NCAA Women: Ioannidis helps Ospreys fly

Whilst there has been plenty of hype around this year’s Aussie freshman class, the more experienced players ensured they would not be forgotten as the likes of Claire Ioannidis and Carly Turner put up massive numbers on the opening weekend of the new college season.

With Lauren Nicholson and Hannah Kaser’s departure, Carly Turner is now the elder stateswoman amongst the Australians at Saint Mary’s, and she lived up to that tag in the Gaels’ opener. The junior dropped a career high 21 points in a 74-67 loss to California, shooting 8-16 from the field and also collecting 8 rebounds.

The Gaels’ second game saw them travel to Pullman to take on Washington State, where they would face another pair of Aussies in Louise Brown and Krystle McKenzie. Washington State picked up the win, 85-69, with Brown a major factor in the Cougars’ win. The junior from Melbourne shot just 4 of 11 from the field but a perfect 4 of 4 from the stripe, taking her tally to a team-leading 14 points alongside 8 rebounds in the win. Megan McKay put up a 10 point and 11 rebound double-double for Saint Mary’s, but the Gaels couldn’t overcome a 24-10 turnover count against them as they started the season 0-2.

Shooting a perfect 6 of 6 from beyond the arc, Claire Ioannidis led North Florida to a 71-60 win over Florida A&M in the Ospreys’ home opener. The senior added four points from the line to lead all scorers with 22 points as the Ospreys got off to the best possible start in their bid to improve on last year’s lacklustre 7-23 record. Ioannidis also added three steals, doing great work at both ends of the floor.

Courtney Woods was unlucky to miss The Pick and Roll’s preseason top 10, delivering the kind of performance that showed why she was so close to making the cut. Facing in-state rivals Loyola Chicago, the sophomore did a little bit of everything, but undoubtedly her 21 points was the standout. Shooting 7 of 16 from the field, the Queenslander connected at 62% from beyond the arc to lead all scorers in a 90-70 rout. Woods also added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals as she continues to establish herself as one of the Huskies’ leaders on the floor.

Funda Nakkasoglu may be gone, but Utah State have reloaded with Aussies and all four contributed in the Aggies’ 72-49 win over NCAA Division II team Westminster College. Shannon Dufficy led all scorers for Utah State, putting up 14 points and 9 rebounds to finish just shy of a double-double, and the freshman was ably backed up by the remaining Australians. Rachel Brewster and Eliza West both reached double figures, scoring 11 and 10 points respectively, whilst Olivia West added another 9 as the Australians comprised Utah State’s top 4 scorers for the game.

Southern Methodist have leaned on Alicia Froling’s presence around the basket for two seasons now, and things don’t look likely to change this year if the season opener is anything to go by. Froling tallied 15 points and collected 15 rebounds as the Mustangs gave new coach Travis Mays a win in his first game in charge with a 64-56 victory over Texas State. The Texas State defense was completely unable to contain Froling, who earned 10 free throws, connecting on 7 to go with her 4 of 10 from the field.

Pacific took on NAIA school UC Merced in their opening game of the season, and Tylah King and Emily Simons took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their skills in a game Pacific were expected to win comfortably. The Tigers ran out 111-50 winners in a cakewalk, and King hit 5 of 7 from the field to finish with a career-high 15 points in the win. Not to be outdone, Simons added 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting and also collected 5 rebounds in Pacific’s utter demolition of their small school opponents.

Whilst Shannon Dufficy had an outstanding game for Utah State in her debut, a couple of other freshmen also performed admirably. Lizzy Tonks showcased her scoring ability in Cal State Northridge’s 99-72 win over Portland State, finishing with 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Courtney West also made her NCAA debut in that game after transferring from Southern Oregon, adding 12 points for Portland State.

Alex Sharp also slotted in well for Wake Forest in her first two games of college basketball. Easing into things slightly, the Victorian tallied 4 points and 6 rebounds in the Demon Deacons’ 75-65 win over Navy. That proved to simply be a precursor to what would come against LSU. Although Wake Forest went down 60-57 in a nail-biter, Sharp scored 12 points and also collected 7 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action, showcasing the kind of versatility that led Wake Forest to recruit her in the first place in a solid outing for the freshman.