Deegan drops 31 as WA freshmen catch fire

Western Australia hasn’t been the biggest producer of women in college basketball in recent years, but a few members of this season’s class are already putting together outstanding starts to their college careers. Davidson’s Suzi-Rose Deegan, Idaho’s Caitlyn Jones, and La Salle twin pairing Amy and Claire Jacobs all caught fire over the weekend, helping their teams to early season victories.

Suzi-Rose Deegan pulled out a second outstanding performance in just four games of her freshman season, dropping 31 on Kansas City in leading Davidson to victory in their Preseason WNIT consolation bracket game. One of just two Davidson players to finish in double figures, Deegan put the Wildcats on her back down the stretch as the visitors came away with a 74-64 victory.

Coming off the bench three minutes into the contest, the Western Australian eased her way into the game, seemingly evaluating her options before calculating the optimal path to success. The freshman chipped in a block and an assist alongside a single three-pointer in the opening quarter, but lit the fuse upon re-entry at the start of the second term. Ten points followed, all of which came in the paint as the Kansas City defence regularly found themselves unable to contain the athletic guard. However, more would be required in the second half as Davidson held only a 35-32 lead as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

A low-scoring third quarter saw both teams’ production dry up as the term ended 12-12, although Deegan did contribute five of those points for Davidson, setting a new career high with 18 points in the process. With the Wildcats up 47-44 with a quarter to play, one might have expected one of the seniors to take over, but Deegan’s performance belied her lack of college experience. With the Wildcats clinging to a 49-47 lead, five points and an assist in the space of just over a minute put Davidson up by 9, but the freshman’s job wasn’t finished as Kansas City pulled back within a solitary point inside the final three minutes.

Kansas City had the chance to take the lead on their next possession, but Katie Turner’s steal and pass found Deegan sprinting down court for the fast break lay-up. A three-pointer on Davidson’s next possession put the Wildcats up by six before Deegan capped a 31-point night with the dagger. Splashing home her fourth three of the evening on eight attempts, Deegan demonstrated her already proven ability in clutch situations to put Davidson up by 9 with 40 seconds to play. Some late free throws did little but delay the inevitable, with the Wildcats taking the W back to North Carolina.

The game was far tighter than the scoreboard would suggest, with Davidson leading much of the way but rarely extending their margin beyond five points. However, with Deegan keeping the scoreboard ticking over before dominating the final term, the Wildcats always appeared to hold the aces as the game progressed.

However, Deegan wasn’t the only freshman out of Western Australia to deliver a match-winning performance in recent days. Twins Amy and Claire Jacobs finished as La Salle’s top two scorers as the Explorers pulled the upset on a Harvard team that had beaten them 88-43 almost a year to the day earlier. Amy played the lead role as La Salle rallied from 42-28 down at halftime to secure a 75-69 victory, burying four of six from beyond the arc on her way to a team-high 17 points. Meanwhile, Claire played the rear gunner role superbly, knocking down a trio of threes to finish with 15 points. Eight of those points came in the third quarter, playing a vital role in helping La Salle launch their comeback bid.

Following such a comeback, a repeat would have done no favours to the cardiovascular systems of the La Salle faithful. However, the Explorers put themselves in an even bigger hole against heavily favoured Penn State just two days later, trailing 41-21 at halftime. Once again, both Jacobs twins put up points with regularity, but the Explorers cut their deficit by just two in the third quarter. But something changed in the fourth quarter. The Explorers chipped away at the deficit to trail by 10 with four minutes to play. Claire hit a three to bring her team three points closer soon after, and with Penn State adding just a single point in the last four minutes, La Salle took the lead with nine seconds remaining. A stop on Penn State’s final possession secured a famous 69-67 victory, leaving La Salle sitting at 3-1 instead of 1-3 after a whirlwind weekend. It was Claire’s turn to top-score this time, burying 4 of 5 from deep on her way to 17 points and 3 rebounds. Amy also hit double figures, tallying an even 10 alongside 3 boards.

