NCAA Women: Wallace leads Baylor dominance, Forcadilla on a high

Although many teams took it easy on the court this week with final exams continuing across the country, there were still a number of outstanding performances from Australians in women's NCAA basketball.

Jasmine Forcadilla topped her career-high in two different categories, whilst Kristy Wallace, Stephanie Reid, Tiana Mangakahia, and even Alex Delaney in a makeshift role ensured Australian point guards continued to shine.

Kristy Wallace continued to post improved scoring numbers, but not at the expense of other facets of her game as Baylor dominated a pair of Louisiana teams at home and then on the road. The Bears ran rings around McNeese State for all 40 minutes, eventually cruising to 95-34 result. Wallace was required for just 24 minutes, but exhibited her class in that short time. The senior tallied an impressive 20 points on 6 of 12 shooting, whilst also dishing out five assists and collecting five rebounds in the victory. Baylor then traveled to Nicholls State for their second game of the week, where once again coach Kim Mulkey was able to spread the minutes around in an 85-43 win. Wallace registered 14 points, shooting 5 of 9 in the process, and added 6 rebounds and 6 assists to round out an outstanding week in all facets for the Queenslander.

Saint Mary’s travelled to Indiana for a tournament hosted by Purdue, and once again Megan McKay and Jasmine Forcadilla shared the plaudits, with both players coming up with strong performances. The Gaels struggled to handle Tennessee-Martin in the first half, but came home strongly to eke out a 69-58 win, with McKay at the forefront. On an efficient 6 of 7 shooting night, McKay also connected on 7 of 8 from the charity stripe to register a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds as the junior’s size and agility proved too much for the Skyhawks. Forcadilla was also solid running the point, dishing out a career-high 8 assists alongside 6 points. The sophomore then delivered another career-high, this time in scoring, with 15 points in a 76-56 win over Eastern Washington. McKay also came up with another solid game, tallying 10 points and 8 rebounds.

After a few weeks out with injury, Stephanie Reid was back to her dishing and swishing best for Buffalo in a 76-59 win over St. Bonaventure. The senior tallied 15 points and also added seven assists and five steals to act as a threat at both ends, joining an elite list of MAC players to tally 500 career assists. Fellow Australian Katherine Ups registered 14 points and 4 steals of her own. Unfortunately, the Bulls could not follow up with a win against Niagara, falling 75-62. However, Reid was again solid to tally 9 points and 6 assists, whilst Ups added 6 points.

Utah State had a tough week, dropping a pair of games in rather differing circumstances. Olivia West continued her hot start to the season with another pair of high-scoring games. The sophomore did everything in her power to get Utah State over the line against Denver, dropping 20 points, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc, and dishing the assist to fellow Australian Shannon Dufficy for the three-pointer that sent the game to overtime. Somehow though, Denver were able to throw up a prayer, which was answered in the dying seconds of overtime to clinch a 74-72 win. Rachel Brewster had a low-percentage chance of her own as time expired, but the shot caught back iron and bounced away. Alongside West’s 20 points, Dufficy finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, whilst Brewster added 7. Eliza West sat out with an ankle complaint.

The Aggies were never really meant to challenge in-state foes Utah in their final non-conference game, but Olivia West still performed admirably, scoring half of her team’s points in a 79-44 loss. The sophomore’s 22 points accounted for half of the team’s score as two players finished in double figures, but the remainder of the team could only tally 9 points between them.

Looking at Stanford’s schedule for the week, the Cardinal should have easily come away with two wins, but despite Alanna Smith’s best efforts, they could only split a pair of games. The first game was simple enough-- a 77-33 win over UNLV-- that saw Stanford hold their opponents to 3 points in the second quarter and 7 in the third. Smith compiled 11 points and 5 rebounds in just 23 minutes on court as the bench was given an extended run.

