It has been a massive week of college basketball since the Christmas break as the non-conference season gives way to league play. There were many outstanding performances, but the biggest news may well have come in the form of Anneli Maley’s departure from TCU. The sophomore had transferred from Oregon after her freshman year, and after receiving a waiver to play immediately had earned the occasional start for TCU, but her career in Fort Worth appears to have come to an abrupt end. However there was plenty of more positive news, with Miela Goodchild's ACC Rookie of the Week award and Grace Lennox's return to top form among the highlights.
Thrown in at the deep end early in the season, Miela Goodchild continues to blossom in her first season at Duke, picking up the ACC Rookie of the Week award following a pair of outstanding performances. Goodchild opened the post-Christmas period shooting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc on her way to 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals in Duke’s 83-66 win over East Carolina before knocking down another 3 of 5 from deep to tally 15 points in the Blue Devils’ 57-41 victory over Florida Gulf Coast. Alongside her Freshman of the Week award, Goodchild now sits in a tie for fifth in the nation for three-point percentage, and is also second among freshmen in this category. In a Duke team that desperately needed someone to step up following star guard Kyra Lambert’s injury, Goodchild’s emergence is nothing short of a blessing for the Blue Devils heading into conference play.
Florida were pushed all the way by Charleston Southern, but with Funda Nakkasoglu all but setting the fire alarm off with her shooting, the Gators got away with a 70-60 victory. The senior dropped 30 on the Buccaneers, hitting 4 of 7 from deep and a perfect 8 of 8 at the charity stripe to help Florida pull away in the final stages and eke out the win. Unfortunately, the Gators couldn’t make it two wins on the trot against Alabama despite another 18 points from Nakkasoglu. Whilst Florida opened the game with a 25-8 first quarter, Alabama dominated the middle stages of the game to chip away at the deficit and eventually secure a 74-67 victory.
Saint Mary’s may have fallen to a pair of losses in the first week of conference play, but Megan McKay’s performance against Gonzaga remained a joy to behold. Coming off a 76-67 loss to Pacific that saw Jasmine Forcadilla tally 10 points and dish out 3 assists, the Gaels were hoping to rebound against their arch rivals in Spokane. McKay was a force in the paint all night, hitting 11 of 14 from the field and getting to the line with regularity to tally 7 of 10 free throws, culminating in a 29-point, 8-rebound performance. Sam Simons chipped in with 15 points and Forcadilla added 5 assists, but the nationally ranked Zags proved too good on the night, securing a 74-62 victory after finishing the game on a 9-2 run in the final three minutes. However, the Gaels bounced back in a big way against Portland, with McKay again at the forefront. The Western Australian led the way with 18 points and 9 rebounds in Saint Mary's 98-91 victory over the Pilots, with Forcadilla adding 15 points and 5 assists. Freshmen on both sides also performed well, with Sam Simons tallying 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, and Portland's Haylee Andrews adding 14 points for the Pilots.
Sidelined with injury, Courtney Murphy has had to bide her time this season before making her debut for the still-winless Seattle side, but if the freshman’s first performance is anything to go by, the Redhawks will pick up a win soon enough. Despite going down 70-60 to Cal State Bakersfield, Murphy buried 6 of 7 from deep to tally 18 points, with those six threes the second-most in a single game by any Seattle player in the team's time in Division I. That debut performance earned Murphy a start in the Redhawks' game against Grand Canyon, a game in which the freshman turned out to be instrumental as the Redhawks came desperately close to their first victory of the season, falling 74-73 in triple overtime. Murphy put her team up 73-72 in the dying seconds of overtime, but Grand Canyon were able to respond just before the sound of the buzzer to escape with the thrilling victory.
Perhaps fortified by a desire to bounce back from their heartbreaking loss to Long Beach State prior to Christmas, Utah State ensured there would be no such disappointment in a thrilling 79-76 double overtime victory over Nevada, and all five Aussies on the Aggies roster played their part. Olivia West top-scored with 22 points, and also hit four free throws in the space of seven seconds to get the Aggies over the line in the final seconds. Shannon Dufficy remained a tour de force, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and an astounding 6 blocks whilst also hitting a three late in the first overtime period that put the Aggies up two. Rachel Brewster added 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, whilst Eliza West added just four points but dished out 7 assists. Steph Gorman tallied just three points alongside four assists, but those three points came in the form of one shot in the dying stages of regulation that put Utah State up and proved vital in helping the Aggies get to overtime before securing the victory.
The Aggies made it four consecutive games with a final margin of five or fewer points in their contest against Air Force, once again eking out a thrilling victory in a low-scoring thriller that finished 48-44. Dufficy was once again the dominant force, tallying half of her team's points in a massive 28-point, 13-rebound performance that also included 3 blocks and 3 steals. Olivia West also finished in double figures with 10 points as the team's five Australians accounted for 42 of the team's 48 points to hold off their opponents and move to 2-0 in conference play.
It’s been far from an easy return to the game for Grace Lennox following last year’s season-ending injury, but the Tasmanian’s performance in Eastern Illinois’ conference opener against UT-Martin suggests that the senior may be returning to peak form. Shooting an efficient 9 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, Lennox dropped in a season-high 26 points whilst also tallying 5 assists as the Panthers secured a 77-71 victory. Grace McRae was also impressive, tallying 13 points and 13 rebounds as the Australian pairing led their team to the upset victory over a UT-Martin team picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference this season. Unfortunately, a second-straight upset was not forthcoming against SIU-Edwardsville later in the week, as despite 10 points from both Lennox and McRae, the Panthers fell to a 65-56 defeat against a Cougars side for whom Aussie junior college transfer Alek Akuen started for just the second time in her Division I career.
