NCAA Women: Utah State's Aussie foursome dominate in Aggies' wins

It was a case of Aussies teaming up to help get their teams over the line this week, as Buffalo, Southern Methodist, and Saint Mary's all saw solid performances from multiple Australians. However, it was Utah State's quartet of Rachel Brewster, Eliza West, Olivia West, and Shannon Dufficy that shone brightest. The Australian foursome were among the team's best in both games this weekend, leading the Aggies to a pair of wins, including a history-making win over Boise State.

Alicia Froling continued a standout season, narrowly missing a double-double on two occasions this week as Southern Methodist put together a pair of wins to move to 13-10 for the season. Froling shot a remarkable 8-9 from the field on her way to 17 points and 9 rebounds against Memphis as the Mustangs put together an 18-7 final quarter, turning a 2 point deficit into a 53-44 win. The Queenslander then used her ability to get to the line to produce another double figure scoring effort in a 63-58 win over Central Florida which saw Southern Methodist give up just three points in the second quarter. Despite shooting just 3-8 from the field, Froling connected on 6-7 free throws to finish with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Steph Collins was also solid for the Mustangs. The centre finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Memphis, before chipping in 7 points on 50% shooting against Central Florida.

Stephanie Reid may have started the season as an honourable mention among the Aussies in college, but recent performances have blown these expectations out of the water, and the junior’s run of form continued unchecked this week. Despite a heavy 85-63 loss to Toledo, Reid was on fire. The guard shot 8-18 to finish with a team-high 24 points, and added 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Unfortunately, with the remainder of the Buffalo team shooting just 27%, victory would always be difficult despite Reid’s best efforts.

Fortunately, the Victorian had a bit more help in a 77-62 win over Kent State. Reid finished with 12 points, including 6-8 from the line, and 5 assists as the Bulls shot 47% in comparison to their opponents' 38% clip. Fellow Australian Courtney Wilkins also scored 13 points on 5-7 shooting as Buffalo used a 20-8 opening stanza to set up the 15 point win.

Whilst it was another tough week in a tough season for St Francis, Alex Delaney’s effort at both ends could not be faulted for a second. In a 61-54 loss to high-flying Robert Morris, Delaney led the Terriers with 13 points on 6-13 shooting and also led the team in assists with 4. Despite shooting 48% from the field, St Francis committed 23 turnovers to 12, crippling their chances of victory.

Delaney again led the team in scoring with 13 points against St Francis University, who were looking to secure a conference tournament berth even at this early stage. However, despite some late-game accuracy from beyond the Arc from Delaney, especially from the corner, the Terriers went down 75-59. The Sydneysider also pulled down 9 rebounds, but again turnovers were costly for St Francis, as the team committed another 24 in the loss.

Kristy Wallace has been doing everything except put up big numbers for Baylor this season, but that changed this week in a 79-61 win over Texas Tech. The Queenslander shot 6-10 to finish with an impressive 15 points as Baylor edged further ahead in each quarter to run out 18 point winners. Wallace also dished out 5 assists and collected an impressive 7 rebounds to round out a polished all-round effort in Baylor’s 21st consecutive win.

Unfortunately, 21 was where the streak ended as Baylor fell victim to an impressive Texas team hell-bent on causing the upset. Wallace chipped in 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in another all-round performance. However, with Texas shooting 51% and Baylor only connecting at 44% in a game where neither team gave the other many free opportunities, the difference in shooting accuracy proved costly as Texas ran out 85-79 winners. The defeat handed Baylor their second loss of the season and snapped an astounding 54 game home winning streak for the Bears.

In a week where all four of Utah State’s Aussies performed admirably, it was Eliza West who perhaps had the performance of the week as the Aggies picked up a pair of wins. The freshman point guard was impressive in shooting 5-9 for 16 points in an 81-69 win over Nevada, but her 8 assists and 6 steals were perhaps even more outstanding. Shannon Dufficy was also outstanding in the win, finishing with 11 points and 14 rebounds for yet another double-double in an excellent freshman year. Rachel Brewster was also good for another double-figure effort, scoring 14 points and collecting 5 rebounds.

Brewster then stepped up as Utah State picked up their first win over Boise State since 2011. The sophomore shot 8-17 from the field to finish with 19 points as Deja Mason’s last-second lay-up gave Utah State a 65-63 win in a barn-burner of a game. Dufficy went close to a triple-double, fouling out late with 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists as well as 3 steals. Meanwhile, Eliza West almost finished with a double-double as her 9 points and 9 assists proved vital. Olivia West was a perfect 3-3 from the line to finish with 8 points as the Australian contingent again combined for more than 40 points in a game.

Northern Illinois played just the one game this week, and Courtney Woods certainly looked like she enjoyed the extra couple of days rest. The Huskies stormed home from 7 down with one-quarter to play to run out 67-62 winners over Western Michigan, with Woods at the forefront. Shooting 6-14 from the field, including 50% from beyond the arc, the Queenslander finished with a game high 20 points, also pulling down 5 rebounds and tallying 5 steals as well as hitting a pair of late free throws to ice the game for Northern Illinois, who moved to 9-1 in conference play with the win.

Grace Lennox continued to showcase a range of talents as Eastern Illinois split a pair of games, going to work at both ends of the floor. The Tasmanian connected on 7-14 shots on her way to 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists against Tennessee State. However, despite a solid all-round performance from Lennox, Eastern Illinois were unable to reel in their opponents, going down 69-58 after allowing Tennessee State to lead by 12 at halftime. The Panthers then welcomed Tennessee Tech to Lantz Arena, and things went slightly more to plan. Lennox again finished in double figures with a game-high 13 points as the Panthers edged to a 54-46 win despite allowing Tennessee Tech to trim the margin to just two points with 5 minutes to play.

Megan McKay has been big for Saint Mary’s this season, both literally and figuratively, and her performance against Pacific was vital to a Gaels 82-74 victory. Alongside Carly Turner, who finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, the Australian pair were two of 6 Gaels to finish in double figures. McKay shot 4-10 to score 10 points and also hauled in 10 rebounds in 27 minutes of action as Saint Mary’s outscored Pacific 30-26 in a high-scoring final term to run out 8 point winners. Emily Simons was one of Pacific’s better performed players in the loss, scoring 10 points of her own to go with 4 rebounds.

It was then Jasmine Forcadilla’s time to shine as the Gaels took on San Diego. Shooting 4-7 from the field, the freshman scored 11 points in just 22 minutes of play as the Gaels stormed home from 7 points down, outscoring San Diego 29-10 in the final term for a 77-65 win. McKay again chipped in with a vital 8 points and 6 rebounds, whilst Turner finished with 4 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds.

Whilst Emily Simons was unable to get Pacific over the line against Saint Mary’s, there is no doubting that her performance was vital to Pacific’s 80-79 overtime win over Pepperdine. The Victorian did a bit of everything, finishing with 10 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, and 3 rebounds as Pacific erased a 4 point deficit in the fourth quarter and escaped with a one point win after Pepperdine missed a last second jump shot.

It’s been a tough few weeks for Vanessa Panousis and Virginia Tech, but the senior guard returned to scoring form this week in a tough 87-81 loss to Georgia Tech, the Hokies’ sixth straight defeat. In a back-and-forth match, Panousis finished with 17 points, shooting 6-14 from the field, her first double figure performance in 10 games after hitting that milestone 6 times in 7 games in December.