NCAA Women: McKay returns to lead Saint Mary's to victory
The big names shone yet again in NCAA women's basketball, with Kristy Wallace, Tiana Mangakahia, and Stephanie Reid among the best performed players. Elsewhere, Genna Ogier and Rebekah Hatchard delivered some slightly unexpected but outstanding performances, and Megan McKay returned after a short spell on the sidelines to provide a much-needed presence in the front court for Saint Mary's.
After missing last week’s action with an ankle sprain, Megan McKay showed no lasting effects, returning to her best for a Saint Mary’s side that desperately missed the Western Australian’s presence in the paint. McKay was all but unstoppable around the basket in a 73-59 win over San Francisco, dropping in 7 of 11 from the field on her way to 16 points. Whilst McKay was taking care of business in the paint, Jasmine Forcadilla was doing work on the perimeter, knocking down 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc to finish with 13 points, whilst also dishing out 4 assists as the Australians enjoyed a day out. However, if McKay had a solid game against San Francisco, what followed against San Diego was something else entirely.
Finishing 8 of 12 from the field, McKay compiled an impressive double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Toreros front court was simply overwhelmed by the Gaels, who headed into the final quarter 19 points up before San Diego added some respectability to the scoreboard in the final term, with the game finishing 66-57. Forcadilla chipped in again, finishing with 6 points and 3 assists, including a perfect 4-4 night from the charity stripe. The Gaels now sit in equal second in the West Coast Conference, tied at 8-4 with BYU, four games behind the undefeated Gonzaga, who have racked up a 12-0 conference record.
Coming off a pair of blistering performances, Kristy Wallace didn’t put up those same dizzying numbers this week, but the senior was still vital to Baylor’s success as the Bears remain undefeated in Big 12 play. Wallace started the week with a solid performance in a tight one against Oklahoma State, as Baylor required a 24-15 final quarter to pull away and secure a 77-64 win. The Queenslander dished out 9 assists and managed to chip in 9 points despite a tough 4-15 shooting night to come within touching distance of a double-double, but there was better to come in a 90-44 demolition of Texas Tech.
A far more efficient 7 of 13 shooting effort delivered 16 points, and 11 rebounds delivered an unexpected type of double-double for Wallace, who also added 6 assists in the blowout win. Wallace then dished out 12 assists alongside 9 points in an outstanding performance running the offence against Oklahoma, but Baylor struggled to put away the Sooners, who tied the game at 60-60 with just over five minutes to play. However, a composed Baylor side executed down the stretch to finish the game on a 14-5 run, securing a 74-65 win in the process.
Riding a three-game winning streak, Tiana Mangakahia and Syracuse came into the week flying high, but despite a pair of solid performances from the sophomore, the Orange fell to a pair of defeats, falling behind .500 in conference play. Syracuse tend to live or die by the three-ball, and against Virginia Tech, it’s hard to say they did anything but die by it, hitting a mind-boggling 8 of 43 from beyond the arc in a 73-64 defeat. Mangakahia, despite missing all six of her own three-point attempts, managed to finish with 16 points, 13 assists, and a pair of steals in the loss.
Ironically, the performance the Orange turned out in their next game would have soundly beaten Virginia Tech, but their opponent on this occasion was #4 Louisville. But for a slow start that allowed the Cardinals to jump out to a double-digit lead, the Orange were right in the game, falling to an 84-77 defeat after a late comeback attempt fell short. Whilst turnovers were an issue for Mangakahia, the sophomore once again ran the offence well, tallying yet another double-double, this time finishing with 20 points on 70% shooting from the field alongside 10 assists and another pair of steals.
Stephanie Reid led Buffalo in a clash of the titans against Central Michigan, and although the result didn’t go the Bulls’ way, Reid was once again in outstanding form. The senior knocked down three of her six three-point attempts on her way to 20 points and 4 assists, but slow starts to each half put paid to any real chance that Buffalo had of securing victory, eventually going down 86-79. Katherine Ups also chipped in 9 points and 4 steals, whilst Courtney Wilkins added 5 points and 4 rebounds in just 4 minutes of action - a tidy return that perhaps begs the question as to why she wasn’t afforded more playing time. Buffalo bounced back against mid-table Toledo, chalking up an 84-73 win for the program's first ever win on Toledo's home court, with Reid tallying 13 points and Ups notching 4 points and 7 rebounds as the Bulls returned to form to maintain a two-game cushion atop the Mid-American Conference’s Eastern Division.
Alex Sharp and Wake Forest only played the one game this week, but the sophomore made it one to remember in a win over Boston College. Sharp led the Demon Deacons in scoring with 18 points on 7 of 16 shooting, and also led the team in rebounding with 13 boards, culminating in a double-double that led her team to a 67-59 victory which improved her side’s record to 3-7 in conference play to sit just behind a logjam of teams in the middle of the ACC.
Fellow Australians Taylor Ortlepp and Georgia Pineau also played in that game, with Ortlepp in particular enjoying a couple of days out. Despite the loss to Wake Forest, the South Australian tallied a game-high 19 points as well as 5 rebounds, with 15 of those points coming on 5 of 9 three-point shooting, whilst Pineau added 7 points and 5 boards. The Australian pair then led the charge against North Carolina State, but unfortunately two outstanding performances weren’t quite enough for the Eagles in a 72-54 loss. Although the result wasn’t ideal, Pineau tallied 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting, as well as 7 rebounds as her excellent sophomore season continues. Ortlepp wasn’t far behind, knocking down three early shots from beyond the arc on her way to 18 points and 5 assists. Unfortunately, the remainder of the Boston College side could only deliver 15 points and North Carolina State capitalised to secure the 18 point victory.
