It was a day of impressive NCAA Division I collegiate debut's for the Australian women, led by the exploits of Claire Ioannidis.
Claire Ioannidis | Credit: University of North Florida
The 5'6 junior transfer guard led the way for North Florida in an opening day win with a massive 29 point explosion - the most in a single game in school history! Ioannidis was a perfect 12/12 from the free throw line, also a school record, while she would also land 3/6 from the three-point line. She came up big down the stretch for the Ospreys with her free throw shooting to help seal a 62-55 win over UMKC. Her performance is one of the best ever debuts of any Aussie female in college hoops history, and it certainly paved the way for many more of her countrywomen to shine on opening day.
It took an extra period, but Grace Lennox helped lead Eastern Illinois past IUPUI 77-71 to open their season. Lennox piled on a new career-high 19 points in logging 41 minutes on court. The sophomore guard had her hand in everything, pulling down 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a morale boosting win. She was one of just two Panthers to score in overtime and will be integral to her team's chances this season.
Despite missing star senior guard Lauren Nicholson, fellow senior Aussie Hannah Kaser stepped up to pace Saint Mary's with 18 points (6/10 FG) with 4 rebounds and 3 assists in a 93-59 victory over CS Northridge. The defending Big West champions were no match for Kaser and the Gaels who were simply too big and more polished for their opponents. Carly Turner chimed in with 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, while Megan McKay debuted with 4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks. For CS Northridge, Jordan Smith led her side with 12 points in her debut, connecting on 4/7 from beyond the arc in a very promising performance.
Vanessa Panousis commenced her season as she left the last, posting a team-high 16 points (4/10 3PT) with 3 rebounds and 6 assists as Virginia Tech outpointed Presbyterian 58-44. Joining Panousis in the starting lineup was Hannah Young who added 8 points and 4 rebounds of her own in the opening day win. The Hokies will need big performances from both Panousis and Young this season to be able to improve on last season's results.
Marena Whittle - Credit Richard Svaleson via North Dakota State Athletics
Also adding 16 points was senior guard Marena Whittle in North Dakota State's 69-79 loss to New Mexico State. She gathered 8 rebounds and 3 steals, however the Bison were undone by turnovers and had no answer to the Aggie's depth. It was a tough loss, but one in which will encourage Bison fans thanks to Whittle's big game.
North Dakota gave #23 ranked Iowa a fright before the host side finished on an 21-6 run to run out 83-61 winners. For junior forward Samantha Roscoe, she was on fire, connecting on 6/7 shots from the field for a new career-high of 13 points. It was a great outing by Roscoe against a quality team expected to feature prominently this season.
After cementing her place in the starting lineup last season, Georgia Stirton opened with 11 points on a perfect 3/3 shooting (2/2 3PT) as Gonzaga strolled to a 88-35 win over Air Force. Air Force were no match for a size that went as far as the Sweet 16 last season, a post season run they will be looking to better in 2016.
Ellie Stevens was one of 6 Spartans to score in double figures in San Jose State's 92-78 win over Southern Oregon. The junior forward started, adding 10 points, including 2/2 from beyond the arc in just 19 minutes as the bench enjoyed a decent run in the convincing victory. Her good shooting should see her receive more chances to demonstrate her capability for the Spartans.
The highly anticipated college debut of Alanna Smith went smoothly as Stanford accounted for UC Davis 74-45. In coming off the bench, Smith went 6/11 from the field on her way to 13 points with 1 rebound and 1 block in 16 minutes. Expect big things from both Stanford and Smith this season.
It will also be a day to remember for Sammi Deakin-Sharpe who enjoyed a memorable first game in a resounding 98-65 Nicholls State win over Southern University New Orleans. The 5'8 guard from Queensland compiled 15 points on 5/8 shooting to help spark the charge for the Colonels.
In a 105-15 slaughter of Mid Atlantic Christi , Yasmin Miller made 6/7 from the field to compile 14 points in 17 minutes in her collegiate debut for Coastal Carolina. All but one member of the roster scored, with the minutes spread across the team in such a lopsided contest.
Also in her first game, Jessie Edwards posted 12 points (1/6 FG) to go with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks as Minnesota easily dispatched Wofford 98-54. The Gophers shot a school record 16 triples enroute to the big win in a debut that Edwards will never forget.