Looking at the West Coast Conference preseason poll, bottom-ranked Portland are the surprise packets of the season, having compiled a 4-3 record whilst knocking off BYU and running Gonzaga close after leading by 20 at one stage. However, those who watched last year's Under 19 World Cup would not be surprised that the addition of All-Star Five selection Alex Fowler has improved the Pilots dramatically, with the freshman picking up her second WCC Player of the Week award after outstanding performances against San Francisco and Santa Clara.
San Francisco came into their home game against Portland with an 0-5 record in conference play, but gave the Pilots all they could handle in a back-and-forth contest. Indeed, without Fowler’s 13 first-half points, the 35-35 halftime scoreline would almost certainly have read in San Francisco’s favour. A tight third quarter followed, but with fellow North Queensland product Haylee Andrews taking over, Portland gradually edged to victory. As Andrews cut a swathe through the San Francisco defence, Fowler settled into a supporting role as the Pilots edged to a late double-digit lead before emerging with a 73-66 victory. Andrews finished the game with 24 points and 8 assists, whilst Fowler’s first half barrage produced the bulk of a 17-point, 9-rebound outing. However, that was simply the entrée prior to the short trip south to Santa Clara to take on the Broncos.
If the entrée was good, then the main course was worthy of three Michelin stars. Freshman sensation Fowler was just about unstoppable for the Pilots against Santa Clara, shooting an incredible 16 of 22 on her way to a career-high 35 points. Andrews added 15 points and a career-high 12 assists, but despite their best efforts, the Pilots couldn’t shake the Broncos until the very last. However, even on the final play of the game, the Australian pair helped ensure a Portland win. With the scoreboard reading 77-77, Fowler found Andrews with a pass out of the post. As time wound down, the point guard kicked to teammate Kate Andersen, who buried the corner three as time expired to hand Portland an 80-77 victory.
Santa Clara’s own Aussie point guard, Tia Hay, was also solid, tallying 9 points and 5 assists in 22 minutes off the bench. Portland’s third Aussie, Keeley Frawley, chipped in 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 27 minutes off the bench, including one dime on an Andersen shot that tied the game at 73-73 just over two minutes from time.
The Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Week award has belonged to Davidson’s Australian duo of Adelaide Fuller and Suzi-Rose Deegan in recent weeks. However, La Salle’s Claire Jacobs demonstrated that the Wildcats don’t have a monopoly on the Aussie talent in the conference, dropping a new career-high 29 points in a 78-62 loss to Massachusetts, setting a La Salle freshman record in the process.
Already with two 20-point efforts this season, Jacobs almost single-handedly kept La Salle in the contest in the opening half. The Western Australian shot 5 of 8 from the field before halftime, posting 13 of her team’s 31 points as the remainder of the La Salle lineup connected on just 7 of 23 field goals. Indeed, it was Jacobs’ solo 10-3 run that briefly tied the game twice in the second quarter and saw La Salle trail by just two points as the scoreboard read 33-31 at halftime.
Although Jacobs had led La Salle into a position from which they could launch a second-half assault, doing so against a 13-3 Massachusetts side would prove incredibly difficult. The freshman gave it her best crack though, pouring in another 16 points in the second half to finish with 29, burying 5 of 8 from beyond the arc in a scintillating performance. Unfortunately, Massachusetts’ balanced scoring saw the Minutewomen gradually extend their advantage throughout the latter stages of the contest, notching a 76-62 victory. Despite the result, Jacobs’ performance was undoubtedly the story of the game as the freshman quickly develops into a go-to piece for the Explorers.
Yet Jacobs was far from done for the week as La Salle hosted St. Bonaventure on Sunday. Still chasing their first conference win, the Explorers did themselves no favours in the opening quarter, giving up an early lead to trail 17-13 through ten minutes. However, seven second-quarter points for Jacobs to go with six from the opening term helped La Salle compile a 33-32 advantage and give themselves a platform from which to build after halftime.
Whilst Jacobs added only three more points in the second half, a more balanced scoring spread saw three La Salle players finish in double figures with another tallying 9. In contrast to the Massachusetts game, where only Jacobs and one other player scored more than 5 points, the Explorers’ ability to find scoring from other sources kept them in the game even as St. Bonaventure made a push early in the fourth quarter. A late response from La Salle saw the home side score the final six points of the game, securing a first conference win with a 67-61 victory, with Jacobs again the star. The freshman tallied 16 points and 8 rebounds to finish the week averaging 22.5 points and 4.5 boards after two outstanding performances.
