LSU's Danielle Ballard fills stat sheet vs. ranked teams to lead Starting Five
Danielle Ballard, Guard, 5-foot-9, Junior, LSU
Ballard, helped lead LSU to a pair of back-to-back wins against Southeastern Conference ranked opponents for first time since the 2007-08 season as the Lady Tigers moved back into conference contention. Ballard averaged 24.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals to lead LSU to wins against No. 15 Mississippi State, 71-69 in two overtimes, and 84-79 against No. 10 Kentucky. She tallied her first double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds at Mississippi State. Ballard connected on the game-tying 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to force double overtime and then put LSU ahead for good with a jumper inside the final minute of the second overtime period. She followed her heroics at Mississippi State with a career-high tying 25 points against Kentucky and filled the stat sheet with five assists and five steals, both season-highs. Playing her best basketball against top opponents, Ballard touts eight of her top 10 scoring efforts against ranked opponents. LSU returns to action on Jan. 22 at Tennessee.
Ruth Hamblin, Center, 6-foot-6, Junior, Oregon State
Hamblin was a force in Oregon State’s wins against Washington State and Washington last week as Beavers improved to 16-1 overall and remained undefeated in the Pac-12 Conference at 6-0. She led a come-from-behind 73-70 victory against Washington State on Jan. 16. She set a career-high with 31 points on 12-for-16 shooting from the floor, while also matching her career-high with 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the contest. Hamblin scored 13 of Oregon State’s 30 first-half points in the game, hitting all six of her shots, before exploding for 18 points in the second half, helping to spark the Beavers’ comeback. Oregon State continued its roll with a 75-67 win against Washington on Monday, as Hamblin posted a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double to go along with four blocked shots. Hamblin currently ranks third in the nation in field-goal percentage, shooting .631 from the field. Oregon State next faces an important two-game road trip with games at Arizona (Jan. 23) and Arizona State (Jan. 25). Oregon State and Arizona State are currently tied atop the Pac-12 standings.
Hallie Meneses, Guard, 5-foot-5, Senior, Long Beach State
Meneses helped extend Long Beach State’s winning streak to 15 games while averaging 16.0 points in a pair of road victories. She came up big in the 49ers’ 85-74 win against Cal Poly on Jan. 15 as she poured in a career-high 26 points, connecting on 8-for-11 from the field, 2-for-4 from 3-point range and 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. Meneses added two rebounds and a team-high four assists in 30 minutes of action. She returned two days later with six points, three rebounds and a game-high eight assists versus UC Santa Barbara in an 81-44 triumph. For the week, she shot 9 of 13 (69.2 percent) from the field and 11-of-14 (78.6 percent) from the free throw line. She connected on three 3-pointers on the week, giving her 95 for her career, placing her 10th in program history. Long Beach State improved to 17-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the Big West Conference. Next up for the 49ers is a Jan. 24 home game against Cal State Northridge.
Ka-Deidre Simmons, Guard, 5-foot-8, Senior, Seton Hall
Simmons pushed Seton Hall to wins against Marquette and DePaul, giving the Pirates a one-game lead in the Big East standings. She averaged 22.5 points, a league-high 9.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, while shooting .565 from the floor for the week. In the first-place battle with DePaul on Sunday, Simmons matched her career high with 28 points on 6-for-11 shooting while being credited with 11 assists for her second double-double of the year as Seton Hall established a program record with 107 points in the 107-87 victory. A three-time Big East Player of the Week, Simmons had 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as Seton Hall beat Marquette 88-58 on Jan. 16, its largest margin of victory against a Big East foe in more than 20 years. Simmons filled out the stat sheet with 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. At 17-2, Seton Hall is off to one of the best starts in program history, and the 6-1 start to Big East play is second to just the 1993-94 squad, which won 10 of its first 11 conference games. The Pirates return to action on Jan. 23 against Villanova.
Morgan Tuck, Forward, 6-foot-2, Sophomore, Connecticut
Tuck averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, while shooting 18 of 22 (81.8 percent) from the field, during a 2-0 week for UConn that included wins against Temple and South Florida. Tuck started the week with a 24-point, seven rebound effort in UConn’s 92-58 win against Temple on Jan. 14. She was 11-for-12 from the floor and dished out four assists versus the Owls. She followed that up with a 15-point, six-rebound effort in Sunday’s win against USF. Tuck was 7-for-10 from the field against the Bulls and also registered two assists and two blocked shots. UConn returns to action on Jan. 21 at UCF.