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:
Napheesa Collier, UConn, Sophomore, ForwardAs UConn concluded a ninth undefeated regular season and stretched its record winning streak to 104 games, sophomore forward Napheesa Collier averaged 29.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game while shooting 80.4 percent (37-46) from the field and 80.0 percent (4-5) from 3-point range in a 3-0 week for the No. 1 Huskies.
Collier started the week off with a career-high 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the win over Temple on Feb. 22. She followed that up with a 19-point, six-rebound, three-block effort in the victory over Memphis on Sunday. It was her performance on Monday in Tampa that was the finest of her career.
The O’Fallon, Missouri, native topped her career high from less than week before with a 39-point effort on 15-of-19 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and four blocks. The 39 points marked the fourth-highest single-game total ever scored by a Husky and was only seven-points shy of Nykesha Sales’ school record.
Collier’s two double-doubles this week brings her total this season to 12. The Huskies will next play the winner of Memphis vs. Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals on Saturday, March 4.
Rachel Howard, San Francisco, Senior, GuardSenior guard Rachel Howard finished the regular season on a season-best four-game winning streak by scoring 29 points in a win over Loyola Marymount on Thursday and following that up with a career-high 37 points in a Senior Day victory over Pepperdine on Saturday.
Howard set a program record by going a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line against the Lions, while handing out a team-high five assists and grabbing seven rebounds.
In her final home game, Howard erupted for her second 30-point scoring effort of the season, tallying 14 of her 37 points in the first period alone where she went 4-for-4 from the perimeter on her way to a season-high six 3-pointers on the day. Her scoring total was the third-highest total in Dons history.
In the two wins, Howard averaged 33 points, six rebounds and four assists, while shooting 47 percent from deep and 96 percent from the free-throw line. Howard has been on fire of late, averaging 27 points per game over the team's final four home contests.
Howard and the Dons (17-12, 11-7 WCC) head to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference Championship this week where they will matchup with Loyola Marymount on March 2 in Las Vegas.
Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, Junior, Guard
Ohio State won twice last week to earn a share of the Big Ten Championship — the school's first Big Ten title since 2010 — as Kelsey Mitchell averaged 26.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game with a .543 field goal percentage.
Mitchell scored a game-high 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting and dished out six assists in last Monday night’s important conference win over Maryland and then added 21 points and five assists in Sunday’s win at Rutgers, clinching a share of the conference title.
Named Big Ten Player of the Year on Feb. 28, Mitchell leads the conference and ranks fourth in the nation in scoring at 23.4 points per game. She is also second in the conference and fourth nationally in 3-pointers per game at 3.33 with 100 total on the season. Third in school-history with 2,463 career points, the junior guard has a team-high 39 steals and is shooting 45 percent on the season. She scored 20 or more points in each of the final 10 games of the regular season.
The Buckeyes finished the regular season with a record of 25-5 and won their 15th Big Ten Championship by finishing with a 15-1 mark in conference play. Ohio State will be the No. 1 seed in this week’s Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis.
Kelsey Plum, Washington, Senior, GuardWashington’s Kelsey Plum capped her Senior Day with a historic performance. The nation's leading scorer, Plum put on one of the most dazzling performances in women's college basketball history, pouring in a conference-record 57 points against Utah on Feb. 25 to become the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, surpassing the legendary Jackie Stiles in the process.
Plum set a new school and Pac-12 single-game scoring record to lead Washington to an 84-77 regular-season finale win over the Utes. Her 57 points ranks fifth-most in NCAA history and she fell just three points shy of the NCAA single-game scoring record. Plum, who now has 3,397 career points, went 19-of-28 from the floor, 6-of-11 from three and 13-for-16 from the foul line. In her final regular season game, Plum also broke the Pac-12 and Washington single-season scoring records, a record in which she set last season. She now has 979 points in her illustrious senior year, surpassing the record of 960. She is just the 12th player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points.
On Thursday, the Poway, Calif. native led all scorers with 25 points and had a game-high six assists and five rebounds in a win over Colorado.
Named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Plum leads the nation in scoring at 31.6 points per game and is doing it at an efficient rate, shooting 53.7 from the field, 43.6 from three-point range and 88.7 from the foul line. She has a chance to finish her senior season as the only player, male or female, in the history of the NCAA to complete a season as the nation’s leading scorer and a member of the 50-40-90 club.
The Huskies, 27-4 overall and 15-3 in the Pac-12, will return to action on March 3 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals against the winner of the Oregon-Arizona matchup.
Fans' Choice: Abbey Sissom, Middle Tennessee, Junior, Guard
Abbey Sissom of Middle Tennessee turned in one of the top 3-point shooting exhibitions in Conference USA history in the team’s only game of the week vs. UAB, connecting on 8-of-9 from 3-point range while scoring a career-high 25 points in an 86-56 victory.
Sissom connected on her first eight attempts before missing her only attempt in the fourth quarter. The eight 3-pointers are the second-most by a C-USA player this season and tied for sixt-most in a single-game all-time in C-USA play. The 88.8 percent (8-of-9) showing is the best by a C-USA player this season with a minimum of eight attempts, and it goes down as the best in league history in a conference game. The eight 3-pointers are the most by a Lady Raider since KeKe Stewart hit a school-record 11 vs. North Texas in 2014.
Sissom, who averages 9.6 points per game, ranks third in C-USA in 3-point field goal percentage (.421), fifth in 3-pointers made (2.3), third in assist-turnover ratio (1.9) and third in minutes (36.5).
The Blue Raiders, 18-9 overall and 13-3 in the C-USA, next play at FIU on March 2.