Western Australian freshman Suzi-Rose Deegan has emerged as one of the favourites for the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year award after picking up her third consecutive Rookie of the Week award and fourth of the season following a first collegiate double-double. The Davidson star led the Wildcats in both scoring and rebounding in their 65-58 victory over Saint Louis, posting 25 points and 14 boards, whilst also chipping in three assists and a pair of steals.
Davidson struggled in the early stages, conceding a 10-0 run to open the game as Saint Louis started strongly. The Wildcats responded in the back end of the opening term, with Deegan scoring all seven of her team’s first quarter points as Davidson trailed 19-7 through ten minutes.
That first quarter performance was quickly forgotten, though. A 14-5 second quarter handed Davidson momentum heading into halftime, before Deegan put the team on her back in an electric third-quarter performance. A 28-13 term completely flipped the game situation as Davidson turned a 3-point halftime deficit into a 12-point advantage with a quarter to play. Deegan would tally 11 points in the quarter as Saint Louis found themselves unable to contend with the freshman’s athleticism, whilst fellow Australians Cassidy Gould and Adelaide Fuller also chipped in points as Davidson looked to put the game to bed early.
However, Saint Louis refused to lie down. Whilst Davidson, including Deegan, continued to put up points at regular intervals, the Billikens were doing the same at a slightly faster rate. Although the margin came down at an almost glacial pace, a three-pointer from Saint Louis with 30 seconds to play cut the margin to three at 61-58. An offensive rebound from Deegan on a late missed Davidson free throw sent the freshman to the line, hitting one of two. With Saint Louis unable to respond from beyond the arc, Gould iced the game with a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds to finish with 11 points of her own as Davidson edged to a 7-point victory.
Having come into the starting lineup shortly before Christmas, Deegan has averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds in those three appearances, taking her season averages to 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. That scoring mark is now the Australian high for this season, whilst the freshman also sits fourth in average rebounding among Aussies as well as holding the best field goal percentage among qualified Aussies, at 48.1%.
Elsewhere, there was also encouraging news for UCLA junior Chantel Horvat. Having struggled with injury in 2018/19, Horvat showed signs of returning to her best in capturing a first collegiate double-double in a win over Arizona. In a battle of teams with 13-0 records, it was the Bruins who continued their record-breaking start to the season with the 70-58 win, with Horvat playing a starring role off the bench. The junior tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds, finishing as UCLA’s second-best for the day in both categories, with the 10 rebounds also tying Horvat’s career-high.
However, Horvat wasn’t the only California-based Victorian to pick up a career-first double-double. Facing NAIA side Westcliff, UC Irvine were led by Sophia Locandro in a 93-41 victory. The freshman shot an impressive 10 of 16 to finish with 22 points alongside 10 rebounds, setting career-highs in both categories. Fellow freshman Jayde Cadee followed up last week’s 21-point outing against Southern Methodist with another four threes on her way to 12 points and 6 rebounds.
UMass Lowell junior Tiahna Sears also hit form at the perfect time, helping the Riverhawks to a 2-0 opening in conference play. The JUCO transfer’s best work came on the glass, particularly in the 58-53 win over New Hampshire. Coming into the game with just 15 rebounds for the season, Sears eclipsed that mark in one game with a mammoth 16 boards alongside 4 points and 3 rebounds. However, that was simply the precursor for an even more impressive outing in a 75-64 victory over UMBC. The Western Australian piled on 17 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, connecting on 7 of 10 from the field in the process as the Riverhawks got their league slate off to a perfect start.
On the other hand, Sam Simons hasn’t really had to hit form this season, with the Saint Mary’s star consistently firing from day one on her way to 13 double-figure scoring efforts in 15 games. A 23-point outing in an 85-78 win over Pepperdine saw the South Australian eclipse the 20-point mark for the fourth time this season, with Simons shooting 7 of 11 from the field and also collecting 6 rebounds in the process. The sophomore followed up with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in an 86-70 victory as Saint Mary’s moved to 4-0 in West Coast Conference play prior to this weekend’s matchup with rivals and conference favourites Gonzaga.
Staying in the West Coast Conference with Portland, it has generally been Haylee Andrews or Alex Fowler providing the highlights for both Australian fans and the Pilots’ faithful this season. However, it was freshman Keeley Frawley who led the team into Provo to secure their first win over BYU in 21 attempts, with their last victory coming on the road in 1999. In a low-scoring affair, Frawley led the Pilots with 14 points including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, whilst also tallying 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a three-pointer with 40 seconds to play that put the game beyond doubt. Andrews also chipped in 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, whilst Fowler added 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Originally pegged to finish bottom of the conference, the Pilots have now beaten a BYU team that received 3 first-place votes and come within 5 points of beating the Gonzaga side that garnered the remaining 7 first-place votes in the preseason poll.
It was a tough opening week of conference play for Austin Peay, who fell to a pair of defeats. However, if not for the efforts of Ella Sawyer, things could have been much worse in a 79-66 defeat to Southeast Missouri State. 16 points from the South Australian tied a career high set in her first college game, but this outing came against far higher quality opposition than the Kentucky Wesleyan side Sawyer faced on debut. Impressively, Sawyer also dished six assists to provide a real positive in a tough day, and also gave the rising freshman something to build on for the rest of her first college season.