NCAA Women: Queensland quartet fires as Froling returns

Alicia Froling | Credit: Vladimir Cherry via SMU Athletics

Jess McDowell-White, Haylee Andrews, Tiana Mangakahia, and Alicia Froling were all among the stars this week as a number of Queensland’s finest delivered outstanding performances despite mixed results. Meanwhile, Courtney West’s block party looks to be back for another season, but a 28-point performance first up suggests a big all-round season is on the cards for the senior.

Jess McDowell-White’s pedigree coming into her college career suggested that the point guard could be an absolute steal of a signing for Eastern Washington, and her debut performance did nothing to change that idea.

Starting against local rivals Gonzaga alongside fellow Australian, sophomore Brittany Klaman, McDowell-White helped keep the upset-minded Eagles in the contest against their more-fancied rivals, finishing with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists on debut, but Gonzaga finished with a late flourish to secure a 63-51 victory courtesy of an 18-9 final quarter.

Haylee Andrews is another freshman guard out of Queensland who came up with some big early performances as Portland started their season with a pair of wins. The former Townsville Fire development player starred on debut in a 65-60 win at Utah Valley, hitting clutch free throws down the stretch to finish 9 of 11 at the stripe alongside 5 of 7 from the field and tally 19 points alongside 6 rebounds and 6 assists. That was simply the precursor for another dominant performance, this time against Weber State in an 89-73 victory. After not even attempting a three-pointer against Utah Valley, Andrews knocked down 3 of 5 from beyond the arc on her way to 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists as the Pilots shot just shy of 50% from the field in the 16-point victory.

Continuing the theme of back court players from Queensland performing well, Tiana Mangakahia did everything in her power to keep Syracuse in the game in their thrilling 75-73 defeat to Oregon in the undoubted national game of the week. Facing off against arguably the best player in the nation in Sabrina Ionescu, Mangakahia’s late charge almost resulted in a surprise victory. Syracuse tied the game late before Oregon buried a trio of late threes that allowed them to just hold on for victory. Mangakahia finished the game with 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting, whilst also tallying 8 assists in front of almost 7,000 people on the road in Eugene, as Syracuse proved that despite their preseason ranking of #18, they can hang with the best in the nation.

It’s been a long time, but Alicia Froling is finally back, and with a vengeance, as Louisiana-Monroe found out in Southern Methodist’s 49-38 victory over the Warhawks. On a night that saw the Mustangs shoot just 19 of 55 from the field as a team, Froling hit 8 of 11 to top-score with 19 points and also collect 12 of her team’s 38 rebounds as well as pick up 3 assists and 3 steals to dominate for the entire evening. The senior forward didn’t have such a massive scoring evening in her team’s second game of the week, scoring just four points but picking up another 10 rebounds in SMU’s 62-47 win over Mississippi Valley State.

Tia Hay may have dominated Division II Sonoma State last week, but the junior college transfer proved that she is no flat-track bully with a team-leading performance in Santa Clara’s 56-48 win over Nevada. Hay accounted for over 40% of her team’s score, tallying 24 points alongside 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals as her prowess as a score-first point guard shone brightly. Whilst Hay may have only tallied 8 points in Santa Clara’s win over San Diego State later in the week, she showed enough against Nevada to provide evidence that she will be a handful for opponents going forward.

Alanna Smith picked up a swag of preseason award nominations, and showed why with a dominant 24-minute performance in Stanford’s 115-71 demolition of Idaho. From the outset, it was obvious that Smith was simply a class above her opponents, scoring in a variety of ways, contributing in other ways, and finishing the game as one of six Stanford players in double-figures. The senior finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists whilst shooting 8 of 12 from the field, including a pair of threes before earning an early mark as Stanford rolled to victory in coach Tara VanDerveer’s first game against Idaho in the 38 years since she moved on from coaching the Vandals.

Portland State eased into the season in their opener against NAIA Division II side Warner Pacific, and Courtney West took full advantage of the opportunity to blow out the cobwebs. Shooting an astounding 13 of 15 from the field, West tallied a career-high 28 points in 26 minutes to lead her side to a 102-49 victory. West also notched 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and her customary 2 blocks to round out an outstanding all-round performance from the redshirt senior. West would follow that up with her first double-double of the season as Portland State used a 42-11 first half to roll San Jose State 80-51. The Sutherland product was only required for 20 minutes, but tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds in that time, and came up with another three blocks to make an early foray into the top 50 in the nation for rejections.

St. Francis Brooklyn made the trip through New York to the Bronx to play Manhattan College, with Australian pair Jade Johnson and Amy O’Neill among the stars in a 73-65 win. A recent preseason All-Conference selection, Johnson was lights out from beyond the arc, knocking down 4 of 6 on her way to a game-high 20 points as well as 6 rebounds. O’Neill found that setting up teammates was a better way of influencing the game, dishing out seven assists alongside seven points as the Terriers flew home in a 40-27 second half to secure the 8-point victory.

For the second straight game, Funda Nakkasoglu balled out but found support hard to come by at the offensive end as Florida fell to 0-2 after dropping a 63-56 decision to arch-rivals Florida State. The senior finished with 21 points on 6 of 9 shooting from three-point range and collected five rebounds, but a poor middle portion of the game from the Gators undid an outstanding first quarter. Whilst they were able to cut the margin to five late on, that was as close as Florida would get. Freshman Kristina Moore made her second consecutive start of the season, playing 33 minutes and finishing with five points.

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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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