Freshmen standouts have been the story at a number of schools early in the season, providing significant contributions that have helped their respective teams to jump out quickly.
Iowa State is off to a 7-0 start to the season, paced by the strong play of senior forward Hallie Christofferson while being energized by two freshmen in their starting five.
The Cyclones are the only team in the Associated Press Top 25 with two freshmen starting in every game this season, with 5-10 guard Seanna Johnson ranking second on the Cyclones, averaging 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Johnson recently earned back-to-back Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors, which is something that hasn’t been done by a Cyclone since early in the 2011-12 season. Guard Jadda Buckley is chipping in 9.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game while connecting on 13 of 14 free throws.
Christofferson leads the team, averaging 24.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Iowa State is No. 2 in the country in free throw percentage, connecting on 82.6 percent from the line this season. The Cyclones will play the next five games at home.
North Carolina has dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Week award this season, with Diamond DeShields winning the honor this past week after guard Allisha Gray earned the award on Nov. 18 and forward Stephanie Mavunga took home the honor on Nov. 25. The last time three different players from the same school claimed the honor in the same season was Duke in 2002-03.
DeShields, a 6-1 guard, averaged 23.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals last week in three games at the Cancun Challenge, helping lead the Tar Heels to a 2-1 record. DeShields leads the Tar Heels in scoring at 16.8 points per game.
DeShields, Gray and Mavunga rank 1-2-3 as North Carolina’s top scorers so far this season, with DeShields averaging 16.8 points, Gray, 15.4 and Mavunga, 14.8. Also contributing to North Carolina’s 6-2 start is guard Jessica Washington, who contributes 8.5 points per game.
North Carolina, 7-2, ranks among the top teams in the country in both offensive and defensive categories. The Tar Heels are 10th nationally in scoring at 86.0 points per outing, while at the other end of the court, the team is second in the country by allowing its opponents to shoot only 29.1 percent from the field. North Carolina is also ninth with 13.1 steals per game.
LSU freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief has had an immediate impact for the Tigers, averaging a team-best 14.5 points per game to lead LSU to a 7-1 start to the season. The Tigers claimed the Barclays Invitational title last weekend, with Moncrief named the tournament’s most outstanding player and Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after pouring in a season-high 27 points -- the most by an LSU true freshman since Jan. 8, 2009 – to lead LSU to a 69-65 win against Rutgers. She then tallied a game-high 13 points and four steals to lead LSU past Michigan in the championship game.
Around the Division
• Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne senior guard/forward Amanda Hyde scored 41 points in a win at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Nov. 26, hitting 10-of-12 shots from the field and 18-of-21 shots from the free throw line. The defending Summit League Player of the Year followed that up by scoring 23 points while adding seven assists in an 81-76 victory against No. 21 Michigan State in East Lansing on Dec. 1. The victory was the first for the Mastodons versus a ranked team.
• Baylor (7-0) extended its home winning streak to 64 consecutive games on Dec. 3 with a 113-73 win against San Jose State. The Lady Bears, which play 8-0 Kentucky this Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, have rolled past their first seven opponents this season by an average margin of 44.7 points, the best in the country, and scored at least 110 points three times. Guard Odyssey Sims became Baylor’s all-time assist leader in the game against San Jose State and now has 505 for her career.
• Breaking into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, Syracuse is off to an 8-0 start. Sophomore guard Brianna Butler helped lead the Orange to three wins at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas last weekend. Named Paradise Jam Most Valuable Player, Butler scored a career-high 29 points in Syracuse's 78-63 win against Texas A&M. This occurred just one day after Butler matched her previous best with 23 in a 77-58 win against Memphis. She also scored 18 points as the Orange defeated Texas 77-65.
• Middle Tennessee senior forward Ebony Rowe’s latest standout performance included 29 points and 20 rebounds on Dec. 3 against Austin Peay. Rowe became the first Middle Tennessee player to reach 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds since Jennifer McFall had 26 and 21 against West Virginia on Dec. 28, 1984.
• Joanna Harden set the Troy and Sun Belt Conference single-game records with 52 points as the Troy women raced to a 118-103 win against Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 26. Harden shot 18-of-28 from the floor, including 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
The ranks of the unbeaten fell to 23 with 17 other teams dropping at least one game in the last week. Arkansas and Connecticut top the list with 9-0 records. The Southeastern Conference touts a combined record of 96-22 that includes five undefeated teams in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Here’s a look at the list of the undefeated:
• 9-0 – Arkansas, Connecticut.
• 8-0 – Duke, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Syracuse.
• 7-0 – Albany, Baylor, Brigham Young, East Carolina, Iowa St., Notre Dame, Oklahoma St., Saint Mary’s, San Diego, Tennessee, UTEP, Villanova.
• 6-0 – Colorado, Holy Cross.
• 5-0 – Eastern Michigan.
Games of the Week
• Thursday, Dec. 5 – Purdue @ Duke; Syracuse @ Iowa
• Friday, Dec. 6 – Baylor vs. Kentucky (Arlington, Texas); Marist @ Quinnipiac
• Saturday, Dec. 7 – UCLA @ Notre Dame; Illinois @ Colorado
• Sunday, Dec. 8 – Texas @ Tennessee; Duke @ Oklahoma
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