Debbie Antonelli put it in plain words for all to see Monday afternoon: "6 ways to guard ball screens. Under, over, hedge, switch, trap, ice.. if you don't have it by February, you're not gonna. Get in the gym and shoot Work on OFFENSE." I couldn't agree more. You're not going to do much more defensively than you've already established for yourself at this point in the season. Get your behind in the gym and be able to make shots. Maryland has had the Big Ten's third-best scoring defense this season. All that goes out the window when the third best offensive, second best shooting team in the league comes into the building and shoots 53%.
28 free throws and a 41-29 rebounding advantage told the story for this game but as Antonelli mentioned, Iowa was still able to get what it wanted all night long. Perfect example, in late game execution, Bluder brought sniper Melissa Dixon off a screen only to have the defense rotate up leaving Ally Disterhoft with a layup before taking a timeout. Here's a few of my takeaways from the week.
MARYLAND SETS PACE IN BIG 10 RACE
Brenda Frese's squad was supposed to be in the midst of an era change in College Park after losing program cornerstone Alyssa Thomas to the WNBA. Somebody didn't inform Lexie Brown. 26 points and 7 assists were the final tallies for the sophomore guard as she led the way to a 93-88 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Brionna Jones rang up 19 points and 15 rebounds while senior guard Laurin Mincy finished with 15. Ally Disterhoff led four Hawkeyes in double figues as she registered 22 points. Melissa Dixon hit 4 more threes and finished with 18. Sam Logic had 18, 7 assists and 6 rebounds while center Bethany Doolittle added 16 points and 6 rebounds.
Maryland moved to 10-0 in the Big Ten while handing Lisa Bluder's squad its second conference loss. Two games is the gap between the team's for the conference's top spot. Iowa welcomes in Ohio State on Thursday while Frese's squad travels to Penn State.
MULKEY'S BEARS SET PACE IN BIG 12
Nina Davis came into Waco a four-star recruit at one time listed as a "6'1 guard with an awkward shooting motion and ability to play all three perimeter spots" and now she's the leading scorer as an undersized 5'11 post player for the third ranked team in the country. Just how much is she doing you ask? 21.3 points and 8.8 rebounds are the nightly average for the reigning BIG 12 Freshman of the year.
Regularly assisted by a sixth-woman who's the team's second leading scorer off the bench at under 20 minutes per game and the nation's leading assister, Davis has continued to take advantage of her agility and finishing ability, shooting 57% from the field. A healthy Alexis Prince has proven effective and Aussie freshman Kristy Wallace is shooting 40% from three.
Kim Mulkey's team's have found a way to sustain, first to losing Griner, then Sims and sitting ranked third in the country currently, this team is expected to only lose one senior while adding newly named McDonald's All American centers Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier to the fold. 13-0 leads the way in the Big12 and they've won 19 straight, the Bears seem to be primed for the spotlight come March.
GAME OF THE WEEK
TEXAS DEFEATS OKLAHOMA IN OT 84-81
Karen Aston's squad has been searching for an identity since losing All Big 12 forward Nneka Enemkpali to a torn ACL. The most recent decision has been to start the two centers, junior Imani McGee-Stafford alongside sophomore Kelsey and boy, did it kickstart the Aggies. The first-time starting lineup also included Big 12 Freshman of the Week Ariel Atkins, Brooke McCarty and Brady Sanders.
The game began as a struggle Oklahoma hit 4 of its 5 threes in the first stanza, forging a 33-30 advantage at the break. 8 points, 5 boards and 2 blocks were the second half numbers for McGee-Stafford before allowing guards Empress Davenport and Atkins to take over in OT, scoring 15 of the Longhorns 19.
Fouls continued to be a factor in losses for Sherri Coale's team. As much depth as she has available, Maddie Manning, Gioya Carter, Kaylon Williams and Sharane Campbell-Olds all fouling out is a huge problem. 16 points apiece for Carter and Peyton Little. 13 for freshman Gabbi Ortiz and 12 for Manning. 15, 11 and 3 were the final marks for McGee-Stafford as Atkins led the way with 21.13 apiece for Brady Sanders and Empress Davenport and 10 and 7 were added by Lang.
