NCAA Women: Yaeger and Ducks fall in Final Four; Mathews picks up WBI title
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The final week of college basketball for the season saw Aussies in with a chance at silverware in all three postseason tournaments, highlighted by Morgan Yaeger and Oregon making their way to the first Final Four in program history. Although the Ducks couldn’t secure the title after falling to Baylor in the semi-finals, Nicola Mathews and Appalachian State took home the WBI Championship for the second time in program history with a dominant win over North Texas.
The Aussie representation in the NCAA Tournament came to an end one game earlier than had been hoped, as Morgan Yaeger and Oregon came out on the wrong end of a 72-67 scoreline against Baylor in a pulsating encounter.
Neither team led by more than the seven that the Ducks jumped out to early in the game, and rarely was the margin more than a single possession for either team. Oregon came up just one short of equalling the Final Four record for most threes, knocking down 12 of 32, but Baylor went the other way to secure the win.
Front court duo Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown each topped the 20-point mark as the Bears hit the grand total of zero shots from deep on just three attempts, with Cox tallying 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists alongside Brown’s 22 points and 7 rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Yaeger played four first-half minutes for the Ducks, connecting on her only field goal attempt as her shot from close range sat on the rim for what felt like an eternity before dropping in, tying the game at 24-24 midway through the second quarter.
Jess Sancataldo and Northwestern reached the WNIT championship game courtesy of a 74-69 semi-final victory over James Madison, holding off a comeback attempt by the Dukes in the final stages after taking a 10-point lead into the final quarter. Sancataldo, though, did not feature in the semi-final, and the same theme emerged in the championship game against Arizona. Once again, the freshman did not feature as a 14-5 second quarter put the Wildcats in a hole that they would not be able to dig themselves out of, falling to a 56-42 defeat.
Ella Hellessey has found playing time tough to come by for most of this season, and this proved to be the case in TCU’s WNIT semi-final loss to Arizona, with the junior not taking to the court in the Horned Frogs’ 59-53 defeat. TCU did manage to cut what was a 13-point deficit to just three points midway through the fourth quarter, but Arizona managed to hold on in front of 10,000 fans in Tucson to proceed to the championship game.
Nicola Mathews may only have played minimal minutes in the WBI Championship game, but nonetheless ended the season as a tournament champion as Appalachian State dominated the second half against North Texas to run out 76-59 victors. Mathews played 3 minutes in the win, seeing a minute in the first half before returning in the final stages to finish out the game.
Attention now turns to Thursday’s WNBA Draft, where Stanford senior Alanna Smith is expected to be selected in the top 10. A WBCA, USBWA, and AP All-American, the versatile forward is one of just four players in the last 20 years to register 1,600 points, 150 threes, and 200 blocks in a college career, alongside three players who went on to become WNBA MVPs in Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, and Maya Moore. Fellow Opals World Cup squad member Ezi Magbegor is also eligible for the draft and has been pegged to be taken anywhere between the latter stages of the first round to the middle of the second round. A draft selection would cap a whirlwind 18 months for Magbegor, who has picked up the 2018 WNBL Rookie of the Year award, a Commonwealth Games gold medal, and a World Cup silver medal in that timespan.
Thank you for loving Aussie hoops! From Kein, Damian and #TeamPnR