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Around the NCAAW Weekly: Another upset by No. 10 NC State headlines Feast Week action

A buffet of Thanksgiving basketball brought more upsets to the women’s college hoops table, headlined by the No. 10 NC State Wolfpack taking down another top-three team. The Green Bay Phoenix also scored another victory over a ranked team, while the Pac-12’s California teams keep winning.

Connecticut v NC State
NC State’s Mimi Collins hypes up River Baldwin, who scored a career-high 26 points in a second upset win by the Wolfpack.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Thanksgiving week was filled with women’s college hoops, and more upsets were on the menu. We’ll highlight best wins, closet contests, standout performances and statistical accomplishments from Monday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Nov. 26.

Best of Feast Week

Let’s reheat the results from the numerous tournaments held over Thanksgiving week, celebrating the teams and players that cooked up some delicious action.

No. 24 Ole Miss, Scott were best at Battle 4 Atlantis

It looks like Coach Yo had a satisfying pre-Thanksgiving trip back to her home country, as her Rebels departed the Bahamas as Battle 4 Atlantis champions. After winning games over Howard and Arizona, Ole Miss defeated Michigan 60-49 in the title game.

Senior forward Madison Scott was named tournament MVP, the perfect honor to pair with her SEC Co-Player of the Week honor. While Scott’s stats impress, as she is averaging 11.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 “stocks” (steals+blocks) per game, they still fail to capture how she impacts the action. She seems to be everywhere, especially on the defensive end where her length, athleticism and instincts make her a versatile, valuable anchor for Ole Miss.

Watkins, Sheldon shine for No. 8 USC, No. 15 Ohio State at Pink Flamingo Championship

Yes, JuJu Watkins did, in fact, turn the Pink Flamingo Championship into her personal showcase.

Once again, the freshman was phenomenal. After scoring 15 points in USC’s 10-point victory over Seton Hall on Monday, Watkins not only finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds—her first double-double—against Penn State on Wednesday, but also singularly steered the Trojans to the 71-70 comeback. With USC down 64-70 with a a little more than two minutes remaining, Watkins scored the game’s final seven points: a layup, a 3-pointer and a layup. USC’s record remains perfect; Watkins’ legend exponentially grows.

Ohio State’s stay in Nassau involved less drama, with Buckeyes getting the job done with double-digit wins over the Pirates of East Carolina and the Cowgirls of Oklahoma State. Jacy Sheldon continued her superb start to the season, with the fifth-year guard scoring an efficient 20 points against East Carolina before posting 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals against Oklahoma State.

Behind Iriafen and Brink, No. 4 Stanford captures Ball Dawgs Classic

Under the bright lights of Las Vegas at the Ball Dawgs Classic, Stanford showed they belong at the top of women’s college basketball.

Belmont made Stanford fight for their first victory, with the Cardinal finally pulling away from the Bruins in the fourth quarter to win 74-55 on Wednesday. Although she missed a free throw after 73-straight makes, senior forward Cameron Brink again was a force for Stanford, with a double-double of 27 points and 16 rebounds. Her fellow frontcourt star, junior Kiki Iriafen, added 14 points and nine boards.

Friday night, Stanford authored a comeback to down No. 13 FSU 100-88 and win the Ball Dawgs Classic. After allowing an explosive Seminoles squad—that, in their first game in Vegas, pounded the Wildcats of Northwestern for an almost 40-point victory—to score 34 first-quarter points, the Cardinal leveled up on the defensive end. On offense, Iriafen assumed the scoring load, finishing with 30 points, along with 17 boards and a pair of blocks. Limited by foul trouble, Brink only played 16 minutes against FSU, contributing 19 points, nine boards and six blocks before fouling out. With 44 points and 27 rebounds across the two games, Iriafen was named MVP.

Green Bay topples another top-25 team at Cancun Challenge

After a triple-double from senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker helped No. 23 Washington State score a 20-point victory over Maryland, it appeared the Cougars were poised to improve upon their No. 23 ranking. Washington State next cruised to an easy win over UMass; however, their ascent hit a speed bump, as Green Bay got their second win over an opponent ranked in the top 25.

Coming off a 68-59 loss to Maryland, Green Bay took their defense to another gear, inducing Washington State into their worst shooting and scoring performance of the season; the Cougars shot 35 percent from the field as they scored only 48 points, including just nine in the fourth quarter. The Phoenix found their way to the 11-point win behind 12 points from junior guard Maddy Schreiber, while junior guard Bailey Butler scored a season-high 10 points, in addition to adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

It was an inefficient afternoon for Leger-Walker, who finished with 17 points on 18 shots. Wazzu senior center Bella Murekatete also failed to find a rhythm, scoring a season-low five points while grabbing just four boards.