The streak didn't last long though as TCU pulled the upset of the Longhorns in Forth Worth. Imani continued the stellar play in the starting lineup with 22 and 8 boards. 13 apiece for Lang and Atkins. Veja Hamilton spearheaded the upset for the Horned Frogs with 16 points.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
CHEYENNE PARKER F MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
When reading the scout on Rick Insell’s MTSU squad, the first name you come to is Olivia Jones. And it’s definitely the correct thing to do. She leads the team at 21.7 points per outing, is second on the team at 8.8 rebounds per game, while leading the team in total defensive rebounds and steals. She also happens to be the only Blue Raider to start every game this season. The player that’s second to Jones and usually cleans up all her misses is the standout player this week at the Swish.
Parker had a storied career going at High Point University, including back-to-back Big South Defensive Player of the Year awards after an All-Freshman first season. But after sitting out the 2013-14 season due to transfer restrictions, Parker is back to doing what she does best: numbers. In this week’s Thursday-Saturday home stand, Parker averaged 21.5 points, 17 boards, and 9.5 blocks while hitting 16-24 (67%) from the field in matchups with the Texas schools from El Paso and San Antonio.
In 37 minutes against the Roadrunners, Parker racked up 25 points, 17 rebounds and 8 blocks. But she decided that the block number didn’t satisfy her so on Saturday, she became the first player in a program with a ton of quality players (Amber Holt, Alysha Clark, Ebony Rowe) to register a triple-double, garnering 18 points, 17 boards and 11 blocks.
TEAM OF THE WEEK:
If Dawn Staley’s team even happens to walk in front of a television, they’re likely to hear their team being referenced. The matchup with UConn is inching closer and that’s all that seems to matter in the women’s basketball game right now. Quotes like "1 v 2," or "UConn v South Carolina" bullies the airways; meanwhile, the Gamecock crew still have a tough slate of games to get to that point.
Alabama and Ole Miss proved to be the obstacles that followed the national television matchup, and subsequent bludgeoning of Texas A&M and these are teams that can’t be looked over. Alabama continues to ratchet up its nonconference scheduling since Kristy Curry took over and the team made strides this season, upsetting then-number 12 Nebraska. Ole Miss, under Matt Insell, has done the same, beating then-#22 Georgia at home, initially going 4-1 to begin the conference slate.
Dawn Staley was aware. And her squad responded swiftly. Before venturing on the road for Oxford, the Gamecocks hosted the Tide and cruised to an 85-54 victory over U of A. A’ja Wilson led the way again with 17 points and 5 rebounds, fellow sub Alaina Coates added 14 and 10 with 5 blocks, and Tiffany Mitchell rounded out the double digit scorers with 11.
In a rough and tumble bout in Oxford, the Gamecocks had to battle back in the last few minutes to take a 7-point lead at the half that did not justify how well Ole Miss had played in the first 16 minutes. Freshman phenom Bianca Cuevas led the way with 21 points and was aided by 11 apiece from Wilson and Mitchell and 10 by both Coates and senior post Elem Ibiam. 40 free throws for Staley’s squad proved to be the difference, as All-SEC senior Forward Tia Faleru was rendered ineffective early on due to foul troubles.
WNBA PROSPECT OF THE WEEK:
RESHANDA GRAY F CAL
The sky is the limit in terms of potential for Reshanda Gray. It always has been. She was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school and had seen multiple awards with her name on them in California. But where, exactly did she fit into the plan at Cal? The answer, at least initially, was in the forefront.
As a freshman, Gray started 13 games on the way to 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and a selection to the Pac12 All-Freshman team. Then, a hamstring injury, affected her play all during her sophomore season. Gray missed three games and only started one, but her production remained relatively the same, tallying 8.3 points and 5.2 boards per game.
After a trip to the final four as a sophomore, Gray became the focal point for the 2013-14 season, Gray improved to 16.8 points and 8.8 boards while adding an additional 10% to her free throw shooting. Cal hasn’t had to rely on her as heavily this season so her minutes are down, but Gray’s production is still high level. With averages of 18.7 points and 7.6 boards, Reshanda has carried this team to a 15-5 record in her final season in Berkeley.
Her potential for the WNBA can be viewed in a similar manner. Gray will likely transition into an energy-provider and extra body on the inside. Her post game needs refinement and her face up game still leaves a lot to be desired, but she’s definitely got the chance to add to her abilities.
Unlike the more talented posts of late to come out of Cal (Devenai Hampton, Ashley Walker) Gray does have WNBA-caliber height, especially if she’s able to transition into more of a forward role. Her endless energy and athletic ability lay the foundation for greatness but it’ll be interesting to see if Gray adds to her game or rests on her laurels as a professional.