NCAA Women: Woods torches Western Illinois for career-high

Courtney Woods | Credit: Scott Walstrom, NIU Photography

A pair of Queenslanders were amongst some of the best performed players, not only among Australians, but in women’s college basketball as Courtney Woods set a career-high for scoring and Tiana Mangakahia continued a white-hot start to her Division I career with two double-doubles. .

Courtney Woods was at her scintillating best throughout the week, and whilst the result may not have gone Northern Illinois’ way against Iowa, the team bounced back for an outstanding end to the week. Shooting 8 of 17 from the field, Woods led the Huskies with 20 points, and also picked up 7 rebounds in a 105-80 loss to Iowa as the Hawkeyes shot a mind-boggling 60% from the field. The best was yet to come for Woods, though.

Having already dominated the contest with Western Illinois on a personal level with 37 points on 60% shooting, as well as 11 rebounds, the Queenslander came up with a pair of clutch plays in the dying seconds. With the Huskies down 94-92 in the final ten seconds, Woods drew the foul and promptly converted a pair of free throws to take her personal tally to a career-high 39 points and tie the game at 94-94. Western Illinois missed a lay-up on the ensuing possession, leaving Northern Illinois just a couple of seconds to inbound the ball in the frontcourt and get a shot off. Woods was left with the task of inbounding the ball, finding a wide open teammate at the elbow, who knocked down the buzzer-beater for a 96-94 win. Although her heroics were not required in the Huskies’ final game of the week, an 80-59 demolition of Chicago State, Woods still managed to tally 8 points and 6 rebounds in the win.

After averaging a scintillating 29.5 points and 9 rebounds per game, Woods’ brilliant week was capped by being named MAC Player of the Week.

Tiana Mangakahia started her Division I career solidly last week, but this week was something else for the Syracuse sophomore. Despite committing eight turnovers in a 68-45 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore, Mangakahia more than made up for those errors by pouring in 16 points as well as dishing out 10 assists for the first double-double of her career. Syracuse ran away from the Hawks in the back end of the game, winning the second half 34-14.

Mangakahia was far from done, though. Taking on a tougher opponent in the form of Hartford in front of a healthy home crowd in excess of 5,000 people, the Queenslander enjoyed an even better performance than she had exhibited against Maryland-Eastern Shore. Shooting 6 of 12 from the field, Mangakahia top scored with 17 points and again dished out 10 assists for her second double-double in as many games to lead the Orange to a 75-63 win. Mangakahia has now tallied 10 assists in each of her first three Division I games to be one of only two players in the nation to average double figures in the category.

It’s been a topsy-turvy start to the season for Wake Forest, going 2-2 to this point, but Alex Sharp’s performance against Richmond was integral to the Demon Deacons’ 85-81 victory. Whilst the sophomore didn’t lead the team in points or rebounds, a 6 of 9 shooting night helped Sharp to come within touching distance of a triple-double, finishing with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, two of which came late in the contest to keep the scoreboard ticking over as the Demon Deacons managed to survive a late Richmond charge. Sharp added another 8 points in the team’s second game of the week against Rutgers, but the Demon Deacons fell 65-51 to a Scarlet Knights side which moved to 4-0 with the win.

Idaho may have been the victims of a heavy defeat to Ohio State, but Geraldine McCorkell was certainly one of the better performed Vandals on a tough night. Shooting 6 of 11 from the field, McCorkell finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds, but facing the top 10 ranked Buckeyes on their home court was always unlikely to end well for Idaho, who went down 99-56 to a team gunning for a Final Four berth this season. Things looked to be going much better against Abilene Christian, but despite another 24 points and 5 rebounds from McCorkell, Idaho let a 9 point halftime lead slip, going down 82-72.

Jade Johnson averaged 7 points per contest last season, but if this week is any indicator, that number will be blown away as the sophomore enjoyed two excellent shooting performances for St. Francis. The week began for Johnson with a 7 of 10 night from the field on her way to a game-high 16 points in the Terriers’ 73-52 win over Army. Johnson was also active on the defensive end, finishing with an impressive 4 steals alongside her outstanding shooting performance. Amy O’Neill was also solid, adding 9 points and 6 assists.

