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Rick Nixon | | January 27, 2016

Starting Five: Women's basketball players of the week

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:

Steph Kostowicz, Milwaukee, So., Forward

Behind back-to-back career highs in points from Steph Kostowicz, Milwaukee shot up the conference standings this week as the Panthers collected road wins at Wright State and Northern Kentucky. On Jan. 21, Kostowicz tied her career-high with 20 points, while adding nine rebounds, two steals and a block in an 82-60 win over Wright State, handing the Raiders their first league loss of the year. The sophomore wrapped up her weekend by helping Milwaukee to another lopsided win, this time by 26 points (86-60) at Northern Kentucky. Kostowicz reached a new career-high with 23 points on a near-perfect 7-of-8 shooting from the field. She also hauled in eight rebounds, blocked three shots and had a pair of assists and steals. For the week she averaged 21.5 points per game, tallied 17 rebounds and shot 60 percent from the floor, 50 percent from beyond the three-point line and 78.6 percent from the charity stripe. Milwaukee (11-7 and 5-2) returns to play this Thursday, Jan. 28, hosting Detroit.

Brittney Martin, Oklahoma State, Sr., Guard

The Big 12 Conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, Oklahoma State's Brittney Martin continues to fill stats sheets and earn conference Player of the Week awards. This past week Martin averaged 25 points and 15.5 rebounds while recording double-doubles in the Cowgirls’ wins over Iowa State and at Kansas. She played all 45 minutes in Oklahoma State's overtime victory over Iowa State on Jan. 20 en route to a 26-point, 14-rebound performance. Martin also logged three assists, two steals and a block. The senior guard played 34 minutes at Kansas on Jan. 24, with game-highs of 24 points, 17 rebounds and three steals. She had already registered a double-double by halftime with 10 points and 12 boards while stretching her double-double streak to five-consecutive games. For the week, Martin connected on 52.3 percent (23-of-44) of her field goal attempts. For the season, Martin is averaging 21.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game double-double. The Cowgirls will next host TCU on Jan. 30.

Kendall Noble, Western Kentucky, Jr., Guard

Western Kentucky’s Kendall Noble recorded the school’s first-ever triple-double last Saturday, tallying 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a 77-66 victory over Charlotte. Adding in a 68-51 victory over Old Dominion on Thursday, Noble averaged 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 5.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in an astounding all-around week for the Lady Toppers in which she scored or assisted on 66 of WKU’s 145 points, including 43 of the 77 against Charlotte. Noble is the only player in Conference USA this season who ranks in the top 10 individually in points (17.3, 3rd), rebounding (7.8, 7th), assists (4.8, 2nd), steals (2.7, 2nd) and blocks (1.2, 7th). Noble recently accomplished another major feat aside from her triple-double, collecting her 1,000th career point against North Texas on Jan. 16. WKU is currently one of the hottest teams in the nation and is riding a 13-game winning streak and a perfect 7-0 start to Conference USA play. The Lady Toppers have not fallen since a 59-53 setback at Ole Miss on Dec. 2 and have won each of their seven Conference USA games by an average of 13.3 points. WKU’s current 13-game streak is tied for the fourth-longest active streak in the nation and the seventh-longest streak overall for the 2015-16 season. Noble and the Lady Toppers will be back in action on Jan. 28 when they travel to UAB.

Jessica Shepard, Nebraska, Fr., Forward

One of the nation’s top freshman, Nebraska’s Jessica Shepard continues to impress as Nebraska has rebounded from an 0-3 start in Big Ten Conference play with five consecutive victories. This past week the Huskers scored road wins at Purdue and Michigan, with Shepard averaging 28.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Nebraska, 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, defeated Purdue 62-61 on Jan. 20 as Shepard had 22 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. In Sunday 93-81 victory at Michigan, Shepard became the first player in program history to record a 30-point and 20-rebound game, scoring 35 points and pulling down a career-best 20 rebounds against the Wolverines. For the week she shot 20-of-38 (52.6 percent) from the field. For the season, she's averaging 20.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She has twice hit the 35-point mark -- a Nebraska single-game record for a freshman -- doing it previously against Northern Arizona on Dec. 19. She has eight double-doubles, one off the school's season record for a freshman. Shepard already has been named the Big Ten's freshman of the week seven times. The Huskers return to action on Jan. 27 with a home game against Wisconsin.

Azurá Stevens, Duke, So., Forward

Looking to get its season back on track, Duke faced an important week with games against Clemson and North Carolina. The Blue Devils stepped up to the challenge behind sophomore forward Azurá Stevens who averaged 29.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in helping lead Duke to wins over the pair of Carolina neighbors. Stevens tallied a career-high 33 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal in 36 minutes at Clemson in a 72-43 win last Thursday. She hit 11-of-19 field goals that included a career-high 3-of-4 from downtown. The 33 points was a season-high for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this season and tied for the 12th most points in Duke single game history. During Sunday’s 71-55 victory over North Carolina, Stevens collected her ACC-leading 12th double-double of the season with 26 points and 14 rebounds. She led the Blue Devils to their fourth consecutive win over their Tobacco Road rival. For the week, she hit 55.0 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from behind the three-point line and was perfect from the charity stripe, making all 11 free throw attempts. Stevens enters this Thursday’s contest at Pittsburgh averaging 19.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals, pacing the ACC in blocks, rebounds and offensive rebounds, ranking second in scoring.

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