NCAA Women: Mangakahia breaks ACC assists record

It was a week of milestones and records in women’s college basketball, with several players adding to their achievements list.

Megan McKay eclipsed the 1,000 career points mark for Saint Mary’s as part of a career-high scoring night, whilst Brittany Klaman and Taylor Ortlepp set career scoring marks of their own. But the biggest news was Tiana Mangakahia breaking the ACC’s single-season record for assists, eclipsing the mark set by current WNBA player Lindsay Allen. However, it wasn’t all good news, as Baylor star Kristy Wallace suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury on her own Senior Day.

Whilst it’s been a tough conference slate for Boston College, the emergence of Taylor Ortlepp as a potent offensive threat has been a definite bright spot, and the sophomore demonstrated as such in spades with a career-high against Syracuse. Coming off a tough game against Florida State, a 67-39 loss in which no Boston College player really covered themselves in glory, Ortlepp came out firing, quite literally. The South Australian rained threes on Syracuse all night, hitting 7 of 18 from beyond the arc to secure a career-high 28 points, with those 7 three pointers also representing a career mark. Fellow Australian Georgia Pineau also contributed, finishing with a 14 point, 10 rebound double-double as well as 6 assists, but it would be Syracuse who secured the 69-63 victory.

Of course, that Syracuse team featured Tiana Mangakahia, who continues to flirt with a double-double average, but more impressively, broke the ACC’s single season assist record in the win over Boston College. The sophomore had tied former Notre Dame and current New York Liberty guard Lindsay Allen’s record of 282 assists as part of a scintillating 12 point, 14 assist effort in a nail-biting 86-80 win over North Carolina, and it didn’t take Mangakahia long to break the record. Syracuse won the tip against Boston College, and 10 seconds later, Mangakahia had found Miranda Drummond open. Drummond knocked down the three, and with it came the Australian’s 283rd assist of the season. Mangakahia would finish the game with 6 assists alongside a team-high 22 points, including a perfect 6 of 6 free throws in the final 20 seconds to secure victory for Syracuse.

Following the conclusion of the regular season, Mangakahia was awarded an All-ACC First Team award following a spectacular campaign that saw the sophomore average 17.8 points and 9.9 assists per game to be one of nine players voted to both the media and coaches' first team. Mangakahia will now lead Syracuse into the ACC Tournament, where the Orange will face Virginia Tech in the first round. The two teams faced off earlier this month, with Virginia Tech securing the 73-64 win on Syracuse's home court in one of the Orange's less polished performances of the season.

Megan McKay continues to be an unstoppable force in the paint in the West Coast Conference, and put a stamp on that point by dropping 30 in the same game in which the junior scored her 1000th career point for Saint Mary’s. Pepperdine were at an utter loss to contain the Western Australian, who hit 10 of 15 from the field whilst also spending plenty of time at the line. McKay connected on 10 of 12 free throws, and collected 8 rebounds, but the Gaels almost threw the game away, allowing Pepperdine to go on an early run in the fourth quarter and eventually hold a lead with 2 minutes to play. Fortunately, Saint Mary’s regrouped and put together a late run of their own to secure an 82-75 victory. Whilst McKay was scoring and rebounding for fun, Jasmine Forcadilla was able to tally five assists in 16 minutes on court. McKay was slightly less dominant in the Gaels’ 72-51 demolition of Santa Clara, finishing with 11 points and 2 rebounds, whilst Forcadilla knocked down a pair of shots from beyond the arc to tally 6 points and 3 assists as the Gaels secured second seed in the WCC tournament, where they will face the winner of the first round game between Pepperdine and Pacific later this week.

Like Mangakahia, McKay also picked up an all-conference award, being named to the WCC's All-Conference First Team, just reward for an outstanding season in which the junior averaged 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, with her scoring numbers up over 40% on last season's 10.7 points per game average. The vastly improved Forcadilla also received a WCC honourable mention, having averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 assists per game for the Gaels, with both marks more than doubling her 2016/17 output.

Geraldine McCorkell enjoyed another outstanding week, but a lack of scoring support hindered Idaho’s chances of victory as a nine game winning streak was snapped by arch rivals Idaho State. McCorkell led the Vandals in scoring, rebounds, and assists in the 62-52 loss, finishing with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists, but Idaho shot just 32%, whilst the Bengals connected on 46% of their shots to eke out the win. The senior may have secured a double-double against Idaho State, but her performance against Weber State was one for the ages. In a game that featured 49 fouls, McCorkell set up camp at the charity stripe and delivered time and again, connecting on 20 of 21 free throws on her way to 31 points. The senior also collected another 13 rebounds and dished out 5 assists, but once again the Vandals were defeated by a team that shot the ball more efficiently as Weber State rode a 49% shooting clip to the 105-88 victory.

