NCAA Women: Woods delivers the goods to get NIU’s season back on track

Courtney Woods | Credit Scott Walstrom/NIU Photography

Whether you’re a fan of scorers, precision passers, or towering rim protectors, there was something for everyone this week as a wide variety of Aussie women in college basketball exuded class.

Courtney Woods and Jade Johnson bombed away from outside, whilst the likes of Stephanie Reid, Amy O’Neill, and Tiana Mangakahia racked up enough dimes to fill a piggy bank. Meanwhile, Megan McKay and Courtney West showed why they are considered among the premier post players in their respective conferences, whilst Georgia Pineau secured a career-high points tally in a game-winning performance for Boston College.

No earlier than a fortnight ago, Northern Illinois’ season looked destined to be a forgettable one. However, two scintillating efforts from Courtney Woods–which earned the junior a MAC Western Division Player of the Week award–have helped put together a three-game winning streak and suddenly a .500 record in conference play isn’t out of the question. Favourites for the first time in weeks against Akron, the Huskies dismantled the one-win Zips 45-16 across the middle two quarters, with Woods completing a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds in the 84-61 win, shooting 8 of 14 in the process. The Queenslander’s output in the Huskies’ second game of the week was even more impressive, and her team needed every last point in a win over Bowling Green. Woods dropped in 29 points, shooting 8 of 17 from the field, but more impressively, a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. 18 of those points came in the second half as Northern Illinois quickly erased a 35-30 halftime deficit to secure a 73-68 win in a game that was tight until the final seconds.

St. Francis may have been the model of inconsistency lately, having altered between wins and losses for their last five games, but one thing that has been consistent has been the scoring of Jade Johnson. The sophomore started the week with a game-high 22 points against Mount St. Mary’s, hitting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and also collecting 7 rebounds in a 75-56 win. Fellow Australian Alex Delaney provided excellent support with three buckets from deep of her own to tally 13 points.

The pair were once again atop the stat sheet against Saint Francis University, but although Johnson racked up another 18 points and Delaney another 12, it was the Red Flash who ran out 94-71 winners in what proved to be a tough day for the Terriers, as evidenced by their 25 turnovers. The Terriers then faced Robert Morris, a team they had lost to 59-36 on the road earlier in the season. There would be no such issues this time – perhaps apart from the palpitations caused by the incredibly tight finish to the game. Somehow, despite scoring just seven points in the final quarter, St. Francis were able to limit their opponents to just six, hanging on for a 49-47 win in the process. Delaney and Johnson finished with 11 points apiece, with Delaney also picking up 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Amy O’Neill may not have had the impact in the scoring column throughout the week, but tallied 19 assists across the week, with 7 apiece in the latter two games as her development as a facilitator continues at a rapid pace.

Tiana Mangakahia has played with a certain degree of flair whilst racking up outstanding numbers all year, but this week saw the sophomore combine that flair with polish in one of her most efficient performances of the season. Taking on Wake Forest, Mangakahia led the Orange to a 71-61 win over Wake Forest with an impressive 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting as well as 8 assists to maintain her double-double average. The Queenslander also chipped in five assists and two steals whilst also finishing without a turnover for the first time, a milestone of sorts for a player who has suffered slight turnover troubles in spite of her outstanding offensive performances. Meanwhile, on the other side, Alex Sharp was delivering yet another team-leading performance, tallying 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting as well as 6 rebounds, continuing to demonstrate why she is one of the most versatile Australian college players.

In an up-and-down week for Boston College, the Australian pair of Georgia Pineau and Taylor Ortlepp continued to deliver as the Eagles split a pair of games this week. The team faced a tough challenge against Georgia Tech, trailing 26-14 at halftime before falling 67-43 as both teams’ offences improved after the break. Ortlepp was one of two players to fire for the Eagles, dropping in 15 points, combining with local player Milan Bolden-Morris to score 35 of the team’s 43 points. Fortunately, more players were able to put the ball in the basket against Pittsburgh, culminating in the team’s second conference win of the season. Pineau shot an impressive 7 of 10 from the field as well as a perfect 8 from 8 at the charity stripe to put together a career-high 23 points alongside 7 rebounds. Aided by 13 points from Ortlepp, which included 7 from 10 from the line, the Eagles secured a 72-61 on the back of a 23-12 final quarter after the first three quarters ended with the teams tied at 49-49.

