NCAA Women: Nakkasoglu shines despite Florida’s struggles

Funda Nakkasoglu | Credit: Carly Mackler / UAA Athletics

A bevy of Australians put together outstanding weeks, but none were better than Funda Nakkasoglu who continued her blistering start to the season, with two more 20-point games to go with the pair the senior put together last week. St. Francis College pair Jade Johnson and Amy O’Neill came to the fore for the Terriers, whilst Tiana Mangakahia once again showed her wares against one of the top guards in the nation.

Funda Nakkasoglu has been in scintillating scoring form for Florida, and while the Gators sit at 0-4, the senior guard’s streak of 20-point performances is impossible to ignore. Despite 23 points from Nakkasoglu including 5 of 8 from the field and 33 from teammate Delicia Washington, Florida left themselves too much to do in the fourth quarter in a 92-82 loss to Mercer. The Gators won the final quarter 34-23, but were simply outplayed for much of the first three-quarters, allowing the Bears to open up a match-winning lead.

Nakkasoglu followed up that performance with another 26 points as Florida faced Northwestern on their home court. The sharpshooter knocked down 3 of 5 from deep and was a perfect 5 of 5 from the charity stripe, but couldn’t prevent Northwestern from storming home late to force overtime before dominating the extra five minutes to take an 83-72 victory. Freshman Kristina Moore also continues to grow into her starting role, finishing with 8 points and 5 rebounds against Mercer, as well as 10 points and 7 rebounds against Northwestern, including a late lay-up that gave Florida the lead in the last minute before Northwestern responded in the dying seconds.

Following this week’s performances, Nakkasoglu now ranks top of the Southeastern Conference for total three pointers, threes made per game, and three-point percentage, as well as leading the conference in scoring with 23 points per game. The senior has also knocked down at least one three-pointer in 27 consecutive games, and now sits just three games shy of the program record.

Having gone toe-to-toe with Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu just a week or so earlier, Syracuse point guard Tiana Mangakahia came up against Texas A&M’s own back court sensation Chennedy Carter, and once again showed why she is considered one of the nation’s premier players in her position. Mangakahia simply took control of the game in the second half, driving Syracuse to a 26-12 third quarter which completely changed the momentum of the game as the Orange eked out a 75-65 victory. Led by Mangakahia, Syracuse held Carter to just 3 points in the second half after she had scored 15 in the first, whilst the Australian scored 17 of her 26 points after halftime. Mangakahia also tallied 9 rebounds and 5 assists as the Orange begin to build a reputable resume. The junior was slightly more subdued in Syracuse’s 70-56 win over Bucknell, but still contributed 13 points and 4 steals as the Orange moved to 3-1.

St. Francis College headed south to Kentucky for three games in as many days, and with Amy O’Neill and Jade Johnson both in solid form, the Terriers came away with two wins. St. Francis demolished Chicago State in their opener 110-73, with O’Neill in scintillating form to hit 7 of 11 from the field on her way to 17 points and 11 assists. It was then Johnson’s turn to step up against Valparaiso with 24 points including 6 of 12 from three-point range, but the Terriers fell desperately short in a 78-76 loss, with O’Neill picking up 8 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. The Aussie pair then combined to dominate a second half that St. Francis won 62-48 to knock off host team Morehead State 101-94 in their final game of the weekend. Johnson was all but automatic from deep, hitting 6 of 7 threes to tally 27 points, whilst O’Neill almost tallied her second double-double of the weekend with 9 points and 10 assists as well as 6 rebounds as the Terriers moved to 4-1 in an impressive start to the season.

Alicia Froling followed up last week’s solid performances with another two outstanding efforts even as her Southern Methodist side fell to a pair of heartbreaking losses. The Mustangs found themselves in a hole against Alabama, but stormed home with a 15-8 final quarter to force overtime, with Froling coming up with a vital block in the final minute to keep the game tied at 55-55. But despite 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 rejections from the senior, SMU fell desperately short, losing 62-61 in overtime after Kayla White split a pair at the line when both needed to fall to send the game to double overtime.

An early-season game against local rivals TCU followed, with Froling putting up another double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, but once again the Mustangs fell just short. Having given up a 23-11 third quarter, SMU rebounded in the final quarter and had the final shot of the game down two. But the Mustangs couldn’t get a high-percentage look, and a three in the dying seconds bounced away to give Australian pair Anneli Maley and Ella Hellessey the 65-63 win over Froling and freshman Paige Bayliss.

Buffalo may have lost a trio of Aussies to graduation, but Courtney Wilkins continues to fly the flag in western New York, performing admirably despite the Bulls’ loss to Oregon. Having tallied 13 points and 7 rebounds in Buffalo’s 88-61 demolition of Niagara earlier in the week, Wilkins knocked down 5 of 11 from deep to be one of three Buffalo players in double figures as the team hung with the #3 ranked Ducks for large periods. However, slow starts to each half condemned Buffalo to a 102-82 loss, with Aussie sophomore Morgan Yaeger chipping in five points for Oregon.

Having been out for the first couple of weeks of the season, Taylah Simmons made a fashionably late entry for Wagner, returning to her dominant best as her Wagner side split a pair of games over the weekend. The Seahawks dominated Longwood 86-60 to open the weekend, with Simmons barely missing a beat in dropping 18 points and picking up 7 rebounds in 26 minutes of action as Wagner picked up their first win of the season. The same result was not forthcoming in a 66-43 defeat to Lafayette, but nonetheless Simmons put up another solid effort with 10 points and 7 rebounds in the team’s home opener.

Alanna Smith is yet to play more than 25 minutes a game this season, but still averages 17 points and 6 rebounds through three games after helping Stanford dominate San Francisco in a 96-62 victory. The senior once again looked to be a class above for the entirety of her 25 minutes on court, knocking down 5 of 8 from beyond the arc to showcase her versatility in tallying 18 points and 7 rebounds before letting the second unit take over for the final seven minutes with the game well and truly wrapped up. Unfortunately, Stanford’s game against Ohio State later in the week was cancelled due to air quality issues stemming from the catastrophic California wildfires, with the Buckeyes set to be Stanford’s biggest test of this young season.

Injuries to other players handed Miela Goodchild a chance at Duke, and the freshman has taken it with both hands in her first few games. Despite coming off the bench against Maine, the freshman played 30 minutes in the Blue Devils’ 66-63 victory, knocking down 4 of 8 from deep on her way to 14 points, earning a start against Elon later in the weekend. Playing 27 minutes in an 81-64 victory, Goodchild scored another 10 points and tallied 3 assists to press her claim for a permanent spot in the starting five going forward.

Whilst Goodchild continues to press her case for a regular starting berth, two more freshmen tallied their first career double-figure scoring efforts this week. Colorado’s Emma Clarke entered the game early in the piece against North Carolina and made the most of her opportunity, almost registering a double-double in the 86-74 win. Shooting 4 of 7 from the field, Clarke tallied 11 points and also collected 8 rebounds in her 21 minutes on court to make her own case for increased minutes going forward. Meanwhile, Jess Sancataldo saw some minutes late in Northwestern’s 87-44 demolition of Illinois-Chicago. The Sydneysider buried both of her attempts from deep on her way to 10 points in just 7 minutes as Northwestern moved to 4-0 before making it five straight against Florida later in the week.

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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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