Adelaide Fuller may not have gone back-to-back as A-10 Rookie of the Week, but the Davidson freshman continued a scintillating run of form with two more outstanding efforts off the bench. Incredibly, Fuller put up 18 points for the third consecutive game as the Wildcats eased to a 76-69 win over George Mason that only really became close in the final minutes. Shooting 8 of 13 from the field, Fuller’s touch around the basket was on show once again as her season field goal percentage moved above the 50% mark following three highly efficient performances. Fuller also collected five rebounds, whilst sophomore Cassidy Gould added 10 points and 4 assists, with fellow freshman Suzi-Rose Deegan adding 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The Wildcats were pushed all the way in their second game against lowly George Washington, but once again the Aussies were among the best on court in a 62-55 victory. Fuller once again posted double-digits, tallying 11 points alongside 5 rebounds. Deegan added 13 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Gould chipped in 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists as the Aussie trio once again proved integral to a Davidson victory.
Callie Bourne’s rapid rise for Idaho State continues to gain momentum, with the sophomore obliterating her scoring career-high in a 65-54 win over Weber State. Already with a pair of 20-point games under her belt this season, Bourne capitalised on her opportunities in scintillating fashion on her way to a 26-point performance to lead the Bengals to victory. The sophomore connected on 10 of 14 from the field, hitting 2 of 3 from deep in the process, and also collected 6 rebounds to lead her team in both categories.
Courtney Middap has played a supporting role for Hawaii in her senior season, but given the chance to shine against Cal State Fullerton, the Tasmanian took the opportunity with both hands. Entering the game with just one double-figure scoring effort all season, Middap quickly set about changing that, catching fire from deep to lead the Rainbow Wahine to a 79-72 victory.
In stark contrast to her 24% three-point shooting for the season, the senior buried 6 of 9 from beyond the arc on her way to a career-high 24 points, with the six threes tying the Hawaii program record. Fellow Aussie, Amy Atwell, was also solid from deep in the win, hitting 4 of 5 on her way to 16 points off the bench as her impressive season continues.
Northern Illinois may be enduring a tough season, but senior Courtney Woods continues to showcase the offensive production that has led to her name littering the Huskies’ record books, leading the Huskies to a first conference win in the process. Although a 25-point outing against Kent State proved in vain in a 79-71 defeat, another 20 points against Akron was just the tonic the Huskies needed as they eked out a 70-65 victory courtesy of a 26-17 final term. The senior shot 8 of 15 from the field, and also added 7 rebounds as well as 3 assists, leading the Huskies in all three categories. Woods also moved into third overall for career scoring for Northern Illinois, with second spot well and truly on the senior’s radar as her time in college approaches its conclusion.
Sophia Locandro may not have repeated the double-double stat line of two weeks ago against NAIA side Westcliff, but arguably turned in a better performance against UC Santa Barbara in a narrow 65-61 defeat. Having attempted the princely sum of zero three-pointers in her first 15 games, the freshman buried all three of her attempts from long range on her way to 20 points and 8 rebounds. Locandro also shot 5 of 9 from closer to the basket to finish the game 8 of 12 from the field in her second 20-point outing of the season. Despite the loss, UC Irvine would hit back against fellow Australian, Abbey Ellis and Cal Poly with a 68-57 victory. On this occasion, it was Jayde Cadee leading the Australian charge, burying 5 of 9 from deep on her way to 15 points. Cadee has now tallied 19 threes in her last five games, having notched just 11 in the 12 games prior.
Eastern Washington were denied victory in double overtime as Montana State charged home, but Jess McDowell-White produced perhaps her best performance of the season with a second double-double of the campaign. Although the Eagles fell to an 89-85 defeat, McDowell-White produced 18 points, 6 rebounds, and a career high-tying 12 assists. With 71 assists to her name, the sophomore is only four shy of the 75 she dished out in her freshman year. With a minimum of 15 games to play, a spot in the Eastern Washington top 10 for single season assists isn’t out of the question, with 143 the total number required to reach that list.
Appalachian State senior Nicola Mathews has averaged 18 minutes per contest this season, but that was the exact number of points the South Australian put up against Arkansas State, breaking a career-high 17 set in December of 2017 against Marshall. Ever the reliable outside shooter, Mathews scored all of her points in this fashion, burying 6 of 10 from beyond the arc whilst also tallying three assists. However, despite Mathews’ best efforts, a complete lack of significant scoring support saw the Mountaineers fall to a 76-58 defeat to leave their record sitting at 1-4 in the Sun Belt.