NCAA Women: Four players set career scoring marks, Gajewski reaches milestone

Career-high scoring performances were the order of the week for the Australian women in college, as Jade Johnson, Megan McKay, Georgia Pineau, and Megan Johnson each surpassed their previous best. Elsewhere, Tiana Mangakahia's astounding run of double-doubles reached 7, Kristy Wallace chalked up a win over Alanna Smith, and Grand Canyon senior Jess Gajewski reached 1000 career points.

Tiana Mangakahia’s start to the season has seen her rocket into discussions regarding the best pure point guards in the nation, and this week the Syracuse sophomore simply refused to allow her team to lose with two outstanding performances, each of which culminated in late-game domination to secure a pair of victories and deliver the Orange an 8-0 start to the season. Taking on Northwestern in the team’s first game of the week, Mangakahia chalked up 9 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, but Syracuse trailed the Wildcats 36-34. However, in the second half, the sophomore hit 11 of 11 from the free throw line on the way to a 26 point game, and added another 5 assists to complete yet another double-double as the Orange stormed home for an 81-74 win.

Stony Brook should have been a far simpler proposition for Syracuse, but after a 24-11 first quarter, the Orange let their opponents back into the game, with Stony Brook leading 34-32 at halftime. Once again, Mangakahia unleashed an improved second half performance, scoring 16 of her 29 points in the latter 20 minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime at 69-69. Syracuse would dominate the extra five minutes, running out 81-70 winners, with Mangakahia scoring or assisting on 10 of her team’s 12 points in overtime. Shooting 12 of 26 from the field, the Queenslander finished with 29 points and 11 assists to continue a run of double-doubles that now extends to seven games.

Megan Johnson has been a reasonably reliable scorer for UTRGV in her time with the program, but obliterated all expectations in the Vaqueros’ win over UTSA at the Battle on the Border Tournament on their home court. Coming off a reasonable 10 point, 4 assist game in her side’s 67-58 win over Massachusetts, Johnson was simply on another level to everyone else on the court as UTRGV rolled to a 70-59 win. Down 17 at one point, Johnson’s second-half performance was simply scintillating as the sophomore led her team to victory. Johnson tallied 23 points in the second half alone, and UTRGV finished the game with a 22-5 fourth quarter to secure the victory. The Newcastle product finished the game with 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting, and also tallied 8 rebounds and 4 assists to secure the tournament’s MVP award for her two performances across the weekend.

Jade Johnson notched a career-high of 16 points earlier this season, but evidently that wasn’t enough for the sophomore, who obliterated her previous mark in a 64-49 win over Saint Peter’s. Coming off a heavy 84-50 loss to Seton Hall, in which Johnson tallied 10 points and fellow Australian Alex Delaney top scored for the Terriers with 11, Johnson set about taking her frustration out on the unfortunate Peacocks. The sophomore had equalled her career-high of 16 points by halftime, and went on to shoot 10 of 18 from the field to tally an impressive 28 points, whilst also chipping in with five rebounds and three steals to complete an outstanding day. Delaney added 15 points of her own, whilst Amy O’Neill added six as the Australians led the scoring for the Terriers and together equalled their opponents’ score of 49.

Megan McKay has shown glimpses of dominance at times this season, and the Western Australian was at her best when Saint Mary’s needed it most, dominating in the paint as the Gaels secured a thrilling 74-72 win over Boise State. Earning an eye-popping 17 free throws, McKay hit 11 of her attempts from the line, as well as 8 of 14 from the field, to collect a career-high 27 points alongside 7 rebounds. Jasmine Forcadilla was also solid on offence, hitting 5 of 7 from the field on her way to a vital 14 points in a game where every basket was required to get the win. McKay was again solid in the Gaels’ road game against Utah later in the week, going close to a double-double. The junior registered 19 points on 66% shooting, and picked up another 9 rebounds, but the Gaels committed 27 turnovers to allow Utah to complete a 74-63 win.

After last week’s dominant performance in an unfortunate overtime loss to Ohio State, Alanna Smith backed up with another outstanding effort in Stanford’s win over San Francisco. After a slow start which allowed the underdogs to take a 19-12 lead, Smith and the Cardinal rocketed into action for the remainder of the contest. Knocking down all three of her attempts from beyond the arc, the Opals rookie finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Cardinal were able to ease to an 86-66 victory. However, the Cardinal fell to their fourth loss to a top 10 team in as many games in their next contest, an 81-57 defeat to Baylor in which Smith finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds in a game where many of Stanford’s frontcourt players were hampered by foul trouble.

