NCAA Women: Mangakahia and Smith earn conference Player of the Week awards

Alanna Smith and Tiana Mangakahia continue to blaze a trail through college basketball, with the pair playing some of the best basketball in the nation for their respective teams. This week, that outstanding play resulted in both players being awarded conference Player of the Week awards, whilst Tia Hay and Shannon Dufficy must have been in the conversation in their own respective conferences.

However the raft of good news that has come in recent days was tempered slightly by the news that Wake Forest star Alex Sharp recently broke her hand in training and will miss the next four to six weeks whilst recovering. Sharp has averaged 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in 9 games this season, both improvements on last season, and her presence will be sorely missed in a Wake Forest side looking to build on its current record of 9-7 and improve on last season’s 14-17 mark.

Tiana Mangakahia may be excellent at sharing the rock, but has no intention of sharing ACC Player of the Week awards after picking up her second selection in as many weeks. The junior’s first career triple-double was the catalyst for the Orange’s 90-77 victory over North Carolina as Syracuse moved to 3-0 in ACC play and held onto their #12 spot in the AP Top 25. Mangakahia buried her first four three-point attempts of the game on the way to 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists at halftime, but the Wooden Award watch list selection was far from done. Another 16 points followed in the second half alongside four more assists and rebounds to see Mangakahia finish with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in an electrifying performance that ensured Syracuse would defend their patch in their conference home opener.

Mangakahia wasn’t the only Aussie picking up a conference award this week, with Alanna Smith rewarded for her efforts with a selection as the Pac-12 Player of the Week. Having tallied 25 points and 6 rebounds against Arizona State earlier in the week, the senior came out in a ruthless mood to utterly dominate a hapless Arizona side as Stanford rolled to a 78-48 victory. As if finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds whilst shooting 4 of 6 from beyond the arc wasn’t impressive enough, Smith came agonisingly close to equalling Stanford’s single-game blocks record, swatting away seven Arizona shots in her 27 minutes on court. Although she finished one block short of Kristin Newlin’s record of 8, Smith did eclipse her own career high of six, set against New Mexico State in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Jade Johnson enjoyed an outstanding weekend which culminated in getting one over reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year and potential WNBA draft pick, shooting guard Jessica Kovatch in St. Francis’ win over namesake and conference rival, St. Francis University. Fresh off 14 points in the Terriers’ 75-56 loss to Robert Morris, Johnson came out firing as St. Francis rallied in the second half to secure a 78-65 victory. Whilst Kovatch tallied 20 points for the Pennsylvania-based side, Johnson proved she can match it with the best in the nation with a game-high 27 points, burying 6 of 11 from deep to lead the Terriers to victory. Amy O’Neill once again found teammates with aplomb throughout, registering 6 assists alongside 8 points and 5 rebounds.

Taylah Simmons has started conference play with a bang, and whilst Wagner could only get one win from their two games this weekend, that didn’t detract from the sophomore’s performances. Although the Seahawks fell to an 80-68 loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday, Simmons was among the best on the court in connecting on 7 of 12 from the field to tally 16 points as well as 8 rebounds. The sophomore then outdid herself against Fairleigh Dickinson, registering a career-high 20 points in a 71-59 victory as the Seahawks recovered from a 5-point opening term to roll over the Knights in the final three-quarters. Simmons connected on 8 shots from 15 attempts, and also collected 4 rebounds as Wagner moved to 2-2 in conference play.

Santa Clara had never played a triple overtime game in program history before this weekend, and thanks to Tia Hay, the Broncos are now 1-0 in such games after escaping Los Angeles with an 83-75 win over Loyola Marymount. Making a rare appearance off the bench, Hay nonetheless spent 49 of the 55 minutes on-court, finishing with a career-high 30 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, shooting 11 of 22 from the field in the process. The junior had the chance to win the game at the line in overtime, but split a pair of free throws to take the game into a second overtime at 62-62 before giving Santa Clara a lead late in the second extra period which was negated on the buzzer by Loyola Marymount. In the third overtime, Hay cut loose, scoring 9 of her team’s 15 points as the Broncos finally secured victory to move to 2-3 in conference play, a far healthier record than 1-4 would have been.

24 points and 14 rebounds represent an astounding performance in any situation, but when a player’s team scores just 50 points, it takes on new meaning. That was exactly what Shannon Dufficy accomplished in Utah State’s 50-42 victory over Wyoming as the junior secured her 9th double-double of the season as the Aggies clinched victory with a 16-8 fourth quarter after the teams came into the final term tied at 34-34. Dufficy shot 9 of 17 from the field, utterly dominating Wyoming in the paint from start to finish and picking up almost half of her team’s 50 points and 32 rebounds. Olivia West added 8 points, whilst Eliza West collected 5 rebounds and dished out 6 assists alongside two points.

Eve Braslis and Courtney Murphy faced off in a battle of Aussie freshmen, and whilst both players performed admirably, it was Utah Valley forward Braslis picking up the 58-55 victory over Murphy’s Seattle side, with the Aussies trading points late in a thrilling contest. Eventually, it was Braslis’ 18th point of the contest at the line followed by a couple of smart fouls to break any Seattle rhythm in the final seconds that got Utah Valley over the line, with their Aussie star collecting 7 rebounds and adding 3 assists alongside those 18 points. Murphy finished the game as one of three Seattle players in double figures, connecting on 5 of 10 from the field to notch 12 points for her second double-figure effort in three games.

Sam Simons’ confidence appears to be snowballing, and whilst Saint Mary’s may have fallen to a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to BYU, the freshman has every reason to be proud of her recent form. Simons registered her fourth double-figure scoring performance in a row, knocking down 4 of 7 from beyond the arc on her way to 16 points and 5 rebounds, including a basket with 22 seconds that drew the Gaels within a point before Carly Turner’s attempted buzzer-beater ended its journey off the mark. Turner finished with 6 points in 14 minutes off the bench, whilst Megan McKay finished the game as the Gaels’ equal top-scorer with Simons with 16 points and 7 rebounds of her own. Point guard Jasmine Forcadilla finished as one of four Gaels in double figures with 15 points of her own, whilst also tallying 3 assists and 3 rebounds.

 

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Fan of all things Aussie women's basketball. Too much college is never enough. Firm believer that winter was made for freezing in tin sheds at Waratah League games.

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