Every week, NCAA.com's Starting Five will bring you a look at some of the top women's basketball players in the country. Here are this week's standout competitors:
Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, Sr., Forward
Kahleah Copper of Rutgers opened the 2015-16 season with a double-double including a career-high 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds as the Scarlet Knights scored a 78-65 victory at St. Joseph's, earning her Big Ten Conference Player of the Week honors. Copper collected her sixth career double-double and surpassed her previous career high of 27 points recorded in a double overtime victory over Seton Hall in the 2014 WNIT Championship run. The senior from Philadelphia, Pa. shot a blistering 10-of-14 (.714) percent from the floor, including a perfect 3-of-3 mark from long range. Additionally, she added four steals and two assists in the win. She then had 17 points and five rebounds in a 77-49 Monday loss at Seton Hall. She now has 1,318 career points and became the 18th Scarlet Knight with 1,300 career points or more. Rutgers will next host St. John’s (NY) on Nov. 19.
Terra Ellison, North Texas, Jr., Guard
In the 1,096-game history of North Texas women's basketball, no squad had ever trumped a top-25 opponent. That is, until the Mean Green rolled into the Lloyd Noble Center on Monday night, Nov. 16 and stunned No. 17 Oklahoma, defeating the Sooners 61-57 to earn the biggest upset victory in the program's history. It was only the second loss at home for Oklahoma since the 2013-14 season. Junior Terra Ellison led the way for North Texas, totaling 15 points, which included three timely three-point field goals to help the Mean Green stave off a desperate Oklahoma comeback attempt in the second half. The win over Oklahoma was even more unexpected in that North Texas had opened the season with a home loss to San Francisco, 69-61 on Nov. 13. Ellison led the Mean Green in that game with 17 points, while pulling down four rebounds. Next up for North Texas is a Nov. 21 game at Texas State.
Ariel Stephenson, Wake Forest, Fr., Guard
One of the country’s top freshman, Ariel Stephenson was named Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Week after leading Wake Forest to a 3-0 start for the second consecutive season. Stephenson averaged 16.6 points per game as the Demon Deacons scored wins over LSU, East Tennessee State and Davidson. In her collegiate debut, the Prince George, Va. native dropped 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Deacons past LSU, 60-57. Stephenson was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the victory. She followed up that performance with 13 points and four rebounds in a 69-52 win over East Tennessee State. She scored in double figures for the third-straight game with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in a 77-58 win over Davidson on Nov. 17. Wake Forest will next play at Missouri on Nov. 22.
Courtney Williams, USF, Sr., Guard
Named at the start of the season to the John R. Wooden Award watch list, USF’s Courtney Williams didn’t disappoint in the first week, averaging 30 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as the Bulls went 2-0 in the Preseason WNIT. The native of Folkston, Ga., opened the season with 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting and a career-high 18 rebounds to lead USF to a 74-52 win against Jacksonville on Nov. 13. Williams followed with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists in a victory over Drexel, 73-58. The win against the Dragons advanced USF to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT. The Bulls can make a strong season-opening statement when they next play at No. 5 Baylor on Nov. 19.
A’ja Wilson, South Carolina, Soph., Forward
A Women’s Final Four participant in 2015, No. 2 South Carolina picked up where they left off, opening the season with home wins over Ohio State (88-80) and UNC Greensboro (92-44). A’ja Wilson posted a double-double in each game and was the team-high scorer in both outings. She scored 12 of her 20 points against Ohio State in the fourth quarter, hitting 6-of-9 from the field during the period, including six of the Gamecocks’ 10 points in the final 2:35 to deliver the win. She then tied her career high with six blocks against UNCG to go with her 19-point, 10-rebound double-double. Six of her 10 rebounds against UNCG were offensive. South Carolina will play at Clemson on Nov. 18.
Note of the Week:
With new rules emphasizing less physicality and freedom of movement, there are 30 NCAA Division I women’s basketball teams currently averaging 90 points or more, with 10 averaging 100 points or more per game during the first week of the season. Of the 30, 12 have played two games, of the 10, three have played two games. Central Michigan scored 45 points in the first period against Oakland on Nov. 15 on way to 110 points in the game. No other team has put up more than 39 in a period. Nineteen teams have scored 100 points in a game with Robert Morris leading the nation with a 124-point game against West. Va. Wesleyan on Nov. 13. Oakland put up 123 points against Mich.-Dearborn, also on Nov. 13 and Morehead St. scored 121 against Ky. Christian on Nov. 14. Overall scoring is up 3.0 points per game versus the end of last season, with an average of 68.2 points per game being scored.