No. 10 NC State scores another major upset, knocking off No. 3 Colorado at Paradise Jam

It looks like top-ranked teams should fear the Wolfpack! A dominating 78-60 win over Colorado at the Paradise Jam gives NC State two victories over top-three teams. Before beating Colorado, NC State cruised to wins over Kentucky and Cincinnati in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

NC State sprinted out to a 9-0 advantage before leading 22-9 at the end of the first. From there, Colorado never got closer than 11 points. Early in the fourth, NC State stretched the lead to a game-high 27 points. In short, the win was authoritative.

Last time, it was junior guard Saniya Rivers who steered NC State to the upset. This time, team-wide contributions allowed the Wolfpack to whack the Buffaloes. Senior River Baldwin was the best big in the game, scoring a career-high 26 points compared to a quiet five points from Colorado junior Aaronette Vonleh. The Wolfpack also received 15 points and six rebounds from junior guard Aziaha James and 11 points and five rebounds from senior guard Madison Hayes. Rivers had seven points, seven boards and seven assists. Jaylyn Sherrod led the Buffaloes with 20 points.

While the Wolfpack will not meet another ranked team until ACC play begins, the postgame comments from head coach Wes Moore suggest they remain highly-motivated by perceived preseason slights, saying, “We were picked to finish eighth in the ACC, and we weren’t ranked two weeks ago. It’s what I’ve been telling them: ‘Stay hungry, stay hungry and keep doing what you’ve been doing.’ Right now, they’re putting the team first, and not caring who gets the credit.”

No. 21 Indiana makes it look easy at Fort Myers Tip-Off

It appears that early, ugly loss to Stanford has sparked Indiana. The Hoosiers not only picked up a pair of comfortable wins while in southwest Florida—71-57 over No. 19 Tennessee and 72-63 over Princeton—but also looked like the best team in the talented four-team field at the Fort Myers Tip-Off.

After an uneven start to the season, sophomore guard Yarden Garzon broke out in Indiana’s win over Tennessee, going 5-for-6 from 3 on her way to 23 points. She also added five rebounds and five assists. Against Princeton, guard Sara Scalia continued her strong start to her senior season, with 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Add in the efforts of grad big Mackenzie Holmes, who leads the team with 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and senior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, who pilots Indiana on the perimeter with 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game, and the Hoosiers leave Florida looking like the top-10 team they were projected to be before the season.

No. 2 UCLA was the class of a stacked Cayman Islands Classic

In a stacked Cayman Islands Classic field featuring four top-10 teams, the Bruins established themselves as the best. UCLA used the event’s most intriguing matchup—their meeting with No. 6 UConn on Friday—to make their convincing case, getting the 78-67 win.

A 10-0 run to begin the game and 7-0 run to start the second half showed the Bruins’ readiness. And every time the Huskies mustered a response—primarily due to the individual brilliance of redshirt junior guard Paige Bueckers, who finished with a game-high 31 points—the Bruins soon retook control. While the Bruins benefitted from their most efficient behind-the-arc performance of the season—with the team making 12-of-25 from 3, captained by senior guard Charisma Osborne going 6-for-10—UCLA’s effort on the glass proved more decisive, as they outrebounded the Huskies 40-28. Sophomore guard Kiki Rice led UCLA with 11 boards, while also providing a team-high 24 points and eight assists.

There also was no letdown for UCLA on Saturday, as they crushed Niagara by 51 points. UConn didn’t get the bounce-back performance desired on Saturday, struggling to put away Kansas as they survived for an eight-point win.

Elsewhere in the Cayman Islands, No. 7 LSU and No. 9 Virginia Tech were less than impressive. While the Lady Tigers took care of business against overmatched Niagara, they needed all of Aneesah Morrow’s 37 points and 16 rebounds to hold off Virginia, 76-73. The Hokies are heading back to Blacksburg with a one-point win over Kansas and a six-point escape against Tulane. Against the Jayhawks, fifth-year big Elizabeth Kitley carried the Hokies, posting a 31-point and 18-rebound double-double. Against the Green Wave, it was senior guard Georgia Amoore with 24 points and seven assists.

