Seniors shine as Woods and Sharp continue outstanding seasons
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It’s been a long time coming for Northern Illinois stalwart Courtney Woods, but the senior returned to the 30-point club for the first time since the opening day of the 2018-19 season. Fresh off hitting the 2,000 career point mark in her previous outing against Central Michigan, Woods posted a game-winning 32 points in an overtime win on the road at Bowling Green.
Tallying 9 points in the first half, Woods found herself on the way to a solid enough game, helping Northern Illinois keep pace with Bowling Green in the early stages. The teams traded the lead almost for fun in the first half, leading to an unsurprising 1-point game at halftime as Northern Illinois lead 39-38.
As the pressure continued to ratchet up with the game remaining tight, Woods slowly began to take over for the Huskies. The senior produced 9 of her team’s 17 points in the third quarter, scoring which proved invaluable as the margin remained at just a single point heading into the final term.
However, despite Woods piling up the points, Northern Illinois were unable to shake a Bowling Green side looking for just its second conference win of the season. With the game coming down to the wire, both offences produced their highest scoring period of the game in the last frame of regulation, and Woods proved to be a large part of that. 11 fourth quarter points kept Northern Illinois in the contest, before a three in the dying seconds from teammate Riley Blackwell forced the game to overtime. A three from the Aussie senior capped a 7-0 run to open overtime, and although Bowling Green would briefly cut the margin to 4, Northern Illinois emerged as 92-87 victors.
Not only did Woods finish with 32 points on 11 of 20 shooting, the senior also contributed 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and a pair of steals to round out an exemplary performance in all facets as Northern Illinois picked up their 3rd win of the conference season. However, the senior wasn’t done for the week as the Huskies hosted Miami University.
Once again, Woods led the scoring for the Huskies, pouring in 20 points as Northern Illinois rallied from an early double-digit deficit to eventually force another overtime battle. There would be no 7-point run this time though, as Woods subbed in for the final 25 seconds of overtime with the game tied. With Northern Illinois in possession, teammate Ally May grabbed a hotly contested rebound and dished the ball to Woods. The senior’s midrange dropped in with just a couple of seconds remaining, and although Miami drew up a play to run out of a last second timeout, the Huskies managed a steal to run out the clock to secure consecutive wins for the first time since November 17.
Alex Sharp recently passed the 20-mark for career double-doubles, and came agonisingly close to adding even more despite a tough stretch continuing for Wake Forest. Sharp had led the Demon Deacons in both scoring and rebounding for the previous two games, and continued that theme with 19 points and 9 rebounds in a narrow 75-71 loss to Notre Dame, going a perfect 8 from 8 at the charity stripe in the process.
A pair of 9-point quarters severely hindered Wake Forest’s chances against Georgia Tech later in the week, but Sharp once again battled valiantly despite a 62-52 defeat. Shooting 6 of 12 from the field, the senior posted 16 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Demon Deacons in both categories for the fourth consecutive game. With still a minimum of six games remaining in her college career, Sharp’s current form gives her a real chance of securing the three double-doubles she needs to move into fourth all-time for Wake Forest. The senior currently sits on 19, with Milan Quinn next on the list at 22. Having also firmly entrenched herself in the program’s top 25 scorers of all time, there is also time for Sharp to move up that list, with a number of players within reach.
Gonzaga had been completely untouchable in the West Coast Conference this season, but Saint Mary’s sophomore Sam Simons made the most of her last regular-season chance to knock off their much-vaunted arch-rivals. Coming off four straight losses to the Zags, Saint Mary’s decided enough was enough, holding the #11 team in the nation to just four first-quarter points. A closer contest ensued as the game progressed, but another blitz from the Gaels after halftime extended the lead to 18 with a quarter to play. That proved to be more than enough to secure victory, with even a late Gonzaga comeback not preventing Saint Mary’s from picking up a vital 70-60 win. Simons was electric from deep, burying all five of her three-point attempts to finish with 22 points. The win also leaves Saint Mary’s just a game behind a trio of teams in fourth place in the West Coast Conference, with the battle for tournament seeding really heating up with five games remaining.
Tia Hay has been working her way back into rhythm since a prolonged absence earlier in the season, and this week showcased her true level in a win over Loyola Marymount that snapped a 7-game losing streak. The Broncos had suffered some real offensive worries without Hay in the lineup, scoring 52 points or less in three of her five games out. But in a battle for ladder position against a struggling Loyola Marymount side, Hay shone after easing herself in against San Francisco last week. Hitting 5 of 9 from deep and 4 of 8 from closer range, Hay put the Santa Clara side on her back with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals as the Broncos secured a vital 76-60 victory to remain in 8th spot in the West Coast Conference.
Hawaii have embraced the three-ball over the last couple of seasons in a way that has rarely been seen from the Rainbow Wahine, with redshirt junior Amy Atwell one of the major beneficiaries in 2019/20. The Western Australian is one of two players on track to break the previous program single-season record, and demonstrated why with a monster performance in a win over Cal Poly. In a low-scoring 59-46 affair, Atwell was the exception to the evening’s trend of inefficient shooting. The teams combined to shoot 10 of 46 from deep, with Atwell responsible for 6 of those makes on just 13 attempts, posting 24 points and leaving the remaining players shooting 4 of 33 for the game. Just for good measure, Atwell also collected 7 rebounds, helping lead Hawaii to a vital win that puts them just one game back of ladder leaders UC Davis, whom they face next Sunday.
However, Cal Poly would face UC Davis before Hawaii, and despite the best efforts of Abbey Ellis, the Mustangs couldn’t quite get over the line. Fresh off 18 points in a 61-41 win over Long Beach State, Ellis poured in a game-high 21 points alongside 4 rebounds, combining with Oregon transfer Sierra Campisano for 38 points on 12 of 25 shooting. But with the Mustangs’ remaining players connecting on just 5 of 23, a UC Davis side shooting 48% from the field and 39% from three-point land secured a 71-58 victory despite a fairly even contest in other statistical categories.
Wins have been hard to come by for Utah State in recent weeks, but Steph Gorman’s performance against Boise State helped put the Aggies in position to lift themselves off the foot of the Mountain West Conference standings. Not only did the sophomore score 20 of Utah State’s 58 points, Gorman also produced in clutch moments after a third quarter 21-8 meltdown from the Aggies had seen their 9-point halftime lead evaporate. Trailing by three with just over a minute to play, Gorman grabbed a vital defensive board, before burying the game-tying shot on the ensuing possession. The teams would trade baskets in the dying seconds, with Marlene Aniambossou’s last-second jumper proving the final points of the game as Utah State secured the 58-56 win, and now sit within a game and a half of Air Force with four games to play.
Finally, there was one play that just had to be highlighted, courtesy of Fresno State’s Bree Delaney. As she headed to the sideline to inbound the ball with 3.7 seconds to play and scores tied 76-76, Delaney had seen the princely sum of zero seconds prior to this pass. It mattered little, as the pass found its target, with Maddi Utti tipping it home for a 78-76 win, the continuation of a now 14-game unbeaten streak to start conference play, and the Bulldogs’ Mountain West regular season championship.