NCAA Women: Ahlise Hurst rewrites New Mexico's record books

It was a day for big scoring performances from Aussies on Thursday as New Mexico freshman Ahlise Hurst led four players in dropping 23 points or more, and the points kept coming throughout the weekend as a number of sharpshooters found their range to bury not only shots, but also their opponents.

Meanwhile, Alex Sharp looks to be hitting her straps after a belated start to the season, whilst Jasmine Simmons enjoyed an extended run out for Oregon State in their demolition of La Salle.

Just three weeks ago, Ahlise Hurst was providing a solid option off the bench for New Mexico coach Mike Bradbury. Now, the former Bendigo Spirit WNBL player already appears on track to become a star for the Lobos after rewriting the record books with a 39-point effort that led her team to an 84-80 victory over Oklahoma.

Shooting 14 of 24 from the field, Hurst buried 9 of 17 from beyond the arc to come within just two points of New Mexico’s single-game record and slot in at third all-time, but knocked off the Lobos’ previous freshman scoring record of 35, set way back in 1982. New Mexico would need every last one of those points as well, as Oklahoma whittled away a 14-point deficit to trail by a solitary point with 4 minutes to play before the Lobos managed to hold the Sooners’ charge at bay.

Amazingly, prior to this game Hurst’s college career high was just 11 points, lower even than her WNBL career high of 15 which she scored against Townsville last season. The freshman blew by that 11-point mark inside the first quarter on her way to 24 first half points before rounding out the remarkable performance with 15 more after the break. Hurst completed the week with another 11 points in an 83-58 demolition of arch-rival New Mexico State to finish the weekend with an even 50 points alongside a spot in New Mexico folklore. She would go on to be named the Mountain West Player of the Week.

Northern Illinois made the trip west to North Dakota State, with Courtney Woods back in her usual scoring form, shooting 10 of 17 to finish with 25 points alongside 6 rebounds and 4 assists as the Huskies cruised to an 81-63 victory. The Huskies would trip up at Montana in their second game of the week, falling 86-70 despite Woods’ 18 points, but bounced back against Nevada in their most recent game. The Aussie senior shot the lights out as the Huskies rolled to a 98-69 victory, finishing with 28 points on 10 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc to round out a monstrous week after not scoring more than 12 in any of her past three games.

Jade Johnson did everything she could to get St. Francis over the line in their only game of the week, but the Terriers fell 69-57 to Army despite the South Australian’s best efforts. Johnson hit 9 of 19 from the field to score 25 points to account for 43% of her team’s points as many of the St. Francis players found it tough finding the bottom of the net. Fellow Aussie Amy O’Neill was one of those players, shooting just 2 of 12 to finish with 6 points but making up for that slightly with 5 of the team’s 9 assists.

Funda Nakkasoglu has been Florida’s most consistent scorer all season, with six 20-point efforts in seven games, and the Gators once again needed the senior to step up as the team finally picked up its first win of the season. 23 points from Nakkasoglu somehow wasn’t enough to get the Gators over the line against Northeastern as Florida fell to a 79-66 loss, leaving the team to face 5-1 Texas Tech in their continuing quest for a first win. After shooting just 22% in the first half, Florida, led by Nakkasoglu’s 17 second-half points, shot 47% from the field after halftime to pick up a 72-67 win as the senior finished with 21 points, whilst Kristina Moore added six points with a pair of threes.

After a week in Cancun, Tiana Mangakahia and Syracuse headed to the colder climes of Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers and their new coach Lindsay Whalen, a WNBA legend to whom Mangakahia has been compared in some circles. Although Syracuse fell to a narrow 72-68 loss, the junior dished out 8 assists alongside 11 points, although her 5 of 19 clip from the field will no doubt rankle given the narrow margin. Fortunately, Mangakahia had the chance to atone on home court against Towson, and did so with an impressive 13-point, 12-assist double-double to finish as one of five Syracuse players in double figures in the Orange’s 98-55 victory.

Six Aussies took to the court in Utah State’s game at Portland, and once again it was Shannon Dufficy shining brightest amongst her countrywomen. Although the Aggies fell to a 61-54 defeat courtesy of Portland’s 27-point final quarter explosion, Dufficy put together her third double-double of the season with an impressive 19 points on 9 of 14 shooting and 14 rebounds. Steph Gorman added 8 points and Rachel Brewster chipped in with 6 for Utah State, whilst Eliza and Olivia West added 6 assists apiece. Intriguingly, Portland’s Aussie freshman Haylee Andrews failed to score a point but did collect 10 rebounds alongside 3 assists - an interesting stat line considering the guard started the season with four double-figure scoring performances.

Grace Lennox has made a reasonable start to her senior season following last season’s knee injury, but showed a glimpse of her electric best in Eastern Illinois’ narrow 67-64 loss to Bradley. The diminutive point guard racked up 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting, and also managed 6 steals alongside 6 rebounds and 2 assists, but unfortunately Bradley were just able to hold off the fast-finishing Panthers. Grace McRae also chipped in with a solid 11 points and 8 rebounds as the Aussie pair finished as two of four Panthers’ players in double figures.

Chloe Bibby continues to help ensure that Mississippi State won't suffer the same kind of fall that many other teams have after losing four seniors, helping the Bulldogs move to 8-0 with a 67-49 victory over Texas. Having already picked up 15 points and 8 rebounds in a 98-63 demolition of Little Rock earlier in the week, Bibby was again in fine form against the Longhorns, hitting 6 of 12 to tally 14 points as Mississippi State condemned Texas to their first loss of the season whilst keeping their own perfect record alive.

Boston College moved to an impressive 7-1 record with a 74-60 win over Columbia, and had Australian junior pairing Georgia Pineau and Taylor Ortlepp to thank for helping lead the team to victory. Ortlepp made up for a poor shooting night in which she hit just 1 of 9 from the field by dishing out a season-high 7 assists, whilst Pineau was awarded Boston College's Eagle of the Week for a dominant 16-point, 9-rebound haul that saw the junior hit 8 of 14 from the field and also come up with 3 blocks as the Eagles used fast starts to both halves to put together the victory against the pesky Lions.

A shoulder injury means Alex Sharp may be five games behind her Wake Forest teammates in terms of playing time this season, but you wouldn’t know it from the junior’s performance in the Demon Deacons’ 64-59 win over St. John’s. Sharp played 35 minutes in the win, coming up with her first double-double of the season after finishing with 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 10 rebounds, as well as three steals as the Demon Deacons held off a late charge from their opponents.

Finally, Oregon State demolished La Salle 100-46, and freshman Jasmine Simmons was only too pleased to get in on the fun, finishing the game with the first double-figure scoring performance of her young career. Simmons’ 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting in 17 minutes turned out to be the Beavers’ second-highest score of the game behind Kat Tudor’s 24 as Beavers coach Scott Rueck shared the minutes and the players shared the spoils.