NCAA Women: Smith, Johnson each explode for 30

Fresh off winning ESPN’s National Player of the Week, Alanna Smith showed no signs of slowing down leading into Christmas with a match-winning performance for Stanford against Buffalo.

The senior forward was outstanding from any range, hitting 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and 12 of 22 from the field on her way to 30 points, a season-high that lifted her scoring average to 19.4 points per game. Smith also added 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in the Cardinal’s 62-55 victory over Buffalo in a truly historic performance, as Stanford moved to 9-1 with just one non-conference game remaining after Christmas before heading into Pac-12 play.

Jade Johnson continues to be a lethal scoring threat for St. Francis, but even a career-high scoring effort from the junior wasn’t enough to prevent the Terriers from falling to an 83-64 defeat to Princeton. Johnson bombed away from deep to finish with 6 of 13 from beyond the arc alongside 7 of 8 at the charity stripe, finishing with 31 points for the evening. However, a lack of scoring support against a Princeton team that finished with four players in double figures condemned St. Francis to defeat. Amy O’Neill finished with just six points, but continued to facilitate superbly to tally 9 assists as well as 6 rebounds as the Australian pair continue to be the leading duo for St. Francis.

Saint Mary’s freshman Sam Simons has shown glimpses of her prowess in the first half of her opening campaign, but the South Australian had what could be a breakout game in the Gaels’ 89-62 rout of Texas State. The freshman obliterated the opposition, knocking down 5 of 9 from beyond the arc on her way to a game-high 21 points as the Gaels cruised to victory. Megan McKay chipped in with 8 points and 3 boards in just 15 minutes, whilst Jasmine Forcadilla added 6 points and 4 assists.

The Gaels faced Old Dominion the following day, and it was Forcadilla’s turn to shine among the Aussies. The junior dished out another 5 assists whilst adding 11 points to be one of four Saint Mary’s players in double figures as the Gaels dispatched the Monarchs 83-65. Simons chipped in with 6 points, whilst McKay added 5 points and 5 rebounds in the dominant victory.

Mississippi State may have fallen to their first loss in an 82-74 defeat to Oregon, but bounced back in a big way against Washington, with Chloe Bibby one of many Bulldogs earning plaudits. Usually a go-to three-point shooter on this Mississippi State team, Bibby instead went to work from closer range, hitting just one of two from beyond the arc as part of a 15-point performance in a 103-56 demolition of the Huskies. Bibby also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists as the sophomore’s improvement from her decent freshman year continues at a bullet-like pace.

Travelling to Florida for a pre-Christmas swing, Tiana Mangakahia had two vastly differing games for Syracuse, but managed to help her team over the line on both occasions. First up, the Orange faced Duquesne, with Mangakahia at her scintillating best. 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting was accompanied by 9 assists in an 87-71 victory, with the junior also adding 5 rebounds and 4 steals as Syracuse rolled to victory.

Things changed markedly the next day against UCF though. Whilst the trademark assists were still coming as Mangakahia found teammates with regularity, an otherwise error-strewn performance saw the turnovers rack up, whilst a measly two points was all that sat next to Mangakahia’s name coming into the final term with her team trailing 44-41. But a scintillating final term from Mangakahia saw the junior add 13 of Syracuse’s 16 final quarter points as the Orange stormed home to a 57-52 victory. Mangakahia finished with 15 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals despite tallying 10 turnovers.

Tia Hay continues to impress for Santa Clara since her transfer from junior college, and once again led the Broncos to victory, this time in a 75-55 win over Grand Canyon. Santa Clara jumped out to an early double-digit lead and were never headed as they gradually added to the margin throughout the contest to eventually cruise to the 20-point victory. Hay led the Broncos in both points and assists, connecting on 6 of 12 from the field and a perfect 4 from 4 at the charity stripe to finish with 18 points, whilst also dishing out 5 assists in the victory.

Maddy Dennis has been lucky to tally double-figures in the minutes column in most games for Dayton this season, let alone any other statistics, but that all changed in the Flyers’ 85-66 victory over Georgia Tech. With teammates in foul trouble, Dennis played 28 minutes in the victory, hitting 4 of 6 from the field to tally an impressive 10 points and 11 rebounds for a career-first double-double in the senior’s 75th college game.

Utah State may have fallen to a heartbreaking buzzer-beater in a 50-48 defeat to Long Beach State, but it would be impossible to question the performance of Shannon Dufficy in the loss. The junior finished with her fifth double-double of the season, hitting a perfect 8 of 8 at the line on her way to 14 points and 10 rebounds. Dufficy also grabbed six steals, a career-high, whilst Rachel Brewster added 12 points and 5 rebounds, with Olivia West chipping in 8 points. However, despite Utah State’s best efforts, they couldn’t stop Long Beach State from dropping in a runner right as time expired as a see-sawing battle ended in the worst possible fashion for the Aggies.

Wake Forest made the trip south to take on South Carolina State, and once again Alex Sharp was among the stars for the Demon Deacons, picking up her 3rd double-double in 7 games since her belated start to the season. Whilst her side may have been pushed by the highly unfancied Bulldogs, an impressive 15-point, 11-rebound performance whilst shooting 6 of 13 from the field saw Sharp finish as one of three players in double figures in a 58-44 victory. Wake Forest now sit at 8-4 after a five-game winning streak that has all but obliterated the memory of an earlier four-game losing streak.

Finally, Furman freshman Jade Kirisome enjoyed an early Christmas present despite the Paladins falling to an 85-78 defeat to Western Illinois. The Queenslander saw a career-high 23 minutes of playing time and took full advantage, knocking down 3 of 6 from beyond the arc to tally 13 points, the first double figure scoring effort of her young career. Although Furman finished with five players in double figures, the Paladins couldn’t contain Western Illinois down the stretch, as a slender lead with four minutes to play was quickly snuffed out by the Leathernecks.