Unfortunately, St. Francis couldn’t secure the result against Manhattan in their second game of the week, going down 57-54 after losing the final quarter 27-17. However, Johnson again led St. Francis’ scoring with another 16 points, shooting 50% from the field and also collecting five rebounds. O’Neill chipped in 6 points and 6 rebounds, whilst fellow Australian Alex Delaney added 6 points of her own in the tight loss.

In a tough week for Florida in terms of results, Funda Nakkasoglu may just have been the bright spot for the Gators despite a pair of losses. Facing Arkansas State at home, the Gators would have been heavily favoured, but 23 turnovers ensured that Arkansas State would keep pace with the home side and take a lead into the final minute. Nakkasoglu rounded out a 16 point, 4 rebound performance with a three-pointer with 20 seconds to play that took the score to 70-69, but the score would not move from that mark as a late Florida three was off target.

Arch rival Florida State were the Gators’ next opponent, but despite an 18-18 first quarter, the nationally ranked Seminoles ran away with the game to close out a massive 84-54 win. However, Nakkasoglu finished with a second consecutive solid scoring effort to finish with 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting to average 17 points per contest for the week.

Redshirt freshman Amy Atwell has had to wait a long time for her chance at Hawaii, but took it with both hands in the Rainbow Wahine’s 84-68 win over Northern Arizona. Despite coming off the bench, Atwell led Hawaii in both scoring and rebounding, finishing with 17 points on 8 of 15 shooting and collecting 8 boards and 4 steals in 27 minutes of playing time as Hawaii won every quarter to steadily increase their lead and run away with the game in the second half.

At a glance, Courtney West’s stat line for Portland State in their win over San Jose State may not have looked too special, especially with an absence of double-digit numbers in the points or rebounds column. A closer look, however, shows that the sophomore was in everything for the Vikings in their 90-78 victory. West came desperately close to not only a triple-double, but a 5×5 game, finishing with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks, and 3 steals. With the Vikings’ backcourt firing away with aplomb and West doing outstanding work in the paint, Portland State remained in complete control throughout the contest.

After being on the wrong end of a beatdown from Wright State earlier in the week, Eastern Illinois needed to turn things around against Evansville, and a pair of Australians turned out to be the Panthers’ saving grace, by name and by nature. Grace Lennox dished out 8 assists alongside 14 points to lead Eastern Illinois in both categories, whilst freshman Grace McRae added 11 points and 5 rebounds as the Panthers dominated the Purple Aces, rolling to a 79-52 victory and picking up their first win of the young season. Fellow freshman Lana Marov came on late in the piece and used her opportunity well, shooting 3 of 5 from the field to tally 7 points in just 7 minutes of playing time.

Thrust into the starting lineup early in the piece, Taylah Simmons put some turnover woes from previous games behind her to be amongst the stars as Wagner picked up their first win of the season against NCAA Division III side College of Staten Island. Simmons’ performance was one of very few highlights in the first half for Wagner, with her 10 points representing 40% of the team’s score as the Seahawks trailed 29-25 at halftime. Simmons would eventually finish with 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting as Wagner used a 27-15 final quarter to storm home and run out 63-58 winners.

Their playing time has been limited until now, but both Dru Toleafoa and Maddy Dennis ensured that their respective coaches will have something to think about in coming games with a pair of solid scoring performances. Finding her way to the line with aplomb, Toleafoa finished the game shooting 9 of 11 from the charity stripe as her 17 points led Santa Clara to a 68-63 win over UC Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, Dennis was one of the chief beneficiaries of Dayton’s absolute dominance against Morgan State. On the back of impressive 75% shooting, Dennis finished with 13 points and 3 rebounds as the Flyers rolled to an 88-52 win. The Western Australian was rewarded with an earlier entry into the game and increased playing time against Virginia, with 13 of her 18 minutes coming in the first half as the Flyers rolled to a 61-46 win, moving to 4-0 in the process.

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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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