NCAA Women: Gaels' turning opportunities into success

Nail-biters were the order of the week for the Aussies in NCAA Division I action this week, with a handful of games finishing with margins of fewer than three points, with another going to overtime. Whilst players like Kristy Wallace and Sara Anastasieska came up big in clutch situations, Carly Turner was making the most of increased opportunities for Saint Mary's, muscling in on weekly honours in the process.

With injuries requiring a reshuffle for Saint Mary’s, Carly Turner was the main beneficiary in receiving far more minutes than usual, taking full advantage of the opportunity that culminated in her being named Saint Mary’s Student-Athlete of the Week. In the Gaels' 72-57 victory over Loyola Marymount, Turner notched up 13 points and 8 rebounds as all four Aussies performed admirably. Lauren Nicholson finished with a 15 point and 10 rebound double-double, Hannah Kaser chipped in with 9 points and 5 rebounds, while Megan McKay may only have contributed 2 points, yet she picked up a very handy 10 rebounds.

After receiving increased playing time against Loyola Marymount, Turner logged 22 minutes in the Gaels’ follow up 88-72 win over Pepperdine, scoring another 14 points to give the Saint Mary’s coach something to think about when the team is back to full strength, as the sophomore had only averaged 12 minutes per game before this weekend. Nicholson piled on another 23 points, going a perfect 6/6 at the line in the process, whilst McKay added some points to her rebounds in this one, finishing with 10 of each for a double-double in a great week for the Aussies in Moraga.

Funda Nakkasoglu maintained her usual high-scoring output for Utah State as the Aggies split their games this week. Nakkasoglu connected on 7/20 from the field, but was a perfect 7-7 from the line, to compile 22 points with 9 assists to finish just shy of a double-double as Utah State went down in overtime to Boise State, 84-78. Nakkasoglu had the chance to win the game in the final seconds of regulation, but her lay-up was off target. The dynamic scorer fired at the charity stripe in the side’s second game of the week against New Mexico, shooting 7/8 free throws alongside 5/10 from the field to tally 17 points with 4 assists and 5 rebounds in a 72-56 victory. Rachel Brewster also chipped in for the Aggies, with the freshman adding 5 points and 3 assists against Boise State before notching a solid 12 point and 6 rebound performance in the victory over the Lobos.

Alicia Froling continued her remarkable sophomore year, collecting a truckload of rebounds while also delivering offensively across three games this week. In a tight 69-67 win over Temple, Alicia finished with 4 points, however it was her 9 rebounds that proved vital to her team’s chances of closing the game out. The result wasn’t quite so positive against nationally ranked South Florida, as the Mustangs went down 83-56. Once again though, Froling was dominant on the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds. Unfortunately her scoring was slightly off in this game, shooting just 3/12 from the field for 6 points.

SMU’s second nail-biter of the week came in a low-scoring game against Houston in which the Mustangs prevailed 50-48. Froling was able to find the bottom of the net with a bit more regularity in this game, landing 7/16 from the field for 15 points with 7 rebounds in a performance that outshone every other player in the building. Steph Collins had a week almost on par with Froling’s too, delivering 14 points and 8 rebounds against Temple as a great start to the week, before collecting another 7 rebounds in the loss to South Florida. Collins notched up 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the win over Houston, turning provider on more than a few occasions for her teammates. Interestingly, Keely Froling also collected 6 rebounds against Temple as she continues her return from injury, meaning that Australians alone accounted for a stunning 23 rebounds in that game.

Top 10 ranked Baylor notched up two wins this week, and Kristy Wallace played a large part in the Bears’ offence in both games. In a well-balanced performance against an outmatched TCU team, Wallace made 4/9 from the field to finish with 11 points, and set up teammates time and again to finish with 7 assists as Baylor cruised to a 72-55 victory. It wasn’t quite so easy against West Virginia, and it was Wallace who came up huge down the stretch to secure the victory for her side. With a minute to play, Wallace had just 5 points and Baylor led by just 3 (63-60). 23 seconds later, Wallace drained a three-pointer to put Baylor up 6. She wasn’t done there, though. Between TCU hitting a couple of shots and Baylor being unable to knock down their free throws, TCU had the last possession trailing by just 3 points with 8 seconds to play. The Victorian sophomore came up with steal on the inbound pass, before being immediately fouled. Wallace did what her teammates couldn’t and hit both free throws to give Baylor an unassailable 5 point lead with just 6 seconds to play, and that’s how things stayed. Wallace finished with 10 points on 2/5 shooting and 4/4 from the line.

In a low-scoring affair against UAB, Sara Anastasieska was a model of efficiency for UTSA as the Roadrunners won an absolute nail-biter 54-52. Anastasieska finished with 19 points, accounting for 35% of her team’s scoring, and did so at a remarkable clip. She went 7/9 from the field and a perfect 4/4 on free throws, with the freshman dialed in all game as she set her team up for a chance at the victory by hitting her first three pointer of the game with 1:22 to play. Fellow Aussie Bianca Dufelmeier tied things up for UAB with a lay-up with just under a minute to go, but a tip-in by UTSA in the final tenths of a second gave UTSA a thrilling 54-52 win. Dufelmeier finished with 5 points and 3 rebounds for UAB. Anastasieska couldn’t replicate the same output after getting into foul trouble in the second game of the week against Middle Tennessee State, but did manage 5/6 from the charity stripe in 10 minutes in a 74-63 loss.

South Dakota were made to work hard for the win against Omaha, but once again it was Nicole Seekamp who led the Coyotes home 82-76. Shooting 11/17 from the field, Seekamp finished with a commanding 26 points with 6 assists. Seekamp’s chase for school records continued at the other end of the floor as well, adding another 2 steals to her impressive career tally. This was a remarkable turnaround for Seekamp, who had a fairly average night in the side’s earlier 60-56 loss to Oral Roberts. The senior finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds, but gave away 5 turnovers as Oral Roberts stormed home from four points down with a quarter to play to get the win.

Pacific were involved in two incredibly tight matches this week, with Emily Simons turning in solid efforts in both. In a 65-62 victory over Pepperdine, Simons shot 4/7 from the field to finish with 10 points as the Tigers just snuck home in a game where both teams were slow to start but fast to finish. 47 of the game’s 107 points came in the final term, and 27 of those points were Pacific’s as they took the lead with 7:45 to play on Simons’ free throws, then managed to hold on. Ironically though, Simons’ best performance of the week came in Pacific’s 3 point loss to Loyola Marymount. The junior forward delivered another 8 points and coupled that with a career-high 12 rebounds and 4 steals, but it wasn’t quite enough as the Tigers threw away an 8 point lead. Loyola Marymount won the final quarter 20-9 to win 63-60, as Pacific shot 7-32 in the second half after hitting 17-38 in the first.

Dru Toleafoa was one of the few shining lights for Santa Clara in a tough two-loss week for the Broncos. Toleafoa has generally seen limited minutes off the bench this season, but that should change going forward after two double-digit scoring efforts. Santa Clara, who have defeated Alanna Smith’s Stanford side this year, went close to another upset victory against BYU. Toleafoa finished with 10 points on 4/7 shooting, but the Broncos went down 68-63. The freshman notched up another 12 points against Tayla Hepburn and San Diego, but whilst Toleafoa may have had the better individual performance of the two Aussies, it was Hepburn and the Toreros who came away with the win, 70-58.

NCAA Women: 2015/16 Division I