Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third episode of “The Triple Double!”
But first, before I delve into our column, I’d like to issue a mea culpa. In my last column, I made an error regarding Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell; and some of our loyal readers were kind enough to let me know about it. Know that sometimes we will make mistakes, and while it’s not our intention, I do appreciate that our readers will let us know in a nice way. It means more to me than you know.
Now, let’s have some fun!
1) LEGENDS IN THE MAKING
Going into the New Year, we saw three records broken in the NCAA.
The first was on Saturday, December 30. Maranne Johnson of the Sacramento State Hornets set the Big Sky conference record for career three-pointers with 257. Some may remember Johnson from last season, when she briefly led the NCAA in three-pointers per game (she finished 13th overall). Johnson, a senior who was initially a walk-on from Antioch, CA, has been arguably the best long distance shooter the Big Sky has ever seen, and could potentially be the first-ever player from the conference to be drafted into the WNBA (in the league’s 21-year history, there has never been a player drafted from the Big Sky).
The very next day, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu set the NCAA mark for career triple-doubles with eight, breaking a record that had been tied since 2011 (Louella Tomlinson - Saint Mary’s; Suzie McConnell-Serio - Penn State). Ionescu had already racked up plenty of honors in her freshman year last season (including ESPNW and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and NCAA All-Bridgeport Regional Team), so there was no surprise about the greatness that comes from Ionescu.
And after already setting more triple-doubles than any freshman in NCAA history (four last season), it’s a possibility that we would have seen her break the mark this season ANYWAY.
However, that being said, she had four in 37 games last season (about one every nine games). Oregon is only 17 games into their season so far, and she has already matched that total. Is it too soon to say that she will end up among the NCAA’s all-time greats? Maybe, but there is no doubt about this: Sabrina Ionescu is one special player.
Then, on January 3, Grambling State’s Shakyla Hill recorded just the THIRD (*) official quadruple-double in NCAA history (15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals) in a 93-71 shellacking of Alabama State.
The last person to achieve this feat was Sonja Tate of Arkansas State...nearly 25 years ago (Jan. 27, 1993 - 29 pts, 14 rebs, 10 ast, 10 stl). This amazing feat was celebrated throughout the basketball community, and even earned her some props from NBA stars James Harden and Lebron James.
To understand how rare this feat is, Hill is also the first-ever player from a HBCU school (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to accomplish this sort of stat-line. Congrats to Ms. Hill on putting herself in the record books.
(*) - Louisville Jackie Spenser recorded the first-ever quadruple-double (12 pts, 12 rebs, 14 ast, 10 stl) against Cincinnati on Feb. 2, 1985; however, NCAA Division I women’s basketball did not record assists and steals as an official statistic at the time, so it does not count as the first official one (Loyola - Chicago’s Veronica Pettry - Jan. 14, 1989 - 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists, 11 steals)
2) IS SOUTH CAROLINA ONE-AND-DONE?
Normally, you wouldn’t doubt Dawn Staley and her ability to rile her team up.
However, this isn’t a normal time. And the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks, the defending national champions, need to find a way to start dominating...and fast.
Now, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “It’s only mid-season, they just started SEC conference play, they’ll be fine.” And if it were an established team like Connecticut or Notre Dame, you’d be right. Despite Staley’s status as a premier coach, though, South Carolina is not in that category, seeing how they just won their first title last spring.
The team is already short-handed with the loss of Bianca Cuevas-Moore and no update on Te’a Cooper’s playing status yet. But a tough couple of weeks schedule-wise have put the Gamecocks (13-2, 2-1 SEC) in the defensive.
A close two-point win against current No. 17 Texas A&M was followed by an expected trouncing of Ole Miss, but then No. 12 Missouri came in and punched South Carolina in the mouth, outscoring the Gamecocks 34-28 in an eventual 83-74 win (a game so chippy that Staley got ejected toward the end).
The tough loss sent South Carolina flying all the way from the No. 4 ranking to ninth; not the place they want to be if they are planning on repeating as national champs. And with games against SEC leaders No. 6 Tennessee (#2) and No. 4 Mississippi State (#1) looming, the Gamecocks will need potential No. 1 draft pick A’ja Wilson and Tyasha Harris to be the anchors on the court and keep the team focused.
Thank you guys for checking out episode three. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with episode four of “The Triple Double!”