There would be no such luxuries against Western Illinois for the Cardinal. Smith shot 8 of 24 to lead the Cardinal with 18 points, as well as picking up 15 rebounds, but even her 33% clip would be above the team’s shooting percentage. Stanford shot just 31% from the field as Western Illinois stormed home after being held to just three 2nd quarter points to secure a famous 71-64 win.

Portland State sophomore Courtney West put together a solid performance against UC Irvine, but it was the record that the Sydneysider broke that was the highlight. Despite being less than halfway through her second season with the Vikings, West broke the school’s career blocks record, registering five against the Anteaters to move to 120 in just 42 games. Those five blocks almost got West to what would have been a 5x5 game as the sophomore registered 6 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 5 steals, and 4 assists to fall agonisingly close to a rare stat line milestone as the Vikings registered an 82-72 overtime win over the Anteaters.

Courtney Woods’ scoring numbers have been outstanding all season, but against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville this week, the Queenslander’s famed three-point shooting returned with a vengeance after a couple of lean games. Finishing with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, Woods knocked down 6 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc, helping lead the Huskies to an 86-75 win, erasing a first quarter deficit before going on to extend their lead at the end of each quarter thereafter to move to 7-2.

Alex Sharp once again flirted with a triple-double, and Wake Forest needed every last one of her numbers to edge by Charlotte, 71-69. As well as finishing with 10 points on 5 of 11 shooting, Sharp picked up 8 rebounds and delivered 8 assists, the last of which came on a basket that brought Wake Forest within a point at 69-68 with 34 seconds to play. The sophomore then grabbed the defensive rebound in the final 11 seconds, with Wake Forest scoring the go-ahead basket with just three seconds remaining.

Jade Johnson’s emergence as a two-way threat for St. Francis continued as the sophomore helped the Terriers to a 72-63 win over Iona. Johnson poured in15 points, but also came up with 5 rebounds and 5 steals to showcase her talents on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Alex Delaney moved to 9th on the Terriers’ career three-pointers list, hitting 3 of 7 from beyond the arc whilst also dishing out five assists as the senior moved into more of a ball-handling role with Amy O’Neill out for this game.

Bride Kennedy-Hopoate has had a reasonably decent start to her Division I career, but with 10 points against Iowa earlier in the month and now a new career-high against UC Riverside, things are certainly trending upwards for the junior college transfer. The Cyclones demolished their opponents 89-66, with Kennedy-Hopoate adding 15 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field, whilst tacking on 6 free throws from 9 attempts. Impressively, the Queenslander was able to do this in just 16 minutes on court, and also chipped in a further 3 assists and 2 blocks just for good measure.

Tiana Mangakahia continued her remarkable start to the season, delivering yet another double-double as Syracuse moved to 11-0 with a 69-57 win over Coastal Carolina in their only game of the week. Despite shooting 3 of 9 from the field, the sophomore added six points on 75% shooting from the line to provide 12 points alongside 12 assists for her tenth double-double in 12 games.

Appalachian State picked up their second win of the season, with Nicola Mathews scoring career-high to lead her team to victory over Marshall. The sophomore scored six of her 17 points in the last four minutes as the Mountaineers managed to edge the Thundering Herd 56-54 as both teams stumbled at the line late in the contest, with Marshall missing a free throw that would have tied the game with three seconds to play.

Jess Gajewski is generally good for a double-figure scoring performance, and the redshirt senior’s sixth in her last seven games could not have come at a better time. Gajewski led Grand Canyon with 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting in their 59-54 win over Southern Utah. Eight of those points came in the first quarter as Grand Canyon opened up a seven point lead after a quarter, a margin that would prove vital as Southern Utah almost stormed home from 13 down in the last quarter before time became too much of a factor to overcome.

Louise Brown continues to make a solid return in her comeback season, with a vital double-double in a 61-53 win on the road at Boise State, earning Player of the Game honours in the process. 8 of Brown's 12 points came in the first half as Washington State got out to a 30-24 halftime lead, whilst in the second half it was all about the rebounding for the junior, who picked up 7 of her 10 boards after halftime to help push the Cougars above .500, with their record now at 6-5.