Fellow Big Sky player Brittany Klaman has certainly played a role for Eastern Washington in her freshman year, but even so, the performance the first-year player delivered against Idaho State this week was almost completely unexpected. Klaman started the week in reasonably solid form, chipping in 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists as Eastern Washington opened up a lead over Weber State in the third quarter before securing a 77-68 victory. However, the freshman’s performance against a confident Idaho State was something else entirely. The freshman buried 5 of 7 from beyond the arc on her way to 17 points, and also added 4 rebounds and 3 assists as Eastern Washington managed to secure a 66-64 victory, but not before Idaho State missed two free throws which would have tied the game with 10 seconds to play. For perspective, Klaman’s 17 points represented just her second double-figure scoring effort of the season, whilst her 5 three-pointers alone eclipsed her previous mark of three field goal makes in a game.

Utah State finally returned to the winner’s circle this week, taking down Air Force 57-55 for their first win in six games, with all four Australians playing integral parts. Olivia West took advantage of her chances at the free throw line, knocking down a perfect 9 from 9 to finish with a team-high 15 points, with Eliza West not far behind. The sophomore delivered 14 points of her own on 6 of 9 shooting, whilst adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Rachel Brewster added 11 points, and whilst Shannon Dufficy had a tough night’s scoring, finishing with just 3 points on 1 of 10 shooting, her 12 rebounds, of which 6 came at the offensive end, proved vital to victory in a game where every possession was to be treated like gold.

Northern Illinois’ week finished about as expected with a win and a loss from their two games, and once again Courtney Woods put up giant scoring numbers, averaging 26.5 points per game across the weekend. The Huskies gave the rampant Central Michigan side a run for their money, fuelled principally by 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists from Woods. The Queenslander knocked down 4 of 8 from beyond the arc as part of a 9 of 19 shooting night, whilst also connecting on 8 of 10 free throws. However, despite Woods’ scoring blitz, the highly efficient Central Michigan side secured a 91-77 victory, partly due to the additional 9 field goal attempts they were able to secure through their offensive rebounding. The Huskies would not be denied against Eastern Michigan though. Edging ahead throughout the first half, Northern Illinois maintained a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter before wrapping up an 84-75 win with a solid finish to the game. Woods again poured in the points, dropping in 23 on 5 of 12 from the field and 9 of 10 from the charity stripe. Impressively, the junior also came agonisingly close to a triple-double, adding 9 assists and 8 rebounds in yet another outstanding effort.

Kristy Wallace’s week started brilliantly, but may have ended in the worst way possible on Senior Day. Taking on in-state foe TCU, Wallace led all scorers with 19 points, hitting 6 of 12 from the field and also dishing out 5 assists as the Bears dominated their opponents for 40 minutes on the way to an 85-53 win. Baylor then faced West Virginia on Senior Day, where Wallace would be honoured at halftime as one of two seniors on the team.

However, potential disaster struck early in the game as Wallace slipped and left the game with an apparent knee injury. The Queenslander would return to the court for the halftime ceremony, but remained on the bench accompanied by crutches throughout the game, which Baylor won 80-54. Whilst no official news on Wallace’s status has been released, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey indicated that initial opinion suggested a serious injury, which if true, would bring an untimely premature end to Wallace’s college career at the worst possible time.

Jess Gajewski’s college career may be coming to an end after this season, but in Grand Canyon’s first season of NCAA Tournament eligibility, the senior appears determined to make up for lost time and secure a spot in the big dance, earning a conference player of the week award along the way. The Lopes allowed Seattle to establish a lead in their first game of the week, but Gajewski scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half as Grand Canyon stormed home with a 25-14 final quarter to secure a 64-57 win and head to Utah Valley with a chance to move within a game of top spot in the WAC. Unfortunately, despite a spectacular shooting night from Gajewski, in which she knocked down 7 of 9 from beyond the arc to tally a game-high 27 points, the remainder of the Grand Canyon team shot just 34%, allowing Utah Valley to use a 58% shooting night to roll to an 84-64 win. However, Grand Canyon remain in a tie for third place in the WAC with one game to play against first-placed Cal State Bakersfield.

Although they came into the final week of the regular season undefeated in conference play, Jasmine Trimboli and South Dakota still needed a victory over second-place South Dakota State to secure the Summit League regular season title and a first undefeated league slate since 1993/94. However, things weren’t exactly going to plan as South Dakota State took a 69-60 lead with 8 minutes to play. But South Dakota didn’t get to 13-0 in conference play without the kind of tenacity that launches comebacks like the one they needed to win this game, and they delivered in spades. A 20-6 run in the final 8 minutes saw the Coyotes secure a historic victory, with Trimboli leading the way. The South Australian knocked down 7 of 10 from the field on her way to a team-high 18 points, whilst also contributing a crucial 6 rebounds and 5 steals in the win that sees her team take the top seed into the Summit League tournament in nearby Sioux Falls, where they will face Fort Wayne in the first round.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the outstanding season that Chloe Bibby and Mississippi State have put together to this point. The Bulldogs currently sit at 30-0, one of two teams in the nation to currently hold perfect records after rounding out the regular season with an 85-63 win over Kentucky. Bibby rounded out her first regular season on a high, tallying 10 points in the win, her first double-figure scoring effort since dropping in 13 points against Louisiana on November 29. Mississippi State will head into the SEC Tournament as hot favourites and will all but certainly be the second overall seed, with the women's college basketball world waiting to see if we will see a battle of undefeated teams in the National Championship game as UConn and Mississippi State attempt to keep their perfect records intact.