Jess Gajewski and Grand Canyon split a pair of games this week, but the team remains in a solid position in the WAC, with the Queenslander also enjoying an excellent scoring week. The Lopes were gifted overtime by UMKC following a late missed free throw, but were unfortunately unable to take full advantage, falling 84-82 after a frantic extra five minutes. Nonetheless, Gajewski top scored for Grand Canyon with 16 points, including 4 of 8 from three-point range, whilst also chipping in with 4 assists and 3 steals. The Lopes then took on a Chicago State side that was on the verge of breaking an NCAA Division I record with a 59th straight loss, and Grand Canyon were all too happy to oblige. Gajewski knocked down 10 of 17 from the field on her way to 25 points, and Grand Canyon rolled home in the second half, outscoring Chicago State 34-19 after halftime to run out 59-43 victors and move to 5-3 in WAC play, good enough for fourth in the eight-team conference.
Possibly the only people who truly believed Stanford would win both games on their road trip this week were the Stanford players and staff themselves, but Alanna Smith and her team came home from their trip north with a pair of victories that in past years would almost have been blasphemous to call unlikely. In their first meeting since last season’s Pac-12 Championship game, which Stanford won in an upset, the unfancied Cardinal yet again knocked off Oregon State in a thriller. Stanford opened up a decent margin, but Oregon State trimmed the lead back to within two inside the last two minutes. But Stanford, assisted by 11 points and 6 rebounds from Smith, managed to hold on for the 60-57 win.
#6 Oregon were expected to be a whole different proposition, and it looked as though that would ring true as the Ducks took a 41-32 lead into halftime. But with Smith tallying 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting, as well as 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, and local teammate Brittany McPhee outscoring the Ducks 31-24 in the second half, Stanford stormed home to a 78-65 win and a tie for top spot in the Pac-12, ironically alongside Oregon themselves.
Geraldine McCorkell has occasionally flown under the radar playing at Idaho, but the senior is proving impossible to miss this season, and this week was no different. In a game against Portland State that was neck and neck for much of the way, Idaho, with assistance from McCorkell’s 13 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, took a 61-60 lead with just over two minutes to play. But instead of a barnstorming finish, neither team managed to score a point in those two minutes and the game finished at that same scoreline. The Vandals delivered a full 40 minutes of entertainment against Sacramento State, though. McCorkell unleashed a 17 point, 15 rebound double-double, shooting 70% in the process, as the Vandals demolished their opponents 101-66 after taking a 50-27 halftime lead.
Although her team is struggling with injuries, Courtney Woods and Northern Illinois continue to stand up to adversity, and this week the junior led her side to their first win since January 6. The week didn’t start quite as planned for the Huskies, as despite 17 points and 10 rebounds from Woods, the side fell to a 77-62 defeat to Miami of Ohio. However, against fellow strugglers Kent State, the Huskies saw their chance and took it. With the team jumping out to an early lead, Woods ensured that the losing streak would not reach a month, shooting 9 of 17 on her way to a game-high 21 points, as well as adding 8 rebounds and 6 assists, helping to deliver the Huskies a 72-62 win for their third conference victory of the season. Despite the win, the team remains at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference’s Western Division, but with a record better than two teams in the Eastern Division.
Rebekah Hatchard has developed into an integral part of the Montana State roster, and proved why this week with a pair of solid performances. Facing North Dakota at home, the senior knocked down 3 of 6 from beyond the arc on her way to a career-high 18 points as the Bobcats accounted for a North Dakota team that has struggled on the road this season, running out 72-56 victors. Hatchard then tallied 12 points against Northern Colorado later in the week, shooting 5 of 10 from the field, but a 47-27 second half deficit condemned Montana State to a 78-63 defeat, their first loss in six games, leaving the Bobcats at a healthy 7-4 in conference play and in fifth position in the Big Sky.
Fresno State have compiled a three-game winning streak over the last couple of weeks, and had Genna Ogier in part to thank for that as the freshman compiled a first career double-double in a 68-55 win over Nevada. Ogier enjoyed an efficient shooting night, hitting 7 of 10 from the field, and five of her 12 rebounds came on the offensive end as the Bulldogs turned around an early deficity, dominating the middle portion of the game to roll to a 68-55 victory.
Louise Brown has shown glimpses of her best since her return to the Washington State roster after missing most of 2016/17 through injury, and the redshirt junior provided yet another reminder of her talents as the Cougars rebounded from a 22-14 first quarter deficit to dominate the following three quarters in a 78-60 win over Arizona. Brown scored all 13 of her points after halftime, and collected 10 rebounds as well as dishing out 4 assists as the Cougars roared home after the slow start. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned in a much tougher contest against Arizona State, as Washington State fell to a 77-51 defeat, with Brown’s 5 points representing the Cougars’ third-highest scoring effort.
Finally, Jasmine Trimboli was simply automatic in a high-scoring barnburner between South Dakota and Western Illinois. The South Australian knocked down 7 of 8 shots to finish as one of five Coyotes players in double figures, tallying 17 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds in an outstanding effort. South Dakota opened up a 42-27 halftime lead, but Western Illinois launched a comeback to trim the margin to 3 with 6 minutes to play. Fortunately, South Dakota regrouped to push the lead back out to 17 points before securing the 11 point victory.