonial Athletic Association stops. But the game that could define Delaware's season will be against Maryland on Dec. 29 -- if, and only if, those teams beat East Carolina and Lafayette, respectively to reach the final of the Terrapin Classic. As if she didn't have enough amazing numbers, Elena Delle Donne has played 293 minutes and taken 165 field goal attempts and 66 free throws -- and turned over the ball just 12 times.
Las Vegas was kind to Gonzaga, with wins against Georgia and Dayton in the Holiday Hoops Classic providing much-needed quality results for a team with two games remaining against BYU and little else of RPI consequence. Katelan Redmon topped 20 points in both victories in Vegas, while Kansas State transfer Taelor Karr totaled 11 assists and just three turnovers in 62 minutes. Karr and Haiden Palmer are shooting a combined 39.5 percent from the 3-point line (34-for-86). The rest of the team is shooting 18.9 percent (17 of 90).
The only loss came in November at the hands of Delle Donne and Delaware (and she was at least forced to take 26 shots to get her 26 points in that game), and a win against Marist adds another prize to a list that includes victories at St. John's and West Virginia. It's time to take the Bonnies seriously in the crowded Atlantic 10 race. This week's game against Villanova will likely have a lower score than most bowl games -- and potentially some hockey games -- but like some of Harry Perretta's best teams, Jim Crowley's Bonnies are masters of their own style.
Florida Gulf Coast opens the post-Christmas portion of its schedule against NC State in Hawaii, but it had little trouble dispatching another ACC foe to wrap things up before the brief holiday break. The Eagles hit 17 3-pointers in a 69-41 victory against Virginia Tech on Dec. 21 and have reached double digits in that category in every game since an opening loss at Seton Hall. Kelsey Jacobson went for 17 points against the Hokies, including five 3-pointers. She has taken 87 shots this season; 79 of them have come from beyond the 3-point line.
The Cougars enter their first West Coast Conference season with a 10-game winning streak, including neutral-site wins against Arizona and Syracuse and a home victory against Utah. Guard Haley Steed had a noteworthy line in an 82-53 win against Nevada before Christmas, totaling 11 assists without committing a turnover or attempting a field goal or free throw in 23 minutes. A sixth-year senior finally getting a good run of health, she scored 15 points in her second college game against Stanford -- and a lineup that included Candice Wiggins and Brooke Smith.
A 62-49 loss at Florida to close the pre-holiday schedule was a definite downer for the Dukes, but they get a chance to erase some of that sting with road games against Pittsburgh, James Madison and St. Bonaventure before the first week of January is in the books. A big comeback against West Virginia on Dec. 17 helped keep them in the top 10, as does the belief that they can't possibly repeat an 0-for-19 shooting performance from the 3-point line against Florida.
With wins against St. John's and Marist, Hofstra at least has control of the Hudson River (and that's not even counting a victory against Manhattan's Kansas State). Shante Evans came up big in the mid-major battle against the Red Foxes on Dec. 22, going for 29 points and 18 rebounds -- 13 of them on the offensive glass. With a star in Evans, a steady senior point guard in Candice Bellocchio, a scoring threat in Katelyn Loper and an X factor in Nicole Capurso, who has scored 20 twice this season despite 29.5 percent shooting, the Pride bear watching.
Mid-major programs aren't supposed to beat Oklahoma the season after losing the star player who was a first-team, all-conference selection three years running, but that's exactly what Fresno State did on Dec. 8. Exit Jaleesa Ross, enter Washington State transfer Ki-Ki Moore, who averaged 17.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in six December wins, including four in a row after the victory against the Sooners. A Jan. 6 game at UNLV won't generate big headlines, but it's a good road test before Fresno State enters WAC play.
December was unkind to the Tigers, and January doesn't offer many opportunities for redemption with just three games on the schedule because of those pesky Princeton academics. (The Tigers do have December games remaining against Hofstra and Drexel.) But other than a loss at Navy, losses against Delaware and DePaul at home and Stanford on the road aren't entirely negative. One problem? Princeton can't buy a 3-pointer. A team that shot 41 percent on 17 attempts per game a season ago is shooting worse than 30 percent on similar attempts this season.
Next five: Hampton, Missouri State, Tulane, Dayton, UNLV