NCAA women's basketball: The 5 players of the week
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:
Imani Boyette, Texas, Sr., Center
Senior Texas center Imani Boyette was the only player in the Big 12 Conference to record two double-doubles this past week, helping the Longhorns to a 65-54 road win at West Virginia last Wednesday night and an 86-62 victory against Texas Tech on Saturday night in Austin. Boyette averaged 19.5 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game and 5.0 blocks per game over the course of the first week of conference play. At West Virginia on Wednesday night, Boyette scored 15 points and tied her season high with 14 rebounds. She also blocked six shots, which tied her season high. Against Texas Tech on Saturday, Boyette charted her third 20-point performance of the season with 24 points, also registering 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. After the opening week of conference play, Boyette ranks in the top five in the Big 12 (in conference games only) in points per game (19.5, 3rd), rebounds per game (12.5, 2nd), field-goal percentage (.593, 3rd), blocked shots per game (5.0, 1st) and offensive rebounds per game (6.5, 1st). Boyette increased her career-scoring total to 1,124 points, which moved her into 31st place on the school's all-time career scoring list. Boyette and Texas return to action on Jan. 6. when the Longhorns play host to Iowa State.
Nirra Fields, UCLA, Sr., Guard
Behind senior Nirra Fields, UCLA moved to the top of the Pac-12 Conference standings, with wins during the past week over USC, Oregon and Oregon State. The wins over USC and Oregon knocked both of those teams from the undefeated ranks, while the victory over No. 11 Oregon State broke the Bruins’ 21-game skid against ranked opponents. In the Pac-12 opener against the Trojans on Dec. 30, Fields had 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals in the 78-73 win. Against Oregon on Jan. 2, Fields scored 11 points in the first quarter and 12 points in the final period to finish with a season-high 31 points in the win over the Ducks, 80-69. She added two assists and two rebounds while sinking a career-high-tying five three-pointers against the Ducks after entering the game with just six made three-pointers on the year on 31 attempts (.194). Fields and UCLA completed the undefeated week with a decisive 71-51 win over Oregon State. She had 10 points in the win that pushed UCLA to a record of 11-3 overall and 3-0 and Pac-12 play. For the week, Fields averaged 20.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the field (25-for-47) and 50.0 percent from three-point range (5-for-10). UCLA returns to action on Jan. 10 with a rematch against USC.
Zahna Medley, TCU, Sr., Guard
With Big 12 Conference play starting, TCU senior guard Zahna Medley is also starting to make a major dent in the Big 12 Conference record books. Her efforts on Saturday in an 87-73 win over Kansas State, moved her into the top 10 in career three-point field goals made and into the top 35 in career scoring in Big 12 Conference history. TCU (10-3, 2-0) set a new school record for points in a Big 12 Conference game with 87 and gradually pulled away from the Wildcats thanks to an 11-of-22 shooting effort from behind the three-point arc. Medley led the way with 27 points, hitting five three-point field goals, dishing out four assists, three rebounds and three steals. Medley had eight points and seven rebounds in TCU’s 78-69 road win at Texas Tech on Dec. 30, marking TCU’s first win in a conference opener since the 2010-11 season when a member of the Mountain West Conference. The Horned Frogs overcame a 15-point deficit in winning in Lubbock, Texas. Medley is now averaging 16.3 points per game while dishing out 3.9 assists and grabbing 3.2 rebounds per game. She is shooting 45.9 percent from field, 44.3 percent from three-point range (4th in league) and 86.7 percent from the free throw line (2nd in league. Medley leads the Big 12 Conference with 39 three-point field goals made in 2015-16. The 2-0 start in Big 12 Conference play is the first for the program in four years in the league and first overall since starting 6-0 in the Mountain West Conference in 2010-11. TCU next hosts Oklahoma on Jan. 6.
Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, So., Guard
There has been no sophomore slump for Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell this season. Named National and Big Ten Player of the Week this week, the sophomore guard averaged 26.5 points per game for the Buckeyes in wins over No. 22 Michigan State and No. 5 Maryland this past week. Mitchell, who led the nation in scoring as a freshman, is currently No. 2 nationally in scoring at 24.7 points per game, trailing only Kelsey Plum of Washington, who averages 27.3 points per outing. The Cincinnati, Ohio native scored a game-high 25 points in the 85-80 win over Michigan State, which included going 13-of-13 from the free throw line. She was 9-of-9 from the line and had 15 points in the decisive fourth quarter. Mitchell also dished-out a game-high five assists against the Spartans. In the Buckeyes’ 80-71 victory on the road over No. 5 Maryland, Mitchell again notched a game-high 28 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists and four steals. She led Ohio State to its first win over a top-5 ranked team since Dec. 20, 2006. Mitchell and the Buckeyes (10-3 and 2-0) will have a pair of home games this week as they host Indiana on Thursday, Jan. 7 and Rutgers on Sunday, Jan. 10.
Jennie Simms, Old Dominion, Jr., Guard
Conference USA Player of the Week for the first time in her career, Old Dominion’s Jennie Simms averaged 26.5 points and seven rebounds in two games as the Lady Monarchs split a pair of games against William & Mary and Charlotte. It capped a strong month of December for Simms, who now holds the conference’s highest scoring outing so far this season, as she exploded for 35 points in a 75-64 loss to William & Mary on Dec. 29. The Maryland product went 13-of-26 from the field and 4-of-8 from behind the arc for a .500 average in both categories. Seventeen of her 35 points also came in the fourth quarter and she finished the game just one rebound (9) short of a double-double. Simms also added two assists, three blocks and three steals to her stat line. Simms then opened conference play by pouring in 18 points and pulling down five rebounds in leading Old Dominion to a 71-59 victory over Charlotte on Jan. 3. Her effort helped Old Dominion move to 33-3 overall in conference openers since joining the Sun Belt in 1982. The Lady Monarchs are back at home this week, facing Louisiana Tech on Jan. 7.
• UConn leads the nation in shooting percentage (53.20 percent) and most improved shooting percentage (9.34%). Here are the latest NCAA statistics.
• Congratulations to Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, who recorded her 800th career coaching victory on Sunday as the Fighting Irish won 65-55 at Pittsburgh.