Starting Five: Kentucky's Akhator headlines 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:
Evelyn Akhator, Kentucky, Jr., Forward/Center
One of the hottest teams in the country, Kentucky’s postseason aspirations are on an upswing thanks to junior forward/center Evelyn Akhator, who led the Wildcats to wins last week over No. 24 Missouri and No. 11 Texas A&M. Akhator started the week with nine rebounds and 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Missouri and ended the week with 15 points, 18 rebounds, three assists and two steals at highly ranked Texas A&M. She recorded her 10th double-double of the season against Texas A&M, including the third double-double this season where she had more rebounds than points. Akhator had 10 offensive rebounds against the Lady Aggies, which was a career-high. Her 6-8 shooting night against Missouri was a career best as well. Kentucky is currently riding a six-game winning streak in Southeastern Conference play, including three wins against ranked foes. Wildcats have won each of those six games by double digits, which is a program record. Kentucky will return to play at the 2016 Southeastern Conference Tournament on March 3 against the winner of the first-round matchup between Alabama and LSU.
Bria Holmes, West Virginia, Sr., Guard
West Virginia’s Bria Holmes had quite the week. She averaged 23.3 points and 5.0 assists as the Mountaineers picked up wins over TCU, No. 22 Oklahoma State and Iowa State. In addition, Holmes accepted the proposal by her long-time boyfriend after the Oklahoma State game while still on the court conducting a postgame interview. Holmes scored 22 of her season-high 30 points in the second half against TCU, as West Virginia came back from a 13-point third quarter deficit to topple the Horned Frogs, 83-72. She made 11-of-22 from the field, dished out four assists, blocked three shots and collected two steals in the victory. On Senior Night on Feb. 27 against the Cowgirls, the guard celebrated with a game-high 27 points. Holmes made 10-of-18 from the field and connected on 4-of-7 from behind the arc and dished out three assists and collected two steals in the win. With her 27 points against Oklahoma State, Holmes became the first Mountaineer women’s basketball player to reach 500-or-more points in three consecutive seasons. She then had 13 points and a game-high eight assists as West Virginia defeated Iowa State, 82-57 on March 1. She leads West Virginia and ranks second in the Big 12 with 16.9 points per game. Holmes is the Big 12’s active career scoring leader with 1,936 points. The Mountaineers enter the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship as the No. 3-seed and will play No. 6-seed Kansas State in the quarterfinal round on Saturday, March 5.
Erica McCall, Stanford, Jr., Forward
Stanford forward Erica McCall posted back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in her career, averaging 25.0 points and 11.5 rebounds as the Cardinal scored 20-point wins over No. 7 Oregon State, 76-54 and Oregon, 69-42. McCall shot 56 percent from the floor and 44 percent from behind the arc, making the first four 3-pointers of her career. The junior captain spurred Stanford to the program’s 1,000th victory in emphatic fashion against the Beavers, scoring a career-high 25 points in 26 minutes. McCall did most of her damage in the middle of the game, scoring 19 combined points in the second and third quarters as the Cardinal went up by as many as 30. She matched that point total in Sunday’s 27-point win over Oregon, also pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and nabbed a career-high four steals. Most impressively, McCall started taking and making the first 3-pointers of her career. She was 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) from behind the arc on the weekend after attempting just one 3-pointer in her first 99 career games. McCall also added four blocks in the two games and now has 60 this season. Jayne Appel, Chiney Ogwumike and Joslyn Tinkle are the only other Stanford players to have as many in a single year. McCall has 15 double-doubles this season and has scored in double figures in 14 of Stanford’s last 15 games. In the Cardinal’s last five, she is averaging 20.6 points on 59 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Stanford, the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament, has a bye into the quarterfinals and will play the winner of No. 5 Washington and No. 12 Colorado on Friday, March 4.
Sherranda Reddick, Jacksonville, Jr., Guard
Sherranda Reddick helped guide Jacksonville to five straight wins and over the last week averaged 21.0 points to lead the Dolphins to a pair of Atlantic Sun Conference victories over USC Upstate and North Florida. Against the Spartans, she scored a game-high 19 points and went a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in a 75-69 overtime victory. The Upstate performance was followed by a 23-point performance against North Florida, where she went 8-for-12 shooting from the floor, which included a 5-for-7 clip behind the three-point line as the Dolphins prevailed 65-51. For the week she shot 59.1 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from three-point range while adding 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. Jacksonville, 19-10 overall and 11-3 in Atlantic Sun play, will host Lipscomb on March 4 in the first-round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
Lizzy Wendell, Drake, Jr., Forward
Drake junior forward Lizzy Wendell has now scored 10-or-more points in 72 straight games and had a monster weekend in helping Drake to big wins over Loyola and Bradley. Wendell averaged 25.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 1.5 assists while shooting a blistering 59-percent from the floor and 42-percent from beyond the arc. Wendell started the weekend on Friday with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including hitting 3-of-5 from behind the three-point line, adding five steals, four rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes in a 30-point win over Loyola. She followed that with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, adding five rebounds, two steals and one assist in 26 minutes in a win against Bradley on Sunday. Wendell leads the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring at 20.6 points per game. Drake closes the regular season with a two-game road trip starting at Evansville on March 3 and ending at Southern Illinois on March 5.