Kristy Wallace also played in that game, but prior to that, her Baylor side faced Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The senior has been shifting between the guard spots more often this season than in previous years, and it paid off in a 90-63 rout of the Wildcats. Wallace top scored with a season-high 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting, hitting 3 of 4 from three-point range in the process as Baylor cruised to victory. The Queenslander was perhaps even better in Baylor’s win over Alanna Smith and Stanford. Coming within touching distance of a triple-double, Wallace notched 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists as the Bears used a 25-8 first quarter to set up a comfortable 81-57 victory.

Boston College pair Georgia Pineau and Taylor Ortlepp each had a performance worth remembering this week, even if the Eagles ended the week without a win from their two games. Despite Pineau’s outstanding career-high 22 point performance on 8 of 9 shooting, Boston College couldn’t manage to secure the win against Columbia, going down 68-60 to the Ivy League program as the remainder of the Eagles team shot just 35% from the field. It was then Ortlepp’s turn to step up against Fairfield, with the South Australian finishing with 18 points, whilst Pineau was impressive on the boards to tally 9 rebounds alongside 5 points. Despite this, a slow start to the second half hindered the Eagles’ chances as they fell to a 66-58 loss.

Despite some outstanding performances from their Aussie quartet, it’s been a tough start to the season in terms of results for Utah State, and little changed this week as Rachel Brewster was named to the all-tournament team at the Maui Classic despite the Aggies losing both games in Hawaii. Brewster notched 16 points and 6 rebounds against Montana State in the team’s opener, but a turnover count of 28-20 was just too much to overcome for the Aggies, who fell to a 64-52 defeat as Montana State dropped 27 points in the fourth quarter.

Olivia West finished with 13 points, whilst Shannon Dufficy wasn’t far off a double-double with 8 points and 8 rebounds. The Aggies were hardly expected to win their second game of the week against nationally ranked Oregon State, and whilst Brewster again finished with 16 points, the Beavers dominated from the outset on their way to a 94-55 victory. Olivia West almost completed her own second double-figure performance for the week, tallying nine points in the loss.

Reaching 1,000 career points this weekend wasn’t a likely proposition for Jess Gajewski, but two outstanding scoring efforts saw the Grand Canyon senior hit the four figures mark as the Lopes split a pair of games. In a double-overtime thriller against Florida Atlantic, Gajewski hit four of her five three-pointers in the second half of regulation to drag her team back into the contest and complete a 19 point outing as Grand Canyon escaped with a 77-73 win after two extra periods of play.

Unfortunately, Gajewski’s scoring could not get her team over the line on her milestone day as Grand Canyon fell 69-60 to Bethune-Cookman. Despite finishing with 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting, Gajewski and the Lopes were set back by a 27-7 third quarter that gave Bethune-Cookman an 18 point lead, and although Grand Canyon would cut the margin to four with three minutes to play, that would be as close as they came as Bethune-Cookman secured the win.

Funda Nakkasoglu struggled slightly in her return from injury earlier in the week, but was clearly back to her best as the Florida point guard led her team to victory over Oklahoma in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Victorian started slowly, with just six points at halftime as Florida took a 33-23 lead into the locker room. However, Nakkasoglu came out firing in the second half to shoot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and a perfect 5 of 5 from the charity stripe to finish with 24 points as well as 4 assists as Florida dominated the final quarter to run out 80-61 winners. Whilst it was only one game, it certainly was promising to see Nakkasoglu scoring well again following a minor ankle injury.

Eastern Illinois may have found it tough in their sole game of the week, falling 77-69 to Cleveland State, but the performance of Grace Lennox could not be faulted. The Tasmanian point guard notched a season-high 24 points on 10 of 21 shooting from the field, and also dished out five assists. Lennox was also her usual active self on defence, picking up five steals and also chipping in with five rebounds, but a 25-14 second quarter in Cleveland State’s favour swung the momentum away from Eastern Illinois, and their opponents held on despite the Panthers coming agonisingly close to regaining the lead at times in the third quarter.

Finally, Louise Brown has been easing her way back into things after missing all bar 7 games last season with injury, but was finally able to put together the kind of performance we have seen in previous years in Washington State’s 72-55 win over Idaho State. Shooting an impressive 4-4 from beyond the arc, Brown tallied 14 points, and led the team in rebounding with 11 boards, showcasing her abilities both on the perimeter and in the paint in an encouraging sign not only for herself, but for the team.