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Rick Nixon | | November 25, 2015

Women's basketball: Breaking down the country's best players

  Jada Payne already has four double-doubles this season.

Every week,'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:

Nina Davis, Baylor, Jr., Forward

Nina Davis earned Preseason WNIT Most Valuable Player honors after leading Baylor to the tournament championship with wins over Southern Miss, USF and DePaul. The junior forward averaged 15.0 points and 7.3 rebounds over the three games shooting .667 (18-of-27) percent from the floor, including 81.8% (9-of-11) vs. 19th-ranked DePaul, when she totaled 20 points and 10 rebounds.  Davis added five assists, five steals and three blocks against the Blue Demons.  In the hard-fought win over previously undefeated USF, Davis led the Lady Bears with 15 points and six rebounds.  Baylor, 4-0, returns to action on Nov. 26 at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas against Cincinnati.

Malina Hood, San Diego, Sr., Guard

Senior guard Malina Hood helped lead San Diego to a pair of wins this past week, including a win over Pac-12 member Arizona.  Hood paced the Torero offense, averaging 22.5 points per game, while shooting 53.3% from the field, and she averaged 4.5 rebounds per game.  Hood began the week with a season-high 25-point performance against CSU Northridge in an 86-64 win.  She then backed that up with a 20-point performance in the San Diego upset win over the Wildcats.  Against Arizona, she added seven boards, to go along with a pair of assists as the Toreros led from start to finish in a thrilling 59-54 win. With the win, the Toreros remain perfect on the season at 3-0, and also snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.   San Diego next hits the road to take on the Montana State Bobcats on Nov. 24 in Bozeman, Mont.

Related: DI women's basketball hub

Jada Payne, East Carolina, Sr., Guard/Forward

With four double-doubles in the first five games of the season, East Carolina senior Jada Payne has led the Pirates to a 5-0 start to the season.  In her latest outing on Sunday, Payne posted her third-straight double-double with 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, as East Carolina never trailed in a 68-58 road win at Delaware.  Payne shot 8-for-15 overall and crossed the 1,500-point milestone for her career, as she now has 15 career double-doubles.  Through five games, she is averaging 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and is shooting 65.6% from the field.  East Carolina returns to action against Creighton on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 with the first of three games at the Lone Star Showcase in Austin, Texas.

Breanna Stewart, UConn, Sr., Forward

As she has done throughout her distinguished career, Breanna Stewart continues to fill up the stat sheet, eclipse career milestones and propel UConn to victories.  On Nov. 23 against Kansas State, Stewart scored 25 points to lead UConn to a 97-57 win and became the third fastest Husky to reach 2,000 career points, doing it in her 117th game.  Maya Moore needed just 108 games, while Kerry Bascom accomplished the feat in 113.  She became the ninth player in school history to reach 2,000 points with a 3-pointer from the right corner in the third quarter.  She now has 2,009 for her career, moving past Renee Montgomery (1,990) and Bria Hartley (1,994).  In addition to the 25 points scored, Stewart added eight rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.  No. 1 UConn will next play host to Nebraska on Nov. 28 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

Courtney Walker, Texas A&M, Sr., Guard

Facing a tough week with games on the road at No. 14 Duke and at home versus improving TCU, Texas A&M remained undefeated as senior guard Courtney Walker led the way, averaging 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two wins.  Walker had her second career double-double at Duke, helping the No. 12 Aggies to a 72-66 overtime win with 22 points and 11 rebounds.  Walker scored nine of the 12 A&M points in the third quarter, which helped the Aggies build an 11-point lead, then later found Khaalia Hillsman with 34.7 seconds left for a wide-open layup that sent the game to overtime. Walker then scored six of eight points, including five straight in overtime, taking a one-point A&M deficit to a nearly-insurmountable four-point lead.  The Edmond, Okla. native followed up that performance with 23 points and eight rebounds against TCU, nailing the game-icing layup with just over five seconds to play in the Aggies' 82-78 victory.  Walker defended two-time all-conference selection Zahna Medley during that game, holding her to just six points.  Walker is averaging 18.0 points and 5.8 rebounds this season.  The Aggies, which have started 4-0 for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, next take on California and Ohio State this week, on November 27-28 at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Notes of the Week:

  • Playing a nationally-ranked foe on the road, Santa Clara women's basketball knocked off No. 10 Stanford 61-58 on Monday night. It was the first win for the Broncos over Stanford since an 81-65 victory in Santa Clara on Dec. 4, 1998 and the first win in Palo Alto for the Broncos since Nov. 21, 1984 when they came away with a 69-46 win.  The upset was the first non-conference home loss against an unranked team for the Cardinal since Florida State took them down March 19, 2007 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Senior transfer Devin Hudson led Santa Clara (2-2) with 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. 
  • South Dakota State’s game on Saturday against No. 3 Notre Dame drew the largest regular-season crowd to attend a stand-alone women's basketball game at the school, as 5,532 were in attendance to witness the Fighting Irish’s hard-fought 75-64 victory over the Jackrabbits.

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