No. 5 Iowa exacts revenge on No. 16 K-State at Gulf Coast Showcase

Twice overcoming a double-digit deficit, it appeared Kansas State, once again, had the resiliency required to defeat Iowa. This time, however, the Hawkeyes, not the Wildcats, found the finishing kick, with 10-2 run, capped by senior guard Caitlin Clark’s seventh 3-pointer of the evening, giving Iowa the 77-70 win and the Gulf Coast Showcase title. Look for Zachary Draves’ next Iowa update for more on the Hawkeyes’ time in Florida.

And while they were drowned in a sea of Hawkeye 3s in an almost 40-point loss on Saturday, FGCU ultimately came away from their local tournament with positive momentum, sneaking past No. 18 UNC 65-64 in the consolation game. A back-and-forth fourth quarter concluded with senior forward Kierra Adams scoring the game-winning layup with seven seconds remaining.

Superb season-long stat stuffers

Two weeks into the 2023-24 season, let’s check in on the leaders in major statistical categories:

  • Iowa senior guard Caitlin Clark continues to lead the nation in scoring, with her 29.6 points per game outpacing fifth-year Marshall guard Roshala Scott (26.2) and USC freshman guard JuJu Watkins (26.2).
  • Clark and Watkins rank first and second in points produced per game. Clark generates 29.3 total points to Watkins’ 24.2. Colorado State fifth-year guard McKenna Hofschild (24.0), Notre Dame freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo (23.1) and Harvard fifth-year guard Harmoni Turner (22.4) round out the top five.
  • Hidalgo has maintained her dominance as a steals maven, leading the nation with 6.3 steals per game and a steals percentage of 10.3.
  • Hofschild has the best assist percentage at 55.5 percent, while College of Charleston sixth-year guard Jenna Annecchiarico averages a nation-leading 9.2 assists per game.
  • Boise State senior forward Abby Muse has taken the lead in blocks per game and block percentage at 4.2 and 15.5, respectively.
  • BYU fifth-year big Lauren Gustin has preserved her advantage in rebounds per game, with 15.7. But Oregon State sophomore big Reagan Beers, second in the nation with 13.8 boards per game, owns the superior rebounding percentage (29.1).
  • Taking 3.2 3-pointers per game, Michigan State sophomore guard DeeDee Hageman leads the nation in 3-point shooting at 63.2 percent. Utah junior guard Gianna Kneepkens has the nation’s best effective field goal percentage at 81.9 percent, while Marquette senior guard Rose Nkumu is the national leader in true shooting percentage at 84.2.

A menu of milestones

Milestones also were on the menu for Feast Week. While individual talents across women’s college hoops filled up on history-making stats, teams keep going back for seconds and thirds when it comes to the 3, as a number of squads continue to set new programs marks for 3s made in a game.

Other news and notes

A well-deserved honor for Muffet McGraw! The former Notre Dame head coach, who led the Fighting Irish to nine Final Fours and two national titles during her 33-year tenure in South Bend, will be honored with a statute outside the Joyce Center on Dec. 17.

Utah Tech announced that head coach JD Gustin has been suspended for two games after players alleged that Gustin “bullied, physically intimidated and retaliated against players.” According to The Salt Lake Tribune, parents of players hired a private investigator who submitted a report of the allegations to the university. Speaking to The Salt Lake Tribune, players indicated the athletic department had not adequately responded to their complaints.

A look ahead

The ACC/SEC Challenge and Jimmy V Women’s Classic present a number of top-25 matchups worth watching in the week ahead.

ACC/SEC Challenge

Wednesday, Nov. 29

No. 17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Florida Gators at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

Vanderbilt Commodores at No. 10 NC State Wolfpack (7:15 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

Miami Hurricanes at No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7:15 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

No. 20 Louisville Cardinals at No. 24 Ole Miss Rebels (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Thursday, Nov. 30

Duke Blue Devils at Georgia Lady Bulldogs (5 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Missouri Tigers at Virginia Cavaliers (5 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks at No. 18 UNC Tarheels (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 13 FSU Seminoles (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Boston College Eagles at Kentucky Wildcats (7 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Alabama Crimson Tide at Syracuse Orange (7 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 7 LSU Lady Tigers (9 p.m. ET,m ESPN)

Clemson Tigers at Auburn Tigers (9 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Texas A&M Aggies at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

Jimmy V Women’s Classic

Sunday, Dec. 3

No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks at Duke Blue Devils (1 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 6 UConn Huskies at No. 12 Texas Longhorns (3 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)