It was certainly a whirlwind of a week for Saint Mary’s, but as usual the one constant was the performance of Megan McKay, who earned her second WCC Player of the Week award for the season. In a battle of teams sitting alongside each other in the conference standings, McKay was at her efficient best, hitting 8 of 10 shots in compiling a 19 point, 11 rebound night, but it was Loyola Marymount who ran out 75-65 victors courtesy of a 43-29 first half. There was far better to come from Saint Mary’s though. The Gaels travelled to arch-rivals Gonzaga for their second game of the week, and held the conference regular season champions to just 29% shooting, delivering the Zags their first defeat of the conference season in a 72-56 boilover. McKay was once again one of the Gaels’ best, shooting 7 of 8 from the field for 14 points to finish the week shooting 83% from the field, whilst also pulling down 11 rebounds for a second consecutive double-double. Fellow Australian Jasmine Forcadilla also enjoyed a solid week, dropping in 9 points against Loyola Marymount before following up with with 7 points in the win over Gonzaga.

Geraldine McCorkell and local player Mikayla Ferenz are proving to be one of the best one-two scoring combinations in the country, and it came to pass that the pair were at the top of the scoresheet for Idaho in a win over Eastern Washington. Combining for 55 of the team’s 85 points, McCorkell dropped in 26 of those, knocking down 6 of 7 from beyond the arc in the process as the Vandals rolled to an 85-71 victory to move to 9-3 in Big Sky play. Freshman Brittany Klaman started for Eastern Washington, tallying 7 points and 3 assists for the Eagles.

If facing Georgia and Missouri last week was tough for Florida, taking on both of last year’s national championship game participants bordered on a torturous proposition for Funda Nakkasoglu and the Gators this week. Facing undefeated Mississippi State, even on their home floor, was always going to be a difficult task for Florida, and it proved as such in a heavy 98-50 defeat. Despite the result, Nakkasoglu was able to drop in an impressive 17 points on 50% shooting against a team famous for its defensive ability. Travelling to South Carolina for their second game, the Gators faced one of the toughest atmospheres in college basketball as 15,000 diehard Gamecocks fans filled Colonial Life Arena. However, the Gators took it to the defending national champions, going into halftime with the game tied at 30-30. Unfortunately, despite 21 points from Nakkasoglu, including 5 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc, it was South Carolina who came over the top in the second half to secure a 64-57 win.

Lauren Calver continues to be forced to play a position bigger than her natural power forward spot, but regardless of the circumstances, the sophomore keeps delivering for Houston Baptist. Despite the Huskies falling to a 63-45 loss to Nicholls State which saw the team fall to a fourth consecutive loss, Calver delivered a brave performance to tally a double-double, finishing with 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting as well as 11 rebounds, but a 41-22 deficit across the second and third quarters put paid to the Huskies’ chances of victory after a tight 8-8 first term.

Buffalo’s outstanding conference season continued apace, with Stephanie Reid directing the offence with surgical precision. The senior was only required for 25 minutes in the Bulls’ 80-42 demolition of Kent State, chipping in 9 points but chalking up 8 assists in a turnover-free performance before the bench wrapped things up. Miami of Ohio proved to be a slightly tougher proposition, but that only saw Reid deliver a better performance of her own in a 64-49 victory. Hitting five of eight from the field, as well as five of six from the line, Reid racked up a team-high 16 points and 6 assists in yet another turnover-free effort, her third of the season. Katherine Ups also chipped in for the Bulls, adding eight points and three rebounds.

Coming off a pair of defeats, Courtney West and Portland State hosted both Montana schools looking to prevent a losing streak from developing. Montana were the first visitors, but West was far from welcoming. The junior delivered more blocks than a Lego factory, swatting away six shots in the Vikings’ 70-53 victory, also tallying 12 points on 66% shooting and 5 rebounds as Portland State edged ahead in the second half, eventually putting a solid gap between themselves and the Grizzlies. Whilst the blocks weren’t forthcoming in the Vikings’ second game of the week against Montana State, another solid 16 point, 6 rebound performance proved vital as Portland State secured victory in a tight contest with an 11-2 run in the final five minutes to secure the 62-53 victory and remain in a logjam in the middle of the Big Sky at 7-5.

Finally, Chantel Horvat proved she can be a menace on the boards at the college level in UCLA’s dominant 69-46 win over Arizona. Although the freshman tallied just 5 points, her 10 rebounds – a vast improvement on her previous career-high of 6 – contributed heavily to the Bruins’ 53-29 advantage on the boards as UCLA rolled to a 23 point victory after taking a 35-18 lead into halftime.

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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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