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 the standout competitors:
Allison Arens, South Dakota, Sophomore, GuardSummit League Player of the Week already twice this season, Allison Arens has led South Dakota to its first 2-0 start in conference play since 2012-13 while continuing the program's school record 21-game home winning streak. Arens averaged 26 points, eight boards, four assists and one block in a pair of wins over South Dakota State and Denver.
Arens tallied her first career double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 70-64 win against Denver on Dec. 28. She also broke a 35-year-old school record and tied a league record with 18 free throws made in the game. She was 12-of-12 from the line in the fourth quarter.
She followed that up by scoring a game-high 24 points in the Coyotes' 65-62 win over South Dakota State on Dec. 31. After her sister, senior Bridget Arens, banked in a long jumper that put the Coyotes up 61-59, the Jackrabbits were forced to foul. Arens made all four free throws in the final 21 seconds to enable South Dakota to hold onto their lead. The sophomore handed out six assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Arens' 20.9 points per game ranks 13th in the nation and leads the Summit. She ranks third nationally for free throws made (94), 54th for field-goal percentage (53.5) and 57th for assists (66).
The Coyotes next travel to Fargo, N.D., to face North Dakota State on Jan. 4.
Monique Billings, UCLA, Junior, ForwardUCLA junior Monique Billings filled stats sheets with averages of 18.5 points, 15.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 48.1 percent (13-for-27) from the field as the Bruins scored wins over Utah and Colorado.
Billings had back-to-back double-doubles to open Pac-12 Conference play with 10 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-56 win against the Utes on Dec. 30 and a career-high-tying 27 points and 18 rebounds in the 87-74 win over the Buffaloes on Jan. 1. Billings added four blocks and a career-high four assists against Colorado and two steals, one block and one assist against Utah.
With the wins, UCLA extended its home winning streak to 20 games, 6th-best in the nation.
Averaging a double-double on the season at 17.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, Billings and teammate Jordin Canada (18.0 points per game) have formed one the nation’s highest scoring duos.
The Bruins play next on Jan. 6 at Washington State.
Ciara Gregory, Charlotte, Senior, GuardCharlotte has emerged as strong contender in Conference USA behind the inspired play of Ciara Gregory, who averaged 23.0 points during a 3-0 week for the 49ers, who have won seven straight overall to improve to 10-3 on the season.
On Dec. 21 against Davidson, Gregory tied a single-game Halton Arena record with 35 points, on the strength of a career-high seven 3-pointers as Charlotte defeated Davidson, 93-79. Gregory, playing in her 100th career game, hit 11-of-15 field goals, including 7-of-10 from 3-point territory, and 6-of-6 at the charity stripe. She matched the previous Halton Arena record set by Tonya Phifer against DePaul Jan. 28, 2001. The 35 points tied for sixth on the overall Charlotte single-game list.
Gregory was then part of a balanced 49ers attack with 12 points as Charlotte defeated North Texas, 78-63 on Dec. 30. Her latest was a game-best 22 points, featuring six 3-pointers, in a road Conference USA win at Rice on Jan. 1.
For the three game stretch, Gregory shot 53.8 percent from the field on 21-of-39 shooting, was 15 of 29 (51.7%) behind the 3-point line and was 12 of 13 (92.3%) at the free throw line. The senior guard is quickly climbing up the school's all-time list for career 3-pointers made (172) and 3-pointers attempted (516), placing third in each category.
Charlotte returns to action on Jan. 5 at home against Western Kentucky.
Fans' Choice: Ty Petty, Middle Tennessee, Senior, GuardIt was quite the week for senior guard Ty Petty, who joined the Middle Tennessee 1,000-point club while averaging 25 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.5 assists to lead the Lady Raiders to wins against Central Michigan and UAB last week.
Petty poured in 21 points, dished out four assists and collected two steals in Middle Tennessee's 79-69 win against Central Michigan on Dec. 28.
She tied a career-high with 29 points in helping Middle Tennessee overcome a 14-point deficit to earn a conference road win in its league opener at UAB, 64-61 on Jan. 1. Petty scored 15 of her 29 in the first half and completed the comeback with 10 in the fourth quarter. She went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line against UAB, completing a perfect 17-of-17 effort at the stripe for the week. Petty also had a season-high five steals against UAB, which was one off of her career high.
The dynamic point guard is ranked in the top 10 of seven statistical categories in Conference USA and ranks first nationally in minutes played (39.4), 11th in free-throw percentage (.915), 51st in assists (5.1) and 72nd in 3-point field goal percentage (.400).
Middle Tennessee will next host Rice on Jan. 5.
Miah Spencer, North Carolina State, Senior GuardNorth Carolina State served notice that they are a teamed to be reckoned with in the Atlantic Coast Conference with back-to-back impressive wins over No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 6 Florida State as Miah Spencer led the way averaging 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game during the victories.
In the 70-62 win over Notre Dame on Dec. 29, Spencer had 17 points and seven rebounds as the Wolfpack never once trailed in the game as they handed the Fighting Irish just their second loss in ACC play since joining the league at the outset of the 2013-14 season. Prior to that game, Notre Dame was 47-1 in regular-season ACC games.
Against Florida State, Spencer had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists as the Wolfpack prevailed 70-61 in breaking the Seminoles’ 12-game winning streak.
For the week she shot 10-18 (.556) from the field, 2-3 (.667) from distance, and 7-9 (.778) from the free throw line.
North Carolina State returns to action at home against No. 14 Miami on Jan. 5.