NCAA Women: Turner stars for Gaels, Lennox puts up 30

What an eventful week for the Australians in women’s college basketball, with everything from career-high scoring efforts to players being ejected as 2017 started with a bang. Alicia Froling continued to rack up double-doubles, whilst Grace Lennox continued her emergence as Eastern Illinois’ top scoring threat, averaging over 30 points per game for the week. On the west coast, Carly Turner was clutch for Saint Mary's as the Gaels secured a nail-biting win.

Olivia West was the best of Utah State’s Aussies this week in an eventful week for the Aggies. West was a perfect 3-3 from the field as well as shooting 4-4 from the line to collect 12 points in a tight 65-62 win over Air Force. Rachel Brewster also finished in double figures, whilst Shannon Dufficy hauled in 7 rebounds to go with 9 points of her own. New Mexico proved to be a far tougher assignment as the Aggies went down 78-67, but West was once again lights out, hitting 5-8 from beyond the arc on her way to an impressive 19 point performance in just 23 minutes of action.

Utah State’s final game of the week took them to Las Vegas to play UNLV, where they went down fighting, quite literally. Late in the third quarter, a scrap between a player from each team led to a bench-clearing brawl which resulted in a total of eight ejections for a combination of fighting and leaving the bench. This included Shannon Dufficy, who left the bench but was not involved in the brawl itself. When the smoke finally cleared, a highly entertaining basketball game played out and eventually overtime was required to split the teams, with UNLV taking the win 55-53. Eliza West was best amongst the Australians, finishing with 13 points on 5-9 shooting, whilst Rachel Brewster was again impressive. Brewster collected 12 points and 12 rebounds for a first career double-double despite being asked to do a bit of everything after the Aggies’ roster was left four players short following the ugliness in the third quarter.

Grace Lennox tied her career high for Eastern Illinois against Morehead State, but the Tasmanian’s performance wasn’t quite enough to get the Panthers over the line. Shooting 12-23 from the field to finish with 26 points, Lennox also dished out 7 assists, but Morehead State’s ability to get to the line proved the difference in a 66-62 loss for Eastern Illinois, as their opponents hit 12-15 from the stripe to their own paltry 1-1. That was only the first of two outstanding performances for Lennox this week though. The junior then obliterated her career scoring mark with 35 points on 14-24 shooting in the Panthers’ second contest of the week, and also collected 8 assists and 5 steals. But with Eastern Kentucky’s Jalen O’Bannon shooting an incredible 22-24 from the free throw line, Lennox and the Panthers went down 88-85 as a lopsided free throw count yet again proved to be the difference.

Megan McKay has firmly established herself as Saint Mary’s starting post player, and continued her solid season with another solid week. Despite going down 70-65 to BYU, McKay shot a perfect 3-3 from the field and 6-6 from the charity stripe to finish with 12 points, and also collected a team-high 5 rebounds. Jasmine Forcadilla was also solid off the bench, chipping in 8 points and 3 assists in just 17 minutes of action.

The Gaels had a slightly better time of it against San Francisco, managing a 75-72 win in an extremely tight clash. Carly Turner top scored with a career-high equaling 25 points and also hauled in 10 rebounds, but it was her performance in the final moments that really impressed. The junior was perfect from the line when it mattered most, before coming up with a monster block on San Francisco’s three-point attempt which would have sent the game to overtime. McKay was also extremely impressive, shooting 9-16 from the field on her way to 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Australians continued to lead the way for the Gaels.

Despite Oregon featuring three Australians, it was Stanford’s Alanna Smith who starred among the Aussies, notching a career-high in an 81-60 win for the Cardinal. In an otherwise quiet week for the sophomore, Smith shot an impressive 9-15 from the field on her way to 24 points against Oregon’s usually impressive front court. Smith’s tally was good enough for the game high as the Victorian outshone a number of players on both teams who have been enjoying far more success through the season to this point.

Courtney Woods’ radar was slightly off this week, but the sophomore was still able to deliver the points that Northern Illinois needed to secure three wins this week. Shooting 6-15 from the field against Eastern Michigan, Woods dropped in 15 points alongside 7 rebounds to be one of four Huskies players in double figures in an 85-73 victory. The high scoring Northern Illinois side continued their perfect start in conference play against Bowling Green, putting a 10 point third quarter behind them to pour in 33 points in the fourth quarter for an 89-76 win. Woods again hit double figures, finishing with 16 points and 5 rebounds.

Ohio proved to be the toughest match-up of the week for Northern Illinois, but Woods was once again able to get the ball in the basket with aplomb. However, her points came from a slightly different method in this game. Usually a three-point shooter, the Queenslander scored 11 of her points at the charity stripe on her way to an 18 point, 4 steal effort in an 88-80 win which sees Northern Illinois sit atop the Mid-American Conference at this early point.

Southern Methodist split a pair of games this week, with Alicia Froling at the forefront for the Mustangs. Against Cincinnati, on whom she unleashed a 30 point, 20 rebound performance last season, Froling settled for 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks in a 64-47 win for Southern Methodist, whilst Steph Collins chipped in 5 points and 8 rebounds. The junior came out firing against East Carolina, shooting 7-12 from the field on her way to 22 points and 15 rebounds, but Southern Methodist fell short, 58-57, despite Froling’s 10th double-double of the season.

Ashley Taia came out firing to start 2017, putting together three excellent performances across the week. The Queenslander led Indiana State to a 68-53 win over Southern Illinois, pouring in a massive 26 points on 10-16 shooting to finish with a career high for scoring. A second 20 point game followed in a 58-51 overtime win over Bradley, with the junior shooting 7-15 for 21 points and pulling down 8 rebounds to lead the Sycamores to their second win of the week. A 14 point effort against Illinois State then helped the team make it a perfect 3 from 3 to start the year with a dominant 63-49 win to give the Sycamores a perfect start to conference play.

Co-captain Sam Roscoe led from the front for North Dakota as the Fighting Hawks extended their winning streak to five games. Combining a perfect 6-6 night from the line with 6-13 from the field, Roscoe’s 18 points was one of five double figure scoring efforts for North Dakota in a 94-71 demolition of Sacramento State on New Year’s Eve, with the Western Australian collecting 8 rebounds just for good measure. Northern Arizona proved to be a far tougher opponent, with a late block securing an 80-78 win in a game that saw 11 lead changes. Roscoe was once again good enough for 18 points in just 20 minutes of playing time, shooting 7-12. The Fighting Hawks looked more like barbecued chicken after three-quarters in their final game of the week against Southern Utah, down 56-42 with 10 minutes to play. However, Roscoe was once again outstanding, notching 20 points, 5 rebounds, and a vital 5 blocks, including two in the final minutes, as North Dakota stormed home with a 26-9 final quarter to secure a 68-65 win.