Boston College may only have picked up a single win in their first two games after Christmas, but both Georgia Pineau and Taylor Ortlepp performed admirably throughout the week. In a dominant 99-68 win over Dartmouth, Pineau tallied a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double whilst also finishing with five assists, whilst Ortlepp was one of six Eagles in double figures, tallying 14 points alongside five assists of her own as Boston College cruised to victory after a tight first quarter. Georgia Tech proved a far tougher proposition in the team’s ACC opener, with the Eagles falling to an 81-76 defeat. However, Pineau was again outstanding to finish with a game-high 22 points, as well as 6 rebounds and 5 more assists. Ortlepp hit double figures for the sixth consecutive game, finishing with 13 points and 3 assists.
Hawaii redshirt sophomore Amy Atwell had never hit 20 points in a game coming into this season, and after going scoreless in the Wahine's 79-78 overtime loss to Nevada, that looked unlikely to change. However, what transpired in the team's game against Cal State Fullerton completely flipped the script. Although Hawaii fell to a 72-68 loss despite leading with four minutes to play, Atwell's performance was one that will live long in the memory. The Western Australian was all but automatic from the floor, shooting 9 of 11 to finish with 25 points, which actually represented ten more points than the 15 she had scored for the entire season coming into the contest, and obliterated her previous career-high of 17 points.
A pair of solid scoring efforts from Bree Delaney have the sophomore now sitting just shy of a double-figure scoring average, with the Fresno State sharpshooter also making her way into the top 50 three-point shooters in the nation alongside Funda Nakkasoglu, Miela Goodchild, Alanna Smith, Chloe Bibby, and Jade Johnson. Delaney tallied 15 points and 6 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ comfortable 90-51 victory over Division II side Fresno Pacific, with fellow Australian Genna Ogier adding 7 points of her own. The team didn’t let up in their conference opener against San Jose State, rolling to a 77-48 win with Delaney knocking down 3 of 5 from deep on her way to 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds as the emerging star made her presence felt in her number of ways. Ogier chipped in with 8 points as the Bulldogs put together a 44-24 first half before cruising to the win.
Alanna Smith has been among the best players in the country this season, and carried that outstanding form into conference play to lead Stanford to victory in their Pac-12 opener against USC. Despite trailing 33-31 at halftime, Stanford kept pace with the Trojans throughout the third quarter before pulling away in the latter stages to secure a 72-64 victory. Despite not shooting at her efficient best in finishing 8 of 21 from the field, Smith nonetheless tallied 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks whilst staying out of the foul trouble that has occasionally posed problems this season, resulting in the senior playing all bar one minute of the game.
Amy O'Neill continues to sit among the national leaders in assists per game, with two more outstanding performances from the St. Francis captain keeping her numbers ticking over at a rapid rate. Although the senior managed just four points in the Terriers' 74-67 loss to Stony Brook, O'Neill dished out 6 assists and collected 8 rebounds, whilst junior Jade Johnson chipped in 11 points as well as 7 rebounds. Unfortunately, after trailing 40-26 at halftime, St. Francis simply gave themselves too much to do in the second half. St. Francis bounced back quickly though, comfortably handling Wagner in a 76-61 victory, with Johnson top-scoring with 20 points, and O'Neill putting together a sublime performance to finish with 18 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals. Wagner sophomore Taylah Simmons was one of three players in double figures for the Seahawks, tallying 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting as well as three rebounds and three steals.
Utah Valley may have split their games this week, but freshman Eve Braslis ensured that the Wolverines got off to a winning start in conference play. Fresh off an impressive 12-point, 9-rebound effort in a heartbreaking 56-55 loss to Cal State Fullerton, Braslis ensured that her team got straight back to winning ways in a 57-46 victory over Grand Canyon in their WAC opener. The freshman finished with game-highs in both points and rebounds, finishing with 15 and 9 respectively as the Wolverine defence held Grand Canyon to just 13 points across the second and third quarters to secure the 11-point victory.
Tia Hay continues to be one of the stars for Santa Clara, but it was a tough week for the Broncos as they dropped their first two conference games before rebounding with an overtime win against San Francisco. The junior was her team’s only player to finish in double figures in a 54-44 loss to BYU, tallying 11 points alongside 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals on what was otherwise a disappointing day for the Broncos. A 16-point effort in a 57-49 loss to San Diego followed, but it was Hay's performance against San Francisco that was the true highlight. In a 71-66 overtime victory that saw the Broncos overcome a 12-point halftime deficit, Hay was one of two Santa Clara players to top the 20-point mark, tallying 21-points, 4 assists, and 4 steals, as well as four clutch free throws late in overtime to secure the victory.
Darcy Rees has been a steady performer for Washington in her freshman season, but will have taken plenty of confidence from her performance against arch-rivals Washington State. The first-year forward put up career-best numbers with 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting and 8 rebounds to provide a personal highlight despite going down 79-76 in a heartbreaking defeat to open conference play.
Taylor Mole also enjoyed a solid day out to set career-highs of her own in Colorado State’s 91-38 demolition of Division II side Chadron State. Yet to score more than five points in a single game coming in, Mole went to work at the charity stripe, finishing a perfect 6 of 6 from the line to tally 11 points and also collect 7 rebounds as the Rams cruised against their vastly overmatched opponents.