NCAA Women: Smith picks up a third Pac-12 Player of the Week award

The stars shone brightly once again this week as Alanna Smith, Tiana Mangkahia, Jade Johnson and Shannon Dufficy all delivered as the season approaches crunch time. A number of freshmen also produced, with Sam Simons pouring in 28 points for a new career-high and Haylee Andrews tying her career-high for assists.

Stanford made the trip south to Los Angeles and came away with a pair of victories, thanks in large part to Alanna Smith, who picked up her third Pac-12 Player of the Week award of the season.

The Cardinal were wildly up and down against UCLA, losing the first and third quarters by a combined 34-17, but outscoring the Bruins 48-17 in the the other two periods to edge away to a 65-51 victory, with Smith notching a double-double. The senior finished with a game-high 22 points on 9 of 17 shooting whilst adding 13 rebounds and 4 blocks to round out a real veteran’s performance.

Another double-double followed in a 69-67 win over USC, with the Opals forward tallying 23 points and 12 rebounds, but most importantly, also connecting on the game-winning lay-up with just three seconds to play as Stanford rallied from 10 points down at halftime to sneak home on the back of a 30-22 final quarter.

Fresh off last week’s 30-point outing, Jade Johnson came out firing once again to put a hapless Long Island-Brooklyn side to the sword in an 87-64 victory for St. Francis. Unusually, the South Australian shot just 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, but still racked up 31 points, taking advantage of her opportunities from closer range to finish the game shooting 13 of 21 from the field.

However, Johnson wasn’t the only Aussie to produce an outstanding performance as Amy O’Neill picked up her second triple-double of the season. The senior got to the line with regularity, connecting on 8 of her 10 free throws to finish with 16 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds whilst also tallying 4 steals as the Terriers cruised to victory.

Central Connecticut State proved to be a tougher proposition than Long Island-Brooklyn had been, but Johnson and O’Neill once again helped to ensure that their team finished victorious. In a 70-58 result, Johnson finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds, whilst O’Neill once again flirted with a triple-double, tallying 8 points, rebounds, and assists as the Terriers dominated the middle portion of the game to put together a 15-point lead heading into the final term, which proved to be more than enough to secure victory as the lead never dropped below double-figures.

Sam Simons continues to be a major player in the race for Freshman of the Year, dropping a career-high 28 points to lead Saint Mary’s to an 81-68 victory over Santa Clara to help keep the Gaels among the upper echelon in the West Coast Conference. The South Australian buried 6 of 11 from deep, in turn helping fellow Australian Jasmine Forcadilla tally a career-high 10 assists. Megan McKay controlled the interior to finish with 18 points and 8 rebounds, whilst Santa Clara junior Tia Hay finished with 8 points and 4 assists.

The Gaels then faced San Francisco, and dominated from the outset to roll to an 88-63 victory. Forcadilla traded assists for points to shoot 6 of 10 on her way to 15 points, whilst Simons chipped in another 9 to average 18.5 points for the week as the Gaels remain half a game clear of Pepperdine in third place in the WCC.

Tia Hay may not have had the best day out against Saint Mary’s, but regrouped to push Santa Clara to victory over Pacific on Saturday. The junior was all but perfect at the charity stripe, hitting 9 of 10 free throws on her way to 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Although she may have fouled out late in the piece, the Broncos were able to hold on for an unlikely 88-83 victory against a Tigers side sitting 5 wins ahead of them.

Tiana Mangakahia did just about everything in her power to keep Syracuse in with a shot against North Carolina State in a blockbuster, but it would be the Wolfpack who emerged with the 77-73 victory. However it was a scintillating performance from the junior, who finished with team-highs in all three major categories after tallying 25 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds whilst also committing just one turnover.

Syracuse would rebound with a 77-57 win over Wake Forest later in the week, with Mangakahia almost securing another double-double after tallying 15 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds without committing a turnover. However, this game was more noteworthy for the return of Wake Forest star Alex Sharp. Having missed 10 games due to a broken hand, Sharp slotted straight back into the Demon Deacons lineup, leading her team with 17 points as well as 8 rebounds and 5 assists in an otherwise tough day for the Wake Forest side.

Utah State finally snapped a six-game losing streak this week with a win over Air Force, edging their way to a 64-55 victory after leading by a solitary point heading into the final term. Having suffered a disappointing 53-35 loss to Wyoming just three days earlier, the Aggies’ offence posed a far more potent threat, with Rachel Brewster leading the way. The senior tallied a team-high 17 points on 8 of 15 shooting, and also collected 6 rebounds and 3 steals in an impressive outing. Shannon Dufficy picked up her 15th double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Steph Gorman rounded out three Aussies in double figures, with a 4 of 6 shooting night from beyond the arc accounting for all 12 of the freshman’s points. Eliza West also contributed in a number of ways, dishing a game-high 6 assists alongside 6 points.

Utah Valley couldn’t quite grab a pair of wins this week, but Eve Braslis was vital to the Wolverines’ getting a result against UTRGV in the second of their two contests. The freshman had already started the week well with 12 points and 6 rebounds in a 72-63 loss to New Mexico State, but stepped it up a level against UTRGV. 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting was accompanied by 8 assists and 6 rebounds for arguably the best performance among the five Utah Valley players who scored in double figures in the 72-57 win that drew the Wolverines within half a game of the second-placed Vaqueros.

Haylee Andrews rounded out an outstanding week for the freshmen, delivering for Portland as both a scorer and facilitator. Although the Pilots fell to an agonising 70-69 loss to BYU after neither team could add a point in the final 42 seconds, Andrews dished a career high-tying 10 assists alongside 7 points in what was a highly impressive team performance from the underdog Pilots. Portland hit back with a dominant 96-74 win over San Diego to round out the week, with Andrews maintaining her good form. Shooting 6 of 9 from the field, the freshman poured in 16 points whilst also tallying 7 assists to take her season average back above 4 dimes per contest as Portland dominated the second half on the back of a 33-12 third quarter to get the W.

Courtney West keeps balling out and Portland State keep winning, and two more victories moved the Vikings into a tie for top spot in the Big Sky Conference. Foul trouble meant the senior played just 20 minutes in the team’s 74-59 victory over Northern Arizona, but that was time enough for West to tally 16 points, 5 rebounds, and a couple of trademark blocks as the Vikings eased their way to the 15-point victory. A 25-minute outing followed against Southern Utah, but it wasn’t foul trouble keeping West off court, rather the dominance of the Vikings meant the Sydneysider wasn’t required to play additional minutes after tallying 13 points and 6 rebounds as the Vikings cruised to an 81-56 victory.