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Caitlyn Jones rounded out a successful week for the newcomers from the west with an outstanding debut for Idaho against Colorado State. Forced to wait for her first appearance due to injury, the sharpshooter came out firing, burying a trio of threes in the second quarter as the Vandals steadily built their lead out to 12 points at halftime. A fourth make from deep late in the third quarter would see Jones end the game 4 of 6 from deep for 12 points as Idaho eventually held on for a 61-54 victory. Whilst it may be too soon to elicit comparisons to another Western Australian in Vandals legend Stacey Barr, it was nonetheless a very encouraging start for Jones.

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However, not all of the weekend's outstanding performances came from first-year players from the west. A few of the usual suspects put up great performances, whilst others are beginning to emerge as stars for their respective teams.

  • New Mexico’s Ahlise Hurst produced another two 20-point games to make it three in four games for the sophomore. The former Bendigo Spirit guard buried 6 of 7 from beyond the arc on her way to 20 points and 5 steals in an 81-71 win over Houston before backing up against in-state rivals New Mexico State. All bar one of Hurst’s 22 points came on a 7 of 11 shooting night from deep, whilst the sophomore also dished three assists as New Mexico rolled to an 86-67 victory.

  • Tia Hay proved the hero for Santa Clara against UC Davis. Coming off a 13-point, 6-assist outing in an 89-61 win over San Jose State, Hay delivered in far tighter circumstances. With her team storming home from 16 points down in the third quarter, Hay scored 8 in the final term, including the game winner with less than a second remaining as Santa Clara escaped with a 62-61 win. The senior would finish with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a famous comeback victory for the Broncos.

  • Alexandra Fowler continues to be a revelation for Portland in the first few weeks of her college career. The freshman tallied 14 points and 7 rebounds in just 19 minutes in the Pilots’ 78-36 demolition of NAIA side Warner Pacific, but that was merely the entrée. A Fresno State side featuring Aussie pairing Bree Delaney and Genna Ogier would provide a much sterner test, but Fowler came ready to play. The Gems’ World Cup star tallied her second double-double in just four games, notching 18 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes as Portland eked out a 75-64 victory courtesy of a late flurry of points. Keeley Frawley also impressed, tallying 14 points and 5 rebounds against Warner Pacific before following up with 2 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Haylee Andrews played just the one minute against Warner Pacific, but excelled against Fresno State in finishing with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists.

  • Emily Fisher started the season all but unrecognisable from the player who averaged just 3.6 points per game in 2018/19. The American University sophomore tallied an impressive 15 points and 8 assists in the Eagles’ 81-69 defeat to Ohio, but did even better against Villanova. Fisher shot 9 of 11 from the field on her way to 22 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals as the Eagles rolled to a 76-54 victory over the Wildcats.

  • Courtney Woods' return from an ACL injury continues, with the senior helping Northern Illinois to an overtime win against Colorado State. Woods finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Huskies forced overtime before securing an 80-75 victory. Rams freshman Stamatelopoulos also delivered an encouraging performance, tallying 9 points and 2 assists.

  • Sophia Locandro put together a perfect shooting performance from the field for UC Irvine against Aussie-laden Davidson, but couldn’t quite get the Anteaters over the line in a 78-72 loss. The freshman hit all six of her attempts from the field on her way to 14 points, with her only blip coming at the free throw line, where she finished 2 from 3. Locandro also collected 6 rebounds to lead her team on the boards.

  • Staying in California, Abbey Ellis’ performance for Cal Poly was a bright spot in an otherwise tough day for the Mustangs against Denver. In a 96-66 defeat, Ellis was Cal Poly’s only player in double-digits, going a perfect 7 from 7 at the line to tally 19 points alongside 7 rebounds.

  • Sara Anastasieska continued her outstanding form from last week’s 25-point outing against UConn with another team-leading performance against UC Riverside. The Golden Bears struggled to get the upper hand on their unfancied opponents, but won the second half 48-25 to secure an 84-61 victory. Anastasieska knocked down 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 4 from deep, to tally 17 points.

  • Colorado sophomore Emma Clarke reached a milestone, registering the first double-double of her career to help lead Colorado to a 66-56 win over Wyoming. Despite a tough day’s shooting from deep, Clarke hit 5 of 7 from two-point range to finish with an even 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Buffaloes kept their opponents at bay on their way to victory.