NCAA Women: Mangakahia picks up ACC Player of the Week

Tiana Mangakahia | Credit: Syracuse University Athletics

With a number of teams playing in early season tournaments this week, there was plenty of opportunity for Aussies to rack up a number of outstanding performances in the one weekend, and players like Tiana Mangakahia, Alanna Smith, and Shannon Dufficy duly obliged on their trips away. Elsewhere, Northwestern freshman Jess Sancataldo popped up with an unexpected but welcome 20-point performance off the bench for the Wildcats.

Tiana Mangakahia’s name must already be close to a synonym for clutch around Syracuse, and the junior’s legend only grew this week as the Orange went a perfect three-for-three in Cancun this weekend. Mangakahia started the weekend with a team-leading 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals in her team’s 70-61 victory over Kansas State, and followed that up with a ridiculously efficient 14-point, 11-assist effort that featured zero turnovers in a 92-61 win over Princeton before taking on DePaul on the final day. In an overtime thriller, Mangakahia led the Orange in all three major categories, tallying 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Unbelievably, 11 of those 22 points came in overtime as the junior took over proceedings for the Orange before coming up with an acrobatic reverse lay-up to beat the buzzer for an 83-81 victory, sending the Syracuse bench into raptures. Mangakahia was also named ACC Player of the Week for her exploits, a just reward for an outstanding week of basketball from the junior.

Alanna Smith started slowly in Stanford’s three-game trip to Hawaii, but quickly turned that around in the latter two games. After a frustrating 6-point performance in a 88-65 win over Florida Gulf Coast that saw the senior pick up four fouls in just 13 minutes, Smith quickly put that behind her to dominate against American. Shooting 10 of 18 from the field, Smith dropped in 25 points whilst collecting 8 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists to lead the Cardinal to a dominant 71-49 victory. However, the best was yet to come against home side Hawaii in the final game of the weekend. Once again, Smith demonstrated why she was a Pac-12 All Conference preseason selection, hitting 12 of 15 to tally 30 points and 4 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action as a ruthless first half delivered Stanford an 81-59 victory to wrap up a perfect weekend in Honolulu.

It’s fair to say that not a week goes by without one of Utah State’s Aussies putting in a notable performance, and this week was no different. The team started the week with a highly controversial game against BYU, with a pair of mysterious free-throws and a no-call on a certain technical foul after BYU attempted to call a timeout with three seconds to play in regulation despite having none up their sleeve both going against the Aggies in a 62-57 overtime loss. Nonetheless, three Aussies performed solidly, with Shannon Dufficy leading the way with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Rachel Brewster came close to a double-double with 14 points and 9 rebounds, whilst Steph Gorman added 13 points before the team travelled to Reno for a pair of neutral-venue games.

Whilst the Aggies couldn’t pull out a win on their journey to Nevada, Gorman continued what has been a solid start to her career with 14 points and 4 rebounds in a 55-46 loss to USC, before Dufficy put the Aggies on her back in a valiant effort against Colorado. The junior shot 8 of 13 from the field and also chipped in 6 of 8 at the charity stripe for a game-high 23 points as well as five rebounds, but Colorado picked up the 78-68 win with Emma Clarke adding 8 points in 11 minutes off the bench for the Buffaloes. Gorman tallied her second double-figure game of the weekend with 10 points, whilst Eliza West added 8 points and 6 assists. Brewster was also solid once again, notching 8 points and 6 rebounds to give the Aggies some positives despite dropping to a 2-4 record.

With Northwestern flying at the moment, Jess Sancataldo has been receiving a bit of late-game playing time, but if the freshman’s current form continues, more consistent minutes will surely increase as the season progresses. The Sydneysider came off the bench late in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ 94-60 win over Tennessee-Martin, and after hitting a couple of shots, just kept shooting, and by the end of the game had racked up 20 points in 13 minutes on a stunning 8 of 10 shooting to push her case for extended playing time going forward.

Southern Methodist travelled to Los Angeles to play in a tournament hosted by Loyola Marymount, with Alicia Froling leading from the front to secure tournament MVP honours. The Mustangs snuck home in their opener against Robert Morris, with Froling adding 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks before their second game against Northern Arizona, which culminated in one of the most absurd final quarters in memory. Trailing 48-35 coming into the final quarter, the Mustangs rattled off a 20-0 final term to somehow secure a 55-48 victory. Froling scored 14 of her 19 points in the final term, and also tallied 12 rebounds and 4 blocks, whilst freshman Paige Bayliss chipped in with 6 points in 9 minutes to go with the 6 she scored in 12 minutes against Robert Morris.

With four seniors from last year’s Final Four side having now graduated, Chloe Bibby has slotted into Mississippi State’s starting lineup and appears to be taking to her new role like a duck to water. The Bulldogs have pulverised their last four opponents by over 50 points apiece, with Bibby doing plenty in one of those victories, a 106-41 demolition of Furman. The sophomore from Warracknabeal knocked down 5 of 6 from beyond the arc on her way to 21 points in just 25 minutes, whilst also notching 5 rebounds and 3 assists before the second unit took over for the rather extended garbage time period.

Saint Mary’s hosted a mini-tournament this week, and Megan McKay proved to be the Gaels’ main weapon as they split a pair of games. Taking on Milwaukee in their first game, Saint Mary’s opened up an early double-digit lead but, in the end, required a last-second lay-up to secure a 73-71 victory after their opponents chipped away at the margin for the entire second half. McKay led the team in both points and rebounds, shooting 7 of 13 to tally 15 points whilst collecting 9 boards. Jasmine Forcadilla added 10 points and 4 assists, whilst Sam Simons chipped in with 6 points. #3 Oregon proved to be a much tougher assignment, and despite a strong middle portion of the game, Saint Mary’s were blitzed in the early and late stages to fall to a 79-55 loss. However, McKay tallied a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Forcadilla added 7 points and Simons once again tallied 6. Freshman Milly Yates also saw her first collegiate playing time, just barely missing out on her first points as her scoop shot did everything but fall through the net in the final seconds.

Wagner may have played three periods of overtime across two games for no reward this week, but that didn’t stop Taylah Simmons from showing out in the Seahawks’ double-overtime loss to Siena. After a disappointing 2-point performance in a tough 56-54 overtime defeat to Vermont, Simmons returned with a vengeance against Siena. The sophomore tallied 18 points and collected 10 rebounds for a double-double, whilst also dishing out 4 assists and adding the basket that forced double overtime before Siena escaped with the 74-71 victory to see Wagner drop to 1-5, a record that hardly represents their recent performances, particularly given the two overtime losses in the space of two days.

Tia Hay and Santa Clara shook off a nightmarish first quarter against Cal State Fullerton to secure an overtime victory, with the Australian junior leading the charge. The Broncos shot a dismal 1 of 10 in the first quarter to trail 11-2 after 10 minutes, but somehow took a 1-point lead into halftime after a quick recovery. The game would finish 55-55 after regulation, but Santa Clara emerged with a 64-60 after the extra five minutes. Hay tallied a game-high 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting, and also picked up 3 steals in her 33 minutes on court to lead the Broncos to the win in a wildly see-sawing battle.

Finally, it was reassuring to see Alex Sharp return to the Wake Forest lineup after sitting out with a shoulder injury for the opening few games. The junior made a positive return this week, even if the Demon Deacons couldn’t secure the result they wanted. A double-double threat in every game she plays, Sharp racked up 15 points and 8 rebounds in a solid first-up performance, but unfortunately Wake Forest fell to a 70-61 defeat to East Carolina.

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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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