There is no denying that Townsville pair Haylee Andrews and Alexandra Fowler are two of Portland’s most influential players, but even so, what they produced this weekend was astounding even by their own lofty standards.
Coming into the weekend 7-6 in conference play and in the thick of a battle for fourth in the WCC, the Aussie pair not only helped their team into outright fourth, but gave the Pilots a chance at second spot in the league with three games to play as the poured in a combined 80 points across the two games, with freshman Keeley Frawley chipping in another 7 for a total of 87. It was clear that one of the two would end up securing conference Player of the Week honours, with Andrews just edging out Fowler for an award that could almost have been split between the pair.
Hosting Santa Clara at the Chiles Center, Portland showed no intention of being welcoming, opening the game on a 10-0 run on their way to a 28-10 first quarter lead. The Broncos had no answer for Fowler in the first half, with the freshman rolling to 19 first half points, shooting 8 of 10 from the field in the process. Andrews was hardly pedestrian though, chipping in 12 of her own as the duo contributed 31 of Portland’s 48 first half points, with the Pilots holding a 20-point halftime lead.
Perhaps only the fact that the starters were able to sit for much of the fourth quarter prevented the Australian pairing from combining for 60 points, with Portland in complete command throughout the second half. However, Andrews continued to pour in the points whilst she was on court, adding 13 in 13 minutes to finish with 25, whilst Fowler finished on the same total following six second half points to see the duo combine for a remarkable 50 points, just 12 shy of Santa Clara’s total score. Meanwhile, Frawley chipped in with 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists off the bench in the 84-62 drubbing.
The barrage continued from Fowler and Andrews against San Francisco a couple of days later. Prior to the season, Portland had been tipped to be among the cellar-dwellers alongside the Dons, but it quickly became apparent that a vast gulf in class had developed between the two teams. A 15-7 first quarter lead developed into a 36-19 advantage at halftime, with the Townsville duo continuing their form from the Santa Clara game. The Pilots cruised to victory, with Fowler dominating the paint to chalk up 14 points and 9 rebounds, connecting on 7 of 10 from the field in the process. Andrews finished as top-scorer for the Pilots with 16 points, but was responsible for far more points than that as the sophomore also added 6 assists as the pair led Portland to a 69-49 victory. Frawley once again enjoyed a significant stint off the bench, chipping in 2 points in 20 minutes of action as the trio combined for 87 points across two games.
The victories moved Portland into outright fourth in the West Coast Conference, half a game ahead of Pepperdine in fifth but two games clear of sixth-placed Pacific. With the 3rd and 4th seeds in the WCC Tournament receiving a double-bye through to the quarter-finals, there is a massive difference between 4th and 5th in the final standings, and Portland’s Aussies could be the crucial piece in earning the Pilots that extra day off.
However, Fowler and Andrews weren’t the only Aussies consistently posting massive numbers on a consistent basis in recent days.
UC Irvine sit slightly behind the eight ball in a congested Big West mid-table scrum, but if the Victorian freshman can keep posting performances of the calibre she produced over the weekend, the Anteaters may yet sneak up a few spots down the stretch. Locandro was far and away the best player on court in an 82-75 win over Cal State Fullerton, pouring in 23 points on 9-14 shooting whilst also collecting 8 rebounds and dishing out 3 blocks. The Anteaters needed every last one of those stats, as only a 30-17 final term got them over the line after trailing by 6 through three quarters. The win cut the gap between the teams to a single game before the Anteaters visited ladder leaders UC Davis for their second game of the weekend.
At 9-2 in conference play, UC Davis have been on a tear atop the Big West all season. But despite a 65-53 defeat for the Anteaters, Locandro demonstrated she can go toe-to-toe with the best in the league. The freshman got to the line with regularity in a 24-point, 5-rebound performance, hitting 8 of 10 free throws alongside 7 of 14 from the field. However, a 21-point third quarter deficit for UC Irvine proved far too much to overcome, with the Anteaters coming no closer than the final margin of 12. However, with a number of games against teams sitting only a game or so above them in the standings to come, there is still time for UC Irvine to force their way up the standings and earn a higher tournament seeding.
Heading north, Eastern Washington have found wins hard to come by this season, with two all season and only one in conference play coming into their game against Portland State. Falling into a 10-point hole late in the first quarter, the Eagles looked unlikely to pick up a second conference win. However, McDowell-White was undeterred, chalking up 17 points and a highly impressive 13 assists, a new career-high, as Eastern Washington overturned the deficit by halftime before hanging on for a 79-75 victory. The Eagles still find themselves well off the pace in the Big Sky, but the win does leave them a game and a half ahead of bottom side Weber State.