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:
Temi Fagbenle, USC, Sr., Forward
USC improved to 14-2 on the season and solidified a top 25 national ranking as senior center Temi Fagbenle helped lead the Trojans to two Pac-12 Conference victories over Oregon and UCLA. Her dominance on the boards and in the paint were key in notching a 75-67 win over Oregon on Jan. 4 and a 71-68 victory over rival and No. 15 ranked UCLA on Jan. 10. Against the Ducks, Fagbenle delivered 19 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. In the rivalry clash against the Bruins, Fagbenle set the tone for the Trojans in snagging 12 of her final 15 rebounds during the first half. Later, in the fourth quarter, Fagbenle provided the offensive spark that the Trojans needed in scoring USC's first eight points on her way to 20 points to go along with 15 rebounds. She currently leads USC in scoring with 13.7 points per game and is second on the boards with 8.4 rebounds per game. In Pac-12 play, Fagbenle is averaging a team-best 17.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The Women of Troy started the season with an undefeated run to 12-0, marking the best program start since 1982-83. Now ranked No. 25 in the nation, USC is enjoying a place in the national rankings for the first time since USC's last NCAA appearance in 2014. Next up for Fagbenle and the Trojans is a trip to Washington to continue Pac-12 action. USC will face Washington State on Jan. 15 in Pullman before heading to Seattle to play Washington on Jan. 17.
Danaejah Grant, St. John’s, Sr., Guard
During a week in which the St. John’s went 2-0, including a victory over No. 25 Seton Hall, Danaejah Grant averaged 28.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. The Big East Conference’s leading scorer this season at 19.8 points per game, Grant converted on 62.5 percent of her tries from both the floor and from behind the three-point line. In her most recent outing, Grant led the Red Storm to its second victory this season against a ranked opponent, as St. John’s defeated Seton Hall, 71-69, at home on Jan. 9. The Piscataway, N.J., native tallied her third double-double of the season, setting season-highs with 29 points and 13 rebounds against the rival Pirates. The Red Storm has now won multiple games against ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since 2011-12, when the Red Storm beat six teams in the top 25 en route to the program’s first-ever Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament appearance. Against Marquette on Jan. 5, Grant registered 27 points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks, as the Red Storm outlasted Marquette, 81-77, in overtime. Grant and the Red Storm return to action this weekend, hitting the road for matchups with Georgetown on Friday and Villanova on Sunday.
Taylor Johnson, Loyola Jr., Guard
Junior guard Taylor Johnson averaged just under 20 points per game as Loyola swept a weekend road trip through Evansville and Southern Illinois. Johnson was active at both ends of the floor in the Ramblers’ 63-49 win over Evansville on Friday night, finishing with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. The Frankfort, Ill., native saved her best for Sunday’s 69-68 overtime thriller against Southern Illinois. She poured in a game-high 29 points, the final three of which came on an old-fashioned three-point play that ultimately proved to be the difference, and came down with a career-best 12 rebounds to help lead the Ramblers to an impressive victory. Johnson, who averaged 12.4 points per game during Loyola’s non-conference slate, has brought her game to another level during Missouri Valley Conference play, leading the league in scoring at 22.7 points per game through the Ramblers’ first three conference games. Johnson and Loyola will next host Wichita State on Jan. 15.
Kelsey Minato, Army West Point, Sr., Guard
Army senior guard Kelsey Minato continues to dominate the Patriot League headlines. Named Patriot League Player of the Week for already the fourth time this season and 15th time during her distinguished career, Minato led Army to a 2-0 record last week with wins over Lafayette, 78-45 and Loyola, 70-37. Minato averaged 26.5 points in the contests and shot over 50.0 percent overall and from three-point range. She was successful on 21-of-32 (65.6 percent) on field goals and made 10-of-18 (55.6 percent) shots from long range. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native tallied 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting and 5-of-7 three-point shooting in Army's win at Lafayette on Jan. 6. Minato also added seven rebounds and seven assists in the victory. She led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, to include a 5-of-11 showing from deep, during a home win over Loyola on Jan. 9. Minato leads the Patriot League, and ranks fourth nationally, averaging 24.0 points per game. Additionally, she ranks sixth in the country with 3.3 three-pointers per game and 13th among Division I players with a 46.0 three-point shooting percentage. The team captain is also shooting 63.8 percent (37-for-58) overall and 52.0 percent (13-of-25) from three-point range in three games since the turn of the New Year. Army (12-2 overall, 3-1 Patriot League) returns to action on Jan. 13, when the Black Knights host Colgate.
Shakayla Thomas, Florida State, So., Forward
Florida State sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas became the 19th Seminole with 30-plus points while also establishing career highs in field goals made (14), attempted (20) and rebounds (14) as Florida State prevailed Sunday over Georgia Tech. Her 32-point performance proved to be one of the best individual games by an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) player this season. Thomas recorded 32 points on 14-of-20 shooting along with 14 rebounds, notching her second career double-double. Thomas’ 32 points against the Yellow Jackets tied a season high for an ACC player this season, matching the outputs of North Carolina’s Destinee Walker (32 vs. Florida A&M) and Duke’s Azura Stevens (32 vs. Army). The 32 points scored was the most points by a Seminole since former All-American Natasha Howard had 33 against Virginia on March 2, 2014, in a game that actually began Florida State’s current home win streak of 27 straight games. Florida State opened the week with a 75-42 rout of Boston College with Thomas scoring 14 points. She now has 15 double-figure scoring game and has shot 50 percent or better in 15 of 16 games this season. Thomas and the Seminoles return to action on Jan. 14 at Clemson.
Note of the Week:
Congratulations to Seattle University head coach Joan Bonvicini, who became just the 17th Division I women’s basketball coach all-time to earn her 700th career victory in a 59-45 win over Chicago State on Jan. 9. Across all divisions, Bonvicini is just the 22nd to reach this historic milestone.