NCAA Women: Alanna Smith named ESPN's National Player of the Week
With a number of teams taking the week off for exams, this could have been a slow week in college basketball. But with Alanna Smith securing ESPN’s National Player of the Week award after leading Stanford to victory over the previously undefeated Baylor, and a number of Aussies putting in outstanding efforts elsewhere, there was no shortage of excitement around the country.
Stanford hosted the undefeated Baylor in a blockbuster, and it was Alanna Smith who led the Cardinal to the upset 68-63 victory. The senior’s versatile offensive skill set was on show throughout, knocking down 5 of 9 from beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 21 points. Smith also came up with 8 rebounds and also helped to neutralise the dangerous Baylor front court pairing of Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox, who combined for just seven points on 3 of 11 from the field. Although Baylor finished the game on a 21-10 final quarter, Smith and Stanford had dominated so thoroughly in the first three terms that even that wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit. Smith’s performance in this game earned the senior both the Pac-12 Player of the Week and ESPNW’s National Player of the Week awards, but her work for the week wasn’t quite finished.
As if taking on Baylor wasn’t enough, Stanford then travelled to Knoxville to take on undefeated Tennessee. The Cardinal got out to a double-digit lead in the first half, and although Tennessee chipped away at the margin, Stanford responded each time on their way to a 95-85 victory. Smith dropped in 16 points, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, as well as 3 rebounds and 3 assists as despite her otherwise solid outing, foul trouble limited the Opals forward to just 21 minutes in the win.
Eliza West’s scoring numbers have been down slightly this year, but if the junior can continue dishing dimes at her current rate, her Utah State team will have no trouble making up that minute scoring deficit. West now sits in the top 30 in the nation for both total assists and assists per game after coming up with a career-high 13 in the Aggies’ 67-62 win over Utah Valley, coming up just one short of the program record. West was far from the only Aussie performing well in that game though, with Olivia West tallying 16 points, whilst Steph Gorman added 14 points and 4 assists. Shannon Dufficy almost came up with yet another double-double, collecting 8 rebounds alongside 12 points.
Amazingly, Amy O’Neill is dishing out even more assists than West, and is nestled comfortably in the top 5 in the nation for both total assists and assists per game, with 7.8 per contest. That trend continued this week, as although St. Francis couldn’t quite get over the line in a 67-60 loss to Albany, O’Neill was exemplary. The senior finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists to once again go close to a triple-double, whilst Jade Johnson added 9 points, but the Terriers left themselves too much to do down the stretch, trailing by 16 going into the fourth quarter before falling by 7.
Unsurprisingly, Tiana Mangakahia also sits in the top ten for both total assists and assists per game, and the Nancy Lieberman Award nominee was at her brilliant best in Syracuse’s 94-45 rout of Niagara. Mangakahia needed just 23 minutes on court to dish out 15 assists as the Orange dominated from start to finish, with the junior also chipping in with 8 points before the bench saw most of the second half with the game well and truly decided by halftime.
Tia Hay and Santa Clara played a pair of games this week, splitting their contests against Fresno State and San Jose State. The junior college transfer finished with 15 points in the Broncos’ 80-53 loss to Fresno State, and also dished out five assists whilst collecting four rebounds. San Jose State were far from pushovers in the team’s second game of the week, but with Hay shooting 7 of 13 from the field to tally 17 points, the Broncos escaped with a 62-56 victory.
Portland may have fallen victim to a dominant second half from UC Irvine in an 84-69 loss, but if not for Haylee Andrews, the damage would almost certainly have been a lot worse. The former Townsville Fire development player continued her outstanding freshman season, shooting a perfect 5 of 5 at the line alongside 5 of 7 from the field to tally 17 points, whilst also collecting 7 rebounds and adding 7 assists. The Pilots bounced back against Air Force in their final game before Christmas, defeating Air Force 79-60. Andrews was again solid, tallying 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals as Portland finished with five players in double figures.
Boston College junior Taylor Ortlepp has been lighting it up from outside in recent weeks, and this time it was Boston University who copped a barrage from the South Australian. The Eagles cruised to a 78-51 victory, with Ortlepp knocking down 5 of 7 from outside on her way to a game-high 19 points, whilst Georgia Pineau added 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. After starting the season shooting just 25% from three-point range, Ortlepp has hit from deep at a 56% clip over her last three games to improve her season three-point shooting to 35%.
Bree Delaney and Genna Ogier continue to emerge as integral parts of the Fresno State team, with both players putting together two more solid performances this week. The Bulldogs dismantled Santa Clara 80-53 on Thursday, with Delaney tallying 8 points but also dishing out 10 assists and collecting 6 rebounds, with Ogier also adding 8 points in the rout. Ogier then added another 8 points and 10 rebounds in an 86-51 demolition of Division II side Stanislaus State, whilst Delaney was deadly at both ends. The sophomore knocked down 5 of 8 from deep on her way to 17 points, and also collected seven steals as the Bulldogs managed 18 as a team; their most in three seasons.
Finally, Davidson freshman Cassidy Gould picked up Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week for a pair of solid performances as the Wildcats secured two victories. Gould was one of four Davidson players in double figures in their 90-80 win over Clemson, tallying 12 points as part of a well-rounded team performance. Gould then followed that up with 10 points and 6 rebounds as the Wildcats dismantled Presbyterian 83-56 to move back above .500 at 6-5.